Have you been beating your head against the wall wondering how you are going to raise money for your cash-strapped nonprofit? Are you ready to take your fundraising to the next level and aren’t sure where to begin? I am about to provide the answer you have been looking for in five steps. Don’t worry, you won’t need a degree in rocket science nor do you need to know voodoo. Just follow the five steps outlined here, repeat, then repeat again. You’ll move smoothly to the next level of fundraising, where your resource needs are easily met.
The most successful fundraisers know that institutionalizing the fundraising cycle into the day-to-day work moves giving from transactional to relational. Don’t eyeball your supporters the way a dog looks at a steak. Instead, transform donations and gifts from one-off transactions to the consistent by-product of strong relationships with donors of all sizes. That’s the secret to success.
Step One: Identify Your Ideal Prospects
A frequent question I hear is “where do I find potential donors?” This isn’t hard if you follow the path of least resistance and approach people who care most about your cause. Your nonprofit needs a range of supporters to survive long-term so don’t just focus on the biggest check writers. To produce a pool of prospects who are willing and able to support you under the right circumstances, you need to:
- Research locally.
- Look for people who align with the cause area.
- Say hello and share what you have in common.
Step Two: Cultivate Your Prospects
Don’t be that friend who only calls when they want something. Create a series of communications in all mediums (email, social, direct mail,) that are purely informative, educational, interesting or inspiring. Add your new friends to a nurture campaign before popping the question for a gift. Cultivating means:
- Contacting without soliciting
- Building the relationship
- Offering something of value without asking for anything in return
- Discovering why they’re passionate about your cause
Step Three: Solicit
If your cultivation efforts have moved your prospects from interested to engaged and they are motivated to help, then you are ready to ‘make the ask’. You want to do this on a wide range of platforms and media, because your supporters are reachable in different ways. Go to where they are and make it as easy as possible for them to respond to your ‘ask’. Include all these outreach methods in your solicitation campaign, as your budget allows:
- Real life (!)
- Phone (some people still have landlines, check books and a philanthropic spirit)
- Direct Mail
- Social Media
Step Four: Recognize
Personal thank you notes seem to be a lost art, or perhaps they’re something we’ve discarded along with the Yellow Pages and the VCR. But nonprofits should wield the ‘thank you’ like a magic wand, because nothing makes supporters feel more appreciated and invested in your success. No matter the size of the donation or gift, recognize the donor quickly and warmly. By following up with a thank you, you are confirming that the gift was appreciated and valued, and you raise the odds that further gifts will ensue. There are many strategies for recognition, including:
- A personal thank you note
- A phone call or voicemail from a board member
- A thank you email
- The donor’s name listed in your magazine, newsletter, or social media account
- A plaque, where appropriate
Step Five: Report
Demonstrate good stewardship. To sustain the interest of your donors and further their emotional investment, convey how donated money was spent and the impact it had on the community.
- Hit them in the head by sharing the numbers of people whose lives are different because of your services.
- Tell them a story of success
- Ask them to share their story of why they give
Renew and Retain: Return to Step Two and Begin Again
Renewal. This is how the fundraising machine works, and each revolution of the cycle gives you the opportunity to bring in new prospects, and to lose the ones you have! Don’t ever take a donor or giver of any size for granted – there are many nonprofits out there who would love their support, engagement and participation.
- Repeat…wait, that’s shampoo
When you treat each donation as a transaction and each donor as a target to hit, you are missing so many long-term opportunities. Did you know there are supporters who are testing you? They may be capable of giving a six or seven figure gift but like to see first how you treat the $25 donor. Don’t be that guy! Honor donors at every level. When you don’t follow up with prospects or first-time donors, you are leaving money, volunteer hours or valuable connections on the table. Don’t ghost your new donors, use the five easy steps of the fundraising cycle to engage them and keep them close.