There’s no such thing as a “magic bullet” when it comes to fund development. You can’t wave a wand or take a webinar and turn your non-profit into a fundraising machine overnight.
What I can tell you though, after twenty years in the fundraising trenches, is that there are a number of small changes you can make to your development program which will result in a significant increase in your revenue over time. When you implement these fundraising hacks, your non-profit will be able to see a higher return on the investment you are making in your fundraising program… without needing to hire new staff or invest in new infrastructure.
In my experience, here are the top 5 fundraising hacks you can use to raise more money at your non-profit:
#1: Shift Time to Individual Donor Cultivation
The most important thing your non-profit can do to boost its fundraising revenue is focus on individual donors. When it comes to fundraising hacks, this should be at the top of your list. Individual donors donate far more money to non-profits each year in the aggregate than do corporations and foundations combined. And the best way to raise more money from individual donors is to build relationships with them.
If you want to raise more money, take some of the time you are spending chasing foundation grants and corporate gifts and focus it on individual donor cultivation. Likewise, stop spending so much time on events. One or two events can be a good thing, but events take up tons of time… so if you’re holding three or more fundraising events per year, pare down your event schedule and add that extra time to your donor cultivation program.
#2: Call After Every Donation
Most non-profits send out a thank you note after they receive a donation… but very few non-profits have a staff member, board member, or volunteer pick up the phone to call and thank the donor for their gift. Yet research done by Penelope Burke and others has shown that a quick phone call to thank your donor, when made within a short timeframe after the gift is received, will significantly boost the lifetime value of that donor for your non-profit.
Your donor thank you calls don’t need to be long or complicated. Not sure what to say? Click here for a simple thank you script you can use for your next donor call.
#3: Stop Making Wishy-Washy Asks
Donors won’t give unless they are asked… and donors who are asked the right way will give more than those who aren’t. Far too many fundraisers make wishy-washy asks, both in person, on the phone, and through fundraising letters and e-mails. Don’t make this mistake.
Wishy-washy asks aren’t really asks at all. For example, I’ve heard many non-profit fundraisers say things like, “We really hope you’ll support our annual gala this year!” and consider that an ask. That is definitely not an ask.
Good asks are questions… questions that call for a yes or no answer. Good asks are also concrete, meaning that they specify an amount for a gift. A good ask sounds something like this: “Would you be willing to sponsor this year’s Gala at the $5,000 level?” That type of ask is much more likely to get a yes. Stop making wishy-washy asks at your non-profit! This is one of those simple fundraising hacks that will have a profound effect at your organization.
#4: Partner With Your Board
Many non-profit fundraisers and executive directors browbeat their board about fundraising. They constantly ask their board to go out and raise money, and constantly make it clear that they are disappointed with their board’s fundraising performance. This turns the board / staff dynamic into an adversarial relationship. If you want your board to help you raise money, you need to partner with the board… working together towards a common goal.
The best way to do this is to stop harassing your board to go out and bring in donations. Instead, ask your board to be ambassadors for your non-profit. Ask board members to invite their friends to your next free “get-to-know-you” event. Encourage them to introduce your staff to their coworkers over breakfast or lunch. Ask board members to invite your team to their local chamber of commerce meeting. Set you board up for success by giving them concrete and non-threatening ways to open up their network to your fundraising team.
#5: Make Your Website All About E-Mail
If you're looking for fundraising hacks to improve your online fundraising… look no further. This strategy is the single most important thing you can do to improve your online fundraising program.
From a fundraising perspective, the most important role of your website is encouraging visitors to give you their e-mail addresses. When visitors to your website sign-up for your e-mail newsletter, they are giving you a way to stay in touch with them, cultivate them, and solicit them over the coming months and years.
Your Donate Now button is important – but not as important as your newsletter sign-up box. 99% or more of first time visitors to your website will leave without making a donation… wouldn’t it be nice if 3 or 4% (or more) of them signed up for your e-mail newsletter so you could cultivate them and ask them for money later on down the line? Make sure you give people lots of opportunities and reasons to sign-up for your e-mail newsletter on your non-profit’s website.
Fundraising Hacks You Can Rely On
I call the above five strategies “fundraising hacks” because they are simple, easy-to-implement strategies that every non-profit – including yours – can use to raise more money, starting today. When most fundraisers go searching for fundraising hacks, they're looking for magic bullets… and while magic bullets don't exist, these strategies are as close as you are going to come for your non-profit. Implement them. Use them. You'll be glad you did!