Your non profit does great work… but, if you’re like most organizations, you need to raise more money that you currently are. Because of this constant need (and because you have a limited amount of bandwidth and resources to devote to fundraising), chances are you haven’t had the time to really think through the highest impact ways to boost your non profit development program.
In my experience working with hundreds of organizations, there are five proven ways that your non profit can boost its fundraising program. These five things hold true whether you are a small, local organization without any full-time fundraising staff, or a major national charity with a million-dollar development budget. Here’s how you can supercharge your non profit development program:
#1 – Have a Plan
Fundraising can be complicated, even for smaller organizations. When you’re in non profit development, your board, staff, volunteers and consultants will come to you with lots of ideas for raising money and building donor relationships. You’ll have lots of interests competing for your limited time, energy, and fundraising dollars. It’s imperative that you have a fundraising plan guiding your efforts.
Every non profit, no matter how small or large, needs a written fundraising plan in order to succeed. Your plan should include defined goals for the coming year, action steps you plan to take to meet those goals, and an outline of who on your team is responsible for each action step.
#2 – Build Non Profit Development Systems
Many organizations make the mistake of trying to reinvent the wheel for every new donor or fundraising activity. They struggle to cultivate and steward donors because they don’t have a system in place for doing so. They hold events but don’t follow up with attendees, and send out prospecting mail without a plan in place for building better relationships with those donors after they make a gift.
The solution to problems like these is to systemize your fundraising. Fundraising systems allow you to do more with less by making sure that you have step-by-step processes in place for all of your fundraising activities. To learn more about building fundraising systems at your non profit, read What Does a Good Fundraising System Look Like?
#3 – Cast a Big Vision
Donors don’t make big gifts to small visions. If you want to raise more than you have in the past, then you need to cast a bigger vision then ever before. Your non profit does good work and makes a real difference in the world, in your community, and / or in the lives of the people you serve. Are you thinking big enough about your work?
Your donors want to make a difference in the world. Your organization is a tangible way for them to do that… so tell bigger stories, make bigger plans, and cast a bigger vision for your work and your team of donors.
#4 – Get Out of the Office
The best way to connect with donors is to get out of your office to meet with them in person. This means cultivating, stewarding, and asking your donors for gifts over breakfast, lunch, or coffee. It means stopping by your donors’ offices to give them updates on your programs. For donors who don’t have the time to meet, it means picking up the phone to call them to discuss how they can make an impact by investing in your organization.
Sure, lots of non profit development has to happen in the office. You need to create proposals, send newsletters, and plan events. But far too many fundraisers spend far too much time behind their desks, instead of building donor relationships face-to-face.
#5 – Cultivate Before You Ask
Most donors want to know that you value your relationship with them… and every donor wants to feel recognized and appreciated for their gifts. For this reason, it is imperative that you always cultivate your donors before you make an ask. This cultivate-before-asking mentality should be baked into your non profit development program.
For a first-time donor, this means that you should never jump straight to the ask, and instead should spend time building a relationship prior to asking for donations. For your current donors, this means being in touch with them a minimum of 2-3 times in-between each ask. This inter-ask cultivation can be in-person, on the phone, through handwritten notes, via your e-mail newsletter, etc. Just be sure that after making an ask, you reinforce your appreciation and your mission before you seek another gift.
Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston