There are a ton of tips and strategies floating around for nonprofit fundraising. From simple tactics to complex step-by-step plans, there’s tons of nonprofit fundraising advice available on the web.
In this article, I wanted to cut through the clutter and give you my absolute best tips for great nonprofit fundraising. These are the 7 things that every nonprofit (no matter how small or large) can implement and see immediate, long-lasting results. Here are the tips, in no particular order:
#1: Focus on Individual Giving
Individual giving is the most powerful form of fundraising for your organization. Corporate and foundation giving is important, but far and away the biggest sources of available funds are individual donors.
The data shows that over 70% of all the money raised by nonprofits comes from individuals. This means that over 70% of your fundraising efforts (time, money, and effort) should be directed at individual giving (this includes major donor fundraising, annual giving, monthly recurring giving, etc. targeting individuals and families).
#2: Build a Donor Funnel
The concept of the donor funnel is one of the foundations of great nonprofit fundraising. What is the donor funnel? It’s the idea that you should be walking your donors through four distinct phases during their relationship with your organization. Those phases are prospecting, cultivation, asking, and stewardship.
You need a strategy for each phase of the funnel, and you need a plan for moving each of your donors through the four phases. For more information, read Using the Donor Funnel to Raise More Money at Your Nonprofit.
#3: Use the Rule of 2-to-4
Most nonprofits are trying to do too much when it comes to fundraising. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. For many organizations, they key to raising more money is doing less, but doing it well.
Your nonprofit doesn’t have unlimited resources. You only have so many staff dedicated to fundraising, so much money to spend on development, and so many hours in the day. One of the biggest keys to successful nonprofit fundraising is honoring your organization’s development bandwidth.
The secret to honoring your bandwidth is to follow the Rule of 2-to-4. For each phase of the donor funnel, you should start by employing only 2, 3, or 4 (2-to-4) strategies. Ask yourself: what 2, 3, or 4 strategies will we use to find new donors this year? To cultivate our donors? To ask them for money? To steward them? Don’t try to do too much. Do fewer things, and once you’re doing them exceptionally well you can add additional strategies to the mix.
#4: Have a Donor Acquisition Strategy
Your nonprofit needs a well-defined donor acquisition strategy. This means you need a plan in place for finding new donors year after year. When it comes to donor acquisition, far too many organizations try to throw everything up against the wall to see what sticks, then wonder why nothing is working as well as it should.
When it comes down to it, there are really only 6 different strategies for finding donors. Learn them, and figure out which strategies (and which variations of those strategies) will work for you. Successful nonprofit fundraising requires you to build a steady stream of new donors for your organization.
#5: For Online Fundraising, Focus on E-Mail
When it comes to online fundraising, there are lots of distractions: lots of different fundraising platforms, new technologies like crowdfunding, and constant tinkering you can do with your website. But if you want to be successful with online fundraising, you really only need to understand one thing: focus on e-mail.
E-mail is the “killer app” for online fundraising. Everything you do online should be focused on capturing e-mail addresses and communicating with donors and prospects through e-mail. Great nonprofit fundraising programs use e-mail as the lynchpin of their digital fund development efforts. To learn more, read The Most Important Thing to Understand for Online Fundraising.
#6: Build a Board Full of Ambassadors
Board involvement in fundraising presents a bit of a conundrum: you need your board to be involved with development, but most board members loathe asking people for money. What’s a smart fundraiser to do?
The answer is: stop asking your board members to be fundraisers, and start asking them to be ambassadors for your organization. (Click here to learn more about the different fundraising roles of your board of directors).
Successful nonprofit fundraising requires board involvement. Tasking your board with serving as ambassadors by making referrals and gentle introductions for your team will help your board members become more active in fundraising without asking them to do things that they are uncomfortable doing.
#7: Have a Plan, and Use It
Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Every nonprofit – including yours – needs a written fundraising plan in place. I like to write 3-year fundraising plans, because that seems like a reasonable timeframe that is long enough to allow organizations to plan without being so long that you just end up guessing about the future.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in nonprofit fundraising is a failure to write a plan. A second major mistake is the failure to use the plan you write. Don’t write your plan and then put it in the drawer. If you write your plan the right way (see this article for tips) you’ll be able to use it as a real and measurable strategy for your fund development program.
Nonprofit Fundraising: Focus on What Matters
The 7 tips above apply to nearly every nonprofit on earth. Whether you’re working for a mega-organization or a tiny start-up nonprofit, start by focusing on what matters. Nonprofit fundraising isn’t rocket science, but we do have decades of data showing that the above strategies work. If you want to raise more money, use them!