When it comes to fundraising, there are no silver bullets. Despite what a consultant or board member might tell you, there are no top-secret tricks that will triple your fundraising overnight.
That being said, there are a number of things you can do that will transform your fundraising. In particular, over the past two decades in fundraising, I’ve seen four things that non-profits can do if they really want to supercharge their fundraising quickly. So quickly, in fact, that they can be utterly transformational for the organization’s development program.
These four things take work, and sometimes they’re a leap of faith… but they’re worth it, because they enable your non-profit to raise more money than ever before. Here they are, in no particular order:
#1: Reallocate Your Resources
The 80/20 rule definitely applies in fundraising. Chances are, 20% of your strategies and tactics result in 80% of your fundraising revenue. For most non-profits, the time and money they invest in major donor fundraising and individual donor cultivation results in far more money raised, on a per-hour and per-dollar-spent basis, that time and money spend on events or grant writing.
When it comes to return on investment for your fundraising tactics, every non-profit is different. Maybe events or grants really do beat individual cultivation at your non-profit (though I doubt it). Maybe you are crushing it online, or raising a ton through direct mail. The real question is, how do you know? Are you tracking your fundraising ROI? Do you know how much money you raise per hour spent and per dollar invested in each of your fundraising programs?
Once you know your fundraising ROI for each tactic the second question is, are you willing to reallocate your resources away from underperforming strategies and plow that money and time into strategies that are more successful? Are you willing to spend less time and money on events, and invest that time and money into individual donor meetings (or whatever is working best for your non-profit?) If you want to transform your fundraising, you need to reallocate your limited resources to where they can do the most good.
#2: Hire Another Fundraiser
If you want to raise more money at your non-profit, you need to make fundraising a top priority for your organization. You can’t cherish programs but underfund and understaff the development office. You need to make an investment in hiring a full-time fundraiser (or another full-time fundraiser) if you want to succeed.
Here are some general guidelines: If your non-profit is raising more than $500,000 per year, you need to have a full-time fundraiser on staff. If your non-profit is raising more than $1.5 million per year, it’s time to hire a second fundraiser. These rules of thumb are not set in stone. If your organization is raising $1.2 million with one fundraiser, but can’t seem to grow anymore, maybe it’s time to hire that fundraiser some help.
Think of it this way: if you were running a business, and wanted it to be successful, would you hire people to make a product and package the product, an accountant, an HR person and a CEO, but not any salespeople? Of course not… for most businesses, the sales team is the first group that gets hired. Why, then, would you put together an amazing program team for your non-profit without hiring a full-time fundraising team?
Don’t make the common mistake of understaffing your fundraising program. Hire a full-time fundraiser, or another full-time fundraiser, and have them focus on building your development program.
#3: Make Your Message More Emotional
When it comes to donor messaging, remember this simple rule: donors make the decision to give with their hearts, and then confirm that decision with their heads. What this means is that donors make the decision to give because you have emotionally hooked them on your mission, and then they try to confirm that decision to give by looking at your statistics, your outcomes, and the nitty gritty of your programs to make sure they made the right decision.
If you want to transform your fundraising, you need to transform your donor messaging to be far more emotional than it is today. Any client who has worked with me on their case for support will tell you that the first thing I tell them is to make it 50% more emotional. When they come back with a new draft, I again tell them to make it 50% more emotional. I keep doing this until the case statement makes me feel something… either a tear in my eye, or goosebumps, or a stirring pride, or the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.
Good donor messaging is emotions-based. The more you can make your donors feel your message, feel your programs, and feel your ask, the more they will want to give to your organization.
#4: Double Your Stewardship Efforts
If you want to raise more transformational gifts for your non-profit, the place to start is with your own current donors. Your donors know you, they appreciate your work, and they have already demonstrated how much they believe in you by writing a check to support your work. If you want to transform your fundraising, start by doubling your stewardship efforts.
How do you double your donor stewardship? Do twice as many meetings with your donors, send them twice as many handwritten notes, invite them to twice as many recognition events. Go deeper with each donor, and go deeper on your donor list. If you previously only did stewardship visits with donors who gave $5,000 or more per year to your organization, switch the cut off to $2,500 or $1,000 this coming year.
Remember, you’re not providing amazing stewardship to your donors just for the sake of stewarding them. There are three very real, very tangible, and very measurable goals for your donor stewardship efforts. First, you want to retain your donors, by making sure that those donors who gave last year give again this year. Second, you want to upgrade your donors, by getting as many of your donors as possible to give more this year than they gave last year. Finally, you want to seek referrals from your donors, by getting as many of your current donors as possible to introduce you to their friends, family, and colleagues.
Your non-profit does great work. You deserve to raise the money you need to thrive. Use the four strategies above to transform your fundraising this year, and raise more money for your organization than ever before.
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center