I have talked about this topic a bit when opining on annual appeal letters and solicitor training but after a recent conversation, I thought it should be said again. And said in a straightforward, no nonsense way.
The key to successful fundraising is stop thinking about your nonprofit. And start thinking about donor.
Finding out what motivates the donor to give.
Some people like their names on buildings. Others like the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they watch a video that includes the children who attend the community center thanking them for their support. Still others like to dress up and help create an extravagant gala. Very different motivations but all valid and all should be considered when soliciting a gift.
Discovering why the donor likes your organization.
Is it because they feel that their child is having a good experience at your school? Or, because they think you are the best advocates in the area for animal welfare. Maybe they think their association with you is good for their image. The key is knowing, what do they think?
Asking for the right gift
Someone who likes galas might not want to give to your annual fund. But, they may be willing to join the gala committee, increase their personal gift, and encourage their friends to join them. Another donor who gives to your annual fund may like to give to the December appeal, or they may be ready to learn how they can fund a new program. Knowing your donors giving history/patterns, their interests, and how much they give to other organizations can help you craft the right ask.
Knowing the right time to ask
Your fiscal year end will not affect a major donor’s donation timing as much as their year-end bonus or their annual fundraising check writing session in December. Your calendar is not as important as the donors. No matter how much you wish it were different.
Thinking about who should make the ask
Your most successful fundraiser is not the best fundraiser for every donor. Consider who the donor knows, or might like to get to know. Create pairs of solicitors so that there is twice as much listening going on. It is about the donor, and deepening their connection to your nonprofit.
If you want to retain donors and move then from entry level to mid-level, or mid-level to major gifts, stewardship is the key. A planned approach that incorporates calls, emails, updates, invitations, thank yous, coffees, etc. takes time. But it is the path to a stronger relationship with the donor. Which, in turn, will help with donor retention and raising more money.
Refining your fundraising processes takes time. But if you start to considering fundraising from the donor’s perspective, you will understand it is a marathon, not a sprint. One bit of caution, if you wait another six months or year with excuses as to why you can’t start changing your fundraising yet, you are putting off your growth. And probably losing quite a few donors along the way. Start considering the donors’ POV ASAP.