After taking part in the fundraising environment for the last ten years, I still go back and check John Flanagan’s words of wisdom regarding fundraising principles. He states that “All the knowledge about fundraising can be summed up in ten words: Ask ’em, thank ’em, ask ’em again, thank ’em again”.
In my experience with nonprofit organizations these words prove to be a great relief. Many nonprofits consider fundraising to be complicated and scary at times. They always think they need to hire someone with outstanding credentials, as one would hire a lawyer, an accountant or a manager. If you had any doubts, yes, in order to raise money, you have to ask people, especially the ones you know. However, this shouldn’t worry you.
Fundraising is not rocket science, and, at its core, it can be summed up as one person asks another one to provide assistance or join a movement. Of course, there are strategies and techniques that can and need to be applied but they don’t really present all that much importance in comparison with the passion that drives you in your mission.
Considering all these aspects, I will present you five ways that will help you identify, ask and engage donors. It is not foolproof but it’s the next best thing, so if you are in dire need of some cashflow, this may prove extremely helpful.
Identifying the prospects and following the ABCs of prospecting is crucial. Also, take into consideration that approximately 70 percent of Americans give to nonprofits, and, surprisingly, the money mostly comes from households with low or middle income. Try not to focus just on wealthy people given the fact they are pretty much inaccessible and most time they have certain charities they offer their money to.
As I previously stated, the ABCs of prospecting are fundamental. If you don’t know what they are, I have that covered too:
Access: Ask yourself if you know the potential donor. Take into consideration that rich strangers don’t really qualify as prospects.
Belief: Ask yourself if that particular person cares about the cause.
Capacity: Do they have the means to give the money?
There are people all around us that can be potential donors but we choose or tend not to see them.
2. Offer education for your prospects and ensure they are cultivated. Although your work is regarded as a classic “cultivation visit”, you can’t go wrong if you get creative. You could invite the prospects to take a tour of your facility, or invite them to a performance. You could also make them feel like they are a part of the cause and ask them to clean up rivers with you, deliver meals to the needy or even make social visits to sick people in hospitals. This is where your imagination should kick in. If people can experience the work you are doing, they are more likely to give money to the cause.
3. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about asking for support. However, don’t do this over the phone, by emails or in a postcard. Ask people for support in face to face meetings. When you set the appointment by email or phone try and be as transparent as possible regarding the purpose of the meeting. Prepare the meeting by finding out as much information as possible about the potential donor. During the meeting you should spend time learning things about that person too, don’t regard him or her only as a prospect. One of the key components to fundraising is listening rather than talking, so make sure you have your questions with you. You could ask questions like “When you visited our facility how was your experience?” or “What is the main reason why you supported our organization for several years now?”.
4. Make sure you thank and recognize the merits of those who give. Don’t just limit yourself to a plain thank-you letter. It’s a good start, but it’s just that: a start. Adding a handwritten thank-you note can go a long way. Also, make sure to call the donor and thank him for his contribution. Also, encourage the donor to become a board member and a volunteer. Another thing you should do is organize donor recognition events. If you decide to do this, don’t hire a catering firm, but serve the donors homemade food. They will appreciate it more than a fancy dinner with caviar and champagne. You’re an NGO not a huge business corporation so this will set you apart from other NGOs by means of personalization and creativity.
5. Get them more involved in your activity. Find ways to increase the emotional investment of your donors. You can do this by asking them to volunteer and explain that the activity includes leadership roles on committees. Also, recruit them and ask them to serve as ambassadors for your cause. This way, they can talk with their friends and maybe convince them to be a part of the cause. If there ever was a saying which applies in this case, it would have to be this one: “If you want advice, ask for money. If you want money, ask for advice”.