Fundraising: Where Do I Start?

Times are changing. In our present economy, nonprofit organizations that once relied on government and grant funding are looking to individual donors for a greater percent of their operating revenues.

Truthfully, if done right, building and nurturing a base of committed givers can provide a stable, long-term source of revenue.   It’s going to take some time and research but it will be well worth the effort.

Too many people have a “home run” mentality when it comes to fundraising; the notion that there’s some mysterious benefactor out there who’s going to drop a big gift in their lap that will fund their dreams. Sorry, people usually do not usually want to support someone they don’t know. It’s the ones who know you best and who already feel a tremendous amount of good will for you and affinity with your organization and its mission that are most likely to give you money.

If you want donations, start with the “low hanging fruit” — those who are within arm’s reach. Here are your hottest prospective donors, listed in order of the most likely to give:

1) Those who have already donated.   Compile a list of those who have given previously with names and contact information plus the amounts they gave.   Pay special attention to which projects or appeals they’ve responded to.   This will help you tailor the right approach to them.   Remember, since they’ve already demonstrated a willingness and a capacity to donate, they will probably do it again if asked appropriately!

2) Talk to board members about making regular gifts.   I recently talked with a board member who said, “You want me to donate?   Isn’t it enough for me to give my time and my advice?”   My response was, “Haven’t you heard ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'”   In other words, where we direct our money shows exactly what we truly care about in our lives.   Board members are intimately acquainted with your nonprofit and its needs. So, they ought to be the ones most likely to invest in it financially.

3) What about the friends and family members of your staff and board members?   The old adage goes, “People support people, not causes.”   Those who know us best are often excited to support those whom they care about and good causes in which we are involved. This could be done by simply asking staff and board members to provide you with names, “snail mail” addresses and email addresses.   Additionally, they could be encouraged to invite those same people to visit the organization in person or to attend a fund raising event.

4) Then there’s your volunteers.   Like the board member I just mentioned, some nonprofit leaders think, “They’re giving us their time. Isn’t that enough?”   Well, the fact that they care enough about your cause to actually get involved makes them among the most likely donors!   Of course, we don’t ever want to use a “hard sell” approach with volunteers, friends or family members.   Just don’t automatically assume they wouldn’t want to contribute.   We need to make sure they are given the opportunity to participate.   You might be surprised at what a good response you will receive!

5) People who have been truly helped by your work and those who have a loved one or friend who has been helped.   Have you saved all the letters of people who said they have been helped or blessed by your program’s services or your own writing or speaking?   Guess what, they are very likely to support you financially as well!

6) Lastly, how about individuals you have met face-to-face?   People who have been in your presence, seen your face, heard you speak and felt your passion and vision are also the most likely to give money to support your organization.     Making a donation is more of an emotional response than an intellectual one.   People love to give to people they have met and with whom they feel a close tie.   We live in a new age when it comes to charitable giving.   Younger donors want to get up close and personal with people they respect and admire – those who are doing things they really care about.   So, how about thinking of ways to get them on-site at your organization’s facilities?

Nothing can be more moving than actually seeing the people you serve and feeling their needs and watching you meet them firsthand every day. Finally, let me tell you about an essential tool for starting effective fund raising – Developing Your Case for Support by Timothy L. Seiler.   It is a workbook that will help you to gather and organize all of the critical information about your organization you will need to confidently ask people to give to your work.

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