Why your fundraising program should focus on people

Is your fundraising program based on a few big events each year? Or maybe on a handful of large corporate partnerships?

Those can definitely bring in more money for each event or partnership agreement. But there are some good reasons those areas aren’t how you want to build a program that grows and lasts.

  1. Donor relationships can last year after year
  2. Individual donors’ gifts can grow over time
  3. Individuals leave legacy gifts
  4. People who care about your cause have friends
  5. Building a solid program isn’t as confusing and complicated as you think

Donor relationships can last year after year

If you focus on good practices, many of your donors will stick around. It’s that simple. But it takes focus and work.

Are you giving donors (and potential donors) a good reason to give? We call this a “donor bargain”. A proposition so compelling – and donor-sized – that they almost can’t help but give.

“Help us reach our year-end goal” is not a donor bargain. “If you can send just $50 today, you can feed a family for a week” is. Do you see the difference? It’s about connecting donors directly to the good they want to do. Giving has a physical effect on us. Feel-good hormones are triggered. We like to help.

Once they give, are you thanking them well? Not a cold tax receipt, but a warm, human, letter – full of gratitude? The point is to help the good feelings about giving continue. This is a key step in cementing an ongoing relationship.

And are you letting donors know what they did? Yes, the thanks help with that, but are you reporting to them? Donor newsletters do not have to be fancy. They DO have to be about the donor and what their giving made possible. (This is not an organizational brag fest!)

Think of it this way:

Ask (good feelings) -> Thank (more good feelings) -> Report (satisfaction and good feelings)

Keep this up and you’ll build a group of donors who begin to think of you as their charity. That’s the goal… they’re not your donors, you’re their charity.

Individual donors’ gifts can grow

While of course, you’ll want to expand the number of people giving, don’t overlook the budget implications of donors choosing to give more – or more often.

Picture a tiny plant. With time and care, it can grow.

You’ll follow the basic roadmap, but you’ll ask some donors to increase their giving. That requires a great ask! Give them a good reason to increase their gift. If $50 can feed a family for a week, could $100 feed four families – because another donor pledged to match their gift?

Or perhaps, offer them an opportunity to become a monthly donor. Some donors will like the convenience and not having to worry about whether they’ve given to a favorite cause.

And give your donors the chance to tell you what they think. Remember the Ask – Thank – Report? Add a step – ask them for their thoughts: about the work they do through your organization, about how they feel about their treatment, and about what you could do better.

As you get to know your donors, you’ll begin to see who might be ready for more personal attention. Many donors who give large amounts began with a smaller-sized gift!

Committed donors are the donors who will leave legacy gifts

This is the most personal of all gifts. But if you consistently do the work and build strong donor relationships, some will respond well to this request.

Don’t assume that your donors know this is possible. Make it clear that you accept these gifts. Think about including a story about a legacy donor in your next newsletter. Include a small card or use the back of a reply form to let donors know it’s easily done.

Again, it’s consistency that matters.

People who care about your cause have friends

Of course, they do. But they probably have friends who might care about the same things they do.

Good feelings about giving to your organization can grow organically when your donors are enthusiastic about the work they do with you.

A political operative put it this way when asked about the value of $5 gifts. “Every one of those gifts is a vote.”

Every enthusiastic donor has the potential to bring more people to you.

A strong fundraising program is not as confusing and complicated as you think to build

You don’t have to be part of a large organization to build a solid program. Think about a few things you do need:

  • A good CRM. (Because information is critical and being able to capture it easily is as well.)
  • A consistent communication calendar. (Once a year won’t work. Think about at least 3 appeals and 3 newsletters a year. And if you’re new to this, it might be wise to outsource to an expert for your donor communications. Then learn from them! I’m happy when I see clients learn.)
  • A good attitude about philanthropy and respect for the people who choose to give.

More people involved with your organization means more people who really care about your cause. That’s invaluable. So plant some seeds today, begin nurturing your program, and watch as good things happen!

Photo by Donald Teel on Unsplash