Ironic, isn't it, that in this "age of convenience" we have to struggle more than ever to manage our time in order to meet our fundraising goals? There are meetings to attend, events to plan, newsletters and publications to produce, and need I even mention that endless stream of e-mails? Still, it's absolutely crucial that, in this maelstrom of activities, we not lose sight of the bigger picture: continuously growing our base of support to ensure program services. As time-consuming as this task may be, there are ways to do it efficiently and with great success. Below, I've listed seven tips from top-performing fundraising organizations to expand your base and boost your fundraising results.
- Timing is everything. Sometimes all it takes to bring a former donor back into the fold is to ask, at the right time. You can easily identify the best opportunities for annual or major gift giving by reviewing previous giving statistics for both individual and corporate donors. If the time is right, schedule a meeting with a lapsed donor to talk about the results of his or her previous support. Talk about your current programs, and how a new gift would be used. If you cannot meet with someone in person, set aside time to make a phone call. Send a personal letter to older donors (e-mail for younger) explaining a new program initiative. Encourage one of your board members to pay the donor a visit.
- Familiarity is key. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but definitely not when it comes to growing your support base. One of the best tools for positioning your organization front and center in the minds of donors and supporters is an up-to-date mailing list, complete with e-mail addresses. Commit to using this list to send something relevant to your donors' giving desires. The key is to do this as often as possible. If you're stumped on what to send, consult with your marketing department; don't overlook anything your organization publishes—annual reports, impact statements, program initiatives and results, etc.
- Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the new "golf course." Not all that long ago, our social landscape for wooing donors was pretty much limited to events, newsletters, and the iconic golf course. Thanks to the explosion of social networking sites, today you can share your message with the masses with a single key stroke. Use these social networking sites to communicate with your donors and supporters. These sites allow you to provide your donors with relevant and timely information on the impact of their gifts. For continued success, organizations must adapt to the new landscape of communication and go where their donors are.
- The way to the heart is through the stomach. Take a board member or volunteer to lunch. Your board members and volunteers can be a veritable treasure trove of leads when it comes to growing your base of support. Get to know them on a personal level, show them your prospect list, and if they know anyone on the list, ask if they would be willing to make an introduction. Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for sample scripts they can use. Pick the brains of several of your top volunteers to find out what they are seeing and hearing in the community.
- Go where the money is. Get out of the office and meet with some accountants. Spread the word to your board members and volunteers that you want to meet local CPAs who might be interested in introducing some of their clients to your organization.
- Take your appeal to the World Wide Web. If you have not already done so, create a fundraising page on your organization's Web site. Build an announcement that can be placed in your newsletter, then send it to all of your family and friends. Your goal is to drive them to the site, where they can easily make a donation. You can also get creative and e-mail a 45-60 second video explaining the cause you want them to support and how the donations will be used. E-mail your video to all of your current and prospective donors with a request that they forward it to their contacts. If you want more, you have to ask more! (See a sample of a video we created for a Florida food bank.) If you are interested in creating a video for your organization, e-mail me at email@example.com.
- Show your prospect list to your top donors and supporters. You might be surprised how inclined supporters are to help with your development efforts. Over 80 percent of current donors would be willing to refer your organization to others. Most are never asked to do so.
As we begin the New Year, take the time to examine the processes you have in place at your organization to grow your base of support. For many organizations today, having a consistent process has never been more essential.