For those just starting out in fundraising, it can be overwhelming to figure out. Look around the community and you’ll see lots of different groups doing lots of different things. But what really works? And what should you be doing?
Fundraising is about engaging people in the work your nonprofit is doing. It’s not about selling candy bars or having a golf tournament. It’s about giving people the chance to make a gift and feel good about it, knowing they are changing lives and making a difference in the world. This is donor-based fundraising, and it provides long-term sustainability to nonprofit organizations.
Here are 7 simple steps you can take to raise big money for your nonprofit.
1. Make fundraising a priority. Before you begin, make sure you’re ready to begin. If you’re going to commit to raising money, be prepared to spend time on it every day for at least 6 months. You must be organized and prepared when it comes to fundraising. You must have a plan and work it. You can’t be successful if you’re reacting to whatever falls in your lap from day to day.
2. Understand why people give. People give for lots of different reasons – because they want to help, or they want to give back. Mostly it’s because someone asked.
Giving is an emotional act, backed up by logic. That’s why so many nonprofits understand how to play up the emotional side of their work, to pluck a prospect’s heart strings. When you understand the emotion behind the gifts that come to your organization, you’ll be better able to tell your story and raise big money.
3. Identify the best donor prospect. This may hurt your feelings, but not everyone will care about your mission. Not everyone will give. Even if you are very passionate about the work your nonprofit does, not everyone else will be. So, it’s best to get focused on those people who are likely to care about what your nonprofit is about. Start by getting clear about who is most likely to support your nonprofit. What do your current donors or volunteers have in common? Once you understand your ideal donor prospect, it’s much easier to go find others just like them.
4. Tell your story. Telling your story is key to fundraising, but what is your story? It’s who your nonprofit is and what you are doing to change the world. It’s about the lives you are changing (or saving). And it must be told in a way that’s easily understandable and meaningful to your ideal donor prospect. That means you must use simple language, leave out the jargon, and keep it short. When you tell a compelling story, people will take action. They’ll make a gift or sign up to volunteer.
5. Plan how and when you will ask for a gift. This is the nitty gritty part of fundraising – the fundraising plan! It’s important to set clear, concrete, SMART goals so that you can be successful. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Plan how, when, who, and what for every fundraising activity you undertake. Be sure to use a variety of strategies to diversify your revenue streams
6. Acknowledge and steward the gift. This may actually be the most important part of fundraising, yet the part that most nonprofits don’t get right. And it’s quite simple: Thank your donor promptly, warmly, and sincerely every time. The most common way to do this is with a thank-you letter. Done well, the thank-you letter accomplishes many things, including building trust with your donor and setting up the next gift.
7. Evaluate success and Get Fully Funded. Be sure to track where money is being spent, and where money is being raised so that you know what’s working for you. Then continue doing those things that work, and stop doing those that don’t. This means that you may have to stop doing an annual event because it just isn’t worth the investment of time and money you’re putting into it.
Once you get the basics in place, fundraising becomes easier, and your confidence will increase with each successful activity.