Have you ever heard this phrase?

“When the only thing you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

It’s true. Sometimes we get one tool – one skill, one talent – and out of habit, we stick with it.

If you want to raise enough money to fully fund your programs, you need to use more than one tool. And you need to use the right tools.

So, what tools do you need? Here are 8 that should be sharpened and ready to go in your fundraising toolbox.

  1. Clear, magnetic vision. You need a big, hairy, audacious goal to attract tons of attention and support for your cause. It needs to be something that challenges status quo and stirs people’s hearts. It should be easy to understand and you need to be able to articulate it well. For example, if you work for a food bank, a clear, magnetic vision might be to end hunger in your community. If you work for an animal shelter, how about becoming no kill? The most important thing is that it’s BIG. No one wants to support a mediocre vision.
  2. Hooky elevator speech. An elevator speech is meant to be something quick that you can share that tells someone what your organization does. It’s not meant to tell everything, but just enough that they start asking questions and want to know more. And it’s not meant to be a memorized mission statement (most mission statements are vague meaningless crap). For example, Habitat for Humanity might say “we make sure that everyone has a safe, decent, affordable place to live.” Notice there’s no jargon. It takes some work to create a hooky elevator speech and the result is well worth it.
  3. Heart-warming human-interest stories. You must have stories ready to share about people whose lives have been significantly impacted by the work your nonprofit does. Donors and prospects want to know that your organization makes a difference, and the best way to show that is to tell a story. Good stories show a dramatic difference in the ‘before’ and ‘after,’ and move people to ask questions, make a donation, or get involved. Facts tell, stories sell.
  4. Visitor-friendly website. People will check you out online before they make a gift, so be ready for them. Your website needs to be warm and engaging with plenty of stories, photos, video, and blank space. Long, dry, boring text will run people off, so avoid it at all costs! Look at your website with a newbie’s eye – what would you notice if you knew nothing about the organization? Can you easily tell what the organization does? Is it easy to make a donation? Keep information updated and easy to scan.
  5. Detailed activity calendar. It’s easier to raise money when you’re proactive instead of reactive. Most nonprofits have no plan for fundraising. They do whatever they’ve always done without putting enough thought and strategy behind it. And they tend to deal with the crisis du jour instead of working purposefully on things that will move them forward toward their goals. A calendar of fundraising activities, including grant deadlines, newsletter send-out dates, and donor touches will get you on the path to raising all the money you need to fully fund your programs. And most importantly, get it out of your head and on paper!
  6. Meaningful budget. This seems obvious, but it amazes me how many nonprofits have no budget. Or it doesn’t have enough detail to mean anything. Not only do you need a budget for your entire organization, but you need one for each program or project you’re raising money for. It’s tough to build trust and ask for a gift if you don’t know how much something costs.
  7. Impact numbers. Every nonprofit has a few key numbers that will deliver a big impact when they’re shared. They’re usually related to outcome measurement and they help people understand the need you’re addressing. Impact numbers include the number of people you’re serving or who need your help and the cost to provide one unit of service.  For example, if you work for a food bank, you might share that 1 out of every 3 kids in your area is going hungry. Or that it costs you 27 cents to feed a hungry person. These specific numbers paint a picture in the minds of your donors and prospects, and show them how you’re making a difference.
  8. Donor/prospect list. Here’s another one that seems obvious, yet it’s not common. Most people working in fundraising make the mistake of thinking that everyone in the community is a potential donor.  And it’s just not true. First, not everyone gives to charity. Of those who do, they have their favorites, and they’re not likely to change. Create an Ideal Donor Profile to help you better understand who you’re looking for, so you can find them easily and in large numbers. Once someone becomes a donor, remember their name. Nothing builds trust faster than believing you’re important enough to be remembered. This is especially true for your major donors. If you have to, make a list of your top donors and keep it with you all the time.

Any carpenter knows that the right tool will make the job easy. And good quality tools in good condition are a joy to use. Keep your fundraising tools sharp and everything will get easier.

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