fundraiser ideasShould you pursue all those fundraiser ideas you’re thinking about? Or do true donor-based fundraising?

There’s a difference.

Most people are used to events. Those are Fundraisers.

They’ve seen them, been to them, even helped plan them.

They’re galas and raffles, dinners and golf tournaments, 5Ks, and bake sales.

They’re transactional in nature and in every community on any given day, there’s one happening.

But Fundraising is a different thing.

Fundraising is about asking for money, receiving nothing in return. (Or at least it appears that way.)

Many people don’t like fundraising. Even some who are employed to do it.  Yet it’s critical to sustainability. You can’t create ongoing revenue doing one event after another.

You NEED a large group of donors around you who love the work your nonprofit does and are willing to help you be successful. You need people who give money that you can use however you need to, simply because they want to.

So why is it easier to sell an event ticket than ask for a donation?

The Mindset of Fundraising

fundraiser ideasI believe it’s mindset.

We tend to steer clear of things that are uncomfortable or scary.

Asking for money leaves us vulnerable – what if they say ‘no?’ What if they don’t want to be around us anymore because we asked them for something and made them feel uncomfortable?

For some people, it’s too much to risk. (By the way, this is why your Board members don’t want to ask for money or invite their friends to your event – it’s all mindset.)

Asking for donations feels too much like begging. And as my colleague Kim Lauth pointed out on a webinar for my mastermind group, “Begging is settling for leftovers.”

Yuck. Who wants leftovers from donations? We’re talking nickels and dimes here.

And trust me – you will NEVER fully fund your budget with nickels and dimes.

So why DO people like selling tickets instead of asking for money?

Here are some reasons:

We like selling tickets because… We don’t like asking for money because…
It’s easy to explain  We feel compelled to explain what the organization does, how long it’s been around, what the programs are, etc. It’s exhausting to remember all that crap!
People understand quickly what they’re getting We worry that people want something in exchange for their money
There’s usually a finite period of time to sell Fundraising happens all year long – it never ends
It’s a transaction – nothing personal Feels personal somehow, like we’re asking for a favor
We know the tickets are worth it We feel manipulative somehow, like we’re taking advantage of the person

So, what do you do?

Refocus on donors

If you know about the 1-10-1000 Rule, you know that you should be doing 1 special event and doing it well.

Make it a signature event so that everyone in the community knows about it and associates it with your nonprofit. And make it a ton of fun so everyone looks forward to it, enjoys it, then talks about it for weeks afterward.

fundraiser ideasDo this 1 event, do it well, then spend your time on donor development, not more events.

You just CAN’T raise big bucks doing event after event. Ditch the events that aren’t productive and aren’t fun for you or your guests.

Once you get that, it’s time to refocus on your donors – those sweet people who love your cause and are willing to fund your good work.

The big question, then, is how do you move toward donor-based fundraising and away from all those fundraiser ideas?

Here are some tips.

  • See donors as partners, not purchasers. This is an important shift. People are not ATMs. You can’t just get a check whenever you need it, with unlimited cash available. Your donors are your partners in making the good work happen – they have the money and you have the programs. Add them together and your mission gets accomplished. And be prepared to give them what they want from their experience of philanthropy.
  • Get your mindset handled. If you continue to shy away from everything that’s uncomfortable or scary, you’ll be running your whole life. Get some coaching, get some backbone – whatever it takes to start being brave enough to spend time with a donor and ASK for their support. Take it in baby steps if you have to – just start moving toward that goal of doing Fundraising instead of Fundraisers.
  • Understand the ROI of fundraisers vs fundraising. Events will cost you 50 cents for every dollar you raise. That’s not a great return on your investment. Plus, if you factor in the staff time/cost, you may be in the hole on your event. Fundraising, or donor development, can be as little as 10 cents to raise a dollar. That’s a WHOLE lot better result for your money. It just makes financial sense to spend time with donors.
  • Picture donors as people. Donors aren’t necessarily “rich people” or “wealthy.” Yeah, they may have more money than you, but writing a check may be an easy way for them to help. Chances are good that they are in awe of you and wish they could do the boots-on-the-ground, front-line kind of work your nonprofit does. If they want to give, by all means, let them give!
  • Envision a different future. Imagine how your stress level will go down when you aren’t constantly “hitting someone up” to buy a ticket for something. That alone should motivate you to move toward donor development.
  • Keep the good words. Every time a donor tells you what an honor it is to support your organization, make a note of it. Keep the notes, emails, and cards they send telling you what great work your organization does. These words of encouragement will add up, then you can read through them anytime you need a little boost.

Now, if you’re doing LOTS of events and fundraisers, you may have to phase them out over time so you can replace that revenue with something else. $500 is $500, no matter where it comes from. Just make a plan of what you want to let go of and when, and start brainstorming about how you’ll replace it.

Then soon, you’ll be building up a big, loyal donor base full of people who give bigger and more frequent gifts. 🙂