It’s scary to get halfway through the year and realize you are NOT on track to meet your fundraising goal.
Or maybe you find yourself approaching the end of your fiscal year and you’re not going to make your goal.
Either way, it’s a problem, but it might not be your fault.
Sluggish fundraising happens to quality organizations with solid fundraising plans in place. Here are some reasons why:
1. The economy changed. Donors who usually give $100 only gave $50 or didn’t give at all. Even a perceived shift in the economy can have an impact on some donors’ generosity.
A weak economy can also push donors to contribute to different types of organizations, especially those they perceive as underfunded or most deserving of their support.
2. A major funder pulled back. Maybe a major funder reduced their donation or stopped funding your organization altogether. Sometimes funders change their priorities and you are left having no idea why they stopped funding you.
Hopefully, you aren’t too dependent on any one funder. After all, putting all your eggs in one basket is a bad idea! But even when you are not overly dependent on a single funding source, losing a big donor can impact your nonprofit goal.
3. An event got canceled or had low attendance. This often happens due to circumstances beyond your control. Pandemics happen. A major storm can hurt attendance. Maybe your marketing strategy just didn’t quite work, or several sponsors did not come through.
4. Your issue isn’t getting the news coverage it once did. When media attention moves on from something like food insecurity, it often seizes on something else, like drug addition, sex traffiking, or climate change.
Donors go where their heart leads them, and that’s often impacted by news stories that resonate and touch their hearts. A major event like a war or a natural disaster can pull support away from many organizations, as people give to unsettling, immediate needs.
5. A rainmaker Board member rolled off. Board members who raise a lot of money through their personal networks often move on to other causes or interests when they leave the Board. If you can’t replace that Board member with a similarly well-connected person, your budget could take a hit.
1. Build in a new campaign with a specific Ask. This is a tried-and-true strategy. Look for a specific need in your organization that needs to be funded, such as moving five students or families off your waiting list or purchasing most-needed items for emergency food boxes.
Create a campaign to fund that need. Use social media, including Facebook and Instagram Live, email marketing with video, and individual Asks to ensure the biggest reach and a successful campaign.
This strategy works best if your Ask is for something you need to pay for anyway, especially expenses that would be covered from your general operating budget. Don’t make up something new just to get money in the door or choose something so specific that donations are restricted to that item. That won’t help close the gap in your operating budget.
2. Add an appeal with a specific Ask. Does it make sense to send another appeal through the mail or email? If you are currently only doing one annual appeal, you might find success with a second one.
As with a campaign, think about a specific need that will touch people’s hearts and just the right story to share. Ask for a specific amount and tell donors how their donation will make a difference. Then make it easy to give.
If you have a matching gift or a sense of urgency about why you need the money now, you’ll be more likely to have success with your appeal.
3. Launch a crowdfunding campaign, also known as peer-to-peer fundraising. This strategy works great when you have a specific need that donors can understand, such as a vehicle for a mobile food delivery program.
Unlike a traditional campaign, crowdfunding enlists others to make the Asks within their networks. Talk to your Board and key supporters about the need for a successful crowdfunding campaign to reach your fundraising goal. Ask for their help. Make sure they understand the urgency.
There are lots of platforms out there that make peer-to-peer fundraising easy. So, find 10 or 15 people who are willing to ask their friends for help, set a timeframe for the campaign, and go after it!
4. Challenge your Board. A Board challenge can be effective when your organization is in a funding pinch, because Board members are ultimately responsible for the nonprofit’s success. Work with your Board chair to challenge everyone on the Board to help make up the funding gap.
The Board chair can make it a friendly competition or take a more discrete approach, speaking with Board members one on one.
5. Book some house parties. This remains one of our best fundraiser ideas. A house party doesn’t cost a lot of money or require a lot of planning and is a great way for Board members, volunteers, or even key supporters to reach out to their friends.
The host invites their friends, family members, and professional contacts to their home for dinner or just drinks, and you give a brief talk about the organization’s important work. The host makes the Ask. That’s it. There’s no silent auction or raffle component. No live music or DJ. No theme. It’s just a social gathering with food and beverages supplied by the host, a brief but powerful presentation about the organization, and an Ask.
I’ve seen this work as a formal dinner party, a backyard barbeque, and everything in between. It’s up to the individual host to decide what they want their house party to be.
6. Host a Five Dollar Friday. Are you doing Five Dollar Friday Asks on social media and via email? If not, now is the time to start.
Choose a small, solvable problem that you need to fund. Write a compelling paragraph or two describing the problem and why you need the donor’s help now. Ask people to give a small amount toward the problem, like five dollars.
Post the campaign on social media on a Friday and be ready to spend a significant chunk of your day posting updates, photos, and video in support of the campaign. If you do it right, it’s an easy, quick win. When I feel like I am running out of ideas for fundraisers, I always go back to Five Dollar Friday.
7. Launch a series of Facebook Live events. This is an under-rated strategy for engaging your supporters, sharing valuable, juicy news about your organization and your issue, and asking for money. It’s also great for showing people first-hand what your nonprofit does or giving a virtual tour of your facility.
Schedule your Facebook Live at a time when most of your supporters are online—check your Facebook insights to find out what works for your audience. Plan what you’ll say for about 5 -10 minutes. Keep it moving and don’t ramble. Post a teaser earlier in the day to let people know you’re going live.
Ask some of your best supporters to join you on the Facebook Live to share why they support the organization. Ask for a donation at the end of the event and make it easy for people to give.
8. Schedule a speaking engagement blitz. Get out there and speak to audiences full of your Ideal Donor Prospects. Civic clubs, community groups, garden clubs, activist organizations, women’s clubs, book clubs, and supper clubs could be perfect places for you to share your story and find new supporters.
Think about the gatherings that take place in your community and look for shared interests. For example, if you support first generation college students, talk to book clubs about reading a relevant book and letting you lead the discussion and ask for support.
9. Book every community event you can. Contact the organizer of every local fair, festival, farmer’s market, or other event to see if your organization can set up a table. As organizations grow they often leave tabling at events behind, but when you have a gap to close, it’s a way to engage your supporters in helping to find new donors.
Set up a fun and engaging table. Staff your table with your most enthusiastic supporters. Wear your logo t-shirts. Make people want to know what the story is with your organization.
10. Set up a series of Facebook fundraisers. It’s great when someone hosts a Facebook fundraiser for your benefit. But it’s totally awesome when five or even 10 supporters agree to host a Facebook fundraiser on your organization’s behalf.
Recruit 10 people and provide them with the language and graphics they need to promote your organization. Then let them inspire their contacts to support the organization that means so much to them.
11. Ask people to host birthday fundraisers on Facebook. Similar to a series of Facebook fundraisers, this one specifically asks people to host a birthday fundraiser and choose your nonprofit as the recipient. Facebook makes this easy and many people have seen them, so they’re at least familiar to most folks.
One of our clients has gotten so good at this, that they raise multiple million dollars each year just by people hosting Facebook birthday fundraisers!
Promote this through email and social media to get it started, and be ready to provide people with some language to help them as they set up their birthday fundraiser.
12. Put on a pop-up event. I am seeing more and more pop-up events. Instead of nine to 12 months of planning, a pop-up event gets planned in a month or less, targeting a specific audience. Find a place where they already hang out, like a local brewery and plan a fast event there.
Bring everyone together to celebrate and raise money. Add a raffle, a small silent auction,or more fun ways to bring in money. These events thrive on momentum and the excitement of something coming together on the fly. They are often promoted on Instagram and target a younger audience.
13. Put on a virtual event. We don’t have to be in lockdown mode to have a virtual event. A virtual event is cheaper to put on than an in-person event. It can take less time to organize and pull off.
And a virtual event can bring in money to help you meet your year-end goal. The nice thing is that a virtual event can be just about anything – a virtual concert, trivia night, bingo… the sky’s the limit!
14. Develop a creative business sponsorship opportunity. I saw this work recently! The advocacy coordinator for a nonprofit was putting together her annual Father’s Day advocacy campaign, and she wondered why she had never sought a sponsor for the campaign before. So she decided to go after one.
The first law firm she contacted said yes and made a $1,000 donation! Their logo will appear on all marketing materials for the advocacy campaign. She is in the process of contacting other law firms to see if they will co-sponsor the campaign, too.
We think about getting sponsors for events, but are there programs businesses would be willing to sponsor? Get creative here and you can make this work.
15. Sell a new t-shirt or some other product. When was the last time you offered supporters a t-shirt with a fresh design? Work with a designer to come up with something powerful that supporters will be proud to wear. Put the design on other items such as tote bags, magnets, and stickers.
You can sell them online and in person. You can raffle them off and send them to major donors. This fundraising strategy can be a blitz followed by a long game. A product sale is a hands-on way to raise money and spread awareness. It can feel like a hassle, not gonna lie. But it pays off in making casual supporters more likely to become supporters for life.
16. Reach out to your major donors. Events cost money and take time. Creating and marketing products takes money and time. Contacting major donors, letting them know of an urgent need, and asking for a larger gift does not cost money or take a lot of time.
I know it can be uncomfortable to ask for money, but trust me here – major donor work is your fastest path to cash to close the gap on your budget!
17. Contact your mid-range donors, those who donate between $250 and $999. These donors are often overlooked, but they clearly care a lot about the organization. Someone who donated $500 last year might donate $1,000 this year if they knew their donation was needed and would be appreciated.
When you are learning how to fundraise, these are the donors that can get overlooked. They are engaged donors. A $250 gift is a big gift, and there may be more where that came from.
18. Contact past funders. Don’t overlook the foundations and nonprofit partners who have supported you over the years. Let them know about your funding gap and invite them to help close the gap.
Ask them to introduce you to prospective funders who may want to step into the heroic role and fund a particular program or need.
19. Contact lapsed donors. Create a unique communication aimed at bringing back donors who donated in the past but not in the past 12 months. An email followed by a phone call is a powerful combination to renew past supporters. Invite them to return to the fold, contribute to an urgent need, and make a major impact.
This is called a SYBUNT campaign – Some Year But Unfortunately Not This.
20. Pursue three new grant opportunities. I am putting this recommendation last because grant funding is unlikely to fill your gap and it doesn’t happen quickly. You are more likely to reach your fundraising goal by working with individual donors. But there might be some new grant opportunities out there and you don’t want to leave money on the table.
Don’t go crazy submitting proposals to every foundation out there. But if you can identify a few new, solid leads, pursue them.