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Mastering Fundraising Strategies in Non-Profits

Fundraising is the lifeline of many non-profit organizations. There are many strategies to consider as you plan for your fundraising goals. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your fundraising efforts.

Fundraising Challenges with New Donors

Authenticity, relationship-building, and flexibility are all important aspects of fundraising. While the objective is to raise funds, the path forward lies in genuine connection and understanding from the donor’s perspective.

There is no need for a perfectly polished pitch when dealing with new donors or those who are hesitant about fundraising. In these cases, start with individuals familiar to the potential donor, like board members, volunteers, or consistent donors. Authenticity, trust, and transparency are key in this stage.

It is important to let the donor lead the way – they may already have a clear idea of what they wish to contribute. For example, a corporate sponsor may be interested in a top-tier sponsorship, while an individual donor may want to donate funds in a loved one’s name. A "menu" approach (a detailed list of what an organization can offer to sponsors/donors) can also be a useful starting point to let donors pick their interests.

Treat fundraising as an opportunity for fact-finding and genuine connection. Asking donors about their values and interests will help tailor your fundraising ask and engage donors more effectively. Strong relationships with donors often result in deeper engagement, larger contributions, and lasting partnerships. Coming to a meeting with a fixed donation amount in mind may limit the potential of the conversation. Being open and adaptive can lead to donors committing more than initially expected.

Engage Board Members in Fundraising

Board members are typically a non-profit's biggest cheerleaders. Use their interest in your cause to your organization’s advantage.

With board members, it is important to note that not all will be successful fundraisers or donor connections. However, all are passionate about the cause. In such cases, personal stories from a board member on why they support the organization can be impactful to attract more support.

Board members also typically have their own network of potential donors. Instead of asking for the board member to contact a connection, ask them to provide your organization with a list of potential donors. The board member provides leads, but the non-profit organization is the one requesting donations.

Diversify the Donor Base

A challenge for many organizations is the aging of long-term donors. Showcasing different programs and initiatives can help organizations appeal to a variety of interests and age groups.

Engaging younger donors requires finding entry points, recognizing their contributions, and celebrating the impact of even small gifts.

Build a Communication Strategy

Delivering value, coordinating efforts, and understanding your audience’s perspective are all important parts of communicating to the community your organization’s message and needs.

Repetition in messaging, while it may seem redundant to the sender, can be effective since recipients might not see messages as frequently. With that in mind, consider how you can be creative while still leaning on the established brand identity. It should be easy to know what organization the communications are coming from, but having a little fun with wording and graphics can make your collateral more eye-catching.

It is important to schedule and coordinate communication efforts between the relevant departments to avoid over-communication or duplication of efforts. A shared calendar can be helpful to make sure your audience isn’t being overwhelmed with messaging.

Rather than focusing on the number of emails or communications sent out, the emphasis should be on the value of the content. Sending valuable, relevant, and engaging content will be more appreciated and is less likely to be ignored. In addition, major donors may appreciate exclusive content or behind-the-scenes information.

A New Era of Fundraising

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the ways donors interact with organizations. Previously, face-to-face interactions were preferred, but there's been a noticeable shift towards quicker, virtual communication.

Tools like Zoom and Teams have become standard, while texting and emails have gained even more prominence. Many older donors have shown a preference for texting over traditional phone calls. The pandemic has also made many individuals reconsider their legacies, prompting a rise in planned giving discussions.

The performing arts sector was significantly impacted, with many events and performances halted. This loss of in-person engagement meant more reliance on virtual events and increased email communication to stay in touch with donors.

There has also been a change in the corporate giving model over the years. Corporations are now more transparent about their philanthropic priorities, and decisions are often made by committees rather than individual executives. There is a growing desire for deeper engagements, with companies seeking ways for their employees to be involved, such as through volunteer opportunities.

While there have been significant shifts in the fundraising landscape due to the pandemic, adaptation and personalization remain key in cultivating long-term donor relationships. Successful fundraising and donor engagement require both appreciation of donors and strategic thinking about how to best communicate and connect with them.

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Biz Tip Topic Expert: Kirsten Houghton, CPA, MBA

Kirsten Houghton, CPA, MBA

Kirsten is a Principal with SVA Certified Public Accountants and her expertise includes the nonprofit and real estate industries. In addition to providing audit, accounting, and tax services, Kirsten also provides review, compilation, and management advisory services.

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