Mission-driven organizations must cover necessary expenses including salaries and program expenses to achieve its goals. This is vital. In order not to live month to month for this funding, it is important to have a plan. Some people may find fundraising daunting while others find it an exciting challenge. Raising support for mission-driven organizations, no matter their size and field, is both an art and a science.
There is an art to fundraising as you engage the emotions and passions of your audience. This originates in your communications strategy. Utilizing an emotive mixture of storytelling, pictures, and videos draws potential donors into your mission in an artful encounter. Viewing fundraising as an art helps fundraisers share with their donors the joy of giving.
Combined with the art of fundraising is the science of it. This includes your organization's fundraising strategy and the goals and data it takes to accomplish it. Central to your strategy should be an effort to encourage people to share their two most valuable commodities: time and money.
The more people give of their time and money to a certain project or organization, the more invested they will be in the long run.
A great tool to use when creating your organization's fundraising strategy is the Fundraising Pyramid. It is essential for any organization to understand how to cultivate donor relationships in order to move donors up the pyramid.
Let's walk through this model together.
The bottom level of the pyramid consists of events that your organization hosts. These may include regularly planned events and programs or special fundraising events like an annual gala or 5K race. This is how people and the community get to know you.
Any time you invite people to participate in your mission and ethos, they are giving their time to your organization. Individuals who participate in these events or programs find something beneficial about them, whether it is a fulfillment of their passions or a way to develop themselves. It is key for your organization to plan events that both fulfill your mission and provide a benefit (whether tangible or not) to your attendees.
Consider what events your organization has done in the past or can host in the future that will engage audiences in your mission.
So, you may ask, what do events have to do with fundraising, especially those that do not bring in revenue? Think of events as opportunities to meet potential donors. Events are great ways to introduce your mission to people who may end up giving more of their time and money to your organization. This conversion from event attendee to donor will NOT happen naturally, however. Talk to any development director and they will confirm this fact.
In order to move event attendees up the fundraising pyramid, you must be intentional about your communication and follow-up with them. Are you capturing event attendees' contact information? Record this information on a Client/Customer Relationship Management (CRM) list and continue updating it throughout the year.
Send attendees a follow up email or card to thank them for attending the event. Include a survey asking for their feedback on the event. Invite them to join your social media networks or newsletter list to stay updated on your events. Send them a notice about other ways they can get involved with your organization.
This can be the most labor intensive part of many mission-driven efforts. Be sure to use the best tools available to aid your efforts. Remember, the more individuals give of their time to your organization, the more invested they will be.
Just as growing trees does not happen overnight, successful donor cultivation takes a careful, strategic process.
Tip: Make it easy for event attendees to learn more about your mission and reach out to you! You may be surprised by the amount of people who take the initiative to learn more about your organization if you give them easy opportunities to.
With proper documentation of who is attending your events and how often, you make a thoughtful effort to follow-up throughout the year. Then, when it comes time for that annual campaign or special fundraiser (#GivingTuesday anyone?), you have a list of potential donors ready to reach out to.
These individuals will already know something - even if it is only a cursory overview - of your organization and mission. They will also have a personal connection with your organization since they attended one of your events. You can go into your giving season confidently knowing you have relationships built with individuals who may be eager to give! How much better does it get than that?
Your annual and special campaigns are a great place to integrate the art of fundraising, now that you have followed the methods of your fundraising strategy (the science) throughout the year.
Engage people's passions and emotions by telling stories of individuals in your organization. Take photos of your community. Create video interviews of your clients sharing their stories. Make it easy for potential donors to see the faces and stories behind your organization. Find ways to show donors the tangible difference their generosity makes.
As your donors move farther up the pyramid, it becomes increasingly important to cultivate deeper relationships with them and invite them to share more of their time. Moving someone from an annual donor to a monthly donor involves connecting a need in your organization to a donor's passions. How will you know their passions without getting to know them?
Use giving and volunteer trends to target donors who have the potential to become monthly or reoccurring donors. Perhaps your organization can create a way for donors to become a monthly sponsor or member? Provide details of what this sponsorship or membership entails - where does their money go? What will the donor get in return (socially or tangibly)?
When it is time for your organization to seek out donors who will give major gifts or set up planned giving, look back at your donor CRM and consider which individuals have given the most time or money to your organization. Most major donors have a prior relationship with the organization before they give large amounts of money to support it.
Tip: If your organization plans to hire a consultant to help run a capital campaign, looking at your CRM is often their first start. Campaign consultants start by asking for data on your engagement (time) and donation (money) history to see if you are ready for the next big step. How big is your current donor base? Have donors been attending and giving consistently? What does your record keeping look like?
Encourage your Executive Director or Development Director to take these donors out to eat. Invite them to be a part of a committee or leadership team on your organization. In the very least, invite them on a special tour of your programs and services. Make these donors feel special. Understand they are making an investment into your organization - demonstrate that you are responsible and capable of producing a social return on their investment!
As your organization creates its fundraising strategy, consider how you can build relationships with donors through the art and science of fundraising. Capture the curiosity and passions of event attendees and gradually invite them to partner with your organization by giving their time and money. Get to know your donors' passions as you gently and purposefully engage them in the joys of giving.
Take steps to make your fundraising efforts more efficient over time. Avoid being emotionally chained to host "one more event" for the sake of paying the bills this month. Be smarter. Proper planning and modern tools put you in this position to accomplish your fundraising goals in order to fund your mission.
Village Creed provides tools to help you manage your events and follow-up with your event attendees. Check out these tools and consider how they can make your life easier for donor cultivation.
About the Author
Anna Knight is the Marketing Campaign Coordinator at Village Creed. She graduated from Covenant College with a degree in Education and is currently pursuing her master's degree in Nonprofit Management. She is passionate about supporting diverse communities through collaboration and dignifying storytelling.