We decided to tackle fundraising as our debut topic, because let’s face it: more money = increased capacity for impact. And that is the goal of the book Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals (available for purchase with a 34% discount at http://tinyurl.com/4sx9em7), the companion Nonprofits101.org website, the related Advancing Social Impact blog, and this whitepaper—to magnify your ability to meet mission and serve the community—whatever your cause, whatever your location.
A comprehensive, integrated fundraising program is critical to the success of any nonprofit looking to maximize impact. Organizations need to explore and master ways to effectively fundraise from individuals, companies, and foundations, both online and off, as well as develop earned income revenue streams. But we aren’t here to talk to you about theories and concepts.
Instead, we want to provide you with easy to implement, practical, and proven nonprofit management solutions from leading practitioners. Just as in our blog, our focus is on no-nonsense advice and tips that you can put into practice quickly—as social sector professionals ourselves, we realize to do anything else would simply add to your already full plate. We’re here to help you clean that plate; to make your life easier so you can better serve the community—it’s about working smarter, not harder.
To that end, we combed through the hundreds of tips and takeaways featured in Nonprofit Management 101 and pulled out ten gems that will revolutionize your ability to bring more money in the door without adding additional, daunting responsibilities to your schedule. We hope you enjoy these Top Ten Fundraising Tips.
If you find any of these helpful, be sure to check out Nonprofits101.org and follow us on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/454t888 so you can be the first to hear from us when new whitepapers are released, and to learn about more helpful tips and resources.
Top Ten Fundraising Tips
*Note: All these tips and more can be found in Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals.
1. How to get your board more involved in fundraising:
Stage a Board Member Thank-a-Thon
Tons of nonprofits experience frustration with getting their boards to fundraise; in fact, it’s the second biggest reasons why E.D.s leave their post according to CompassPoint’s “Daring to Lead” study. Any easy way to give board members a chance to dip their toes in the waters of donor engagement is staging a thank-a- thon. The key is to make it easy for board members to participate, and to help them understand that fundraising is much more than making an ask. By inviting your board members to come together one evening or weekend to call and thank recent donors, they will get exposure interacting with donors and will leave feeling empowered and connected to your organization’s work. This will also help to improve relationships with your donors, who will be delighted to receive a thank you call without an attached ask. Read more from Bob Zimmerman in Chapter 31, “Getting Your Board to Fundraise.”
2. How to increase your chances of getting a grant:
Never Apply for a Grant Without Contacting the Foundation First
As much as you might want to believe that grants are awarded simply due to the fit of the program and the excellence of the application, it simply isn’t true. In fact in our experience the odds of getting a grant that you send in without contacting the foundation are about 5-10%. Just as in individual (and all!) fundraising, developing relationships is critical. There are people at these foundations, called program officers, who are directly responsible for deciding who gets money and who doesn’t. They care deeply about the work they are funding, and consider it an advantage to be able to scope out potential grantees. In person meetings with program officers are ideal, but even a short phone call with a grant manager or administrator can still yield the basic information you need, as well as getting your name in the mind of someone at the foundation.
Sometimes these initial conversations can save you valuable time in applying for a grant program that was not a fit—always do your homework on their funding goals ahead of time! But often, they are valuable knowledge gathering sessions: use the call or meeting to identify their key priorities and desired language, which many times cannot be found on their website; figure out which of your programs or initiatives is the best fit, and determine how much money you should request. Finally, go out on a limb and ask if they would be willing to preview your LOI (Letter of Intent) or proposal before your official submission. This will give them a sense of ownership over your request and provide you with valuable feedback. Start today by calling the offices of your top foundation prospect and seeing if you can get on a relevant program officer’s schedule. Read more from Tori O’Neal-McElrath in Chapter 20, “How to Seek a Grant.”
3. How to secure a donation:
Make Specific and Direct Asks for Money
People give because they are asked–if you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no.” It can be tough to look someone in the eyes and ask for money, but somewhere in your pitch, some variation of the words, “I’d like to invite you to invest $100 in our work” need to find their place, ideally followed by as long a pause as it takes to get an answer. For fundraisers, you can’t make the mistake of not asking because you feel greedy or you think they will know what you want. Ask with pride for the cause you are so committed to raising money for, and be honored to be the potential bridge for that donor from need to impact–donation to solution. Be sure to ask for a specific amount (something that’s a stretch, but not unrealistic), and be clear on exactly what you will spend the money on and the impact it will generate. Tell the story of someone you’ve served who enjoyed the impact of these types of donations. Start today by calling a lapsed donor and asking for a small renewal gift, even if it’s $25! Practice this type of direct and specific ask on your board members, fellow co-workers, family, and friends, and in no time you will be a master fundraiser. Read more from Andrea McManus, CFRE in Chapter 18, “Fundraising: Knowing When to do What” and check out Tip 4 for more on this important topic.
4. How to build loyal, happy donors:
Map Donations to Impact
People don’t give to you because you have needs; they give to you because you meet needs. Donors and prospects don’t want to hear about the woes of the economy or your organizational struggles—no one wants to join a sinking ship. Instead, they want to know exactly where their donation will go, or has gone, and what impact your work is having on their community and the issues they care about. Use the power of personal stories to demonstrate how critical and important their support is to your work. Emphasize impact and stories in all your communications with donors, both in person and in your written materials. Make sure that you send timely thank you notes, reports on progress and success, and ongoing communications to build loyalty and trust with your donors. Start by sending a handwritten note to your best donor today! Read more from Kay Sprinkel Grace, CFRE in Chapter 19, “Individual Donor and Major Gift Strategies: The 83% Solution to Fundraising.”
5. How to raise more money online: Make Your Donation Button Shine
Online fundraising is a critical component of any individual fundraising strategy. It’s the fastest growing piece of the development pie, plus when people hear about your organization, want to learn more, or seek updates on your work, they will visit your website. It is critical to make sure that visitors can find your donation button within two seconds of clicking on your homepage. This means that the button should be sizeable, colorful, prominent, and “above the fold”, meaning visible on the page without the need to scroll down. Play around with different iterations if you can and carefully note the impact on conversation rates and donation amounts—Network for Good performed a test on their website and witnessed a 30% greater conversion when they changed their donation button from gray to red. Conversion at the last mile is key, so analyze how many people click on the button versus actually donate. If the link doesn’t go straight to the donation page, fix it! You should also get creative and use images or different words to relate a donation to something tangible, e.g. ‘donate a mosquito net’ or ‘save a litter of kittens’. Read more from Katya Andresen and Rebecca Higman in Chapter 21, “Online Fundraising.”
6. How to raise money on Facebook:
Create and Tap Your Social Network
If you’ve been avoiding getting your organization involved in Facebook, here are three good reasons to think twice:
1. Facebook has an audience of 600 million and growing, making it equivalent to the population of the world’s 3rd largest country
2. Meet them where they’re at: it is extremely likely that a considerable amount of your wired network is already engaged on the platform
3. More and more donations are happening online
Here are a few guidelines for getting started with Facebook:
First, create a “Page” for your organization—this is similar to a personal profile. It allows members to become a “friend” of your nonprofit, allowing them to subscribe to your updates and engage in dialogue with you and other supporters. To set up your Facebook Page, visit: www.facebook.com/pages/create.php.
Second, create a Facebook Group: If you are interested in sending direct messages to the inboxes of your supporters (and you have under 5,000 followers), setting up a group is the way to go. Without a group, you are limited to posting status updates and having your supporters read them via their Facebook News Feed. To set up your group, visit www.facebook.com/groups/create.php.
Once you are established on Facebook and your supporters are accustomed to communicating with you through this platform, it is time to start raising money. “Causes” is a tool (application) built for Facebook that allows you to fundraise within the Facebook network. While it’s difficult to build a community within Causes, it’s worth exploring as a fundraising supplement to your Page or Group. Get a better feel for this tool at www.causes.com.
Once you are set up on Facebook, a great tip for integrating fundraising activities is to use the platform to express thanks for member contributions generously and frequently—public recognition helps spread loyalty and reinforces generous support. Read more from Nicci Noble and Sean Sullivan in Chapter 22, “Online Peer-to-Peer Fundraising.”
7. How to secure corporate support:
Pursue In-Kind Donations, Contributed Media, and Technical Expertise
Especially since the economic downturn, it’s become much more common for nonprofits to enter into partnerships with corporations that are less focused on direct financial support. In business they say “profits equals income minus expenses,” and similarly for nonprofits, reducing operating costs is just as important as bringing more money in the door. Even in tough times like those we’re going through, many companies are able to provide non-cash support that can be just as crucial. Here are three budget-relieving examples we encourage you to pursue:
In-Kind Support: Make-A-Wish Foundation of America has been particularly successful at developing what are called “cause related marketing” partnerships with a variety of airlines, hotels, and travel providers. In their case, the nonprofit receives travel services that can be used in granting wishes. This saves money that would have otherwise been expended, and is critical to fulfilling its mission of granting wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Whether it’s donated beer and wine for your next gala, free computers, or getting your airfare comped, how can corporate in-kind support advance your efforts and add money to your bottom line?
Contributed Media: The U.S. Fund for UNICEF has developed an innovative partnership with top advertising agencies. The agencies approach the companies they normally buy ad space from and ask them to donate time to support UNICEF’s Believe in Zero campaign. Each year UNICEF receives more than $10 million in donated media to raise awareness for mission-critical initiatives, allowing them to deliver a call to action to targeted audiences. This relationship has been critical to the UNICEF and has resulted in them saving 2,000 lives everyday—that’s direct mission impact. But you don’t have to be a huge global player to secure contributed media—call your local TV or radio station and ask if they’re able to produce a PSA (public service announcement) for you and air it!
Technical Expertise: As part of their relationship with United Way of King County, the Seattle office of a global accounting firm reviewed United Way’s IT infrastructure. They provided pro bono recommendations on how multiple databases could be integrated to provide more timely, accurate information, thereby improving United Way’s service delivery. Although United Way isn’t a mom & pop shop, they wouldn’t have been able to pay for this kind of support. At the same time, the accounting firm enjoyed engaging employees in community building, building team morale. Whatever your size, look for a pro bono lawyer and accountant, as well as technical support providers and other volunteer roles that may be filled by talented professionals. Learn more from Jay Aldous in Chapter 23, “Cause Related Marketing.”
8. How to bring more donors to your cause:
Apply for a Google Grant
Getting new potential supporters into your pipeline is a key concern for any nonprofit—cutting through the clutter and marketing yourself is a key component of bringing new donors to your organization. Google provides many free tools and opportunities to help nonprofits spread the word about their good work: Google Grants for online advertising, expanded YouTube channels, Google Apps software, and premium Google Earth features. And now US-based nonprofits can fill out a simple application to access all of these free services at www.google.com/nonprofits, as well as access tips on how to make the most of their software, and their new nonprofit marketplace, which lists companies that offer free or discounted services to nonprofits.
At the very least, definitely sign up for a Google Grant (www.google.com/grants). This will get you $10,000 per month in free “AdWords” advertising, so people see your link above the other results when they search Google. It’s an easy way for you to get more exposure for your cause, which is key to raising more money. Learn more from Jennie Winton and Zach Hochstadt in Chapter 25, “Nonprofit Marketing.”
9. How to produce a profitable fundraising event:
Create a Winning Budget
Ensuring that an event is fun, profitable, and not overly taxing on your staff is no easy task for a nonprofit. Approach events with the same methodology used for capital campaigns or strategic planning: with ample time, realistic goals, and a clear sense of the desired outcome. Anyone who has planned an event knows they are like home renovations—they seem to cost twice as much and take twice as long as you expect.
Let’s talk next about money. Many nonprofits fall into the trap of poor budgeting, investing time and money, only to break even or incurring a loss at the end of the day. A budget that is realistic, detailed, and carefully managed is one of the best tools in your toolbox. Envision all aspects of your event, account for every component that has a cost associated with it, and think through how you’re going to raise money and what’s realistic. Identify items and services you need to get donated, but be very conservative with your in-kind donation estimates. Notwithstanding our comments in Tip 7, organizations often erroneously assume that they can throw an entire event based on donated goods and services. Finally, add a 5–10% contingency line item to cover unexpected costs without breaking your budget.
Consider the 2-to-1 ratio. If you raise $2 for every $1 you spend, that’s considered a respectable expense/income ratio. Even if you’re planning a modest fundraiser with the goal of bringing in $500 for your project, you still need to create a realistic budget and time line, just as you would for a large gala. Read more on this important topic from Marika Holmgren in Chapter 28, “Painless and Effective Event Planning: Let’s Get This Party Started!”
10. How to fundraise for your social enterprise:
Understand the Social Capital Market
Nonprofits and social enterprises need money to start their businesses, but they often can’t go to the same sources as a small business operator. The “social capital market” is a very different world, with different rules.
“Social capital market” is a term widely used to describe loans, program related investments, and other financing tools to support nonprofit ventures that are made available by foundations, government agencies, corporations, and individuals. Unfortunately, though, it’s not well coordinated or organized.
Also, the social capital market is much smaller than traditional capital markets, which include bank loans, venture capital, and private equity. Traditional money is usually unavailable to nonprofits since they cannot issue equity (ownership) in their businesses without spinning them off, which creates a series of other considerations and challenges. The social market focuses on social impact—hence the term “impact investor”—before financial return, which is inherently much harder to gauge and monitor. As such it does not have the innate efficiency or discipline of the traditional market.
If you are going to start a social business, be prepared to spend an inordinate amount of time raising money. By most estimates, traditional businesses invest 3–5% of leadership time raising funds for a venture, with the rest devoted to making the business work. Many social enterprises spend 20–50% of their leadership time raising money, a potentially significant distraction from the actual work of the organization. Be aware of the need to spend this inordinate amount of time raising funds, and check out relevant forums like Investors Circle, Social Venture Network, and SoCap for leads—knowing what you’re getting into is half the battle. Read more from Rick Aubry in Chapter 24, “Social Enterprise 101: An Overview of the Basic Principals.”
We hope you found these tips helpful and possibly even transformative. Learn more about all these tips and more in Nonprofit Management 101: A Complete and Practical Guide for Leaders and Professionals, and get a 34% discount if you buy now at http://tinyurl.com/4sx9em7. Also, we invite you to visit www.Nonprofits101.org for more free, practical tips and valuable resources–including our blog, partner resources, and more.