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Anyone who tells you that fundraising is easy probably hasn’t done it. Fundraising for nonprofits can be a difficult task, even with all of the technology we have at our disposal, and sometimes it can be a thankless task for fundraisers. However, with a little bit of planning, any fundraiser––from major gifts to general appeals, including shoe drive fundraisers––can be hugely successful.

Something that is often forgotten is the art of planning. Often, especially within smaller nonprofits, there is a lot that happens on the fly. While sometimes that approach can make sense, planning is crucial to the success of a fundraiser because it allows you to exert control over the activities you’re doing. When you have a plan, you have control of it. When you don’t have a plan, it’s hard to control what you haven’t thought through in any great detail. Planning also accomplishes the following objectives:

  • It makes your fundraiser much more efficient because you’re organized.
  • It helps you minimize risk, especially any funds you’re spending funds and resources to raise more money.
  • Planning helps you clarify the what, when, where, why and how of what you’re doing, which only makes your fundraiser better because you’re thinking through each facet of your fundraiser.

When you begin doing your planning for your any nonprofit fundraiser, there are a few essential elements that should appear in any fundraising campaign for it to be a success. Those elements have to encompass the following:

  • Know and promote your goal. A fundamental principle in fundraising is creating a financial target or goal. Raising money for the sake of raising money doesn’t make much sense. When you budget your living expenses, for instance, you need to know how much money you’re receiving and how much you’re expending. Much like that sort of budgeting, if you’re seeking to raise money in a fundraiser, donors have to have a sense of how much you need to raise, which will help donors think about their own gifts and will help drive urgency, which is a point I will expand more in my second point. Telling people that you’re raising $10,000 for scholarships is much more impactful and has a higher chance of achieving its goal than merely saying to people that you need to raise money for scholarship aid.
  • Create urgency for your fundraiser. Although you might not believe it, a lot of the principles in fundraising are similar to those in sales. One of those similarities come with urgency. In both sales and fundraising, enormous success comes when people have a reason not to put off doing something and join the effort today and now. Driving urgency helps encourage people to contribute to your fundraiser as soon as possible, and this is achieved by giving people a deadline. If you want to raise, $3,000 and you don’t provide people a timeline of, say, 60 days, guess what’s going to happen; people will take their time and procrastinate. However, by energizing people to act with a deadline and updates as to how your fundraiser is going and how close you’re getting to your goal, you’ll encourage donors to open up their wallets sooner rather than later and make a donation. Create momentum with urgency.
  • Tell donors what’s going to happen. Let’s go back to our example earlier of raising $10,000 for scholarships and let’s say that we want to raise that money in 60 days. That positioning of the fundraiser provides your donors with specific parameters about your fundraising event. To offer them the reason to give, you have to convey the outcomes that will happen from their gift. In our scholarship example, this is how it would work: Your donation would help provide a scholarship for an educational college-oriented experience for 10 students who have applied but cannot afford to attend this college preparatory workshop. With your gift, 10 students will have access to the leading college prep program in our city, and they will improve their overall understanding of math, science, and engineering, which is vital to their success in the SAT exams and college entry applications. In our example, prospective donors understand that 10 students will receive scholarships and get additional support in the subject-areas as mentioned earlier toward their preparation for college. That specificity helps drive donors to contribute to your cause.
  • Get specific on the amount you want people to donate. Another fundamental principle of fundraising is the ask. Get specific. If you don’t know the people to whom you’re going to ask for support, or it’s a more general appeal, give them a specific amount to donate, such as $20 or $50. However, if you have donors who have been supporting your organization for a while, then take the time to see how much they are contributing to your cause. Based on their giving history, ask for a specific amount. If they seem, for example, to make a gift of $100 each time they give, then bump them up a little bit with a specific ask for $120 because of their prior generosity and support. Again, providing prospective donors with one particular ask amount gives them clear parameters about what you want them to do in support of your fundraiser.

Finally, when you are amid your planning and then in your execution, follow-up. Don’t merely send one request and then move on. You have to make multiple requests and keep everyone updated on how you’re doing, as this will keep your fundraiser top of mind. Remind folks that you need them to donate by a designated date to help keep urgency going, and then update them regularly on how you’re doing toward your goal. Also, don’t forget to use multiple marketing approaches, such as social media, in-person events, emails, and even letters in the mail to help you ensure nonprofit fundraising success.

Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)


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