Today’s guest post comes from Amy Crowell, a fundraising pro if there ever was one! Her company, Next Stage Advisors, helps nonprofits through event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.
Amy and I go way back to the days of when I was at a hospitality PR firm and she was at a little ol’ org called Share Our Strength. Yep, that one. During her time there, she raised more than $3 million dollars for their No Kid Hungry campaign, so she definitely knows her stuff.
Below, she’s boiled down donor communications to a few, main points that you should be aware of. If you’re strapped for time and resources when it comes to talking to your donors, make sure you at least cover these five bases.
PS: These same ideas work for social enterprises, too!
Nonprofits, no matter their mission or size, are always on the lookout for more donors. But some organizations aren't event sure how to start the process of engaging new people into their mission, never mind actually turning them into donors.
Donors come in all shapes and sizes. Your donor may be someone who writes a small or large check, but they could also be a volunteer, committee member, special event attendee, board member, or a donor of products or services that your organization needs.
No matter what type of donor you are talking to, nonprofits need to consistently communicate with donors, while at the same time targeting the specific message that prompted the donor to initially become engaged. Keeping everyone informed may very well graduate them from one level of supporter to another. Use these “5 Essential Tips” to expand your reach and add additional people to your potential donor pipeline.
Essential 1: Who or What You Help
This is a no brainer, right? Of course you are going to tell your potential donors who or what you help. However, it’s more than that. Yes, donors need to be told specifically who you are helping, but they should also be informed of the numerical statistics for the problem in your community you are helping.
Specific and detailed information about the problem you are working towards solving will show that your nonprofit is one that needs to be supported. For example, if a local organization tells you that the teen pregnancy in your state was triple the national average and then explained how they were helping to solve that problem, a donor would be much more likely to support them than if they were merely told that they help cut the teen pregnancy rate.
Tell your donors the specifics, such as:
How many people in your community deal with the issue that your nonprofit is trying to solve? Is it increasing or decreasing? How quickly?
What progress have you made so far?
What innovative methods are you using to fulfill your mission (especially if they are more successful compared to similar organizations in your community)?
When you accomplish things that work toward your mission, what changes?
How is your community a better place because of your organization, its mission, and successes?
Essential 2: Real Stories About How Your Organization Has Made a Difference
Showing your passion can go a long way to creating a new donor. Most donors give to an organization because they feel an emotional connection. Help potential donors feel this connection by telling them true stories about the work you are doing. Share success stories about people you have served.
Do you have video testimonies from parents or principals that have firsthand knowledge of how your program changed a child? Stories about how your organization extended the life someone, allowing them to attend a major life event of their child or grandchild? Examples of how someone you helped felt less stigma about a problem they had, which helped them to build their self-esteem and have a more “normal” life? Or perhaps you can take them on a tour of your facility to show your organization at work.
If you are looking for new donors, you should have a set of emotionally-driven stories that demonstrate your work in action and the benefits to those you serve.
Essential 3: Why Your Organization is Different
Many organizations look similar on paper—potentially serving the same type of person, geographical area, or otherwise. It’s important to differentiate yourself from others that may appear similar. Why would I give my money to you when XYZ nonprofit down the road does the same thing?
Donors want to know what your organization does that makes you different and worth investing in. Do you tackle the same problem in a new way? Does your program go a step further in that it follows people for six months after they leave, ensuring they continue their path to success? Are you the only organization serving X in this zip code? Do you address something that other similar organizations don’t? Perhaps your organization has more of a “teach a person to fish” versus a “give them a fish” philosophy? Tell your donors!
Essential 4: What Their Donation Can Accomplish
Whatever donors are giving—time, money, services, or products—they want to know how it is helping your nonprfoti fulfill its mission. Even though every organization needs non-restricted funds to pay for expenses like rent, utilities, and supplies, most donors would prefer that their donation be connected more directly to the mission they are supporting.
This is where equivalencies come in. Being able to tell donors that $1 connects a child to 10 healthy meals, $500 pays for a month of diapers for a previously homeless child, or something similar, goes a long way to help visualize what a donation can accomplish and how it helps those you serve.
These equivalencies can be used in multiple places, including online donations, special events (ex: live or silent auction, fund the need campaigns), or challenge/matching grants. Being able to show specifically what dollars can provide is important and will bring more donors to the check writing stage.
Essential 5: Share Your Organizational Goals
No different than deciding which mutual fund you want to invest your retirement savings in, donors want to see long-term goals and a healthy organization working toward them. They want to see an ROI on their investment, such as increased growth towards the overall mission.
Share with donors where you want your nonprofit to be and when. Do you want to reach 85% of your target market by the year 2020? Increase the hours you are open by 10% this year? Hire a new staff member?
Talk about both short- and long-term goals so that donors feel like they are part of your progress and that their money is actually an investment not only in your organization, but to the people or problem you are trying to help. Communicating a high-level vision and what it takes financially to get there will make donors more invested overall, potentially moving them from a one-time donor to a reoccurring one.
These “5 Essentials” can go a long way towards building a pipeline of supporters that can help you not only have increased donations, but also fill other important roles your nonprofit needs such as board members, volunteers, special event attendees, and more.
Be sure each essential is documented so you can share them with all the key stakeholders in your organization—especially staff and board members. Once you have them, you’ll likely find that not only are they helpful when speaking to supporters, they can also be used in other communications such as your website, newsletter, grant applications, and more.
Don’t have all five in place? Add the missing pieces to your priority list to increase success in the future.
Amy Crowell, founder of Next Stage Advisors, has more than two decades of experience in nonprofit management, fundraising, event management, and strategic and financial planning. She has overseen numerous nonprofit fundraisers, including grassroots campaigns, events of all sizes, and national multimillion-dollar corporate-sponsored programs.
Amy helps nonprofits meet and beat their fundraising goals via event consulting, board development, grant writing, and more.
Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.