Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For October, I've invited Debbie Barron, a support-raising coach and trainer, to share about personal fundraising. Many of the small nonprofits I work with have one or more employees raising their own support, and I know they'll benefit from her advice, and hope you do too. And there are definitely lessons that small social enterprises should take note of as well!
Q. WHAT ARE THE LATEST TRENDS IN PERSONAL FUNDRAISING?
A. In this age of social media and high-tech everything, many are moving toward online communication in order to save money and time. While it’s wise to take advantage of social media, texting, etc., to try to reach people, never underestimate the value of the personal approach.
This is especially important with the face-to-face appointment. If you are looking for people to partner with you in your work, you must invest in the relationship by sitting down with those people and presenting your vision (even if it's a video chat). Nothing can replace the face-to-face appointment, for it builds the relationship and creates trust. If you want a financial partner who gives on an ongoing basis, this is crucial. Letter campaigns and group events produce one-time givers; face-to-face appointments produce partners who continue to give.
The personal approach also applies to thank you notes and newsletters. Think of the most personal approach instead of the most expedient. Hand-write notes to people, and send letters in the mail wherever possible. Your note or letter may be the only personal mail they receive this month, so it will stand out. And a few hundred dollars in mailing expenses is worth it to leverage thousands of dollars invested in your work.
Q. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU SEE PEOPLE MAKING IN REGARDS TO RAISING THEIR OWN SUPPORT?
A. Many people make the mistake of not asking for referrals. If you want to find more people to invest in your work, you must ask for referrals. People often avoid it out of fear or lack of training, but it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Contrary to our negative thinking, most people are willing to help. I once heard a leader say, “Have you ever stopped to ask for directions and been rejected? Has somebody actually said, ‘No, I don’t want to help you.'? Of course not.” People usually want to help meet a need.
I recommend this type of script after you have cast vision for your work, and asked them to invest in it: “There’s another way that you can help. I am hoping to meet others who would be encouraged to hear about what I’m doing, and several people have helped by introducing me to their friends; I’m hoping you might help in the same way. I find it’s easier if you think about it from your perspective. If you were in my position, who are the first ten to twelve people you would talk to?”
Note that the magic word is “who.” It’s a purposely open-ended question, which assumes interest and catalyzes their thinking about who they would ask.
When you ask for referrals, you may fail more often than you succeed, but keep doing it. And keep practicing so that you get better. Who knows where the next big investor is? Think of it as a treasure hunt.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR BEST PIECE OF ADVICE TO THOSE WHO NEED TO RAISE SUPPORT?
A. Whether it’s in a newsletter or in casting vision for investing in your work, tell changed-life stories. People want to know that their dollars are helping to change the lives of real people. Tell what the person’s life was like before and after they encountered you/your work. Use a real name (with permission) and include details so that the reader or listener cares about the person. In doing that, you will engage the heart and increase the likelihood that the person on the other end will partner with you, and want to continue partnering with you.
Q. WHAT IS ONE THING READERS CAN DO THIS WEEK TO IMPROVE THEIR PERSONAL FUNDRAISING SKILLS?
A. Think of two people you can ask to invest in your work, and actually ask them. Just two. Asking two people per week can move you forward in significant ways.
Q. ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KEEP IN MIND?
A. The people who are already investing in your work are usually your best resources—both for additional funds and for finding new investors. Spend some time thinking about how you can capitalize on that by thinking through a next step for each one of them.
For example, when is the last time you asked your current partners to increase? We conducted a survey of our partners several years ago and discovered that they felt it was reasonable to ask them to increase their giving every one or two years. I usually recommend asking them to increase from 50 to 100%.
And finally, invest in your relational capital by building into these current partners. Is it time to give them a call, just to catch up? When is the last time you gave them a small gift or sent a personal note? Remember: it is easier to keep your current investors than to find new ones.
Q. IF SOMEONE WANTS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC, WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU RECOMMEND?
A. My favorite resources for ministries are the books The God Ask by Steve Shadrach, and Funding Your Ministry by Scott Morton. There is also a website called Support Raising Solutions that offers a monthly newsletter, training opportunities, and more. For people and groups without a religious affiliation, I recommend Asking: A 59-Minute Guide to Everything Board Members, Volunteers, and Staff Must Know To Secure the Gift by Jerold Panas, and Ask Without Fear! A Simple Guide to Connecting Donors with What Matters to Them Most by Marc Pitman.
Great information. Thanks, Debbie!
(Amazon links are affiliate links.)
Debbie Barron is a coach, mentor, writer, and friend. She has served with Cru/Campus Crusade for Christ for nearly 25 years, mostly at their headquarters in Orlando, Fla. For 17 of those years, she has been a support-raising coach and trainer. She loves Disney World, Ireland, botanical gardens, and sports. She is currently passionate about football and her fantasy football team, “In the Red Barron Zone.” She is single, but there are two important men in her life—her nephews.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours 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.