Photo by David Goehring
Thousands of nonprofit organizations are preparing for year-end fundraising appeals and developing strategy for a successful 2015. Before designing brochures, writing solicitation letters and getting bids for printing and mailing, fundraising and development professionals can help themselves and their organizations by pausing and reviewing four fundamentals that contribute to fundraising success:
- Recruiting and Team Building: Successful annual campaigns begin with recruiting and training a team of staff members and volunteers. Challenging fundraising goals can be achieved by engaging staff and volunteers who are skilled, motivated and knowledgeable of your organization’s program and mission. Special events–dinners, golf tournaments, auctions or trivia nights–will succeed or fail based on the leadership of the development staff and key volunteers.
- Prospecting and Cultivating: Consistently successful annual campaigns increase their pool of prospective donors through networking and research. A 2012 survey by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the Urban Institute found nonprofits continued to lose more donors than they gained. For every 100 new and returning donors added to a charity’s donor list in 2012, 105 departed without a gift, for a net loss in donors of -5. This figure is a slight improvement from the 2011 s level of -7, but isn’t near the 2009 level of + 3. (In 2007, before the economic recession, the net gain in donors was + 13.) Staff and volunteers must collectively nurture and cultivate relationships with donors and prospective donors during the campaign and throughout the year. A generally accepted standard in successful fundraising is for an organization to reach or communicate with a donor seven times each year to successfully renew a gift of any size.
- Executing and Asking: Meeting intermittent benchmarks throughout a campaign creates a culture of accountability and discipline with staff and volunteers. It creates a sense of urgency and enthusiasm in the completion of tasks that lead to making the asks–professional and clear solicitations and follow-up communications. Campaigns that don’t achieve goals and limp past published completion dates will hurt morale of all involved, damage the organization’s reputation in fulfilling its mission and call into question the competency of the executive director and the development staff.
- Ongoing Relationship Building: Are you building momentum for next year’s campaign, an upcoming capital campaign or a planned gift appeal? The first step in making those initiatives successful is to promptly express appreciation to all donors and campaign workers when donations are received or when the campaign achieved its goal. Use this opportunity to communicate how donations will be used and where gaps in financial resources remain. The step builds stronger relationships with donors and volunteers and establishes a foundation for solicitations for next year’s campaign or cultivation for a planned gift.
There’s an old saying that people jump on bandwagons and jump off sinking ships. Taking time to review these four areas will help your organization get its bandwagon rolling and at maximum speed during year-end appeals and in 2015.