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5 Actionable Steps to Improving Your Individual Giving Programs

WealthEngine, a wealth intelligence and data-driven marketing platform, has worked with non-profits for over fifteen years to optimize and expand their fundraising programs. Here they offer some easy, actionable ways to take the first steps to doing this.

Many nonprofit organizations have historically found success with obtaining funding from corporate, government and/or foundation giving. Now? Many are seeing the need to diversify their funding sources. With government funding restrictions since the recession and corporations and foundations facing similar challenges, non-profits are left being feeling vulnerable.

Individual giving represented 73% of charitable giving in the United States in 2012.  With bequests, that total rises to 81%. Individual contributions represent a significant ratio of gifts and because it’s less volatile than government, corporate and foundation giving, the pursuit of individual gifts by non-profits is not going to change.

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Start with your VIPs

Think of fundraising in terms of concentric circles – in the middle is your organization, and surrounding that are your board members and leadership.  

Start here:

  • Use test cases to ensure buy-in from leadership and include them in the messaging vetting process.
  • Inspire and energize board members to increase comfort levels, and therefore, participation in your fundraising activities.
  • Make 100% board participation in your fundraising your goal to reach before you take your campaign to the public.

Some, but not all, nonprofits expect a “sacrificial” gift amount from their board members.  In other words, the contribution the board member should represent a sacrifice to him/her and should not be an inconsequential amount whether that is $100 or $100,000. Whether or not you mandate this at a specific level, all board members should be expected to participate.

Leverage connections

Once you’ve gotten buy-in from your board, inspired them and start outreach to your community promoting considerable support from their leaders, you will move beyond the inner circle to their friends and connections.  Once you identify these prospects, enlist your board’s support in inviting them to engage through either direct mail and/or email to start. You could also consider hosting small events at board members’ homes or on-site. Educate, inform and involve them in your work to cultivate long term relationships.

Find new potential supporters

If you’re like most organizations, you periodically need to add new prospects to your donor base. Having a clear understanding of your current donors is the best way to find new prospects who are likely to donate, as well.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do your board and other donors have in common?  
  • Do they live in a specific area?  
  • What do they care about the most?  
  • Are they active in politics?
  • How do they spend their free time?

When you can answer those types of questions about your current supporters, you can find others that look just like them. You can find these look-a-like prospects by purchasing custom prospect lists or, if you have more time and resources, monitoring traditional and social media.  By understanding what interests and motivates your supporters, targeting the right prospects becomes much easier. The following table indicates some of the ways nonprofit organizations can identify and attract new prospective donors.

Segment Your Donors and Prospects

As your list grows, so will your need to personalize what you send to them.  For example, the way you thank someone for their gift should align with their gift level. In other words, you wouldn’t thank a person for a $10 donation the same way you would a $1,000 gift.

Likewise, don’t make a blanket ask of all of your donors for the same amount or base your current ask on what they donated last time. Instead, start segmenting your constituents by giving amount, frequency and by wealth profile, when possible.  You’ll only see true fundraising growth when you improve the accuracy of your asks.

Practice multi-channel fundraising

Communicate with your donors and prospects across multiple platforms and in many ways, being sure that you keep your messages consistent.  Your fundraising campaign can include direct mail, phone calling, email, social media and event components.  Donors may get many messages, and will respond in the way that works for them.  But they are channel-hopping:  a donor who gives by email today may prefer to give via direct mail or on the website tomorrow.  That is why it is critical to have an integrated campaign across multiple channels.

If you’re looking for more advice on getting started or improving an individual giving program, WealthEngine can help you ramp up your efforts.

Topics: Supporter Management