Donor outreach is an integral and ongoing component of successful non-profit operations. And whether you’re speaking to prospective, lapsed, one-time or corporate donors, there is an art to effective fundraising efforts.
Ultimately, successful fundraising is founded on thoughtful preparation and planning. This includes everything from adopting the proper mindset and developing your unique story to dedicated donor follow-up communications.
Asking for donations is a distinctive skill—one that takes practice and dedication to hone. So, if you’ve ever asked yourself any of the following questions, this article is a must read:
- How do we get lapsed donors to donate again?
- How do we get one-time donors to give again?
- How do we get corporate donors engaged and giving?
Do these questions sound familiar? No problem. The following surefire suggestions were compiled to help elevate you to mastery level.
1. Change your mindset
Simply freeing yourself of the anxiety associated with asking for donations is empowering. And with empowerment comes the confidence to request donations and to do it more frequently. So, what’s the secret to losing the anxiety? Changing your mindset!
Asking folks to hand over their hard-earned money—whether it’s a repeat donor or a corporate/company donor—can be intimidating. So, don’t think of it this way. Instead, see fundraising for what it really is: helping others connect an existing passion to your cause. In other words, it’s not about convincing or selling to donors. It’s about helping them realize that they already care. Once donors understand this, giving almost becomes an afterthought.
In short: connect, don’t convince.
2. Tell your authentic story
Developing your unique story is the ultimate test of transparency. Those who have mastered that art of storytelling have thought it through—ad nauseam. And rightly so. Fundraising is a competitive field, so be sure to stand out from the crowd by being fully transparent about your cause and why you are so passionate about it. Authenticity makes for a great story.
So, how do you craft a compelling story? This is not always an easy task, so be prepared to put in the time. Start by asking yourself some probing questions.
- Why do I need to tell my story in the first place?
- What do I want others to feel once they’ve heard my story?
- What are the who, what, when, and why of my story?
- Why should others be as passionate as I am about my cause?
Getting your story right will help you better and more quickly connect with donors— because when you tell an authentic story, donors can feel it. So, whether your goal is to get lapsed donors to give again, gain momentum with one-time donors, or expand corporate charitable giving, the secret is sticking to your story.
3. Know your audience (and hit them with the right messaging)
You never begin the task of asking for donations until you know who you are talking to. For example, your message will be different for a prospect donor than it would be for a repeat giver. New donors will need to hear more background (more of your story) and be approached in a more business-like manner. Repeat or lapsed donors are known to you and you to them, so your tone and message will be a bit more casual.
For example, the following reflects the conversation you might have with a donor who has a history of giving:
“We really appreciate your previous donations. Your contributions helped us to [insert impact statement here]. With another donation like your last one, we can [insert future impact goals].”
In the case of lapsed or repeat donors, don’t forget that you have data on hand. If someone has given in the past, you have added donor information at your fingertips. For example: average donation amount, frequency of donations, and perhaps even some insight into their dedication and passion for the cause. Use this data to key in on a donor’s giving personality and then adjust your pitch accordingly.
4. Think outside the boring box
When it comes to fundraising, donor retention is as equally important as generating new funding dollars. Keeping donors engaged and interested in your cause takes creativity—so be sure to bust out of the boring box.
Often, our tendency is to play it safe in the realm of fundraising. But safe can be boring. For example, with phone donations, it can be helpful to use a guided script. But reading from a script can also sound mechanical. Allow conversations with donors to progress organically. If you feel you’ve struck a passion nerve, go with it (by going off script). Explore the donor’s enthusiasm by asking them leading questions and allow them ample time to speak.
In the realm of digital fundraising, be bold with imagery and messaging. Don’t be afraid to display your passion for your cause. Afterall, if you’re not passionate, why should a donor be?
Fundraising is a competitive field. With so many worthy causes, it’s best to shoot for the stars every time to secure a share of the donor pool. And to accomplish this, you have to think outside the (boring) box.
Your ultimate goal is to make your donor both catch your enthusiasm bug and feel understood. To get there, allow yourself some creative latitude—just enough to engage the donor to the point that they have fun talking to you.
5. Seek donor advice and input
The old fundraising adage applies here: “Ask for money and you’ll get advice. Ask for advice and you’ll get money.”
The fact is that most people just want to be heard and asking for advice or input is the best way to get donors talking. No matter if it’s a first-time, lapsed or corporate donor, try asking for advice on your cause to kickstart the conversation. It can also help uncover donor fears around giving and what sparks their passion to give in the first place.
Most importantly, this tactic makes donors feel valued and important. After all, donor enthusiasm is the fuel that accelerates change—because when they are fired up, they give!
6. Offer donor levels
This is a tried and true fundraising strategy. When donors are presented with options, it can compel them to give with little added encouragement. In fact, research has shown that suggesting giving amounts leads to improved online donation performance by increasing the average online gift size.
It’s a simple concept, really. Instead of asking people to come up with an amount, offer a handful of suggested amounts: $25, $50, $75, $100, $150…you get the picture. The goal is getting people to donate larger amounts than they would if left to fill in the blank. You can also add the option on the donation forms or page, to make donations recurring over a certain period of time. This has the power to lock in multiple donations over a single, one-time gift.
In addition to a list of recommended giving levels, you can also provide an “other” field so those that choose to can, give whatever amount they like.
7. Implement a sound follow-up plan
Fundraising does not end after donations are collected. To keep donors engaged and coming back, implementing a sound and thorough follow-up plan is critical. This can include everything from sending a thank you donation letter or email after the close of your fundraiser to year-round touch points with your donor base.
Donor retention is at the heart of successful non-profit fundraising initiatives. So make sure to write thank you letters, program auto thank you responses for online giving, reach out to donors on a seasonal cadence, and educate your entire fundraising team on the importance of regular follow-up.
Your follow-up communications, which can include a phone call, text message, or email, can go further than simply saying thank you. Take the opportunity to show donors how their money is being used. Provide data and/or detailed stories on the impact donations have had on a community or individual. This not only keep donors close to your cause, but ignites passion that can lead to additional, recurring donations. People love to hear how your organization and their donations are helping to make the world a better place.
It’s also a good idea to maintain template and sample letters and emails to ensure message consistency across volunteers and staff. Having templated communications on file should be part of your follow-up plan.
Wrapping it all up in a bow
Soliciting donations isn’t a skill in everyone’s wheelhouse. It can feel intimidating and uncomfortable. However, once you’ve mastered a few of the techniques listed here, you’ll be on your way to becoming a fundraising champion.