When I joined Food for the Hungry, I thought I was going to blow right by expectations in fundraising. I came in with a consulting background and an MBA … I could figure out the secrets to fundraising quickly and knock a home run in our digital fundraising in no time. What I discovered is I had a lot to learn.
You see, many of the things that work in fundraising are counterintuitive. Many of the things I learned in corporate America and in my MBA program were small lessons compared to the decades of fundraising expertise surrounding me. Instead of coming in with guns blazin’, I had to go back to school and learn how fundraising works. Once I learned these secrets (many through tough trial and error) to direct marketing, I began applying them to our digital fundraising to find success.
My main teachers throughout this journey have been the experts at BBS & Associates. If you’re looking for a nonprofit direct marketing agency, they are one of the best.
Fundraising Secret #1: Demonstrate Urgency
Urgency is one of fundraising’s best kept secrets. It’s hard to do … and many fundraisers don’t do it because it’s difficult.
In the time of a disaster, adding urgency to an appeal is relatively easy … because it is urgent! You’ll save more lives and help more people if you raise funds quicker. In other cases, there is a distinct deadline that helps you set some urgency in your appeal copy. But what about the other times? What about when it’s just a monthly email to raise funds for an existing campaign? How do we demonstrate urgency?
Ask these five questions:
- What will the donor miss out on?
- What happens if the donor doesn’t give?
- Do you have a deadline for this campaign?
- Is there language I can use to express urgency?
- What stories can I tell that convey urgency?
This will help you as you prepare your fundraising appeal to include more urgency in your copy.
Fundraising Secret #2: You Need to Be More Direct with Your Ask
You are failing both your donor and your organization when you are too soft with your ask.
I know that’s direct, but it needs to be. Your donors give because they love your cause. They give because they want to help someone. When you are too shy to ask, you’re stealing an opportunity from them to make a difference. An opportunity they want. Your donor has a heart for the cause and you have a passion to do good work, let the two unite!
Many times, we fall back to words like “support” and “help” when we should really say GIVE NOW or DONATE TODAY. Prospective donors don’t understand the nuance. They don’t want it either: be clear with them so they understand exactly what you’re asking them to do.
Fundraising Secret #3: You’re Talking More About Yourself Than the Donor — Big Mistake!
I, I, I, We, I, us, I, I, I.
That was just the first two paragraphs of a direct mail acquisition letter I received in the mail the other day from an international relief organization. I counted all of the I’s, We’s, and Us’s to see how many times the organization talked about themselves.
How many times did they use ‘you’ or ‘your?’ Two.
Two times addressing the donor’s point of view while talking about themselves 9 times.
This is an easy test you can use on your fundraising, and incidentally, one of the quickest ways to improve your fundraising appeals. Start talking about the project from the donor’s point of view.
You can make a big difference in the life of a child. You can ensure a hungry child goes to bed with food in her belly. You can provide an education for only $15 a month.
You is a powerful word we should use more often as fundraisers.
Fundraising Secret #4: Facts Don’t Move People to Give
“We need to educate our donors! If we just tell them how big the problem is, they’ll give!”
This quote didn’t come from just one person, but many people over the past half decade have offered up this advice to me. The problem is, it just doesn’t work.
I call this the big number problem. General or mass donors donors don’t have the vision to understand how their $50 gift will make a difference when you throw large numbers at them. Without knowing how their donation will be used to impact one life, they just choose to give elsewhere or not at all.
Instead, tell the prospective donor the story of one person. The story of the one is a powerful fundraising technique that helps connect the reader emotionally to a single life she can help. Big numbers won’t move her to donate, in fact, a story of one will be enough to accomplish your goal.
Fundraising Secret #5: You’re Not Thanking Your Donor Enough
For me, 2018 is the year of gratitude. I need to find more ways for Food for the Hungry to thank donors for their support. We’re not doing it enough.
And you’re probably not either. In the minds of your donors, you certainly aren’t.
If you’re like us, you’re probably sending a ‘thank you’ in your receipt – whether email, mail, or both. You might send out a follow up email impact report with another thanks for your donor.
What more are you doing?
You might ask, what more can I do? I’ve written a couple of articles on ways to thank your donors. How about these ideas:
- Send a customized ‘thank you video’ to the donor
- Have volunteers or your board send hand-written thank you cards
- Invite your donor to a secret group connecting her to a community of like-minded people
- Send a book or trinket to your donor
- Host a special event for donors
- Send a ‘giving anniversary’ card to your donor
- Give her a call to thank you for her gift and if you’re a religious ministry, offer to pray for her
Thanking your donor is crucial to continue building a relationship with the donor and develop the donor to multiple gifts.
Learn and apply these fundraising secrets to find success at your organization. What secrets would you add to this list? Answer in the comments below.