Nonprofits, by their very definition, aren't moneymakers, but money is still a major part of every decision you make at every nonprofit, whether it's a huge enterprise or a tiny no-overhead operation.
Without money, there can be no services. Without services, there is no nonprofit.
So, appropriately, in the nonprofit world, the million dollar (or more or less, depending on operating costs) question is: How do you bring in enough money to achieve all of your organization's goals and pay employees a living wage?
Grants are helpful – and they're always welcome. Foundations and government money can make or break a nonprofit organization, sure. But the real power of organizations are in the people: donors are the heart, soul, and lifeblood of any successful nonprofit, especially individual givers. The tricky part is finding donors. The trickier part is keeping them.
First things first. How do you go about finding new donors?
It helps to keep it simple and return to fundraising basics, with some minor tweaks for the modern world.
The traditional methods still work, but charitable giving is on the decline, overall. Part of that is due to economic pressures, but people still want to donate and help your cause. If you're in a quandary about finding givers, some of that can be overcome with some ingenuity, and focusing your message toward the right people, rather than going for “more-is-more” tactics. It bears repeating that with online giving up significantly every year, a digital presence is absolutely vital for attracting new individual donors and retaining existing ones.
Direct mail, while still quite effective, proves difficult with younger donors who haven't settled down at a single address quite yet. Additionally, the low response rate for direct mail can make it a cost prohibitive endeavor for small or medium-sized nonprofits.
Living in a digital world is a huge boon for nonprofit fundraising. First of all, email provides a low barrier to entry. Many of us are accustomed to frequent email communications, and most people have no problem exchanging their email address with an organization they trust. Additionally, 91% of people check their email daily. That means you'll get a bigger pool of people. But make sure to be transparent about why you are collecting email addresses. Nothing will put someone off faster than a call for donations when they thought they were signing up for information about local events. If you feel like you're sending out a sales pitch, you're doing it wrong.
Another way to court donors is by using the axiom, “Fish where the fish are.” Knowing who your message resonates with and where those people are is vitally important. For example, if your organization exists to help street dogs in developing countries, set up a booth at a veterinarians office – but not at a a cat show. Also, according to Blackbaud, 43 percent of all individual givers are in the Baby Boomer demographic. That means, if that's the age group you are courting, slightly edgy is great, but too edgy (or not enough!) might be enough to put off potential donors forever.
Short-term volunteer opportunities can turn into long-term donors. People love to feel as though they're helping, and they want to know what you're all about. Give them a chance to lighten the load for you on the inside, and they'll be happy to do it! That will help both of you, help further your organization's cause, and could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Retaining and upgrading donors existing donors is the granddaddy of finding funding. Building a relationship with your donor base that establishes trust is a year-round endeavour. This can be time-consuming. But as a general rule, 90 percent of donations come from 10 percent of donors. With the right research tools, fundraisers can identify who among their donors would be a good fit to upgrade their giving level. Once again, this is something that's become a lot easier to do since the internet became more widespread.
Good research and cultivation of prospective individual donors can make the difference between giving and major giving. As with anything in the world of nonprofits, people respond to being treated with care and respect, and even the most basic research can make a huge difference when you are courting donations. Keeping in mind that contributors to your nonprofit are people, and people who want to help, will end up making all the difference for your organization in the world.