Many organizations want to start off the new year with a re-vitalized fund development program. Maybe your fundraising efforts weren’t as successful as you would have liked in 2012. Or maybe there are new needs your organization wants to meet. And the fact is, even for those organizations whose fund development is running smoothly, it’s a good idea to review the elements of your fundraising program with an eye towards opportunities for growth.
1. List management
What shape is your database in? What systems do you have in place to maintain and update the names of existing or new potential donors?
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good—don’t wait for your database to be perfect for you to begin to use it actively. A Reid Group motto is “implement and improve.” Even as you are adding new names and updating contact information, begin to segment your database according to donor history, donor interests, source of referral and other distinguishing characteristics. You will find that targeting your fund development messages to different types of donors will elicit more response than sending out generic communications.
2. Review the components of your fundraising effort
What are the different components of your fundraising—annual fund, major gifts, planned giving, special events, volunteer opportunities? Which ones have been most effective? Which need more attention, or less? Create some kind of visual of all these opportunities for donors to get involved and use it in your promotional material. Show your donors graphically how they can plug in to your organization’s mission and what the next steps of involvement might be.
3. Contact, contact, contact
I have said before that just as the mantra for real estate is “location, location, location,” the mantra for fundraising is “relationship, relationship, relationship.” Developing and enhancng relationships is the foundation of successful fund development efforts and the key to building relationships is regular, systematic and thoughtful contact. What is your schedule of contact for your different segments of donors? How diversified is that contact—do you include postcards, e-mails, invitations for breakfast or lunch or focus group meetings in your mix along with written communications?
4. Donor-centric communication
In addition to a regular schedule of communication, it’s important to review the content of your communication. Does it focus on your organization and its accomplishments? Or do you focus on the interests of your donors?
“What’s in it for me” is a question your communications need to answer for donors. What is the impact of their contribution? How does their involvement increase the impact of your whole organization?
5. Plan of action
In your process of reviewing these steps to a revitalized fund development program, don’t forget the most important steps—take action. The best fund development program in the world won’t see any results without action. Get in front of your donors. Ask for the visit. Ask for the gift.
Don’t second-guess yourself out of taking action, thinking that it’s too soon or this donor won’t be able to give at this time. You need to hold both an immediate and a long-term perspective with your fundraising activities and have patience, because you will find that some of those that you think will give won’t and some of those that you think will never respond will—in unexpected and generous ways.
Best wishes in 2013 for all your fundraising endeavors!