Every aspiring musician can answer the question, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” (Practice, practice, practice.)
And every experienced fundraiser can answer “How do you build a successful fundraising program?” Ask, ask, ask.
Of course, there are many elements that contribute to a successful fundraising effort: up-to-date databases of donors, sufficient staff resources, a compelling case, consistent communications, etc. But by far the most important element is the ask.
And it’s also often the most neglected by leaders. Maybe it’s because you are too busy running the organization, or because you’re not comfortable with money issues, or because the dog ate your homework. But sometimes it’s because you’re not sure how to go about it. So here are five ideas you might not have thought of:
- Contact your top 1-3 donors by record of giving. Share with them your current priorities and ask for their support. That support can come in a number of ways: another gift, a matching gift, referrals and/or their advice and suggestions.
- Do the same with your mid-range donors who are often “hiding in plain sight.” A recent article on The Nonprofit Times web site defined these donors as above entry-level but below major givers. They are often ignored by organizations because they aren’t the targets of any mass mailings you do and they also don’t get the personal touch that your major donors do.
- Appeal to all family and friends of the organization to make a gift in honor of their family members or friends (e.g., birthday celebration, graduation, a memorial gift).
- Start a planned giving program with a simple announcement message: “Please consider (your organization’s name) in your estate plans.” Obviously, a planned giving program is more complicated than this, but while you are putting something more thorough in place, this is a way simply to introduce the idea to your donors.
- Ask vendors the organization does business with for an annual gift. Who does your printing? Where do you get your office supplies? Think of the businesses you work with on a regular basis and ask them for a donation.
While it’s true that every ask doesn’t yield a gift 100% of the time, it’s also true that not asking guarantees a 0% chance of a gift. Don’t take that chance—your organization could have a lot to lose.