Do you end every fiscal year begging your donors for more support? It’s easy to fall into the routine of scrambling from one fundraiser to the next just hoping to have enough funds. Yet this doesn’t have to be your organization’s fundraising routine. Let us help you build a sustainable fundraising strategy and quell the madness!
A strategy focuses your attention on the big fundraising picture so that you can be efficient and avoid burnout. We all know this is a marathon, not a sprint. Setting reasonable expectations and goals enables you to measure your success as the year progresses.
In order to build your sustainable fundraising strategy we’re going to ask:
- What do you need and when?
- Who are your donors? Furthermore, how can you curate your messages and fundraising opportunities to make the most impact on your donors?
- Who are your fundraisers?
- When do you do what?
What Do You Need and When
The first thing you’re going to do is learn your budget. This includes all your bills and required funding, but also funds for building out your dream initiatives. It’s important to view your organization’s next steps as essential portions of your current budget.
To do this, collaborate with your team to determine what resources people need and when. Understanding what you need is just as important as knowing the total dollar amount.
Since every initiative and invoice has a due date, figure out what you NEED in order to provide your service to your community each year, quarter, and month. Think of these time frames as destinations on a road map. They’ll become essential when you look at WHEN to fundraise.
Who Are Your Donors
The second imperative of building your sustainable fundraising strategy is to learn about your donors. To best steward your donors you need to know them and speak their language. Donors usually fall into multiple segments. In turn, each segment will reveal an opportunity for you to effectively direct your fundraising efforts.
Start by looking at donor data. Here are a few basic segments to consider.
- You have:
- Big donors, recurring donors, “lost” donors, future donors, donors you didn’t even know you were missing
- You also have donors that gave:
- Last year, last month, online, in person, through a bank transfer, for the first time, every month since 1998
- The gift may have been:
- Designated, part of a campaign, dedicated to a friend
If you’re ready for some advanced segmenting:
- How did they hear about your organization?
- Have they been a recipient of your services?
- Have they ever volunteered at your organization?
- What are your donor age ranges?
Let Mightycause help! We have the downloadable reporting you need to get to know your donors even more. Through our Advanced subscription, you can even create customized questions within your checkout flow to get additional information about your donors.
Therefore, once you know who you are pursuing, you can determine how.
Messaging matters when building a sustainable fundraising strategy
Your fundraising strategy needs to have focused requests for donations in order to meet your budget needs. Moreover, you’re telling a story throughout the year that captures your donors’ emotions and ignites a passion to be a part of your work.
Before you begin to make changes take a look at your current messaging. Are you:
- Sharing your vision & mission with new supporters?
- Promoting current achievements?
- Directly asking donors for donations?
- Conveying financial and other needs?
- Announcing upcoming programs, initiatives, and fundraising activities?
- Showing your success is entirely based on the financial support of your community?
Unfortunately, getting your message to your donors can sometimes be an invisible hurdle. It won’t make an impact unless your donors receive it. This means you need to communicate through various avenues and be willing to bolster your methods. Can you learn a new social media platform, start sending text messages, or utilize QR codes?
Speak to your donor segments
The point is to build a sustainable strategy around what resonates with your donors. Most people don’t like being pitched to and they can tell a generic blast email from a crafted message. This doesn’t mean that each email is written individually. But it does mean that you want to qualify your messaging.
Let’s take a brief look at 3 donor segments to get an idea of how easy it can be to create direct messaging.
- Donation type – Engaging a donor who made a first-time gift should be different than the donor who makes a recurring monthly gift.
- Donor type – According to NonProfit PRO, boomers want to see influential results over time. Whereas Gen Xers and Millennials want to know how your work fulfills their priorities.
- At-risk donors – You’re losing recurring donors after 2 years. Consider reasons why and then create content specifically for those approaching the 2-year mark.
The ‘trick’ is framing your content so that the same mission and current influence speak to all expectations. Your message isn’t changing, just the way you present it.
A sustainable fundraising strategy needs intentional campaigns
Your focused messaging fosters an emotional response that inspires people to engage with your organization through giving and serving. In light of your message, your campaigns are the invitations that move donors from being like-minded community members to active partners in your mission and work.
Assess your current campaign repertoire
Building a sustainable fundraising strategy has to include effective campaigns. Just as you review your messaging, ask yourself a few questions about the campaigns you’re currently using. Take into account more than just the dollar amount raised, such as:
- What was the purpose of a campaign?
- Mission education, securing recurring donations, funding an initiative, etc.
- How many new donors were reached?
- How many previous donors donated?
- How many attendees did you have this year and last year?
- Did you reach your dollar and donor goals?
Mightycause can help with this too! We provide a downloadable campaigns report with all the information you need to measure your campaign success. You can use this to make informed decisions about your campaign performances.
Like most things, campaigns have lifespans. And a change might be in order.
- Has the campaign success been waning?
- Are the measurable outcomes declining year over year?
- How much effort does the campaign require compared to the reward?
- Sometimes the campaign profit might look good. Yet, if the man-hours required to make it happen are super high, it might not be as beneficial as you think.
- What about enthusiasm within your organization?
- Inquire with other staff and volunteers. Ask for their take on the events; what do they like and not like.
- What are outsiders saying with their support?
- Are your campaign sponsors falling away or staying involved because it’s simply what they do? Or is it the opposite? Are they excited and invested?
- Are there aspects of your campaign that are outdated?
- This may be the type of event, the look of the campaign, or the methods you’re using to run the campaign.
Remember, because you’ve always done it this way – doesn’t mean you have to continue!
Design your campaign plan
It’s a keeper! If a campaign is working well, continue to look for ways to enhance its value. And set specific goals before and a debriefing time at the conclusion of the campaign. Reviewing all aspects will keep you aware as to how effective the campaign is and any changes you can make.
It’s not a keeper! You might be able to shake things up instead of putting a campaign on the chopping block. Can you refresh it with a new venue? Perhaps a new theme and dress code can take what has become mundane and brighten it up. Or maybe you update it. Make it easier to donate, register, and to offer a matching grant or sponsorship.
In the end, maybe you do decide to replace it. Don’t be discouraged. Take heart! Starting fresh has amazing possibilities!
Regardless of whether your campaign is old or new seek to incorporate more than raising money.
- Host activities that spread awareness of your mission.
- Balance major events throughout the year with personal Peer-2-Peer Fundraising.
- Celebrate organization milestones with your supporters and community.
- Interact with your supporters where they are.
Your last step is to tell the end of the story. For example, if you hosted a fundraiser to raise money for a soup kitchen dishwasher, show off the dishwasher and a crate full of clean dishes. Following up closes the loop and shows donors their contribution has made a difference.
The MOST crucial aspect of a sustainable fundraising strategy – Thanking your donors
Nurturing your donor relationships is imperative to your fundraising strategy!
Thanking your donors and keeping them aware of your organization’s activity is just as important as asking for money. You’re establishing a relationship that says, you can trust us to meet the needs of our community and we are trusting you to stand by us with your financial support.
Did you know that Mightycause takes the first steps of stewarding your donors for you? We provide the first two thank yous and you can use our integrations with Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and other apps to keep communication flowing.
Need more ideas? Check out our blog article Donor Appreciation: 6 Ways to Value their Support to see how you can freshen up your Thanks.
Who Are Your Fundraisers
So far in building your sustainable fundraising strategy you’ve looked at what you need and who our donors are. But How Do You Do All Of This Engagement Without Burning Out?
Answer: You Don’t Do It Alone!
As much as you are able, share the workload. This can be other staff members, volunteers, people in your community, or your board of directors. To find the right people for the right roles you’ll let the What determine the Who.
What does this look like?
First, take a look at your fundraising strategy. Determine what tasks need to be accomplished and who can take on some of these responsibilities. Once you do a little matchmaking, directly ask people if they would like to help. You may be surprised how many people want to help with fundraising but didn’t know they could.
Community is what makes a sustainable fundraising strategy work
It may sound like a no-brainer that the more people who contribute to fundraising the greater the success. But why is that?
- More people fundraising equals greater exposure.
- Your supporters know people you don’t. This is why peer-to-peer fundraising is incredibly effective.
- Fundraising gives the community you serve an opportunity to give back and pay it forward.
- Not everyone is able to donate. Alternatively, fundraising enables those who can’t give to still make a financial impact toward your mission.
- Involving others in your fundraising strategy keeps your organization relevant and moving forward.
- You know a lot, but you don’t know it all. Collaboration will naturally bring innovation.
And when I say everyone can fundraise, I mean everyone! Here are a few ideas:
- Board Members, Staff, & Interns
- Write thank you letters
- Speak at an event
- Share posts on social media
- Create a Peer-to-Peer campaign once a year
- Program Alumni & General Supporters
- Provide testimonials
- Volunteer at events
- Help create marketing videos
- Design campaign logos
- Fund matching grants
- Create a Peer-to-Peer campaign
Mightycause offers team pages and individual fundraiser pages that are perfect for Peer-to-Peer fundraising. The pages are easily shared on social media, through email, and you can even embed a widget on a website. Not to mention the fundraiser template makes it that much easier for anyone to fundraise. No excuses!
When do you fundraise
In many ways, the When for fundraising is always Now.
To make it easier to build a fundraising strategy timeline you can qualify your efforts as “ever-present fundraising” and “focused campaigns.” Ever-present fundraising includes donate buttons, regular mailers, emails, and routine conversations with investors. Basically, anything that is year-round.
In contrast, your focused campaigns are strategically timed, set-apart fundraising events. These can be big or small, long-term or short-term, hosted by the organization, or even a peer-to-peer campaign.
Always fundraising, Sometimes campaigning
In the midst of building your fundraising strategy, it’s easy to think that your ever-present fundraising will just happen. Not only is this a false presumption, but it also isn’t strategic. To be efficient include in your strategy:
- Regularly scheduled check-ins follow-ups, and reviews.
- Make sure everything is sending as it should and is up to date. Schedule out your donor thank yous, and follow up with any supporters. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s too easy for things to fall through the cracks.
- Delegate routine tasks.
- Many of your regularly scheduled tasks can be done by others. Anyone can write thank you notes, post on social media, or send emails.
- Automate when possible.
- Automation is not a sign of laziness when it comes to donor management. It’s a way to effectively use your time.
Of course, focused campaigns need different attention within your strategy. Scheduling and implementing focused campaigns require a more step-by-step process.
- Determine when you need the funds.
- Set the dates for your campaign based on when you need the funding.
- Working backward from the campaign date, arrange a timeline of tasks to complete.
- Plan debriefing meetings after the campaign.
A sustainable strategy expects an ebb and flow
The key to bringing your sustainable fundraising strategy to fruition is setting reasonable timelines and expectations. Which means accounting for the ebb and flow of fundraising that will always impact your success. What does this mean and how do you account for it?
- Be mindful of quiet quarters.
- Typically, January is considerably slower for donations than November and December because of End-of-Year campaigns.
- Consider how successful events may result in lower giving after.
- A large campaign in early November may result in lower giving on #GivingTuesday.
- Clearly communicate your strategy and why.
- Sharing your strategy with your team and board helps everyone know what role to play, what results to expect, and when to expect them.
- Continually review, evaluate, and adapt to the changing needs of your nonprofit, your donors, and the world in which we live.
- Strategy building is not a one-time deal. Habitually, critique your successes and failures. Be willing to tweak your strategy, but aim for long-term growth and consistency.
A note about reviewing:
Reviewing the information (whether it’s for ever-present fundraising or focused campaigns) doesn’t mean changing your fundraising strategy. It means you’re documenting patterns and information that will lead to informed decisions in the future. It also keeps fundraising at the front of people’s minds.
In time, as you see your budget needs change, adapt your fundraising timeline and activities. A strategy doesn’t mean things are set in stone. Instead, a strategy serves as a foundation for keeping your nonprofit’s fundraising needs organized, diverse, and attainable.
Putting your sustainable fundraising strategy all-together
Building a sustainable fundraising strategy focuses your attention on the big picture so that you can be efficient, keep our team on the same page, and have a scale for success.
The first step is knowing what you need. Work with your team to determine the resources you need and when you need them.
Second, learn who your donors are so that you’re speaking their language and meeting them where they are. Use your donor data to create and send focused messaging through intentional channels.
At the same time, assess your current fundraising campaigns. Decide what to continue doing and what may need some tweaking or recreating.
Next, consider who can be what kind of fundraiser. Take time to look at the different aspects of fundraising and people’s strengths. Then ask them specifically to participate in the effort.
Lastly, schedule when you’ll do what. Set reasonable timelines and expectations for both your ever-present and focused campaign tasks. Establish your due dates and work backward from there as you plan to prepare various activities.
And remember, when building a sustainable fundraising strategy never stop learning, adjusting, and anticipating.
Get ready! Get set! Start building!
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