In the world of fundraising, it’s always been about building relationships. Successful fundraisers for non-profit organizations will tell you that cultivating donors and advocates for your cause is all about creating a relationship, whether you are tweeting, emailing, picking up the phone or holding an event as your means for communicating with constituents.
The advent of social networking and interactive web-based tools has not changed the dynamics of connecting with the people you want to support your organization or cause. They simply provide additional methods for building the relationship.
Metrics and dashboards of your fundraising numbers may tell you a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, how to segment your communications and customize the messages you deliver. At the core, however, is the fact that making a connection is what it’s all about in fundraising.
Here are a few tips for making that connection:
- Tell people what the need is. Don’t just say what you do. Instead of: We provide after-school services to low-income families, tell them: Children with nowhere else to go find a safe place where they can learn and play after school. In subsequent messaging you can elaborate and explain why the need is there and how you help address that need. You want people to be able to picture what you do and relate to it in some way.
- Highlight your accomplishments. People want to be a part of success. They want to know their donations are doing something positive and making a tangible difference. Be timely and as specific as possible in telling them what your organization has accomplished. You want donors to know that they are a part of a dynamic organization, even if nothing “special” is happening at the moment.
The $10,000 grant we received from the John Doe Foundation last month enabled us to buy a new van this week that new van this week that will be used to transport up to 15 seniors to doctors’ appointments and to go grocery shopping.
Annie and Angus, the two young boxer dogs we pulled from the county shelter last week, currently are receiving veterinary treatment for their injuries and will be ready for adoption after they are healthy and our volunteers get to know their personalities.
- Tell a story (and use photos or video). This is one of the best ways to make an emotional connection with your supporters. Share the story of a recipient of your services, your organization’s impact on a volunteer’s life, or other real-life example related to your cause. A story typically is far more effective than numbers and data. It allows you to be specific and “make real” what you do. The fact that about four million pets in this country are euthanized in shelters each year (according to the Humane Society of the United States) is horrifying. Still, the emotionally moving story of Roscoe the abused cat provides stronger motivation for someone to make a donation. Giving is an emotional act; you want to tap into those feelings.
This is not to say that numbers don’t matter. They do. Your administrative costs and use of donated funds are important to many donors in making decisions about charities to support. Numbers alone, however, typically don’t motivate people to give.
- Tell people how they can help. People want to engage with you. If there are ways they can help ‘” hands-on volunteering, being an advocate, holding at-home fundraising events ‘” other than donating money, let them know. The more involved they are and more personal a connection they have with your organization or cause, the more likely they will donate.
- Say thank you, and tell them how they’ve helped. Research shows one of the biggest reasons people stop giving is they no longer feel connected to the organization. The same 2008 Bank of America Study of High Net-Worth Philanthropy found that receiving too many solicitations was another reason. You need to say “thank you” and demonstrate how their donations are helping (see all the points above) at least as much as you ask them to give in order to make ‘” and keep ‘” that connection.