It can feel exciting to chase the latest new strategy or approach to fundraising. Aren’t we all looking for the silver bullet?
Spoiler Alert: Everything old is new again.
Effective fundraising comes down to building and sustaining relationships, especially when we’re talking about a long-term fundraising strategy with engaged donors.
Last week, I was chatting with a potential client who has a magnificent obsession with creating something beautiful in the world. And making that vision happen requires, well, resources. In other words, money. Often, we fundraisers get fixated on the goal (and make no mistake, a well-defined goal is a powerful thing) at the expense of connection.
A good friend once said, “people don’t fund organizations in need; they fund organizations that meet needs.” So this month, my challenge for you is to walk a mile in your donors’ shoes. Take a walk on the wild side, where your donor strolls.
- How do they envision the future of your organization and those you serve?
- What is their experience of the giving process?
- Where in the donor journey do they long for greater connection?
Speak to them from that vantage point.
Now, you might be asking, “well, how the heck do I do that?” Here are a few practical tips I’ve found that make all the difference. They may sound simple, but when taken together and applied with heart, they make all the difference. Oh, I didn’t invent these. They’re borne out of the research. I’ve used them in the real world—and they work—whether you apply them via a digital or analog approach.
4 tips to level up your fundraising
- Fundraising is at the heart of who you are. Not a support activity relegated to the corners. Traditionally, fundraising has been viewed as overhead cost—as a means to a programmatic end. Reframe giving as integral to the cause you are leading and involve your donors in a broad array of engagement strategies such as strategic agenda-setting, issue education, and political action.
- Fundraising is everyone’s job. Well, not technically, but spiritually. Many organizations are caught in a vicious cycle of thinking that the answer to their fundraising challenges lies in finding that elusive, perfect development director. Distribute the “ownership” of fundraising across staff, board, and volunteers and use online crowdfunding platforms to allow the fundraisers to tailor campaign messages to resonate among their own peer networks. Turns out, your most effective fundraising team has been under your nose this whole time.
- Avoid the transaction trap. Fundraising succeeds because of authentic relationships with donors. Create emotional connections through compelling storytelling that helps donors see themselves as part of the story, going far beyond “investing in an important cause” or perceiving an organization to be “well-run.”
- Discipline is key. One deceptively simple practice stands out: whatever system you choose for cultivating and engaging your donors, nurture it with discipline and a commitment to continuous improvement. Make regular meaning of fundraising performance trends. Be willing to experiment and learn. And have fun!
Dig deeper into these powerful mindsets and get on the path to building a loyal cadre of new and repeat donors.
Friends, focus on relationships first and watch the resources flow to sustain and grow your impact!