Reach Fundraising Nirvana in these 8 Steps

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How to Capitalize on Your Individual Donors

I would bet that individual giving is your largest source of contributed revenue. How do I know? In this country, Individuals make up the number one source of gifts for all institutions. According to GivingUSA, individual philanthropists (not corporations or foundations) make up 81 percent of giving to charity– $312 billion out of $390 billion via outright gifts and bequests in 2016.

So, why are we spending so much time chasing corporate sponsorships, applying for grants, and investing in social media campaigns when there are generous people who want to help? For many development professionals, especially those who enter the profession through grant writing or institutional giving, connecting with individual donors can seem daunting. But remember this: individual donors are your greatest prospects, and these donors tend to connect deeper with an organization over time.

Refocus on the individual donor to reach your organization’s goals this year and build a more strategic development operation for the future.

How? Relationships. Here are eight proven methods to building stronger, more authentic relationships with the types of people who share your passion for your organization’s mission.

1. Segment, Prioritize, Schedule. Build your portfolio of donor contacts by reviewing annual reports and honor rolls of donors from other similar organizations. But remember, every name on the list is a person, not just a name. Get to know them through your own donor records and by asking your volunteers who might know them.

2. Tailor, Personalize, Accommodate. Do they like to be called by their first name or last? What other organizations do they support? If you know what interests your donors and prospects have, you can use this information to find connections with your organization’s mission and programs.

3. Use Tech Tools along with Personal Connection. There are new gizmos, gadgets, social media strategies, research and technology tools to help us, but nothing beats a phone call or a face-to- face meeting. Find an authentic way to connect with a donor: send a handwritten thank you, invite for a tour, share a story of impact via phone or in person.

4. Communicate. Your best future donor is a current donor with additional giving capacity. Take every opportunity to share stories about how your organization makes a difference in your community, through newsletters, events and personal

5. Use Donor Events to Set the Stage. Does your organization plan donor events such as exhibition openings, groundbreakings, client testimonial events or tours? Use these occasions to visit briefly with donors, and then ask them to meet later for coffee or lunch so you can share more about your organization’s mission and impact.

6. Share Insider News. Every donor appreciates knowing your organization’s news before it appears in the paper. Do you have a new Executive Director or staff person to introduce? Is your organization going to be in the news for legislative work, new program announcement or grant announcement? Take this occasion to reach out to your top donors personally.

7. Keep Good Records. Spreadsheets and Giving Lists? Of course. What about tracking donor behaviors, community and family connections, special interests and preferences, other nonprofits they support? Do they write checks, prefer online giving or have a donor-advised fund? The more you know, the stronger your relationship will be.

8. Get Face-to- Face. Why are you hiding behind your desk focusing on direct mailers, email campaigns and social media? I had a wonderful colleague who had a sign in her office that read: “There is no money in this office.” Get out of the office and meet face-to- face with current and potential donors!

9. Build Your Network. Use existing relationships to build new ones. Ask your Board and other donors to help. Host a series of events where people are invited to come learn about your impact, no strings attached.

One of the great satisfactions of the advancement field is connecting exceptional people with their passions. By following most of the above suggestions, you will build strong and deep relationships with the wonderful people who care about making our world a better place.

Joan Grathwol Olson

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