Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fundraising Do's and Don'ts

Fundraising isn't rocket science - but there are some very important guidelines to keep in mind as you work to build donor relationships and raise the funds necessary to support your nonprofit services.

  • Blindside your prospective donors. Most folks who care about your cause will be open to a fundraising ask - but not if you make a cold call, invite them to a donor party without telling them its purpose, or shanghai them unexpectedly in the supermarket. A serious and ethical fundraising ask will be preceded by a thoughtful process that includes getting to know the donor, establishing rapport, and sending a well-written solicitation letter, all prior to arranging a personal phone call or meeting.
  • Bombard donors with endless appeals. You've all had the unfortunate experience of receiving constant and repetitive solicitations via phone, direct mail, or email. Besides being irritating and intrusive, it often results in the loss of donor support, even when the donor actually believes passionately in your cause. Nonprofits can - and should - regularly ask for donations, but you need to develop a reasonable schedule that will not drive people away.
  • Ignore their expressed wishes. Pay attention when donors specify how and when they wish to be contacted. And when a donor requests anonymity, be meticulous in honoring his/her privacy. Organize your database to track this information and be sure to carry information forward when there are staff changes.
  • Know your donors. Do your homework! Find out which of your services are closest to their hearts; keep track of events they attend; know their giving history.
  • Communicate honestly and efficiently. Stay in touch with important news and updates about your clients, programs, and services - not just through solicitation letters. Let them know about your achievements, but also let them know if your agency is experiencing serious financial difficulties, significant staff changes, and/or re-thinking its mission. Invite their feedback as you work to improve services and plan for the future.
  • Thank them promptly and often. Always thank a donor immediately for all donations with a letter including the approved IRS language, plus a person note, sent via first class mail - and proofread to be sure you have the correct salutation, amount, and method of payment. But don't just stop there; continue to thank and communicate with your donors throughout the year using email, newsletters, letters, postcards, published donor lists, thank you phone-a-thons, and an annual donor appreciation event.
Ethical fundraising is not just about money; it's about developing long-term partnerships in support of your nonprofit mission. Just as you would with a business of life partner, take the time to nurture these important relationships. Treating your donors with care will pay off both for your organization and yourself.