Some nonprofit organizers make the mistake of believing that their work with donors is done once they have received donations, but in truth, the work of fostering relationships with and connecting with donors is never complete. The first donation should be the first of many, and if you have put in the time and effort to cultivating close relationships with your donors, this will happen naturally.
One of the best ways to create relationships with donors and to keep them interested in your organization is by regularly keeping in contact, and the easiest way to do this is through an e-newsletter. E-newsletters can be sent via email or text, and can be displayed on your website for visitors to peruse. The newsletter format helps to keep donors informed of the goings-on of your organization, and acts as a gentle reminder that you are still out there and doing work that needs to be funded.
Sending donors and supporters of your organization regular information regarding your nonprofit’s progress and work is also a good way to build trust, since your e-newsletter is the perfect place to demonstrate good stewardship.
What To Include In Your Newsletter
Whether you have written hundreds of newsletters, or are reading this as your first step to creating an e-newsletter for your nonprofit, the most important thing to remember is to include only information and stories your donors would be interested in. Magazines curate articles and content based on what their readers are interested in, which is why you don’t see much fashion in Bassmaster and you don’t often find mention of river safety in US Weekly.
Like entertainment publications, you should be sticking to the content your donors want to see, like success stories from people, organizations, or communities that have benefited from your work. Donors like to see the impact of their donations, and including success stories in your e-newsletters is a great way to do just that.
Other content that can help you to build your donor network and keep individuals engaged could include information on upcoming events, project and program updates, information on relevant news and current events, and information on how donors can volunteer, donate, and help.
Despite the fact that fundraising is key to the success of most nonprofit organizations, individuals doing nonprofit work often struggle with how to approach the task of actually asking for donations. Many fundraisers feel fearful of seeming too “salesy,” or in other words, they worry about feeling like they are guilt-tripping people into donating to their cause. This fear prevents many incredible organizations from gaining sufficient donor support, all because their organizers and volunteers are too afraid of turning into “salespeople”.
Here’s the problem: technically, fundraisers are doing what salespeople do every day. Just like for-profit sales involves “selling a product” nonprofit work involves “promoting a cause”. Though nonprofit donors don’t usually walk away with a physical product, your job as a fundraiser is to convince them to buy into your cause. It’s sales!
Despite not wanting to seem salesy, fundraisers and nonprofit volunteers often fall into the trap of expecting donations rather than putting in the time and effort to build relationships with potential donors. Salespeople work to relate to their leads, to find common ground, and to grab their attention by offering them something they are already looking for. You don’t see salespeople grabbing people off the street, their customers come to them.
As a fundraiser, you need to be prepared to meet people where they are, rather than simply expecting them to hand over their hard-earned money to a cause just because donating to charitable causes is the right thing to do. You need to be ready to use stories and conversations to engage people in the issues, which is exactly what salespeople are doing when they talk to customers about their needs and wants in a product or service.
Back in the day, work as a fundraiser was largely about shining the light on yourself and your organization. Fundraisers were able to monologue in order to gain donations and support, but that was before people had the kind of access to information we have been afforded in the age of the Internet.
Now, people know what they want and are able to learn about the causes they care about independently of nonprofit organizations. It is no longer about you, but instead about listening to what it is your potential donors care about. Instead of saying “you should donate because”, or “our organization is incredible and therefore you should donate”, change the narrative to be more donor-centered.
Instead of a physical product, you are selling your donors assurance that their money is going to something they care about. You should be asking them which causes they care about, then tailoring your approach to appeal directly to those donors that are most likely to empathize with your cause. Basically, you need to stop going after donors who you know nothing about and start focusing on networking to connect with people who will resonate with the work being done by your organization.
The Sales Funnel for Nonprofits
The “sales funnel” is simply the name given to the order of operations/tasks required to make a sale. In the business world, there are a few schools of thought regarding how many steps there are in the funnel, but here, we’ll focus on the four that are most pertinent to nonprofit fundraising.
The first step of the “sales funnel” is to cultivate awareness for your brand or organization. This step could also be called the “leads” or the “prospecting” phase, since it is all about finding those potential donors. Here is where we see many old-school nonprofits fall short, since their awareness/prospecting phase usually involves more broadcasting than networking.
In order to find donors that will not only donate once but will become permanent supporters of your organization, it is important to dedicate the awareness phase to connecting with people who share a common interest in causes you support.
Once you have generated leads, the next step is to follow-up and to build a relationship with prospective donors. Like salespeople talk to their leads about their specific needs in a product or service, fundraisers talk to their donors about how they can secure their donation. This phase is all about taking the interest you piqued at the first meeting and converting it into an intent to engage.
In the nonprofit sector, this phase might more accurately be described as the “asking” phase, since this period is all about getting down to the nitty-gritty and actively asking prospects if they will be willing to commit to making a donation. In sales, this phase is where the salesperson offers the final price and waits for the customer to decide.
At this point, you’ll already have built a solid relationship with your prospective donors, so asking for donations won’t feel like you are pressuring or goading anyone into doing something they don’t want to do. Like in sales, the transaction is mutually beneficial, so practice asking for donations with confidence.
In business, the final step of the sales funnel is “sale”, but because nonprofit “sales” are about creating long-term donor relationships, stewardship is a far more appropriate descriptor. Once your donor has made their first contribution, your final step is to maintain a relationship and an open dialogue to encourage them to donate again in the future.
If you enjoyed this guide, and want to learn more about fundraising and building relationships with donors, visit Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors and check out our blog.
Every nonprofit leader and fundraising professional knows the amount of work it takes just to seek out funding opportunities, much less how difficult it can be to actually land a corporate donation, grant, or sponsorship. While individual donations and fundraising events help to manage day-to-day operations, these larger corporate donations can help to fund projects, community initiatives, organizational expansion, and so much more.
For some smaller nonprofit organizations, landing a corporate donation can feel like a long shot, especially if they have never sought out donations beyond crowdfunding or individual donations. In truth, nonprofits at every level can earn corporate donations, and you don’t have to have long-standing relationships in the world of business to get started. If you want to work with corporate sponsors to increase funding for your nonprofit, try using some of these strategies to get more donations.
Build Relationships at Every Level
A common misconception among smaller nonprofit groups is that you need to be connected at the highest level of a corporation in order to stand a chance of qualifying for donations. This misconception likely comes from the fact that nonprofit fundraising professionals and organization leaders do typically build relationships with corporate leaders, but this fact should not be misinterpreted to mean that opportunities lie only at the top.
When your organization is seeking out corporate donations it is important to take every possible opportunity to network, which means talking to people from every level of the companies you want to work with. Small, seemingly insignificant conversations about the work your organization does could end up being your chance to get a foot in the door. Networking is absolutely essential in nonprofit work, but be sure not to become so focused on getting to the top right away. Conversation with professionals at every level can become an incredible opportunity, and you’ll be amazed at how many connections you’ll be able to make if you are open to it. Some companies even have rules against donating to any organization without the request being attached to a relationship with someone at any level within the company.
Pinpoint Win-Win Opportunities
Before you approach a company about donating to your organization, it is important to do the work of learning everything you can about it. Take a close look at the products or services the company offers, how they market their products, what their sales are like, whether the company is on the rise, what its community relationships look like, and so on. The more you know about the company you plan to approach, the better equipped you will be to establish a positive rapport.
Once you have gathered as much information about the corporation you are interested in as possible, you will be able to pinpoint win-win opportunities that may exist for your two organizations. Imagine, for instance, that your nonprofit serves a particular community that is vested in the success of the corporation you are looking to work with, or vice versa. In this case, it would be mutually beneficial for the company to make a donation, since their donation would be going towards initiatives that indirectly benefit them.
Knowing as much as possible before you reach out to request a donation can also help you to tailor a personalized sponsorship package request, which will make your case far more compelling than one of the generic requests they frequently receive.
Be Open to Non-Financial Donations
While we often think of ‘donations’ as being monetary, corporate donors have much more to give than just money. While financial donations can be a massive help to any nonprofit, there are plenty of corporations that specialize in services that are much needed or could be used in a way that could benefit a nonprofit-- think law, food service, accounting, insurance, entertainment. Some companies may want to offer their specific services pro bono, outfit your nonprofit with the product(s) they make, or even volunteer their own time to your cause.
Remember those win-win opportunities you want to look for in order to land more corporate donations? This is a great example of exactly that kind of situation. Some companies may not even consider donating money to your nonprofit unless they are allowed to document that their employees volunteer with your organization. These kinds of non-financial donations can be extremely valuable, and should not be ignored or considered a lesser donation than a monetary one.
At Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors, we work closely with businesses to help them manage and organize their philanthropic efforts. If you want to learn more, we’re sharing tons of tips, tricks, and information for nonprofit and community organizers over on our blog.
Independent Sector is the only national membership organization that brings together the charitable community—a diverse set of nonprofits, foundations, and corporations—to advance the common good. The charitable sector provides millions of people with powerful, independent, and voluntary methods for addressing the issues and expressing the values most important to them.
Small Nonprofits (Fewer than 500 Employees)
Large Nonprofits (More than 500 Employees)
As nonprofit leaders, you’re facing unprecedented times in managing your workforce while also trying to maintain the level of quality in community services you’ve provided before the COVID19 crisis.
Last Friday, the $2 trillion federal stimulus package "CARES Act" passed that could offer direct relief for your organization.
I am writing to provide a summary for you of strategic options to consider as you wade through the health and economic crisis.
Under the CARES Act, unemployment benefits are confirmed upon application AND benefits are upped an additional $600/week (bringing total benefit to $800-$900/wk).
If you think it’s inevitable that you may eventually have to lay off workers soon, it might make more sense to lay off your staff immediately to unlock this program's benefits. Do the math, see if this makes sense for your team members and your operations. This program is here to help you get through this.
The CARES Act also provides up to $10,000 advance for payroll expenditures (this is called an Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan, approved within three days of application). If you then plan to “rehire” May 1, you could use this loan to help get you through the month of May. Then by June, it’s likely (fingers crossed) the quarantine will be over and you can fully re-open to meet client needs. This is really more like a grant, it does not need to be repaid.
This route might be able to get you through at least one month of payroll and then some payroll relief for the month of May. Something to talk to your financial advisors about, every organization is unique and requires a unique strategy.
ADDITIONAL CARES ACT BENEFITS FOR NONPROFITS
If you haven’t done so already, reach out to your legal and financial counsel as soon as you can to determine what the best options are for your organization. In Indiana, we recommend Kruggel Lawton CPAs (Margene Zink mzink[@]klcpas.com) for accounting information and South Bank Legal for legal matters. Elsewhere, let me know if you’re looking and I will get you a good referral.
I am not a lawyer or a CPA. I am offering ancillary support as a nonprofit administration consultant who wants to see your important organization get through this whole and on your feet.
Feel free to reach out using our contact form if you have specific questions or need assistance during this tough period.
You’re excited. You’re a 501c3, you’ve got a great mission and now you’re ready to get some of those grant dollars you’ve heard so much about! Where do you begin? The good news is – it’s true, there are a lot of opportunities to find funders who want to invest in your cause. The bad news is, you may be a ways off from getting their attention. It’s especially difficult for brand new organizations to receive grant funding without 2-3 years of success under their belts to show they’re worth the investment. Hang tight and arm yourself with our list to get you and your team on the path to grant funding success. This article will give you an insider’s track guide to everything you’ll need to gather and have on-hand to begin applying for grants.
1. BALANCE YOUR BUDGET
Many major funders admit, the first thing they do when they read a grant application is go straight to the budget.
9 times out of 10, a grant application will require a copy of your organization’s annual budget.
On the budget, funders are looking to see that you’re fiscally solvent, fiscally responsible, and competent. How does a budget show them these things?
2. COVER YOUR BASES
99.9999% of grant funders will require that you are 501c3 tax exempt organization. Here’s a list of the all the items the vast majority of grants require.
Many grant funders will also ask for a deeper dive of information that includes:
3. KNOCK 'EM DEAD
Alright, you’ve covered all your bases and now you’re ready to actually fill out the application. What kind of information will you need to fill out the application?
The vast majority of grant application and letters of inquiry will ask for these four elements for the program or project you’re requesting funding for:
Many times, you’ll also be asked to include one or more (or all!) of the following:
4. GET IT RIGHT
Finally, there are a number of random little red flags that may pop up around your application. Because grants are hugely competitive to win, a red flag might throw your whole application off. If you can get yourself grant-ready starting NOW, you won’t have to worry about that when you’re all set to apply.
University of Chicago Booth School of Business’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, this guide provides four research-based ideas you can implement today. The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is the Chicago Booth business school's social impact hub and destination for people tackling complex social and environmental problems. This information is provided by the Rustandy Center in their downloadable e-book here.
3. Make Your Fundraiser Exceptional
Reframing your annual fundraiser as a unique opportunity can drum up higher donations. Abigail Sussman, associate professor of marketing at Chicago Booth, finds that minor differences in the way a charity frames its donation plea, as either a regular occurrence or an exceptional one, can make a big difference in how likely people are to donate.
For example, researchers altered the wording in online ads for the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual charity walk, so that one ad read “Held annually for Alzheimer’s,” while another read “Only once a year for Alzheimer’s.” People were more likely to click through and donate for the latter, when the walk appeared to be an exceptional rather than a regular occurrence.
4. Give Suggestions... Carefully
Not all donors are created equal. Whether first-time donor or seasoned philanthropist, offering suggested donations can help guide their giving with positive results.
“Small changes can impact people’s choices, especially for people who aren’t sure what their actual preferences are,” says Urminsky, who is conducting research with Indranil Goswami, assistant professor of marketing at the School of Management at the University at Buffalo. Urminsky and Goswami find that setting higher default donation amounts increases how much a donor gives, but can reduce the number of donors. When targeting likely donors, suggesting larger amounts can be beneficial. If boosting participation is the primary goal, setting a low default can increase donation rates.
When setting default donations, understanding your donors and their commitment to giving is key.
What happens when your nonprofit is engulfed in scandal? Or what if you have a board member or highly visible donor who’s reputation is significantly on the rocks? As always, being prepared for crisis and scandal is always the best policy. Every nonprofit leader should know when and how to act in times of trouble. Managing these crises is especially important when it comes to fundraising and mission advancement.
Fundraising is all about managing relationships. In times of controversy or not, nonprofit executives should be carefully navigating through their relationships with stakeholders. When there is a crisis, the trust they’ve built along the way will have the biggest impact on successfully wading through the times of murky waters. In general, it is good to have open, honest communication with all of your stakeholders so a crisis doesn’t tip you over the edge but makes everyone come out stronger.
If news breaks that a major donor was engulfed in scandal, a nonprofit executive should remain calm and act swiftly with integrity. A solution and plan of action to mitigate the crisis should be immediately ready to go. This includes knowing who to pull into a room for immediate strategy, who to contact first, and who are the best people to carry out the plan. Communicating clearly, concisely is paramount.
Your main strategy will need to be disassociating your mission with the person experiencing the scandal. Your core group of loyal stakeholders should continue to feel that you are an organization they can trust. Continue to align their passions and initial interest in the work of your organization with the impact and mission you make in the world. The scandal could, in effect, give you an opportunity to engage your stakeholders in a closer, meaningful way that ignites even more respect and loyalty than before.
Blackbird Philanthropy Advisors is a social enterprise devoted to Driving impactful and innovative change through philanthropy. Based in South Bend, Indiana, USA.