Fundraising is one of the most important things you can do to ensure the long-term viability of your nonprofit organization and the realization of your vision. Without money, it is incredibly difficult to fulfill your mission.
While some organizations offer programs and services for a fee, and many rely heavily on federal, state, and private grant funding, most organizations also need to incorporate fundraising from individuals into their income revenue streams.
And if we’re responsible for raising funds to support the cause which we care about and the organization we love, it is important to consider as many fundraising opportunities as possible and consider the pros and cons of each to find one that is sure to be a success.
When we hear the word “fundraising,” it is easy to conjure the fundraisers we had as children, selling chocolate bars, magazines, holiday wrapping paper, cookie dough, or Christmas wreaths. The galas, golf outings, and silent auctions we’ve attended may come to mind. With so many ways to fundraise, it’s hard to know what is best for your organization.
What are the Different Types of Fundraisers?
I like to think of this relationship building as a train track with two rails—one for personal cultivation and the other for the mass-market approach. Both rails are needed to keep the train headed in the right direction.
Before digging into specific types of fundraisers, it is important to remember that the most fundamental element of any fundraising effort is building relationships with our community members and offering them an opportunity to support and engage with a cause they care about.
To do this, you must first articulate why your cause and mission are important and what problem you’re trying to solve, what your organization is doing to address the situation, and what impact any donation will have. What story will you tell to help those who hear your fundraising appeal feel a sense of urgency to contribute? How will you create a compelling story to help the donors understand the role they play in addressing the issue?
1. Personal Cultivation Fundraising
Ideally, we could spend our days hopping from one zoom call or coffee shop to the next meeting with individuals who have the capacity and the propensity to donate large amounts of money to our organization. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Personal cultivation at its finest!
In reality, creating a program to personally cultivate and build relationships with individuals takes a good deal of time and resources. We make calls and follow-up calls, play voicemail tag, send emails—and eventually, we agree upon a day, time, and method to meet.
Sometimes we have an opportunity to invite a small group of people to a cocktail hour, a backyard gathering, or a power breakfast to introduce our organization and invite attendees to make a significant gift in support of our cause. These personal cultivation methods of fundraising can be quite effective and very rewarding. When a few email exchanges and a visit over coffee ends with a $10,000 check, everyone is happy. Time well spent.
Every organization would benefit from having at least a few people (the Executive Director, board members, or a major gifts officer) who will focus on cultivating personal relationships with individual donors. That said, the mass market approach to fundraising is also critical to success.
2. Mass-Market Fundraising
The mass-market approach includes any activity that involves reaching out to a large group of people to share one message with many people all at the same time. This can be done through more traditional direct mail and large-scale events, and via the many technological avenues now available.
Let’s explore each for a better understanding of what might work best for you:
The most traditional method of the mass market approach to fundraising is direct mail. The idea is simple: an appeal letter or package is prepared and sent to a large portion of your organization’s database.
You may consider if you will:
- Personalize the letter via merge capability, so everyone’s letter is addressed to them personally?
- Send it first-class or via bulk mail?
- Include a self-addressed return envelope?
- Segment the letters so different groups receive different ask amounts or offerings?
- Direct donors to your online giving platform to make one-time or recurring donations?
In the pre-internet, email, and online giving world, events were one of the few ways an organization could reach many people at once. Not to mention that hosting an event is often an opportunity to introduce new people to your organization – who doesn’t love a good party?
If you are in need of an influx of cash from as many individuals as possible but have little intention of building long-term relationships with these event attendees, you might consider a non-mission-related event that draws people more interested in the activity than in your mission. These might include concerts, 5K races, a comedy show, or a golf outing.
If you are looking to use an event as the first touchpoint to build a lasting relationship with potential new donors, you may want to host a simple, short breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour or dinner. The guest list is created by a group of current stakeholders (like board members, volunteers, and current donors) each inviting 6-10 of their friends. The only agenda item beyond the meal is for guests to hear a presentation and an invitation to give.
If you hope to build community with your current donor base, while potentially acquiring new donors, you may host a large party with entertainment, a live and silent auction, and a mission moment. These types of events offer an opportunity for community members who support your mission to enjoy an engaging activity while supporting your cause.
Much like direct mail, email is an efficient and often cost-effective way to reach out to many community members at one time. You can also more easily create an ongoing communication cycle that helps the reader understand the impact their gift will have on your mission and your cause.
With technology, you can communicate more often than by mail. You can better incorporate photos, and even videos, to personalize your storytelling and draw the reader in. You can help the reader better understand the reality of the situation and the impact of their giving.
If you use an email marketing strategy to show appreciation and report impact between your fundraising appeals, your community will remain engaged and will be more likely to donate when you demonstrate the urgent need and ask for their support.
Social Media Campaigns
Social media has opened numerous avenues for fundraising, including but not limited to crowdfunding and peer-to-peer campaigns.
The critical element to running strong social media campaigns is enlisting the active support of as many community members as possible. A social media campaign relies on a large number of your current supporters reaching out to their network of family and friends to fundraise on your behalf.
If you can identify a supporter who is considered an influencer, i.e., someone with a large social media following, you have the potential to reach the masses.
But for any social media campaign to be effective, you’ll need a very strong, compelling story that both respects the beneficiaries you serve while helping viewers to understand the urgent need for them to act by making a donation.
Regardless of which fundraising efforts you employ, one of the most critical steps comes after the fundraiser – when it is time to say, “thank you.” Showing appreciation for gifts received and continuing to share with donors about the impact their gifts have on fulfilling the mission is the best way to keep them engaged in the future.
So, remember, when you are planning your fundraiser, whether through personal cultivation or mass market, via mail or phone, in-person or remote, don’t forget to PLAN for how, when, and how often you will say thank you and share impact reports with those who attended.
Who will be involved in the stewardship process? Beyond a donation receipt, how will you incorporate other elements of appreciation like a phone call to all new donors, a handwritten note from a board member, an annual report, or a small token of appreciation near the holidays?
While you are planning your fundraiser, plan for how you will thank the donors when they least expect it—and soon you will have a committed, engaged community working with you to make your vision a reality. To find a trustworthy software to execute your next event, schedule a demo with our team to see how Network for Good can help your nonprofit.
Published: March 1, 2022