Today I was reading a news article about a man who went to court in Ohio to overturn his own death. He was not successful and unfortunately had to walk out of court a dead man.
Allow me to explain. Donald Miller disappeared back in 1994 and his wife eventually went to court to have him declared dead. Years later Miller returned to Ohio, in 2005, at which point he found out that he was, legally, no longer alive. Mr. Miller went to court to try to overturn the ruling but the judge refused his request, leaving him essentially dead, at least in the eyes of the law. You can read the story by clicking here.
Don’t ask me why, but this story reminded me of an organization for whom I did some consulting a while back. They hired me because their fund raising program was, well, dead. They received gifts in the mail each week, but the amounts were less and less. They were not bringing in new donors. Their existing donors were not engaged and were slowly dying off. They needed to make some changes.
So, in light of it being nearly Halloween I thought it might be helpful to share 3 Steps to Resurrect your Fund Raising. As we move into the holiday fund raising season, you can breathe life into your development office by doing just a few things.
1. Get Out of the Office.
If you are spending all of your time at the office then you are leaving money on the table. In order to maximize your fund raising potential, you need to be talking to people. Face to face. The more people you talk to, the more opportunity you are going to have to share your message. But, more importantly, the more people you talk to, the more people who will be talking ABOUT your organization. And if you have not already figured it out, the key to success in a small organization is the ability to mobilize other people to recruit supporters on your behalf. So go and call 3 people tomorrow and set up meetings with them to talk about how they can get involved with your group.
2. Reach Out to your Existing Donors.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see in organizations today is that they are spending so much time trying to find new donors that they are not properly stewarding the donors that they have. I liken that to pouring water into a bucket with a big hole in the bottom. You can put water into a bucket with a hole, but it would be a lot more productive if you fixed the hole first. What kinds of holes do you have in your donor bucket? Do you acknowledge your donors promptly and appropriately? Do your donors only hear from you when you want more money? Do you communicate with donors using their preferred methods and in a reasonable frequency? Do you report to your donors how you have used their gifts in support of your mission? Fix the hole in your bucket, you will not maximize your efforts until you do so.
3. Communicate Your Case for Support.
When I lived in Fresno the last time, there was a commercial building near my home that had 4 occupants in a 3 year timeframe. It was a regular revolving door. Ill-conceived and poorly marketed businesses would come and go regularly. I imagine that the rent was cheap, as the building was small and faced an alley. The businesses seemed to operate with the “if we build it, they will come” mentality. And unfortunately this sometimes carries over to the nonproft sector.
It is not enough to simply “do great work.” It is not enough to “help lots of people.” It is not even enough to “have really low overhead.” Organizations that are successful have figured out the importance of communicating their case for support, and they have developed effective means to do so. Think about it – there are sometimes dozens of organizations in the same town or county who provide overlapping services. Some raise a lot of money to do so, others struggle to make payroll. If you want to make sure that your organization is a winner in the eyes of donors then you need to effectively communicate what you do, why it is important, the reason that you are the best organization to do the job, and what would happen if you were not there to provide your service. You must engage people who are making decisions on how to allocate their charitable dollars. If you do not, I can almost guarantee that someone else is going to come along and do it for their organization – leaving you struggling to stay alive.
Remember, we have a choice regarding whether we are going to be dead or alive in our fund raising. Make sure that you are getting out of the office, engaging your donors, and giving them a good reason to support your organization this holiday season.
Have a great week,