One of the most eye-opening experiences of my professional career was working as a finance staff member on a congressional campaign. During the campaign, I witnessed firsthand how money flows through politics.
Campaigns, much like non-profits, make money and already know where it will be spent. This often means if you don’t hit fundraising goals, planned costs will have to be cut from somewhere else. For campaigns, this may mean one less field staff member who can reach out to voters, or for non-profits, this may mean downsizing a service to the community. Both situations can make fundraising stressful and frustrating. While the nature of the non-profit model can’t be changed (you will always have fundraising goals to hit in order to continue services), setting up a solid foundation can make your fundraising more flexible and successful.
While much of my fundraising experience stems from a campaign background, the five tips I have laid out below will help any cause lay a good foundation for raising funds!
1. Build and organize your contacts
Your fundraising is only going to be as good as the list of people you call. You should build lists based on a common topic. For example, your first list should always be your personal contacts. These are friends and family who trust you and who would support your cause or organization because they know you. Another list may be people who have given to similar causes or organizations in the past. It’s important to build diverse lists so you can rotate through each one and avoid leaning on just one group of people for funds.
Each list should contain basic contact information, emails, brief notes about each person, how much money you should ask for, and a place for notes regarding each time you have been in contact with them about fundraising.
2. Tier your ask
You have finally done it. You have someone on the phone who is interested in your cause and seems like they want to help out in some way. It’s time to outline some ways they can help show support.
When you are asking for financial support, be sure to have two to three asks lined up for each person. An ask can be anything from a dollar amount contribution to hosting an event. Your first ask should always be the largest dollar amount you think that person has the capacity to contribute. It may take a little background research to figure this out if you don’t know the person. Often times campaigns and other public entities can be found online. This research can give you an idea of what this person typically contributes.
Your second ask is if the person (politely) denies your first. You can counter with an ask of lesser value. An example would be if you asked the person to contribute $100, and they say they can’t at this time, tell them how anything helps, and you would really appreciate a $50 contribution.
If the person says a second time that they really can’t do anything at this time, you still have a couple options. If they just incurred a large cost due to a life event, you can offer to follow up with them in a month. Another option is asking if they are willing to host an event in the home for your cause and see if they can invite friends who would be willing to contribute.
If at the end of all of this, the person just really can’t seem to do any of these at this time, always offer to follow up the conversation with an email that has more information and a link where they can contribute if they want to later. This will help you collect updated contact information, as well as open the door for a contribution later.
3. Be passionate about your cause
Asking someone to give up their money can be hard, and it doesn’t get easier the more you do it. It’s absolutely vital that you are committed to the cause or organization for which you’re fundraising in order to keep you motivated to push through the denials. Any time you may feel bad about asking for financial support from someone, always remind yourself how you are making an impact and forge forward.
You are the biggest advocate for your cause whenever you talk with someone. They are looking to you to be well educated on your organization or issues. If you bring energy and a range of knowledge to the conversation, they will be excited and happy to talk with you. Let your passion on the topic shine through in every conversation.
At the end of the day, fundraising can be a grueling task. Many people feel rude when they talk about money or ask for financial contributions. It’s definitely not a fun task by any means. So, while reaching out to people for a contribution may be something you put off until you absolutely need to do it, having a solid foundation in place will help make the task easier. But, after you put in the time to do your outreach, the funds you raise will help fuel your organization’s impact and help it realize continuous success. Don’t forget to include your supporters when you celebrate each accomplishment!