The strength and wellbeing of a nonprofit organization relies on the effectiveness of its fundraising efforts. Most nonprofits are passionate about their cause and eager to make an impact. However, when you’re trying to accomplish big things, mistakes are easy to make. Fundraising is hard work and making mistakes is inevitable, but you can still do your best to avoid them. Recognizing key mistakes and understanding how to correct them is a great way to drive your fundraising efforts in the right direction. To get you started, here are six fundraising mistakes nonprofits make with donors and how to avoid them so you can stop making them right now.
1. Not spending enough time building relationships
Fundraising is about building, cultivating and sustaining relationships. Most nonprofits don’t spend enough time or effort developing relationships with their prospects and donors. Successful fundraising requires fostering strong, meaningful ties with those who believe in your cause. The act of giving is a natural outcome of relationship building. Meaningful gifts rarely come from strangers. People are more inclined to give and continue giving when they feel closer to your organization. Take the time to reach out to prospective, current and even lapsed donors. Segment your prospects carefully and find out how to relate to them. Thank your current donors and show them the impact of their gifts. Reactivate your lapsed donors and inspire them to give again. The more time and effort you invest into your supporters, the more likely they are to reward you with larger and more frequent gifts.
2. Not doing your homework
Failing to research and evaluate your supporters is a big mistake. Fundraising is about building relationships, and knowing as much as possible about your supporters helps you nurture those relationships more successfully. Gathering genuine knowledge of your prospects and donors provides insight into how to interact with them more authentically and effectively. Most donors are either tied to a nonprofit or have logical reasons to give. It’s your job to discover what these links or reasons are and appeal to them. Look at their interests, giving potential and history with your organization. Find out what they are able to offer and why they are, or might be, interested in your cause. Since a wider variety of people are participating in philanthropy than ever before, organizations must take them and their interests into account and adjust fundraising strategies accordingly.
3. Treating all donors the same
If you want your donors to treat your cause like it’s the most important cause, then you should be treating each donor like your most important donor. Instead of approaching all donors in the same way, segment and personalize as much as possible. Don’t send generic form letters. Have different letters for first-time donors, loyal donors and lapsed donors, and write personal notes whenever possible. Never let your campaign materials take the place of direct asking. An effective donor development program requires creating a genuine relationship through personal interaction on top of mass communication. Most donors prefer verbal presentations, so schedule in-person meetings or phone calls and engage them in conversation with open-ended questions.
4. Assuming your organization will attract support because it’s a good cause
Just because your organization has a good cause doesn’t mean people will throw money at it. Being for a good cause is not the same as being an organization worth supporting. Nonprofits don’t just attract support – they have to earn it. People want to invest their money to get something in return. It’s easy for donors to financially support programs they’re passionate about, so offer them a challenging project that aligns with their interests. Engage supporters by inspiring them with your vision. Present your needs as opportunities and articulate your ability to meet these needs. Make sure they are people-oriented and have a sense of urgency. Explain why you seek funding, why your project is compelling, who will benefit and why you need money now.
5. Not saying the right thing
Most donors don’t care about your organization – they care about what you do and the impact you make in other people’s lives. Donors give more when they see a nonprofit not as an organization, but as people. Effective fundraising connects the heart of supporters to the story of your organization. Engage them with content that’s meaningful and relevant. Focus on your organization’s real-life impact and tell stories about the lives you are transforming through your work. Heartwarming and colorful stories generate positive feedback and boost your fundraising efforts.
6. Failing to utilize technology
With the popularity of social media and digital technologies on the rise, fundraising has become increasingly social and mobile. Successful fundraising requires embracing and harnessing the power of digital channels. People are accustomed to researching, discussing and purchasing things online, and expect their chosen causes to offer a similar experience. Technology should support, not replace, traditional forms of fundraising. Provide your donors with the tools to donate, register, fundraise, communicate, recommend and learn more about your cause online. Create an online presence for your organization on a variety of social media platforms and interact with your supporters. Make it more convenient for your donors to financially support you by incorporating a secure and easy-to-use mobile payment system into an existing blog or website. To learn more about how new technologies are transforming the way organizations fundraise and engage with donors, read DNA’s blog on the impact of nonprofit technology trends.