The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently offered these 10 tips:
- Don’t treat giving as a financial transaction – instead, treat donors as you would friends or family that are going through hard times. Give them a way to stay involved, even if they are unable to make the level of donation they have in the past.
- Keep close ties to donors – remember to thank donors frequently and don’t treat every contact as a solicitation. Don’t just send an autoreply – make it personal!
- Offer matching grants – to give donors a way to make even a smaller than normal contribution more meaningful
- Ask donors to give monthly – include as an option on all of your fundraising campaigns
- Look for ways to save money on fund raising – this is the ideal time to accelerate the move from direct mail to online to reduce costs. Also use web conferencing to reduce staff travel. Focus on special events that produce the most revenue.
- Seek alternatives to soliciting private donations – for example, can you rent part of your space for outside meetings or offer mission-related products?
- Collaborate to raise money – try joint initiatives with other organizations with compatible missions
- Scale back ambitious campaigns, but don’t give up on them – change the goal or lengthen the timeframe
- Avoid emergency solicitations – don’t let it get to this point – donors won’t want to recommit if your organization seems in danger of failing
- Shore up relations with grant makers – foundations and government agencies may still be able to help in 2009.
The Chronicle also reports that some nonprofits are reporting that more people are giving, even if the average gift is less. This has been confirmed in many recent studies referenced in this Care2 post about the prospects for online fundraising. Even in hard times, donors will still give. Stay as positive as you can when planning your fundraising campaigns this year.
While reviewing an online donation form recently, I came across this default question: “keep me informed about how my gift is being used.” This seemed like an opportunity to find out exactly how a donation would be used by our organization. e.g. to support research, to sponsor an event, to provide constituent service. However it turned out that this question was actually intended as an opt-in for email communication. Needless to say, I advised that we revise the language so the constituent isn’t promised something that we aren’t prepared to deliver.
Yet in a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article, Give and Take (subscription required), many new nonprofits were profiled that can tell donors exactly how their funds are used by allowing constituents to contribute directly to a project of their choice. This trend is referred to as ‘direct giving’ or ‘peer-to-peer philanthropy’ and is utilized by organizations such as GlobalGiving, Kiva, DonorsChoose and ModestNeeds.
These nonprofits are maintained through mostly optional fees added to the donation, although GiveMeaning is trying the advertising route. Since none of these organizations are self-supporting yet, it’s unsure whether this concept will survive and, if so, which of these charities will remain. However, the ability to donate directly to a cause is an area where many traditional nonprofits cannot compete, especially when donations for specific causes are discouraged so funds received are not ‘restricted’ in their use.
Without the Internet, this type of philanthropy would not exist. Make a donation to one of these organizations and see how your constituent experience compares to what you’ve received from most traditional nonprofits. For a profile of these types of sites, visit Peter Dietz’s Social Actions
In her book Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, Allison Fine asks organizations how well they are handling a new era in online communications:
Do other people and organizations trust you and your organization? How do you know? How can you increase and strengthen that trust?
Are you reaching out to new people and organizations to learn with and from them? Do you approach networking as an opportunity to push out your “brand,” or to strengthen a connection with others?
Do you support and celebrate your alumni and other ambassadors to other groups and communities?
What information are you sharing with the world? Are there other kinds of information that you could share?
Are your Web site and other communication vehicles inviting to strangers? Can anyone looking at your information figure out who you are? Which individuals are key?
Do your materials (your Web site, brochures, plans, proposals, reports) use words that people understand, or language that says that your organization is made up of really smart people?
Do you think of questions from outsiders as time-suckers that need to be answered, or as the beginning of a conversation?
Do you ever introduce people for no other reason than the fact that they should know one another? Does that include introducing collegial organizations to potential funders? What are you expecting in return for these introductions?
Do your participants ever talk to one another about your endeavor without your prompting?
Can you help your volunteers start their own conversations, have their own meetings, and develop strategies to support your efforts?
Do you celebrate achievements by other organizations in your network?
Do your participants (board members, volunteers, clients, collegial organizations) watch you make plans or help you to make them?
In a related article on the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Ms. Fine says: “Today, nonprofit groups are part of a larger network or ecosystem of people, organizations, resources, and information. Relying on old-fashioned, top-down management approaches for setting activist agendas and designing fund-raising and volunteering efforts will lead inevitably to disappointing results.”
How well does your organization meet these challenges?.
Does online fundraising offer a huge opportunity for most nonprofits? Yes. Does this mean that the more traditional direct mail methods should no longer be used? No! Many other bloggers recently discussed this issue:
Chronicle of Philanthropy – Direct-Mail Appeals Suffer, New Survey Finds
Sea Change Strategies – Mark Rovner – A Little Fundraising Rant
Seth Godin – I Gave at the Office, as well as his latest book, Meatball Sundae
A useful summary of the issue is provided in The Agitator’s Baby and the Bathwater.
I agree with Seth’s point that online fundraising clearly is not meant to replace direct mail fundraising. Some people may always respond best to direct mail, while others enjoy doing everything online. The real challenge, as Seth points out, is to convert the donor to an active supporter of an organization’s cause, or who encourages others to get involved. Whether a donor gives offline or online, getting someone to get and stay engaged has the biggest benefit for our organizations.