WealthEngine works with nonprofits across the spectrum, from the largest universities, hospitals, and international aid organizations to local and regional arts and social service agencies.  Many of those who reach out to us are startups who have a passion, a vision and willing hands, but lack fundraising expertise and have few or no resources to hire trained staff members. In this three part blog series we offer three keys to help make your fundraising program more sustainable.

Welcome to the second of our 3-part series on creating a sustainable fundraising program. In last week’s blog post, Who’s on Board? we addressed the impact board members can have on fundraising.  While addressing board expansion is critical to future success, there are other considerations of nonprofit governance and fundraising for a young board to consider when developing plans to expand or develop a sustainable organization.  This post will focus on one of the most important considerations, which also happens to be your most valuable asset – your fundraising list.

Some organizations have a natural constituency ideal for fundraising.  Colleges and universities have alumni, theaters have ticket buyers, and hospitals have patients.  However, many nonprofits fill niches in our social fabric that serve many that don’t have a large, affluent natural constituency.  For these organizations, the need to build a strong house list for fundraising purposes is critical.  Without a list of donors and a consistent inflow of unrestricted dollars, they will not be able to achieve a sustainable source of monthly giving.  

In today’s digital world, there are two important channels in which to grow your list:

Website:  Your website is the hub of all your activity. The majority of your outreach will drive individuals to visit your website. Therefore, it must have the ability to capture attention, make a good impression, and most importantly, capture information from your visitors so you can communicate with them in some way.

Some ideas for website optimization could include:

  • Add a ‘Donate’ or button to each page and make sure it’s easily found to increase list signup and donations.
  • Capture email signups on each page of your site; add an offer to each of these links to increase the likelihood that people convert.
  • Create premium gated content, such as a white paper or e-book, on your site that gives more information about your cause, clients, or success stories. Collect email addresses to allow users to download.

Do you notice a theme here? You are including calls to action throughout your website to make it easy to capture information. Don’t make your visitors search around on your website to donate or subscribe to your content. Your website should be easy to navigate so visitors can find what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible. After all, you’re looking to gain advocates – not lose them!

Social Media:  Using social channels is a great way to build community. Some options include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and many more. While the channels may differ, your strategy should be similar. The posts and content that you share should invite dialogue and feedback. Including calls to action in your posts to drive people to your website to capture names and addresses will be a good way to potentially increase your list. 

Examples posts could include: 

  • Do you think it’s harder to be a teen today than in the past? Why or why not?  Do you have a story to share?  How did you find your way out of a difficult situation?
  • Have you or a friend or loved one been in need of family services only to be told “there’s a two week waiting list,” or “We don’t have room?”.  What services do you think our area is lacking?  How would you address those needs if you could?
  • Did you know: One in ten teens in our area lives in fear of abuse from a parent or guardian? Find out more (link to your website)
  • We’re filling a gap in mental health services in our community.  If you believe that every teen deserves the chance to find peace and faith in a safe, secure and professionally run home, join our mailing list to receive updates and opportunities to become involved.
  • How does a house become a home? LOVE.  Follow along as we transform House of Hope into a home for troubled teens.  Visit our website for photos and progress updates!

Use images wisely throughout your social posts. While text contains the content that your visitors will engage with, pictures help draw them in and get your initial clicks.

Web and Social tactics aren’t the only ways to build a list. There are some other things you can do to increase the size of your audience: 

  • Your board members can contribute. They may include some of their personal contacts, but the purpose is to build your major program/prospect list. 
  • Events can be an excellent way to get attention for your mission and cause. They can also work to grow your list and bring in substantial funds as well. At your events, think of mechanisms that will allow you to collect the names and addresses (email or physical) such as ticket purchases or sign-ups for a giveaway/raffle.  
  • Partnerships with organizations that have complementary missions, civic groups, or corporate sponsors can help provide additional names to your list. In addition, you could also obtain budgetary support, speaking opportunities to share your story directly with their members of employees, volunteers, or advocates for the mission within the larger community.
  • WealthEngine has a unique prospecting tool called WE Prospect. You can build a custom audience with criteria such as geography, net worth, charitable interests, and more. Check out this exceptional list-building tool.

Finally, you should define what you think your “perfect” supporter looks like.  Are there different types? Can you develop several personas to help describe the audience you want to reach?  This could help as you write fundraising letters or newsletter articles, and also as you develop ideas for special events, advertising, and other list-building activities. Discover how to create personas in five simple steps. 

Building a solid list of supporters and potential supporters is essential for any nonprofit.  In fact, many would argue that your list is your most valuable asset. But building a list without having a plan in place to communicate with your new friends, steward them, and involve and educate them is a wasted effort.  

Do you have a story to share about how you’ve grown your list? Share in the comments below.

Tune in next week for the final post in our series, Planning to Excel. We will share the tools you need to develop a solid donor communications plan.

 

 

 

 

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