Three Keys to Creating a Sustainable Fundraising Program: Planning to Excel
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 back to the final part of our 3-part series on creating a sustainable fundraising program. We started with discussing board members and their impact on fundraising in our first post, Who’s on Board? Last week, we covered fundraising lists in Your Most Valuable Asset.
As you grow your list, it is important to have a communication plan in place to maintain with these new and prospective donors. There is no point in collecting names unless you have a solid plan to steward your donors and cultivate your prospects. This is, by no means a full plan, but instead a starting point for the board to develop a working plan:
- Stewardship – When a donation is received it should be acknowledged as soon as possible – industry standard would suggest within 48 hours. Any sizable donations could be acknowledged with a thank you phone call from a board member and a written note. Donors want to know how their donation is helping, so be sure your acknowledgement cites how the donation will be used. Later communications should assure the donor that the donation was indeed used in that way. Sharing results goes a long way.
- Communications – Donors like to be kept in the loop and consistent communications are a best practice. Some communications may be appeals for additional support or to upgrade support, and others should be educational or informational. I would recommend no fewer than 6-8 communications per year, with 4 being appeals for support. You may give people an opportunity to say they only want one appeal per year, and honor that. You may also suppress individuals from appeals depending on what their response has been. Asking for multiple gifts in one year is a best practice, however, and increases the likelihood that you will retain that donor the second year.
- Recurring Gifts – Make it a priority to upgrade donors to recurring giving. These “sustainers” are a source of steady support that is easily renewed. Telephone is a good method for converting one-time donors to sustaining donors, although if you have limited staff and volunteer time, you may make this one of your written appeals.
- Diversification of Communication Channels and Consistency of Message – Use a combination of media to communicate, including direct mail, telephone, email and social media. If you have sent a direct mail appeal, amplify it with the same theme, ask, and story on social media, through email, and on your website.
- Collect Information – Determine the key pieces of contact information that you need to collect, and make every communication a chance for the recipient to provide more of it. Response slips should have blank spaces for name, address, telephone, and email. Landing pages on the website should also allow (but not require) individuals to provide more information.
These are a few rules of thumb to consider when planning your annual activities, but you and your board should spend a working session planning a yearly communications calendar to include mailings and other appeals, newsletters, blog posts, special events, invitations, and more. You can use this Activities Calendar template for your planning session.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this 3-part series on how to create a sustainable fundraising program. While these ideas are industry best practices and tried and true methods, every nonprofit and every nonprofit board is unique. WealthEngine consultants have decades of experience working with nonprofits of all types, and can easily do a Quick Audit for your organization. This two-day process will result in an affordable and actionable plan to guide you towards sustained, consistent fundraising revenue.
Do you have a story to share about creating a sustainable fundraising program? Share in the comments below.