In this multi-post blog series, we will outline basic ways you can build a successful fundraising strategy at your nonprofit. Be sure to check back in!
The ancient philosopher Aristotle said that virtues were those things that made us the most happy. They are the ways of living that create an internal consistency – a way of living that is in line with who we are.
For the small-nonprofit fundraiser, there are a handful of virtues that will make you happy – things you can do that will be consistent with your unique role of raising money at an organization like yours. These are the virtues I’ve found that will set your nonprofit up for fundraising success. If you abide by them – over the long haul – you will see sustainable philanthropic revenue for your organization.
You need a diverse approach to raising money – neither relying solely on major gifts nor annual gifts, and not only doing email solicitations or only mailed solicitations. You need to cast a broad net to get as many sources of revenue as you can. A successful fundraising program consists of all of the above: mailed, electronic, and major gift solicitations, as well as an air-tight stewardship strategy (the details of which I discussed in my post on the basics of major gift fundraising).
Fundraising success does not happen immediately – you need to be in it for the longer haul. Don’t let yourself be easily discouraged! Frankly, it might take 18-24 months for your board to begin seeing a real return on investment into fundraising, whether it be in your salary, the salary of a consultant or contractor, consistent responses to mailed solicitations, or closing a major gift.
You must be consistent as you move down the long road of fundraising activity. This requires that you embrace trial and error, and be persistent in your outreach to donors at all levels of giving. For mailed solicitations, I recommend you should budget for four each year in order to create sustained philanthropic revenue, and always have a new solicitation in the pipeline! They need not all go to the same people – you may have a few different acquisition mailings. Remember, cast a big net. You can read more about how to put together mailed solicitations in my earlier blog post on direct mail. Furthermore, it’s important to be gently persistent – keep in touch with your donor prospects, as developing a relationship with them and familiarizing them with your organization takes time. While the way in which you build donor relationships will vary somewhat with each individual, evaluate what strategies in general work better than others, and modify your approach as necessary.
Fundraising isn’t easy, and it can get discouraging when you don’t receive the responses and results you’re hoping for at first. However, with the right strategies and the right mindset, your efforts will be fruitful if you stick with it long enough. As goes the ancient Latin proverb, audaces fortuna iuvat (fortune favors the brave) — and those who cast a broad net. And the tenacious. And the consistent.