Did you know . . . more than $373 billion was given to charities in 2015? (Giving USA)
Your organization likely received a modest portion of that charitable giving.
But did your organization get all that it needed to support your mission and ministry? Not talking about your annual fundraising goal, but rather the impact goals needed to sustain and grow your organization for today and the future.
Oxford Dictionary defines impact as – “The effect or influence of one person, thing, or action, on another”. So impact goals are those things our organizations do to deliberately “effect or influence” our community members: The children we educate, the hungry that we feed, the ill and infirmed that we care for and cure, etc. The impact . . . to improve the world.
So, why is impact important and what does this have to do with finding more donors?
“Twenty-first century philanthropy is investment in solutions, not cash for problems,” said Susan Raymond, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Changing Our World. “What that means is (philanthropists) expect evidence of impact. Money is contingent on results. Impact, not intention, is the coin of the realm.”
Your donors, all of your current and future donors need to know that their “investment” will have a positive impact on those served by your organization and the larger community where you live.
And in order to attract, retain, renew, and upgrade donors, engaging them with your impact stories is essential.
And this isn’t just those donors who give major gifts, but rather all donors, and all gifts.
All Gifts Matter.
And, most important, ALL DONORS Matter.
Mary Cahalane (Hands on Fundraising) aptly stated it this way, “Our missions are broader than dollars and cents.”
Your mission and ministry prosper upon your ability to secure contributions of all amounts from lots of faithful donors every year. And yet, you struggle every year to find the donors to help meet the impact goals that support your mission and ministry.
The truth is . . . finding new donors isn’t complicated.
It isn’t scientific. It isn’t impossible. And it isn’t costly.
So, where do you find these donors?
First, you don’t get them by purchasing a list or by hosting yet another “special” event.
You find donors in your faithful supporters. Your current stakeholders. Your “natural constituency”.
Remember the line from the movie “Field of Dreams”—“If you build it [they] will come.” It is also true in fund development, advancement or whatever you call it in your organization.
It is philanthropy.
“Philanthropy is inherently optimistic, reflecting the deeply held belief that we can have a positive impact on the lives of others as well as on stubborn societal issues. Through philanthropy, individuals can make a difference, promote change, and improve their communities.” ~ Bruce DeBoskey, philanthropic strategist.
Think about it this way ---- if you would connect and engage with those who already believe in your mission and ministry, the money and support will follow. Really.
All the donors you need right now are already connected to your organization. Your job is to:
Connect their desire to improve the world with your ability to do just that . . . improve the world, through your mission and ministry. AND
- Treat those individuals like beloved members of your family. Treat them well, share the stories of impact, engage with them, and they will remain with your organization for the long haul. Whether it is annual fund, endowment, capital campaign, or major gift donors, “if you take care of your donors, your donors will take care of you”.
So where do you begin?
You begin with your inner circle, “the people who know you and love you.” They are your customers, the reason you exist. They are:
- Your current donors and your recently lapsed donors
- Your parents and grandparents
- Your alumni/alumnae.
- Your members.
- Your board AND your employees.
- Your special event sponsors and attendees (and honorees)
- And believe it or not, the folks who directly benefit by the service you provide.
You say, “Oh no we can’t ask them. They already give of their time. They already pay tuition. They receive assistance. They are just starting out. Etc., etc., etc.”
Don’t ever assume that your “inner circle” can’t and won’t give and give generously.
Your assumptions are what keep you from a prosperous and fluid mission and ministry.
In the words of the great Wayne Gretzky “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” For our purposes that translates to – you miss 100% of the gifts of support you never ask for.
Remember ALL gifts and ALL donors matter. Your “inner circle” if you keep them close and make them feel truly appreciated, they will give, when asked, what they can, even if it’s $5.
So, let’s say you take the plunge and decide it’s time invest in building better more meaningful relationships with your “inner circle” so you can convert them to faithful donors.
Remember, “you probably didn’t propose marriage or accept a marriage proposal on the first date” – so, please don’t just ask the “inner circle” for a gift without getting to know them first.
You need to know the following:
- Who are they (name, address, phone, email, etc.)?
- What is their connection to the organization? Parent, grandparent, volunteer, donor, etc.
- How long have they been connected to your organization?
- What is their current relationship, if any, with you?
- How do you communicate with them? How do they communicate with you?
- Do they attend your special events? One time or regular attendees?
- Do they attend your mission programs?
- Have they given before? If so, how do they like to give (online, mail, phone, text to give, check, credit card, etc.)?
- If they are alum, what year did they graduate? What have they been doing since graduation?
- Where do they work?
- Do they have family members that are connected to your organization?
- What other information will help us get better acquainted?
Wow, that’s a lot of information to collect. How can we possibly do this? Yes, there are probably a million reasons why you can’t possibly fit all this into your already over extended workload. But, in reality, there are a $Million reasons why you can’t afford not to make the time to get to know your “inner circle”.
Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, said it best, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
You have to take the first step. And the first step is to start the conversation with your “inner circle”. Ask them about themselves. Research has repeatedly found that “self-disclosure produces a burst of activity in neural regions associated with pleasure, motivation, and reward.” People like to talk about themselves. So ask.
Ask them when they attend events, make donations, become members, attend meetings, etc. Ask them in a survey. Call them. Make the effort to connect with them. Take notes, lots of notes. And then, please put these jewels of information in your database.
Remember, the goal here is to engage your “inner circle”. They already have some affinity for your mission and ministry. By connecting “their desire to improve the world with your ability to do just that, you inspire them to share themselves and their precious resources with your organization.
Yup, just that easy.
Every year for 30+ years, a school teacher faithfully sent her $15 membership to an arts organization. Upon her death, the organization received a significant six-figure bequest.
Gina was homeless. She was undereducated and lived on the streets. She connected with an organization whose mission and ministry was to give hope and dignity back to the homeless, getting them off the streets and into meaningful employment. Gina worked hard to complete the program. She eventually secured a job and a small apartment. Shortly after she began her new life off the streets, Gina dropped by the organization with a note and check for $20. “Thank you for helping me make a better life for myself. Please accept this $20. Wish I could give more.” And she did, whenever possible.
Grandparents Day is a long standing tradition at this Catholic elementary school. Grandparents and grandchildren look forward to this day every year. Many travel long distances to spend this day at school with their grandchildren. As a result of this inspiring engagement, grandparents successfully pushed the capital campaign fundraising goal over the top and were on-hand to proudly move a shovel of dirt at the ground-breaking ceremony.
These stories are not uncommon. And they have one thing in common . . . a meaningful relationship between the donor and the organization.
So, it’s possible. But it will take commitment and hard work, and yes, financial resources. The whole organization must commit to connecting with your “inner circle”. There must be within your organization, a culture of philanthropy. Research shows that “an organization’s culture dramatically affects its effectiveness. Culture is pervasive, affecting all areas of the organization, including fund development.” Fund development, in order to be effective and successful must be the responsibility of the whole organization, not just one department. If the relationships are to succeed, if we are to embrace the “inner circle” as beloved members of the family, the whole organization must contribute to the effort.
But . . . it isn’t enough to just get the gift. The gift of support is but one step in what can be a long and meaningful relationship.
Once you have engaged and embraced your “inner circle” make sure that . . .
- You make it easy for them to give.
You show them an abundance of authentic appreciation
You regularly demonstrate impact of their gift on your mission and ministry – “Because of you . . . .”
You inspire them to give again. Inspiring is what makes “the ask” possible.
You inspire a legacy gift.
Remember, “if you take care of your donors, your donors will take care of you”.
So make the commitment, take the time, and embrace your “inner circle” and you will have faithful donors for a lifetime.
-published in September 2016 "Dimensions", a publication of the National Catholic Development Conference