The reality is, we all want to raise a lot of money for our non-profits. Ideally, we want to raise more money than we raised last year. And we’d love to raise more money with each fundraising campaign we run. But raising more money can be hard, especially if your nonprofit has a small donor file or you just have a small audience to begin with. Hard, but not impossible to crush your next fundraising campaign goal.
Maybe your non-profit is new and you’re still working on kind of building out an audience and community around your cause. Maybe your organization doesn’t have a huge budget for donor acquisition and your donor file has plateaued. Fear not! It is still possible to raise more money. In this article I’m going to share some road-tested strategies that will help you take your fundraising campaign to the next level.
Set Good, Better, Best Goals
Goal setting is an inherently important part of fundraising. Not only do we need to set goals so we can create budgets for our organizations, setting goals allows us to set expectations within our organizations about what we can expect from fundraising efforts. If you’ve ever had board members question why you can’t just raise $1m this year, you know what I’m talking about.
One of the goal setting structures that I personally like to use is good, better and best goals. I like this cascading goal structure because it gives me a range to aim for, rather than one number. Here’s how to set your good, better and best goals:
- Good Goal: A fundraising target that is doable. You could probably do exactly what you did last time you ran a campaign and easily achieve it.
- Better Goal: A fundraising target that you think you could probably hit with a little tweaking and finessing to your campaign. Maybe adding in some different strategies or tactics could you get there. For instance, if your last campaign raised $3,000 your better goal might be $3,500 or $4,000.
- Best Goal: A fundraising target that you could hit if all the stars align and the response rate is better than you could have projected. For instance, if your last campaign raised $3,000, your best goal might be $6,000.
If your organization is new to fundraising or you don’t have a lot of experience with fundraising goal setting, there are lots of industry statistics out there that can help you create projections to set your good, better, best goals. M&R Benchmarks is a great resource for digital fundraising channels. In 2022, they reported the average one-time gift on email was $125 and the average monthly gift on email was $25. I also like to look at the amount raised per email sent.
The more you can orient yourself to data from your donor base, the more you can see how it can be easy to reach these goals and kind of the levers that you need to push and pull to make that happen.
Build Momentum and Engagement Leading Up to the Ask
One mistake organizations make is flipping on the firehose of fundraising when a campaign goes live. I see this a lot around Giving Tuesday and year-end fundraising. The problem with this is that if you haven’t been consistently communicating (or maybe you’ve been communicating about something totally different), you’re not really capitalizing on the momentum and engagement you could be leading into the fundraising campaign.
When mapping out your fundraising campaigns, it pays to have a medium term vision, short-term plan. This allows you to understand what messaging it is you’re trying to build up to for your fundraising appeal and reverse-engineer your messaging and communications leading into the asks.
The other benefit of this is that on your email list, you will see that more people will stay engaged, which is ultimately better for your email list health and that bodes well for your fundraising campaign.
Further reading to help you develop a medium-term vision and short-term plan:
Ask More than Once for the Donation
This might seem like a no-brainer in some ways, but this is really low hanging fruit for so many fundraising programs. A fundraising campaign needs more than one ask even if you have a small audience, even if you feel like you don’t want to bug them with asking them with too many asks. This is how you can really maximize your fundraising from that small audience.
A good portion of your audience won’t give the first time they are asked so it pays (literally) to plan more than one ask in your campaign. There are a lot of creative ways to ask more than once. For instance, you don’t have to send really hard line fundraising emails or asks every single time. You could mix in a series of story emails with a soft PS. ask at the end, or mix in retargeted ads.
Make a Unique Pitch to Upgrade Donors
This is one of my best strategies and one I think any organization can implement. Every time you plan a fundraising campaign, think about how you can ask for a slightly larger donation from at least one segment of your audience. This will help you raise more money during the campaign and will increase donors’ lifetime value.
My best success story with this strategy is with my client, Variety BC. I developed a mid-level ask on email where we ask donors to give $1,250. The concept behind this was inspired by a matching gift the organization received. We knew that it costs the organization an average of $2,500 to help one child. Given that there was a matching opportunity, I saw this as a very tidy and compelling pitch to help one child. This was a highly successful experiment that’s become part of most campaigns I’ve run for them.
When applying this strategy to your organization, think about a certain project or dollar amount that you can use to message why donors should increase their giving. If you have a matching gift available, this is another opportunity to creatively message the compelling reason for giving.
Tell a Compelling Story About the Cause
My next two strategies are about copywriting, more so than fundraising tactics. It won’t surprise you at all to know that I believe a key part of any fundraising appeal is the story it tells about your organization and the cause.
This kind of storytelling gets to the heart of why the cause matters, why people should donate and what it says about them when they make a donation. In the structure of the fundraising emails I write, this is the hook and the explainer.
Donors don’t need the grant application version of your story. They need something that is easily digestible with an intellectual and emotional appeal.
Need to see some examples of compelling stories? Here are 20+ examples of non-profit stories that raise money.
Tell a Compelling Story About the Urgency
Urgency is such an essential part of fundraising. You need to give people a reason to donate today, not a month from now and certainly not a year from now. When I write fundraising appeals, I think carefully about the “story” I’m creating about the urgency because “make your donation today” is not at all urgent.
There are lots of ways to create urgency in fundraising appeals. Here are three I often come back to:
- Date Deadline: This could be related to the timeline of your campaign or a date like December 31st.
- Increase Demand: This could be demand that you’re experiencing or demand that you’re anticipating.
- Seasonal Urgency: This ties together something that’s seasonally happening with your non-profit. For example, September is back to school time and your non-profit runs after school programming that you want to be prepared for.
At the very least, think about creating a key messaging point about the urgency of your fundraising campaign.
BUILD THE NEXT STEP IN THE ENGAGEMENT LADDER
A lot of times we think about the top of the fundraising engagement ladder as making a gift and we start over again engaging donors up to that next gift. That does not have to be the case, my friend. And in fact, when you have a small audience, there is an important need to build out that next step in the engagement ladder to turn donors into ambassadors.
Your donors care a lot about your cause. They care about what you’re doing and they are some of the best people to go out and to help people about that. You can easily facilitate this through your post-gift follow up. Ask donors to forward an email to a friend or share about the donation on social media.
I’ll be honest, these things aren’t necessarily going to bring in tons of money. However, when you have a small audience and you’re trying to do some additional acquisition, this can be a really great strategy to focus on.
LET’S GET FUNDRAISING!
I hope you’re feeling energized about your next fundraising campaign! There are lots of ways to raise more money from your audience even if it’s small. I’d love to hear which of these strategies you plan to try in the comments below.
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