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7 reasons to do Sustainable Fundraising
By Rich Foss
© 2008-2012 Evergreen Leaders. You have the right to post this, e-mail it, print it, or adapt it if you give Evergreen Leaders credit and don’t charge for it.
1. 1. Sustainable fundraising is a powerful alternative to special events.
Many nonprofits begin their fundraising with a special event. Selling tickets to an event seems easier than asking for a donation. In my first fundraising job, I had the privilege of working with Jack Domagall, a colleague who, even though blind, was a genius at organizing special events.
Our nonprofit did everything from dinner dances to bowl-a-thons to Fifties dances. Jack always said, “We always give something to donors.” The events were popular.
Unfortunately, the events were a lot of work for a little income. Another negative – people bond to the event, not to the nonprofit.
Special events are like a shampoo. You produce a great shampoo and pretty soon someone else produces a better shampoo or a cheaper shampoo and your sales go down. Our nonprofit launched the first charity golf tournament in our area. Now the summer is littered with charity golf tournaments.
Eventually our nonprofit abandoned special events in favor of a sustainable fundraising model. Annual income from the face to face phase of the sustainable fundraising doubled in the first four years.
2. Sustainable fundraising weds a nonprofit’s mission to its fundraising.
Sustainable fundraising is designed to develop a strong bond between the donor and the organization. Sustainable fundraising continually invites donors to connect with its mission and with the people whose lives are transformed by the work of the nonprofit.
Fresh out of graduate school, I took a job at a small town nonprofit that served people with developmental disabilities, intending to stay a short while until I found a better job. I stayed for twenty years. Why? Within a few months, I had come to believe deeply in the mission of the organization.
Eventually I was asked to direct a campaign to raise $1.2 million for a project critical to carrying out the organization’s mission. Directing the campaign stretched me incredibly. I was sustained by the fact that a successful campaign would make life much better for the people who used our services. The mission sustained me.
When the organization moved from doing special events to launching its first sustainable fundraising campaign, the rugged founder of a local trucking firm served as the general chairperson of the campaign. Two of the people who received services from the nonprofit served with him on the campaign steering committee.
At a dinner celebrating the success of the first campaign, he received an appreciation plaque. In his acceptance speech, as he talked about the privilege of working with the two people who received services, tears appeared in his eyes.
The next year he gave the lead gift to the campaign.
Sustainable fundraising help volunteers build powerful bonds with an organization and its mission.
3. Sustainable fundraising sets your nonprofit’s fundraising apart.
Your mission sets you apart. Your sustainable fundraising will also.
Because sustainable fundraising grows out of your organization’s mission, you set your nonprofit apart from others that are raising funds. Every part of the campaign – from the case statement, news releases, solicitor training, to the thank you letters – highlight your organization’s mission and how fundraising helps you be true to your mission.
Through sustainable fundraising a nonprofit not only asks for money but also tells stories of lives being transformed through the organization, thereby increasing the pool of people who are committed to the mission of the organization and available to be recruited as board members, volunteers and staff.
4. Sustainable fundraising give volunteers a chance to showcase their leadership, networking, and creative talents.
Organizations run on talents.
I stuck around for twenty years with my first employer, not only because I came to believe deeply in the mission of the organization, but also because the nonprofit was a great place to use my talents.
Sustainable fundraising campaigns also run on talents. Marketing volunteers can have a great time translating the mission of a nonprofit into great media and media relations.
Volunteer leaders recruit a team to raise funds for a great cause and see their team produce results.
Everyone involved with the campaign gets to grow his or her personal network.
5. Sustainable fundraising creates a way for all of the constituencies of a nonprofit to work toward a common goal.
Every organization has the potential for tension between departments. Nonprofits may have potential for tension between board and staff, managers and staff, service recipients and the organization, between media and the nonprofit, and between the community and the organization.
A well-run sustainable fundraising campaign reminds everyone of the mission of the organization. It also creates roles for everyone to contribute to the success of the campaign For instance, the inner circle of the organization—board and staff—are asked to give first, making it possible for volunteers who solicit in the public phase of campaign tell potential donors that those closest to the need have already given.
6. Sustainable fundraising reaches out to every level of donor.
Success depends on doing first things first, as Stephen Covey noted in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Fundraisers have long known that if you are going to raise $100,000, you need a lead gift of $10,000 to $15,000. You also need several other large gifts. The rule of thumb is you will receive 80% of your goal from 20% of your donors.
The successful sustainable fundraising campaign puts first things first. Securing the lead gift and other large gifts create the momentum for success.
Then it's time for phone calls and a letter. Asking for certain level of gifts through phone calls is part of the mix. And the appeal letter makes it possible for the donor who wants to support your organization with a $25 gift to do so. And an appeal letter is a great way to tell a powerful story that portrays the mission of the nonprofit.
Phone calls and a letter can bring in the last 20% which is the difference between jubilation over a successful campaign or disappointment with a campaign that has fallen short of its goal.
7. Sustainable fundraising and loyalty keep on giving.
A well-run sustainable fundraising campaign helps people keep on giving. It creates loyalty – the kind of loyalty that leads a person to be the general chairperson one year and give the lead gift the next year.People who bond with your organization’s mission through serving as sustainable campaign volunteers are not shy about asking for gifts from others and they freely encourage others to volunteer for the campaign.
The ultimate loyalty is when someone includes your organization in their will or estate plan.
Sustainable fundraising and loyalty keep on giving.
Rich Foss is the CEO/Teachers’ Assistant of Evergreen Leaders. He is the author of Green Light Fundraising: Your Sustainble Fundraising Guide to Raising $50,000 to $500,000 a Year to Light Up the Eyes of the People your Nonprofit Serves and Your Donors, now available in paperback.
For more resources on sustainable fundraising go to greenlightfundraising.org