With Halloween behind us, it’s officially the holiday season. While you may not be breaking out the Christmas sweaters and eggnog just yet (or even if you are!) it’s time to put a plan in place for end-of-year fundraising.
As we all know, 2020 has been an unusual year. End-of-year fundraising will be no different. It’s more important than ever to ensure you have the right tools and strategy to reach your goals. We’re here to help. These seven tips will help your nonprofit organization not only raise funds, but establish better relationships with donors and set up the organization for long-term success.
Be transparent. Having trouble making ends meet? Been hard-hit by COVID? Struggling to adapt virtually? Be open with donors about your pain points. They’ll appreciate your honesty and may be able to donate ideas, feedback, or connections in addition to dollars.
Real-life example: Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer, relies heavily on in-person events organized by local chapters for much of their fundraising. With limited in-person events this year, the organization is transparent in recognizing the difficulty chapters and individuals face while also proactively sharing online fundraising tips, including email and social media templates, and hosting online webinars.
Address the elephant in the room. Talk about hot-button topics like COVID-19, racial inequality, climate change, and this summer’s protests. If your nonprofit addresses any of these issues head-on, then talk about the impact. If your nonprofit does not address them directly, it’s still important not to avoid current events. Share an op-ed from leadership on how the organization is adapting to the times and how their outlook and company policies have changed.
Real-life example: Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) is a nonprofit organization committed to providing under-represented individuals with the resources and tools they need to successfully start a business. After the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, and the ensuing protests of this summer, the organization released a statement from their Executive Director and Board Chair addressing the issue head-on and listing the specific steps EforAll is taking to address systemic inequality and racial bias within their organization. The statement remains prominently featured on the homepage of their website.
Partner with like-minded brands. This can be an especially effective way to cultivate young donors. 80 percent of Gen Zs and millennials believe brands need to bring genuine value to society and not just sell products. Find the brands with customers who care about your cause, and take advantage of consumer expectations by partnering with them. Your nonprofit will reach a larger audience, and your partner brand will gain positive PR and customer loyalty.
Real-life example: Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund may not seem like they would have many goals in common, but the two organizations have partnered on environmental initiatives since 2007. Their global partnership helps to address “the natural resource challenges that impact freshwater by measurably improving environmental performance across [Coca-Cola’s] supply chain, integrating the value of nature into decision-making processes, and convening influential partners to solve global environmental challenges.” The partnership not only improves Coca-Cola’s image, it makes a real impact on improving the environment.
Take stock of your digital tools and knowledge. It goes without saying that most fundraising efforts this year will need to be conducted online. It’s not enough, though, to set up a fundraising page on your website or start an ad campaign. Ensure you have sophisticated enough analytics tools to track your success and seek opportunities to integrate different tools and efforts, from email marketing tools to digital ad platforms to CRMs. Empower employees to be successful this holiday season by enrolling the entire team in a webinar or short course on digital fundraising so everyone can contribute and elevate the organization’s results.
Real-life example: The Catholic Charities of Dallas (CCD) invested in new technology, including the digital fundraising solution iDonate, and leaned into digital advertising when the coronavirus eliminated other sources of revenue. Their investment paid off. During the peak of the pandemic, CCD saw a 1,900% increase in first time digital donors, 1,450% increase in online revenue, and a 17% increase in average gift size.
Remember the ultimate goal. It may feel necessary to invest in all new software, run a dozen different campaigns, and send ten emails per day but all those efforts are only going to exhaust resources and staff; and likely won’t have the expected payoff. Technology is only a tool, not the main event. Instead, take time to set realistic goals and focus on creating a feeling of belonging and community for donors and beneficiaries alike.
Real-life example: When COVID-19 hit and impacted their ability to host in-person events and provide services as usual, Raising a Reader Aspen to Parachute adapted. They used free technology, primarily Facebook, as well as non technology-based solutions to continue supporting literacy success. They launched an online summer reading program, used snail mail to send 200 books to 100 families in need, and hosted weekly Facebook Live reading sessions in Spanish and English viewed by more than 1,000 users. By focusing on their purpose and not getting distracted by complicated technology or practices, they reached more families.
Take advantage of crowdfunding tools, like GoFudMe and Kickstarter. When done right, crowdsourcing donations are a powerful tool that can make donors feel like ambassadors and activists on behalf of a cause or organization. They can also help communities invest in themselves and seek support from their networks. In terms of end-of-year fundraising, this can mean more exposure for your organization on social media platforms and more individual donors. Even more importantly, though, a well-run crowdfunding campaign can have long-lasting impacts by empowering donors to get more involved and have real ownership.
Real-life example: Fresh Food Connect, a Denver-based nonprofit creating a more healthy, sustainable, and local food system by creating a market for homegrown food through their mobile app, launched a GoFundMe campaign in August 2020. The campaign’s goal was to raise $5,000 to continue their work ensuring communities have access to nutritious and affordable food. Less than 10 days after launching, Fresh Food Connect’s GoFundMe campaign surpassed their goal with support from 79 donors. They reached out to potential donors directly as well as through updates on their newsletter and social media, and followed up with donors and non-donors alike during and after the successful campaign to ensure their communities were engaged and knew how to get further involved in their work.
Think like a startup. The hallmarks of startup culture include adaptability, passion, and the desire to learn and grow. Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. When it becomes clear something isn’t working, pivot. Give everyone on the team a voice in brainstorming ideas and driving strategy. With collaboration, bold ideas, and humility, you’ll be well-positioned to raise money over the next months and set your organization up for long-term success.
Real-life example: Global Conservation Corps (GCC) is a non-profit organization bridging the gap between communities and wildlife in South Africa. When the coronavirus hit, their impactful work encountered multiple challenges and GCC rose to the occasion with innovative thinking and quick pivots. With the tourism industry hard-hit by the impacts of COVID-19, wildlife rangers who serve on the front line protecting wildlife from poachers faced reduced wages and the inability to feed their families. GCC partnered with a local grocery store chain to provide more than 90,000 meals to rangers and their families. They also started a GoFundMe campaign to ensure they could continue to feed the families while still accomplishing their goals. The campaign’s first 24 hours were so successful that GCC kept the campaign open indefinitely and used the additional funds to support rangers, as well as the staff of other foundations and nature reserves in the areas they serve.
Next, we want to hear from you! What did we miss? What is your number one tactic for an effective fundraising season? Tag @ThinkMFF on Twitter with your response!