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August 17, 2012
Nonprofit Fundraising - It All Comes Down to One (Part 1)

Nonprofit Fundraising from Individuals“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” W. Edwards Deming

As we continue our series of funding sources for nonprofit organizations, our first focus is on individuals.

A widely-held perception is that corporations and foundations are the biggest sources to tap for grants and donations. The reality is that four out of every five philanthropic dollars (80%) contributed by individuals and bequests. This number increases to 87 percent of total giving if you include family foundations.

According a report compiled annually by the American Association of Fundraising, in 2010 Americans gave a staggering $290 billion to their favorite causes. Despite the tough economic conditions faced by many, total giving was up 3.8% from 2009.

What are the most important characteristics of successful fundraising with individuals?


As any of my regular readers or clients know, one of my favorite quotes is “Relationships are primary, all else is derivative,” from Dr. Ronald David of the Kellogg Foundation. Successful relationships are not typically one-sided. Think about your own experiences. Do you enjoy talking with people who only talk about themselves and really don’t care much about your thoughts and opinions? I know I don’t. I like to participate in the conversation.

Donor relationships work the same way. Focus on having two-way conversations and show concern regarding their wants and needs. This means that you must find a way to speak to the real desires and motivations of the people you are trying to engage and avoid the old “spray and pray” approach that nonprofits have historically used.

How to Apply Within Your Organization:

  1. Ask your donors directly (in-person as listed below, also via phone and online) why they give.
  2. Schedule face-to-face meetings with donors on a regular basis to uncover and truly comprehend their motivations fully. These should be scheduled weekly if possible, and spending the time and resources to really analyze the data that they collect is vital.

Your various revenue development initiatives should be integrated with each other to ensure consistency in the minds of the individuals you are trying to reach. For example, having completely different campaigns and messaging across various fundraising efforts or marketing mediums can confuse and cause indecisiveness among people that may not understand what exactly they are supporting or what cause they are joining.

Social media is fast becoming a significant potential source of donations and needs to be considered in this integration process. The increasing user comfort and acceptance of online transactions has made giving via the Internet easier than ever. And with more and more people online – and spending time on social media sites – everyday, connecting with them via this channel is a good way to encourage awareness, engagement and giving with individuals.

How To Apply Within Your Organization:

  1. Ensure that everyone is “on the same page” by training both the board and staff on messaging, and why it’s so important that it be consistent.
  2. Make sure that Social Media, Website, Print, Radio and Television, etc. messages are all consistent in what they communicate.

Your fundraising efforts need to be aligned directly with the overall mission of the organization and your values. In other words, doing something completely out of character for your organization to make a buck should never be a consideration.

How To Apply Within Your Organization:

  1. Make sure that your organizational values are well-defined and widely known and accepted within the organization.
  2. Decide up front what money you will and won’t accept and what programs and services you will and won’t offer. It’s far easier to say “no” to money and stay aligned when you have a well-defined mission and values, and aren’t desperate for revenue that does not fit within this framework. Defining these principles up front will keep you aligned and on-track when your organization is in danger of being pulled in the wrong direction.

The misrepresentation of your organization, your motivations, results or how funds are utilized should never, ever be allowed to occur. Once credibility from an organization is lost among the public, it is VERY hard to recreate, if not impossible. Recent examples are many and include some of the largest and most recognized organizations and charities, including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and UNICEF.

How To Apply Within Your Organization:

  1. Be prepared to respond immediately. Get “in front” of the news as quickly as you possibly can, to begin your response before outside opinions are fully formed and disseminated. 
  2. Develop a disaster plan, going so far as to draft press releases that can be quickly modified and released when or if something happens.
  3. Be sure your policies and procedures are developed and implemented regarding financial accountability and stewardship to prevent these types of problems in the first place.
Guiding organizations through the creation of their revenue development plan and all of its supporting components is one of the primary things that I do every day with our clients. Please contact me at (417) 894-4640 for more information on how we can work in partnership to strengthen the revenue development process - and the financial results that it generates - for your organization.

Next up: Revenue Development – Focusing on Individuals Part II


Posted by Tiffany Applegate on August 17, 2012 at 1:03 PM

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