It’s that time again – for many of us – the time when we gear up for our Annual Giving Campaigns; when we pull all-nighters to print and hand sign every letter, make sure the envelopes line up properly in our printers, spend a lot of money on postage — and pray. Sounds simple but there are a lot of variables we need to consider to make the campaign more than just a one time fund-raiser, but rather an opportunity to create long-term relationships with donor.
The fundraising part is the easiest. We send out X number of letters in hopes of getting X amount of money, however truthfully most campaigns don’t capitalize on the most important reason they are implementing a campaign – to make friends and create advocates.
This part of the campaign is more important than any individual check you receive – any. Sure, getting the check is terrific –fantastic!–do an Irish jig, give high-fives, celebrate. But then, if we are serious, the real work begins. The check itself gives you important information. First, you know the donor is interested in you. But how you work to cultivate him or her as a friend, supporter, ambassador and advocate is where you create the real magic. Here are some pointers.
Start with a powerful “ASK.” For example, here is a great campaign e-campaign request I got this week from New Global Citizens and was written in the voice of Michelle, 16-year-old Bronx High School of Science in New York, who is a member of the BHSS New Global Citizens team, which advocates on behalf of the Smile Group project in Vietnam.
“We want a voice,” she began. What a great opening; it got my attention, told a story, inspired me and made me want to read more. So I did and Michelle impressed me even more. “We were excited about how this organization helps us help communities around the world, and we wanted to help make a change in these communities and get others informed…we want a voice in the world,” She said.
Wow! This was especially powerful because it was written in the voice of a participants and because I was moved by Michelle, I was motivated to give. But it gets better. The e-letter told me that the organization had received “an overwhelming number of requests to start teams at schools across the nation.” Great for them! Then the note went on to say, “We had to turn away young people requesting to start NGC teams at schools across the nation due to a simple lack of funding. Having gotten to me with the impressive information about this group, their need for resources seemed too obvious to ignore, So I read on and felt increasingly impressed with the passion of these folks and the success they already had achieved. And they told me, “It is with those unmet requests in mind,” they went on, “ we are grateful that we are more than halfway towards meeting our $1 million dollar challenge grant! It is our goal to raise an additional $200,000 by the end of 2010 so that we can start 2011 off strong. Wow! again. These folks had already received 1 million dollar challenge grant, and needed help in reaching their challenge goal.
This is a strong “call to action” with a tangible goal that supports a compelling story. The note ends with “Your time and resources help amplify Michelle’s voice in the world so that she and so many other young New Global Citizens can make lasting change. This tells me who is going to be impacted and how the group will use the investment they receive. I liked this e-letter for all the things it obviously does right . The only three“ tips” I would recommend to improve it would be to personalize it more. “Dear Alison” is more powerful than “Dear Friend.” And I might include a photograph of Michelle “in action” putting a face to the voice. Lastly, since NGC has such a powerful message, I would add a P.S. That says, “Learn more about how to get involved, contact us at http://www.newglobalcitizens.org.
This was one of the best e-campaign notes I have received this season, and yes, I receive many. I have shared it with you because it is a working example of how to make the annual fundraising campaign a stepping stone to forming powerful ongoing relationships with those we want to support us. Having said all that, let me sum up: Here are some of my favorite tips for a powerful campaign:
Most annual giving happens in December and the biggest week of the year for giving is the one right after Christmas, so it is not too late to start your campaign. And if you don’t make this Holiday Season, don’t stress. There are lots of creative ways to launch a campaign. Think Valentines Day; Thanksgiving; A special month for your organization; such as your anniversary month; a special awareness month like Mental Health Month, Domestic Violence Month, or create a campaign around a date/event that is significant and personal for your organization. Be creative!
MAKE SURE YOU CAMPAIGN ASK ANSWERS THE QUESTIONS: • Why me? • Why now? • What for? • Who says? (These questions come from the source Network for Good, which is one terrific site for getting fundraising support http://www.networkforgood.org – Recommended!)
THANK, THANK AND THANK SOME MORE
- Send a thank you within 48 hours. If they are new donors, make sure to welcome them to your organization. Give them examples of two or three “dreams” you will make “real” in the next year as a result of their gift. As fundraising guru Kay Sprinkel Grace said at a recent conference, “Give them a story and a statistic.” You want to offer the emotional and the tangible. Tell them what you will do, how the community will benefit and share a personal story about someone who will be impacted by your efforts.
- Hand sign every thank you and consider having the Executive Director/CEO and/or Board member write a note in the margin. Give donors a Call to Action. Make it about them. How can they help, get involved, support you. What can they do and why are they so important to you. Everything single person who makes an investment in your organization has the potential to be a friend, advocate and ambassador.
The gift is the first dance; now you can “ask the donor for a date” build the relationship. Ask for a “second date.” Call them; ask them some questions about them and why they invested in YOU. Why are they interested in your organization? Do they have a personal story they want to share with you about why they gave? How do they want to get more involved? Get to know those who give to you. Like them. Respect them.
Learn from experts, there are some terrific fundraising professionals out there who are more than happy to share their expertise with you! Two great examples are Pamela Grow who publishes weekly The Grow Report – full of great advice and is the host of the weekly Twitter Chat every Friday at 12:00 noon EST Hash Tag #smNPChat . I also love Katya Andresen’s Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog: Getting to the Point (www.nonprofitmarketingblog.com)
Have Fun! This is a process of engaging people in your vision and mission. “Asking for money” is only a small of it. What you are really doing is building relationships and building relationships is fun!
P.S. I would love to see your most creative campaigns. Please feel free to post YOUR suggestions and ideas here. We would love to learn from YOU!