Sometimes it seems like larger non-profits have all the advantages. They have a huge development budget, dozens of fundraisers, and all the bells and whistles they need to get the job done. For those of us raising money for small organizations, it just doesn’t seem fair.
The truth of the matter, though, is that many of the strategies used by large non-profits can be adapted for small organizations, where they are just as effective, if not more so.
Here are the key tactics small non-profits can borrow from larger charities to supercharge their fundraising efforts:
#1 – Raise Money Online… the Right Way
At smaller non-profits, we often focus on the “Donate Now” button. We put up the best website we can afford, follow the advice we read about making the donate button big and bold, and sit back hoping for the best.
Larger organizations know that the real secret of effective online fundraising is building an e-mail list. They focus everything on their website towards the one big goal of getting people to give them an e-mail address the non-profit can use to cultivate prospects online.
Sure, you should have a big and bold “Donate Now” button on your website, but if you really want to fundraise like the big boys, focus on building a list you can use over and over again to cultivate and solicit donors.
#2 – Ask for Referrals
Quick… what’s the best way to find new prospects for your non-profit? If you said “send out more letters and hold more events!” then you’re thinking like a small organization. Larger charities know that the best way for any non-profit – including yours – to find new prospects is to earn referrals from your board, donors, volunteers and other supporters.
Getting referrals takes time, and it requires making an ask. When was the last time you asked your donors to introduce you to their friends, family and co-workers? It works! For a more detailed look at creating a referral program for your organization, read The Best Place to Find New Donor Prospects for Your Non-Profit.
#3 – Diversify Your Tactics
Too many small non-profits rely on one major fundraising event per year to raise most of their budget. Likewise, many small shops are grant-dependent, or focus almost entirely on board giving or on direct mail. Putting all of your fundraising efforts into one basket is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, do what the big boys do: diversify your tactics. Don’t rely too heavily on any one fundraising technique. The more successful you are in diversifying, the more stable your non-profit will be in the long run. Focus on individual giving, and add in new techniques and tactics every year. Keep what works, discard what doesn’t. Before long, you’ll have a well-oiled fundraising funnel that keeps your donors excited and engaged.
#4 – Leverage Your Resources
One of the best fundraising strategies for smaller charities is to leverage the resources they already have. You may not have hundreds of volunteers, thousands of clients served, or dozens of large donors, but what you likely do have is a passionate core of supporters who may be able to do more for you… if you show them how and support their efforts.
Leveraging resources is all about using what you already have to bring about more support and action than would be possible otherwise. In the simplest example, if you have a supporter who donates $25, and their company matches it with $25, you have effectively leveraged your $25 donor into a $25 donation you would not have gotten from the company otherwise.
What other ways can you leverage your current resources? Ask your donors to hold (and do all the work to prepare for) small coffee meetings in their homes to introduce your organization to their neighbors. Ask board members to send out fundraising notes on your behalf to their contacts. Ask volunteers if they would be willing to hold a walk-a-thon for you and invite their colleagues to join in. Leverage your current relationships for future fundraising success.
#5 – Delegate Responsibilities
It’s impossible to “do it all” when you’re heading up fundraising efforts for a small school, church, or charity. Don’t be afraid to delegate to trusted supporters and friends. For example, one of the best fundraising tactics for smaller non-profits is to use tactics where key responsibilities are easy to delegate – things like walk-a-thons, product sales, and scratch cards.
#6 – Make it Scalable
Businesses love scalability – so should you! Scalability means that your fundraising tactic can be planned and organized once, then used over and over again. Making your fundraising opportunities scalable allows you to use your limited staff time and organizational resources once and reap the rewards over and over again.
A good example of a scalable program would be to invite your supporters to hold small events in their homes on your behalf, where they raise a small amount of money (anything from $50-$5,000) for your charity. Your staff or a key volunteer could design a “how to hold a fundraising event” book and set up the event system in advance, then use it over and over again as more and more supporters agree to host events.
#7 Test for Success
One of the best fundraising strategies for small schools, churches, and charities is to focus on what works, and leave the rest behind. The 80/20 principle works well here — if you’re trying lots of different fundraising tactics, 80% of them won’t work or will only get a mediocre response. 20% of them will go gangbusters.
Test your strategies, then throw out what doesn’t work, and keep what does. You’ve got a limited staff and a limited budget… use them wisely.
#8 – Fish in Both Ponds
When dealing with small organizations, it’s easier to break donor prospects down into two big “ponds.” There’s the shark pond… filled those individuals, businesses, and foundations who can afford to write big checks (i.e. $5,000 – $10,000 or more) and the guppy pond… filled with those people, companies, and organizations who generally write smaller checks (i.e. $1-$5,000).
Many small charities think they should focus only on the guppy pond, because that’s where most of their money comes from. Other smaller non-profits think they should focus only on the shark pond, because that’s the kind of support they will need to grow. Resist both temptations. The best fundraising strategy is to fish in both ponds: the guppy pond donations will provide your base level of operating support, and the few larger gifts you receive from the shark pond will help you grow, expand, and prosper.
Small non-profits, including many schools, churches, community organizations and social service agencies, face some unique development challenges. Without a large and influential board of directors, a substantial fundraising staff, or widespread name recognition, these charities often struggle with development, in many cases operating “donation to donation.”
This situation is unfortunate, because many of these smaller non-profits provide key services to the communities where they are located which aren’t replicated by larger non-profits. Their mission matters… and they need increased fundraising to survive and thrive.
If you’re working to raise money for a small school, church, or charity in your community, what other tips for success have you found?