The 7 Drivers of Nonprofit Fundraising Success, Part I

Fundraising success is an art and a science. Fortunately, when you get the science right, you create lots of room to grow skillful at the art and maximize your fundraising potential.

The 7 Drivers of Nonprofit Fundraising Success, Part IBelow, you’ll read about four of the seven drivers of fundraising success. A driver, part of the science of fundraising, is a habitual activity that creates a climate that encourages donor involvement. In many ways, drivers are like highway systems that speed donors and other supporters to you, around barriers, congestion, and distractions. Once they arrive, the drivers offer an attractive destination that invites lingering. (This post focus on getting people to become donors. Next month, you’ll learn about the drivers that entice donors to remain.)

Rank yourself, on the following, from 1=weak to 10=strong on the strength for each fundraising driver at your nonprofit.

Drivers that Bring Donors and Donations to You

1. Attracting People, especially those with an interest in your cause and the means to fund it.

Drive your fundraising success by developing a steady stream of new people learning about your work. No matter your current supporters’ loyalty and dedication, donors move, drift away, and die over time. To stay even, expand your supporter and prospect list by at least 10 percent yearly. If your goal is to grow your contributions, you need even more newcomers.

How much did your contact list grow last year? What activities gathered new people? Does this driver need to be built, replaced, or refurbished? To learn more about attracting people and keeping them involved, read: Nonprofits, Don’t Just Find Donors, Grow Your Own.

2. An Engagement Process focused on providing newcomers value.

Once you catch their attention, you will want people to form a web of connections with your nonprofit. This driver is an institution-wide engagement process that begins with a hello and ends years from now, with a bequest. From the donor’s point of view, this driver offers them valuable opportunities to get involved and not just “drive-by” your nonprofit.

For example, getting newcomers to attend an event is step one of your engagement process. When a newcomer makes an in-kind gift, you send a personal thank-you note with a brochure. Via email, a staff member invites the individual to an Open House. A volunteer leaves a voicemail reminding them of the event. When the newcomer attends, you begin the next step of your process. With additional guidance, the newcomer becomes a board member and later leaves a bequest.

How do you transform strangers into donors, who eventually leave bequests? Where are their gaps in your engagement process? How successful are you at each step? For more, read Let’s Raise Nonprofit Millions Together. It explores the process of creating a culture of philanthropy in-depth and how to get help doing it.

3. Invitations to Give based on providing the donor value and wins for your nonprofit.

This driver recognizes that on the surface, people want to be left alone. Underneath, as you already discovered, donors seek to make a difference. It’s a bit like going out for a regular run, walk, or bike ride. For the first bit, your body complains, “I don’t want to do this.” After a while, that voice quiets, and you find satisfaction in moving.

Similarly, donors don’t want to be asked for money. Yet, they want to change lives, give back, help someone in need, and make the world a better place. Measure this driver by evaluating the number and the focus of opportunities offered to donors and prospects.

Many nonprofit leaders worry about donor burnout. (Adding more donors is the first cure, see Driver #1.) The remedy is also switching your perspective and refining what you offer to “your regulars.” If they don’t know about the kinds of value your offer, you’re not sharing enough. You might even be remiss for not offering the value you provide.

How often does your organization ask for gifts? When you offer opportunities, do you focus on providing donors value? Read, Pandemic Fundraising: Why You Should Ask Donors for Contributions Despite COVID-19 for more about offering donors invitations.

4. Results Sharing, that is, opportunities to know how contributions changed lives.

The fourth fundraising driver is the opportunity for donors to know the results of their philanthropy—activities around this driver mix gratitude and recognition with proof. Proof can include testimonials in your newsletter, statistical evidence, photos, and video outcomes.

Sharing what happened with donations serves multiple purposes, including:
Affirms donors (even if they remain anonymous)
Clarifies what otherwise might not be obvious: donations magnify other financial contributions—since they buy the extras that make the difference
Motivates prospective donors and
When combined with marketing and publicity, it attracts donors.

How does your organization share the results with donors? Do you prioritize offering donors opportunities to see their philanthropy in action? Do you consistently reserve your biggest public thanks to the donors who invested, when the results were a dream?

If you gave this an automatic yes, slow down. Stories about donors who feel they unthanked abound. Foundations moan about grantees not filling timely final reports. Stewardship for too many organizations is an afterthought. One client, before our work, only rewarded development staff for new donations. For more about the need to do more than good work, watch Myth #3 in Three Nonprofit Money Myths That Sink Organizations.

Test Your Nonprofit Organization’s Fundraising Potential

How did you rank your organization on these drivers? Don’t be discouraged if several drivers need work. Building fundraising drivers is neither an easy nor a quick task, but the result of planning, execution, testing, and tweaking. Pick one to strengthen in the next 30 days.

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