Sunday, November 30, 2008

How To Raise Money Better, In Your Region...Even In Tough Times

Since the economic downturn, I've posted general fundraising advice, in Seeking Grant Money Today, besides this blog's main topic du jour; grant writing advice, information, and tips. I've looked at these as free consultations, as if you and I were working together on your organization's needs. Guessing that most nonprofits could use all of the free excellent advice that they can get right now; we're on it!

Good for all nonprofits, from start up to an established older organization; our most recent posts, designed also as free consultations to help out in these tough times, were: A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times; What Can We Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?; Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds; Getting Major Donors To Donate Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow; Another Free Nonprofit Fundraising Consultation To Help During These Tough Economic Times; Top Ten Ways To Take That Nonprofit's Fundraising To The Next Level; and Free Nonprofit Fundraising, Software, And Outreach Options.

Like any for-profit business, all nonprofits must reach current and likely consumers, or supporters such as: members, donors, volunteers, excellent staff hires, etc. The only way that any entity effectively reaches the most likely candidates to get active with their organization is by knowing and understanding one's community, the community's current need of your organization, and how the need can best be met.

Nonprofits who raise funds well, even in difficult times, know that the key remains not just listening, but hearing one's donors, clients, volunteers, staff, and other key constituents. While not everyone knows what's best for the nonprofit, the mission statement should be able to clarify between a community's current needs and an organization's resources' limits (e.g. especially during a tough economy) leading to the basis of where the organization should go right now (today), to achieve its organizational goals (also called a strategic plan). The community's needs must be met well, according to the mission statement, by running an effective, efficient (very important in a down economy), transparent, honest, and successful organization. An organization's leadership may not know what to do in such tough times, as these, but it should know its organization's mission statement. That's a very good place to begin.

The best way to understand what one's community needs right now is to hear them. The best way to get information from them is to consider what geographic region your organization serves, and for that population (or those benefactors of your organization's work): read recent press that is pertinent to your organization's cause, read the very latest in your field of work, listen to colleagues at other organizations who work in the same cause after asking what they're working on and hearing, survey the clientele or scientifically poll the benefactor of your organization's work and formatting a survey that gathers the information that your organization wants to know without biasing or skewing the data results (which may require a bit of research into what to do and what to avoid when creating an effective survey, and learning online), and research the latest census or research in your region by going to the nearest public library and asking the Reference desk where the latest studies and results are located to anything pertinent to your organization's work (and its goals).

By being focused on the region that your organization serves and THAT population or benefactor of your nonprofit's work; your organization is getting current, is relevant to the intended beneficiaries, is keeping up on the latest in your field of work; and all of this is not just good for your organization's programs, research, and/or services. In being relevant, current, and in touch your organization will be more successful at its mission. The value of an organization's success can not be understated. Every nonprofit that is providing a new program, an old program, or is just starting must share any and all successes pertinent to its mission statement's work with its community. One of the finest and most successful ways to raise new and larger donations is to demonstrate (not just say - but actually do) success. What person who cares about your organization's cause would not want to invest in a nonprofit that is successful and well run?

It is important to also remain in touch with current and potential donors (new and old). If you live in a region that is very badly hit by this economic downturn - then your organization must devise ways to raise money while being mindful and respectful of the local economic reality. Mail out a few more appeal letter solicitations this year than usual and ask donors to give, each time, what they can instead of asking for a specific dollar amount. No nonprofit (I don't care who it is or how big it is) can afford to snub even a $1 donation. Remember; someone may be testing your organization's dedication to the people who support it and give a $100 gift next time. Also, some people give at young ages, stick with causes that concern them, and give in larger amounts as they age and their income and giving ability increases. Remind each letter recipient of your organization's recent achievements and successes, share your agency's plans to deal with the economic slowdown and share your organization's plans and vision for its future. Make it clear that your organization values their contribution because they aren't just giving a donation; they are investing in the cause that your group works for.

If your region is not badly hit, yet, but there's more local economic fall-out to come probably; get sponsorships, in kind donations, local businesses' donations, and other larger gifts today. Even if all that your nonprofit can get is a promise of a gift to be given in the near future - that's good enough. Keep in touch with the donors who promise or bequest without hounding them. Be a good neighbor who is reminding them that they care about the cause your group serves, and then clarify for them why your organization is THE nonprofit that they should support given their care for the issue. Again; (even if you are repeating a message from a recent past solicitation) state your organization's recent successes and goals achieved, clarify how your organization is planning to survive this recession, and share your group's vision of its future. Give any potential investor a clear and hopeful vision of your group to demonstrate what they and your agency's leadership can do for the mission statement, together!

All nonprofits, in an economic downturn or not, can do the following to improve their fundraising:

__ Take note of what other nonprofits in the region are doing to raise money and try not to over saturate the market with the same fundraiser. If a lot of organizations, right now, are doing can drives - don't also do a can drive. Instead, come up with another way to get the food stuff donations that your organization needs.

__ If your organization has a website, let the site raise some money for your organization besides its donation page; have the nonprofit become an affiliate and sell books, for instance, about the cause or issue that your nonprofit works for (e.g. you could go to amazon.com and learn about their affiliate sales program). Affiliate programs are sales commissions for sales made (for whichever vendor or store your organization chooses and signs up with through that company's affiliate marketing program - usually found on companies' websites). Let potential buyers know that a proceed of their purchase goes to your organization if they buy it through your nonprofit site. Anything can be sold, these days, online via affiliate programs. If your agency would rather sell holiday decorations, or supplies pertinent to your cause, or anything really - these days you can find a good vendor with a good affiliate program to do that with. Be sure to let clients, volunteers, staff, and donors know that they can purchase X or Z on your group's site. Drive viewers to the affiliate links, when possible. Don't shrug at it - affiliates can make a lot of money.

__ Get into the local press with your agency's recent successes and heart-warming stories. Don't take these happenstances lightly or quietly! If your nonprofit does not share its successes with current and potential or future supporters - how will anyone know your group is successful (and worth investing in; either as a donor or as a volunteer)?

__ Connect with the people who live in the region that your organization serves. It is not enough to expect that people will learn about your organization through friends or family; or that they'll happen onto your group's website! If you aren't making the connection with local (or pertinent) people - how will they connect with your group? Marketing, public relations, and development are each and all critical to success - but none of these are necessary to effectively connect with people in the region! Connecting doesn't always have to be about asking for something. Sometimes just saying thank you is very powerful...especially when people have been supportive but may have less to give right now. Keeping your donors, volunteers, and clients connected with your group will keep them with it through this recession. You'll need to do that.

As always, we're so happy to receive any ideas, suggestions, or successful tools or methods that other nonprofits have found that work lately! If you'd like to share, please do so, below, by "Commenting". Thank you!

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