Improving Your Individual Giving Program

By Elaine Weber NelsonMarketing & Development Consultant  

Clients often ask what the “magic formula” is in fundraising. These four “must-do’s” are at the base of all fundraising:

Engage. Ask. Thank. Involve.

But there are some “don’ts” as well:

  • Don’t mail stuff to people who don’t know you exist.

  • Don’t (generally) ask people for a contribution the first time they make contact with you.

  • Don’t skip the thank you because the gift is less than $250.00.

You Gotta Ask You've heard it before: The main reason people don't give is because they aren't asked. And, it’s true! Donors want to know what a "good" gift is—so ask for a specific amount when you ask. Don't just say "If everyone gave X", or "Please give." Say, "We'd like you to consider a gift of $100. You gave us this amount last year and gifts like yours make it possible to do our work." Personally, I’m tired of giving an organization $100 and getting a letter that says, “Thanks, but how about $125?” Yes, there is a time and place to ask people to increase their gift – just not every time and every place.

Add Fuel to the Fire Finally, involve people. Similar to engagement, but at a deeper level. This isn’t about the first time they hear/see/feel what you’re all about. This is about the chance to build on their feeling that they are part of something bigger than themselves because they’ve already identified your organization as one in which they are interested. So add fuel to the fire. Call people up, ask for advice, list service opportunities on your website. This isn’t supposed to be about us, the nonprofit folks who have all the answers, and the donors who have all the cash. This is supposed to be about all of us, working on issues that matter to all of us.