When a nonprofit succeeds in raising billions of dollars, it is no coincidence.
A recent Forbes analysis indicated that 11 of the top 20 nonprofits in America raised over a billion dollars in 2019, and 100% of the top 50 nonprofits in America raised over $300M in 2019.
Here, we will delineate the tactics they utilize to set realistic fundraising goals, achieve those goals, and grow a donor base in order to establish a legacy that realizes radical philanthropic good that will last for over a century.
More than that, we will apply these principles to church fundraising methods and how local congregations can learn from fundraising methods that shake the world to the core with unimaginable social good.
1. Successful nonprofits do market research
Successful nonprofit organizations don’t throw giving appeals at the wall to see what sticks.
They look at what’s stuck to the wall already and double down on the most effective fundraising strategies with donors that match their prospective partner constituencies.
The best way to perform market research is first to determine what sort of market from whom you will fundraise. Once you understand the various kinds of donors with whom you’ll seek to build partnerships—politically, geographically, and demographically, to name a few starting points—then you can look at other successful nonprofits in your space to see what they are doing.
Find out what digital media are most effective with your demographic:
- Are they primarily on Facebook?
- Do they even check your church newsletter?
- Is text marketing appropriate?
- How much is the average gift in your fundraising niche?
- Is a monthly donation or spontaneous gift model the best means of raising money for your organization?
The truth likely exists somewhere in the middle of all of these media, which will require that you conscript a unique mixture of methodologies to maximize funds raised.
The point here is simple—before investing time, energy, and money into your church offerings, do as much research as you can in order to confirm you are using a truly data-driven approach.
Otherwise, you waste valuable resources that could have contributed to the success of your organization’s mission on low-ROI marketing strategies that were not suited for your prospective audience.
2. Successful nonprofits treat fundraising like a business
It’s easy to fall into the belief that nonprofit organizations should devote 100% of their resources to the achievement of their service mission. In other words, there is a fear among many nonprofits of acquiring besetting operational costs that decrease the per-dollar fundraising efficiency of the organization.
As a consequence, many nonprofits neglect the significant role that an experienced and skilled development team plays in advancing the cause of the organization.
Imagine if Apple or Microsoft invented amazing breakthroughs in computer science and user experience, but they never sold their products to anyone. All the innovations of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would remain lost in the annals of unwritten history, rather than changing the face of human experience in the world.
In order to successfully make Apple and Microsoft household names, they needed first to hire business-to-business sales people in order to establish distribution partnerships with sales outlets such as Best Buy, Target, and the rest. Without those sales relationships, there would be no distribution relationships. Without distribution, the brand fails
In the nonprofit space, your salespeople are your development team members. These staff who are trained and tasked with generating “revenue” for your organization in order to increase the resources you have to fulfill and grow your mission.
Do not neglect to build a robust fundraising team in your organization. Train them. Have them practice making giving appeals to different kinds of audiences with one another. The better they are at fundraising, the more resources your organization will have to manifest maximum philanthropic good.
3. Successful nonprofits reject limiting beliefs
“Poverty is a virtue.”
“Wealthy people are evil.”
“Aspiration is prideful.”
“Large-scale fundraising is too hard to achieve.”
Don’t over-spiritualize your mission so much that you begin to believe that money is not a factor in achieving your nonprofit organization’s mission.
Your church’s financial stability—and more than that, the raw financial power—of your organization directly determines your ability to succeed and scale the impact your organization has on its chosen causes.
The more money you have, the more good you can do. The more volunteers you can motivate. The more marketing efforts you can distribute in order to achieve brand awareness and greater public buy-in for general market fundraising appeals.
Don’t let a misplaced sense of virtue siphon away your nonprofit organization’s resources before it even gets on the fundraising highway. If you do, you’ll find yourself in a desperate situation on the side of the road going nowhere.
4. Successful nonprofits invest money in raising money
Use enterprise level fundraising software (like Tithe.ly All Access) to manage users, contacts, giving, and an organization-specific mobile app all in one single sign-on dashboard.
If you don’t use enterprise level software, your organization will likely end up paying twice as much for a collection of subscription softwares that do no seamlessly synchronize with one another, and are dependent on a variety of third-party plugins in order to communicate with one another.
5. Successful nonprofits achieve brand clarity before making big asks
“Who are we?”
“What are we doing?”
“What’s our story?”
“Why give to us, and not someone else?”
Successful nonprofit organizations have these questions answered, honed, refined, and articulated. It’s on their marketing materials. It’s in their fundraising scripts. Their development efforts are saturated with a level of brand-consciousness that less successful nonprofits fail to achieve, often leaving them scratching their heads about why no one is giving to their cause.
People want to give to a good cause.
But they are compelled to give by a good story.
Don’t substitute the effectiveness of your fundraising script with the perceived worthiness of your cause.
There are seven billion good causes out there to which people could give.
Why should they give to you?
Answer this question, and you exponentially increase the psychological power of each giving appeal you make. Be sure to tell compelling stories while casting your vision.
6. Successful nonprofits write and hone fundraising scripts
“Will a pitch work with one segment and not another?”
Honing your fundraising script is a critical component of achieving success as a nonprofit.
For your church, this will primarily be your church’s offering.
Before you ask your congregation to participate in God’s work, be prepared. Write a script. Rehearse what you’re going to say. This way you’ll be prepared to confidently lead people to experience the joy of giving.
7. Successful nonprofits segment their donor base
Level of wealth.
If you try to raise money from everyone, you’ll raise money from no one.
Not only does your organization have to be an expert in the cause it’s serving. You must also be an expert in the people who also care about your cause. These are your prospective donors. Do whatever you can to understand these people as well as possible, what sorts of fundraising strategies work most effectively with these populations, and how you can organically implement those strategies into your organizations branding and marketing endeavors.
Dispatch representatives according to their gifts, backgrounds, and comfortability level with each of your target populations. If you are raising funds from a certain population in New England that has a large cluster of people who care about your issue, send the fundraising professional who grew up closest to New England so that they can establish an organic relational connection with that particular population segment.
Over to you
Use these principles to maximize your organization’s ability to raise the amount of resources that most effectively equip your staff to achieve its goals related to your cause(s).
Fundraising is delicate but important work.
If you treat it with the level of seriousness and professionalism that successful nonprofits do, the likelihood that your organization will also achieve great philanthropic success will drastically increase.
1. Successful nonprofits do market research.
2. Successful nonprofits treat fundraising like a business.
3. Successful nonprofits reject limiting beliefs.
4. Successful nonprofits invest money in raising money.
5. Successful nonprofits achieve brand clarity before making big asks.
6. Successful nonprofits write and hone fundraising scripts.
7. Successful nonprofits segment their donor base.
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Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. Find him at paulmaxwell.co.
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