“I’m operating with a small budget!”
“We only have three people on our team.”
"No one has heard of our organization."
"We need a new, recognizable brand."
These are things I always hear from small nonprofits.
But here’s the thing: everyone loves an underdog. Even if your organization is smaller, you can still achieve big results.
Being a small nonprofit has huge benefits, in particular, connecting with donors and standing out in a crowded charitable space. You might be shaking your head at me and wonder how your small organization can stand out, but it’s true! You CAN stand out and stop competing with bigger nonprofits!
The key is in matchmaking.
I’m not saying you should date your donors, but if you think of fundraising as finding the right donors to YOUR organization, the ones who will fall in love with the work you do, then you can start to see how it is a mutual and meaningful relationship.
And what happens when we fall in love? Everyone else (or all the other charities) seem to disappear in the background.
Your job, in fundraising, is to make your donors fall in love with your organization (and ensure your organization has found the right partners in your donors).
So, how do you go about raising money for your small nonprofit in a way that feels good?
There are three parts ot the matchmaking principle:
1. There are plenty of fish
2. You don't propose on the first date
3. Love is mutual
THERE ARE PLENTY OF FISH
The hard truth is - not everyone is going to donate to your cause. You'd be wise to spend your fundraising energy on the people who are most inclined to care and contribute.
I see so many organizations start with the question "who has money" when they should be starting with "who cares about our work".
It’s also crucial for fundraisers to recognize that not everyone will donate. Your job is to find the people who are already inclined to care about your work and then build a relationship with them so that they value and respect that work you do and understand its importance. If a donor isn’t passionate about your cause, don’t fret! Move on because someone else will be.
YOU DON'T PROPOSE ON THE FIRST DATE
If you found someone who is interested, great! This is exciting and often we put pressure on ourselves in an effort to impress them. Have you found yourself trying to craft the PERFECT pitch?
Keep it cool! You don’t propose on the first date – getting to yes is a conversation, not a pitch. It’s all about how to develop their spark of interest into a sustainable relationship.
In the same way that dating and love takes time, fundraising doesn’t happen overnight, or more accurately, in one meeting. Think of fundraising as a conversation that takes place over time, over many asks. Your best donors are ones who give again and again, so stop focusing on the ask and focus on building a meaningful relationship.
LOVE IS MUTUAL
We know that donors give because they want to. Because it feels good. The more we understand that there is mutual benefit to giving, the better we can engage our donors and feel great about our fundraising.
The more you know about your donors, the more you know about what they’re interested in supporting and what kind of impact they want to have with that support. That is the number one, most important factor to getting an ask right. It needs to resonate with the donor. It needs to spark their passion. The stronger your relationship, the more you know these things ahead of time, the more the ask is just a formality, because you already know the answer is yes.
Try booking a meeting with the next person who donates to your organization. Just ask them for coffee to say thanks. Get to know them on a personal level.
You can ask questions like:
What first attracted you to the organization?
What has been your favorite experience with us to date?
What can we do better?
Once you understand what value your donors get out of giving, you unlock much more opportunity and change the uncomfortable power dynamics that prevent a lot of people from fundraising in the first place. Think about the work you are already doing or want to be doing and how that helps fulfill your donor’s needs. The love should be mutual.
YOUR SMALL SHOP ADVANTAGE
Having a matchmaking mindset can help you feel good fundraising while raising more money for the work you’re doing to change the world? You’ll be authentic, comfortable and confident and your donors will keep giving, because they love what you’re doing.
The one benefit I see with small shops is that they are well positioned to build meaningful connections with their donors. And donors of all levels. There are so many great ways to make your organization stand out in your donors' minds, simply by building meaningful relationships.
Stop competing - start thriving!