Small nonprofit organizations face the same fundraising challenges over and over again. They often believe that one fundraising strategy can solve all of their problems and look to large organizations for inspiration. Better marketing, major gift campaigns, corporate sponsorship- they have so many ideas, but most of the time, those solutions are not aligned with what will raise their organization money today and in the near future and grow it into a sustainable program.
If you want to learn how to raise more money for your small nonprofit that is aligned with your organization’s mission, our very own Cindy Wagman will share the key strategy to your fundraising success in our upcoming FREE training on January 18, see you there!
Myths that Cindy wants us to walk away from
A donor meeting is an ask for money. Donor meetings are not an ask for money. It is not a pitch and it's not talking about your organization very much. This is an opportunity for you to get to know your donors, why they support you, what they care about. Maybe they even have feedback around your fundraising or ideas to help you raise more money.
It’s okay to make assumptions about your donors. We make so many assumptions about our donors based on our beliefs around fundraising and the value of our work, and almost always we're wrong. And then we use these wrong assumptions to then drive our fundraising strategy and decisions, which leads to us making bad fundraising decisions, which leads to us not raising the money we want to make or raise for the organization.
Cindy’s thoughts around fundraising
Get to know your donors. Most of our fundraising decisions are made by people sitting in a boardroom or around zoom and we make assumptions about our donors. And almost always these assumptions are wrong. We need to stop making assumptions and start verifying information about our supporters. The more information we know the more we can think about fundraising strategies that make sense for their donors and of course for our mission.
Donor meetings help you find more donors. By getting to know your donors, it will help you see patterns and learn about their values. They have probably shared these values with their friends and networks. Your donors are one of the biggest untapped resources in finding new donors to your cause so the more you get to know them and build that fundraising strategy in line with them, you're also creating opportunities for them to welcome more people and introduce your organization to more potential donors.
Communicate with donors. Getting to know your donor is an opportunity to understand how to communicate with them. By leveraging tools and technology, you can find ways to connect more with them. And to be effective, you need to communicate in a way that is aligned with your organization’s mission and what your donors are supporting. This could also be an opportunity to fix some problems with donors who are misaligned with your mission and lead them to learn more about your organization.
Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode
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“We make so many assumptions about our donors based on our beliefs around fundraising and the value of our work, and almost always we're wrong. And then we use these assumptions, these wrong assumptions to then drive our fundraising strategy and decisions, which leads to us, making bad fundraising decisions, which leads to us not raising the money we want to make or raise for the organization, which leads to a scarcity mindset and this feeling that we are on this hamster wheel that we can never get off. That is not a good feeling. My guess is that you felt that way, at some point in your fundraising journey, and I want to help you get off that hamster wheel.”
“We always get so caught up in elaborate fundraising plans and strategies, and we have to do these big things. It's not fundraising. Success comes from consistency and finding those points of intersection between your organization, its mission, and your donors.”
Resources from this Episode
Cindy W.: Working with smaller organizations. I see the same problems over and over again. And there's a very consistent pattern that I want to help organizations get out of or redefined because it's not working for them. And that pattern is basically that they're misdiagnosing their fundraising challenges and definitely misdiagnosing their fundraising opportunities.
Very often. I see organizations think that we are going to solve all of our fundraising with this one thing, or, this one strategy. And mostly they're looking at large organizations to get inspiration for that strategy. So I've seen, we need better marketing, we need a major gift campaign, we need corporate sponsorship. Oh, there are so many ideas, but very often, they're just generated by a bunch of people sitting around a boardroom table or on a zoom call, thinking about what would we'd like our fundraising to look like. And most of the time, those solutions are not aligned with what's going to raise your money, your organization's money today and in the near future and grow it to be a sustainable program.
That is what we're going to be talking about on today's podcast. I'm your host, Cindy Wagman. And you're listening to The Small Nonprofit podcast where we bring you practical down-to-earth advice so you can get more done for your small nonprofit and change the world.
So, what is the key to unlocking your fundraising success? It's something that actually is really easy in theory, but so many people don't do. So I'm going to talk a little bit about that today, and also just give you a heads up. Now we are hosting a webinar on January 18th, where I'm going to go into this in more detail. And give you freed free guide when you register. So I'll share that at the end and it's in the show notes, but if you visit flipsidefundraising.com/bestyear you can register for the webinar and really set yourself up for an amazing fundraising year for 2022. So what is this process? What is the secret that I have for you?
The number one thing an organization can do to improve their fundraising is getting to know their donors and to do so by meeting with their donors. So again, this sounds really simple. Okay. I can meet with my donors. No problem. But every time I give this advice, people don't take action. Or they think that I'm talking about having donor meetings to ask for money, which is not.
So I want to talk to you about this today because it is actually so important that you do this and you do this as a habit. So I want you to build this into your organizations, operations, to your fundraising operations, to do on a regular basis. So first let's talk about what a donor meeting is and isn't. So a donor meeting is really in this context is not an ask for money, it is not a pitch, and it's not talking about your organization very much. This is an opportunity for you to get to know your donors, why they support you, what they care about. Maybe even they have feedback around your fundraising or ideas to help you raise more money. There's so, I'm going to talk to you about how you can use the information that comes from these meetings.
But fundamentally, I want you to remember that this is not an ask, okay? So I want you to start to book these meetings with your donors, and again, if you sign up for the webinar, I'm going to give you a full donor meeting guide that includes how you can reach out and ask for these meetings. But really what you're doing is asking to get to know your supporters. And you say that I'm a huge believer that if you're asking your donor to do something, be upfront with them. Hey Susan, I'd love to meet with you. I'm just getting to know our donors and I'd love to just learn a little bit about you and why you support our organization, that simple. Now, not everyone is going to say yes, that's okay.
You still, I want you to practice getting nos because there will be people who say yes, and most people when they do this are surprised by how many people say yes. So that's the first thing. I just, get over the idea of rejection, because there's nothing to be rejected for here. If they say, no, you move on to the next person, there's, it's not personal. And you're not damaging the relationship in any way. Okay.
So go out and reach out to donors. Who do you reach out to? Any of them. So I've had organizations start with family members who are donors because that felt most comfortable, but I encourage you to look at your donor base, pick some donors you might know a little bit as well as donors you don't know at all. And don't necessarily focus on the dollar amount. Usually, when I do this with organizations, we do pick a few high-level donors. Then we also look at monthly donors. And what I would call loyal donors who've given consistently year over year.
And if you don't have that data to pull, literally just start at the top of your donor list and work your way through. You can send three emails a day reaching out to donors, and eventually, you're gonna start seeing people respond and having these meetings on a regular basis. So there's no right or wrong, but fundamentally I want you to get a big or like a broad snapshot of your donor base. And so the more people you meet with the more data you have to understand who's giving and why they're giving. Not just three meetings, not just one meeting, not even five. I want you to be doing this all the time. Okay. If you can do one or two meetings a week, amazing, one or two a month is also fine. Again, the idea is it's a habit and you want to do this regularly.
So what do these meetings do for your organization? Why am I such a big believer that this is the number one thing your organization can do to unlock your fundraising potential? First of all, most of our fundraising decisions are made, as I said before, sitting in a boardroom or around zoom and we make assumptions about our donors. And almost always these assumptions are wrong. And so we need to, as we build our fundraising plans and fundraising strategies, get out of that boardroom, get off the zoom and actually stop making assumptions and start verifying information about our supporters. The more information we know the more we can think about fundraising strategies that make sense for their donors and of course for our mission.
And if your donors really get, if they're all in their eighties, your fundraising strategy is going to be very different than if they're all in their thirties. And not all, obviously not all, but you want to get to know a large portion of your donors so you can see who they are, where they are in life. Do they want events? Do they want direct mail? Do they what are their patterns also, what are their hobbies? What are the other things they like to do or congregate with other people? The more you know about your supporters, the more you can build a fundraising plan that meets them where they are on their journey.
I love that quote from David Love where your donors are already on a journey to change the world, and you're meeting them there. And the more you get to know about where they are and what that journey looks like, the more you can find ways that, that dovetails with your mission and your organization, and find a fundraising strategy that really feels mission-aligned, donor aligned, and of course, when you have those two things, it's going to help you raise more money.
The other benefit, there are so many benefits, but the one that I love is that it also helps you find more donors. So again, you're not asking, but the more, and see these patterns, the more you can say, okay, what we find is that our donors have shared these values and in fact, most of them probably have friends or networks that also share those values. So what are those values and how do we tap into them to start to give them opportunities to introduce us to their networks?
So things like friend-raising events and opportunities to invite people out to experience things there are so many different ways. Even letter-writing campaigns your donors are probably one of the biggest untapped resources in finding new donors to your cause so the more you get to know them and build that fundraising strategy in line with them, you can also, you're creating opportunities for them to welcome more people and introduce your organization to more potential donors.
So it is one of my favorite ways to find more donors for your organization, which also brings me to the fact that, while you're not asking in this meeting, a lot of what you're doing is priming these specific donors to keep giving or to give more. And I've used this strategy with major gifts and capital campaigns, as well as annual campaigns. But the more you get to know your supporters, the more you bring them in as, build those relationships as friends to the organization. The more, they care about your work, the more invested they are in your success, which means eventually they're going to give more.
And actually, I have a lot of students when they've had these donor meetings as a by-product again, without even asking, people we'll send them a donation after, or I've had these meetings where literally someone's pulled out their checkbook. I have not asked for any donation, but we get so excited about understanding where that donor is on their journey, and then we can start to talk about how that fits with the organization, and they are fired up. They're excited, they see the vision and they want to be part of it. So while you're not asking for money, and I'm going to repeat that a million times, you are not asking for money in these meetings, your donors are building that investment, they're getting connected, and very often they will give or they'll give more their next gift or they'll introduce you to more people. So it's a really great way to prime your donors to be a champion for your fundraising.
The other huge opportunity with getting to know your donors is that you get to understand how to communicate with them. And so very often I hear small organizations worried about building a broad donor base, those annual donors are the people who are giving small amounts year over year, they worry that's a lot of work and it's hard to maintain meaningful relationships at scale. Here's the thing: it's actually, especially with technology, cheap technology now, it's not that difficult to scale things. If you're communicating with them in a meaningful way, if your donors are opening up your emails, if they're reading things and connecting with those scaled pieces, so it's newsletters, emails, mail, social media, you need those tools to be effective for your fundraising. And really the only way to be effective is to not just talk about what you want to talk about as an organization, it's again, to find those points of intersection where what you want to talk about also meets what your donors are supporting.
This also brings up an important note around communicating with donors and talking about mission and work and donor alignment.
If you've heard me on my podcast or other podcasts, I've had so many conversations about having donors who are aligned with your mission. And so if they don't get it, if you're having some of these conversations and, they can be problematic, we know that not all of our donors understand the work in the way that we do and that there are some red flags so to speak. This also helps you understand if you need to do some donor education. And we had an amazing podcast with Aneel talking about donor education and how you can bring your donors on a journey to better understand your work. And so this process can help you understand if you need to do some of that educating if you have an opportunity to identify if you have an opportunity to start to work on changing your donor's minds about things. So I always say fundraising is not about convincing people about the need for your work, but it's finding the people who believe in it already and giving them an opportunity to give and support it.
But if you're finding that your organization is really concerned about misalignment with donors who are, who don't understand the mission, or who have again problematic beliefs about your mission, you can uncover that in these donor meetings so that you have a strategy to address it because otherwise you feel helpless and then it feels like I can't grow my fundraising cause it's just going to be more problematic.
So this is an opportunity to diagnose and fix that problem as well. All of this to say, and as I said at the beginning, we make so many assumptions about our donors based on our beliefs around fundraising and the value of our work, and almost always we're wrong. And then we use these assumptions, these wrong assumptions to then drive our fundraising strategy and decisions, which leads to us making bad fundraising decisions, which leads to us not raising the money we want to make or raise for the organization, which leads to a scarcity mindset and this feeling that we are on this hamster wheel that we can never get off. That is not a good feeling. If you felt that way at some point in your fundraising journey, and I want to help you get off that hamster wheel.
And so it's really, as I said, not complicated work. So think about it. What's getting in your way of doing this. Is it time? This takes five minutes a day. In fact, really, I just want you to spend five minutes every morning asking people for meetings, it's that simple. Is it that you don't feel like you have all the answers or you don't know how to behave in these meetings? The thing is all you need to do is have a few good questions, conversation, starters, or sparks. And then listen, and guaranteed, you can have a meaningful conversation with people. Now, I'm not saying all of these conversations are amazing. I've definitely had donor meetings that have lasted 10 minutes because it's been super awkward and that's okay.
When we ended it, the donor was still really happy to have given their time. We just didn't have a whole lot to talk about. That's okay, too, right? There's no right or wrong way. As long as you show up authentically and be curious and listen, you're going to get so much out of these meetings, and here's a little tip because I definitely have worked with a lot of people who feel like I don't have the answer to a specific question that the donor might ask. Therefore, I can't do this. If you don't have an answer, that's okay. It's totally fair to say. You know what? That's a really great question. No, one's asked me that before. Let me take that back and I'll get back to you. And as a bonus, it allows you to circle back to the donor and continue the conversation and deepen the relationship. You do not need to be perfect. You do not need to be an expert in all things. This is a learning journey. And the only way you're going to learn is by practicing. So there's no magic to these meetings to show up authentically. Take the pressure again, there's no ask, I'll say it again. So there's no pressure, right? There's no expectation that you're going to do anything other than connect with someone. All right. So think about what's getting in your way, because very often we get stuck in our minds and then we just stop doing it. So just practice reaching out, have a few of these meetings get better.
And if you're feeling stuck, join us on January 18th. My webinar is called your best fundraising year ever. And I promise you, we're going to deep dive into this as well some other things you can do with literally 20 minutes a day to have your best fundraising year ever. And that will not just make this year good but will start to grow your fundraising in a meaningful, predictable way, which is of course what we all want to get off that hamster wheel I talked about before.
So visit flipsidefundraising.com/ bestyear again, I will include the link in the show notes. I hope you will join me there. I can't tell you how important this is. I literally repeat it over and over again. So if you've heard me say this and you still haven't had your donor meetings please join me on that webinar.
And I'm actually running it three times a day, just in case you're in different time zones, but you, you need to do this. That's if you're fundraising. This is one of the things to me that is a non-negotiable as well, is it is a high return activity. It might not feel that way because we're not asking at the moment, but this is the number one thing you can do to start raising more money for your organization, which is mind-boggling, right? Like we, we always get so caught up in elaborate fundraising plans and strategies, and we have to do these big things. It's not fundraising. Success comes from consistency and finding those points of intersection between your organization, its mission, and your donors. So I hope to see you there. And thanks for tuning in to The Small Nonprofit podcast.
This has been a different episode, usually, as I interview people, but I really needed to share this with you because this is the number one barrier I see for small organizations and in fact, organizations of all sizes, it's an easy fix, but you have to work on it. All right, we'll see you next week.
Folks, that's it for today's episode of The Small Nonprofit, I'm your host, Cindy Wagman. And this show is brought to you by The Good Partnership. As a reminder, if you want more resources around raising more money for your small nonprofit, visit The Good Partnership.com and download our free fundraising strategy guide. I'll see you next week.