7 Simple Ways to Triple Your Fundraising Goal This Year

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Let me ask you a quick question: do you like to ask for money? I bet you don’t. And that’s no surprise. Raising money is a major challenge not only for you but also for many charities’ boards of directors.

According to BoardSource, fundraising ranks #1 among board areas needing improvement, and has done so for many years.” Unless you are a fundraiser or insurance broker, this is the last thing you want to do in your life.

When asked how they feel about fundraising, board members and nonprofit staff usually respond that they feel anxiety, embarrassment and doubt.

Frankly, what I hear again and again privately is something along these lines: “Why should I beg for money? It’s too embarrassing to ask for money from my friends and colleagues.”

Does this sound familiar to you?

Before I go further, I want to ask you to consider the joy of fundraising. Yes, the joy of fundraising.

I really love this quote by Henry Rosso, a remarkably successful fundraiser: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the world the joy of giving.” 

The joy of giving – think about it. By fundraising, we connect the valuable mission of our nonprofit with people who are able to support it with their resources. In this way, we serve as catalysts of change in the world.

In her article “Four Steps to Take Board Members from Fear of Fundraising to Enthusiasm,” Gail Perry, a successful fundraiser and non-profit consultant, suggests changing one’s perspective from a “tin cup mentality” to a “changing the world” approach. 

She advises non-profits to ask board members, “How do you feel when you write a check to your favorite charity?” Perry shares that in her board retreats she often hears the following answers: “I feel very proud,” “it makes me feel fulfilled,” “what a joyful experience,” “it connected me with my community,” etc.

This is a powerful message. The act of giving actually makes you feel happier, more joyful and fulfilled. 

Now you probably see where I am leading you.

The disconnect between these two important roles, a fundraiser and a happy giver, can be bridged by simply changing the mindset. Fundraising is not begging — fundraising is fulfilling the mission of changing the world through your nonprofit.

Of course, to make it happen for you, you will need to have an effective strategy, and you’ll have to focus on consistent execution of the goals you set for your nonprofit this year.

Let me introduce you to 7 simple ways that will help you to triple your fundraising goal this year.

1. Choose an Effective Fundraising System

Every nonprofit fundraiser has various systems and strategies to advance the goals of the nonprofit they serve in.

I personally like the AAA Way to Fundraising Success created by Kay Sprinkel Grace. It helps to find the right fundraising role for each of your board members. It works because when “people feel good about what they are doing, they do it.”

Here are the roles that each board member can choose from:

Ambassador – open doors, build new relationships for your nonprofit

Advocate – makes the case and is passionate about a particular project of the nonprofit.

Asker – someone who’s comfortable soliciting gifts from contacts you already have.

You help your board members select the right role by providing them with a simple questionnaire that they can fill out. Once you establish the roles, board members will surprise you. Because they’ll stay in their “comfort zone,” the fundraising process will be effortless. Simple? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.

The fact is that the AAA system helps you by making friends and building relationships. This in turn leads to giving, and long-term giving, at that.

2. Recruit Well-Connected Volunteers

Whatever system you choose, people are the key to the fundraising success. Without the right people in place, even if you had the perfect Money Ball algorithm, you’d still raise zero. 

What kind of volunteers do you need? Passionate, yes, but also well-connected and respected local volunteers.

These volunteers will lead you to the influencers and community leaders in your town. Just two or three well-connected supporters for your cause are enough to get moving, though more never hurts either.

Let me tell you a story about how it worked for me in the past. When I was given the task of raising a six-digit goal for a nonprofit in Richmond, VA, I didn’t know anyone in that city except for one person I’d met on LinkedIn.

Yet through active LinkedIn and real-time networking, I was fortunate to find three well-connected local volunteers willing to take on our cause. These three volunteers tapped into their networks of the movers and shakers in Richmond, who connected me further to their friends. This included major foundations, prominent philanthropists and high net worth individuals, whose lead gifts paved the way for others to donate as well.

So think of your networks, and those of your supporters. Have you discovered your true reach yet?

3. Hone Your Story

If it worked in ancient Greece, it will work for you today. Despite the digital revolution, human beings crave authentic stories.

So take your time, and write your own Legend or Myth (also called a Case Statement), which should be as inspirational as it information-rich. Oftentimes nonprofits try to put so much information into their case statements that they become unreadable. A mish-mash of stats, financials, and dull text doesn’t make for a powerful read.

As Joseph Barbato and Danielle Furlich noted in Writing For A Good Cause, “case statements are anthems…case statements tell stories, cite achievements, provide endorsements, and carry striking images.”



However, when you are all set to write your first Odyssey, keep in mind what Tom Ahern pointed out in his book How to Write Fundraising Materials That Raise More Money: “fundraising communications are NOT about getting people to read. Fundraising communications are about getting people to ACT.”

To make your case stand out, suggests Ahern, answer three simple questions: Why us? Why now? Why you? 

Finally, throughout the message don’t be shy about asking for money. After all, isn’t that why you are writing?

4. Find Your Blue Ocean Niches

It still amazes me how many nonprofits don’t use their strategic advantage of having a unique product that makes them stand out from others. Instead, they are all following the same highly competitive funding streams, using the same templates and getting nowhere.

Why not look into a Blue Ocean Strategy? Authored by Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, this book outlines a strategy to create uncontested market space. The authors believe that “cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.” Instead, based on thorough research of 150 strategic moves, the authors advise readers to consider creating “blue oceans” – untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.

Does it work only in the for-profit world? It works perfectly for nonprofits as well.

A great example of this is the New York Public Library. Dr. Zunaira Munir, an internationally acclaimed expert and keynote speaker on Blue Ocean Strategy, and the founder and Managing Director of Strategize Blue, demonstrates in a case study how a shrewd strategy pivot helped the Library make its competition irrelevant. 

In short, back in 2002-04, the Library was struggling with deep funding cuts and intensifying competition from super-size bookstores and e-media players.

Instead of diving into a head-to-head battle with its rivals, its new Director of Public Programs Paul Holdengräber followed a blue ocean strategy and launched a totally new market space by creating a series of public program events. This triggered an increased demand, and attendance rose over 400 percent!

Now it’s your turn. Find new “blue oceans” in your fundraising strategy. Experiment with new approaches that have worked in a different industry. Create your own space.

5. Create Predictable Lead Generation

Every successful fundraiser will attest to this simple truth – if you are not prospecting every single day, you are not going to reach your long-term fundraising goals. Thanks to a hint from a friend, I discovered the Cold Calling 2.0 approach laid out in Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross.

I bought it in paperback and my $20+ investment has paid back big time.

Cold Calling 2.0 means “prospecting into cold accounts to generate new business without using any cold calls.”

The secret of Ross’ system lies in smart email campaign messaging. “Rather than sending hundreds of mass emails at a time in big bursts, the idea here is to send a regular smaller number (50-100) of emails per person each day.”

The beauty of the system is that when done correctly, it guarantees you 5 to 10 responses each day! Now that’s real prospecting, isn’t it?

The trick is in the email message itself. Instead of sending a bulk mail with bulk messaging describing every single accomplishment of your organization, you will need to send a very short email that basically asks for advice. This tiny laser focused bits of information do not overwhelm the receiver, but honestly ask for connection with the right decision maker.

When I tried this system in practice, it was simply fantastic! And I used my LinkedIn InMails for this outreach. Thanks to the system, every day I get a response from corporate and individual prospects. And if I can do it, you surely can do it as well.

6. Pick Up the Phone: Make Calls to Target Foundations

Based on the Giving USA 2014 report, giving by foundations increased an estimated 5.7 percent in 2013 (4.2 percent adjusted for inflation). “Giving by foundations has increased for the last three years (adjusted for inflation), generally reflecting increases in assets and the increased confidence of grant makers concerning their financial recovery.”

Yet according to the Center for Effective Philanthropy research, 48% of charity leaders say foundations are oblivious to their needs.

If you are one of the tens of thousands of nonprofits seeking foundation grants, you must understand one simple truth. If you’d like to be considered, you need to spend time on research and active communication with your target foundation. Because if you think that hiring a professional grant writer and shooting dozens of proposals a year to various foundations will work, chances are it will lead you to disappointment. 

The harsh reality is that foundations are flooded with proposals, and even if you have a worthwhile project that is going to eradicate poverty, it may not even get to the right person to be considered.

Here is my advice to get results:

A) Spend money or time on thoroughly researching your target foundation. If you have no extra funding for acquiring access to foundation databases, go to the Foundation Center, and invest some quality time in selecting the right target group.

If your nonprofit is luckier than that, then you may want to think of buying foundation databases. There are plenty of good databases on the market. I personally found FoundationSearch quite useful.

B) Once you’ve done your research, forget about email, and instead, pick up the phone and make some calls. This is the best way to understand the foundation’s focus and needs, and have a productive conversation with someone who will give you the right answers, and on top of this, appreciate your outreach. You will be surprised how many small family foundations do not even have a website! Granted, you may run into some dry wells along the way, but trust me, you will find some oasis lands through this journey.

And as Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, one of the country’s leading fundraising consultants suggests, you need to make at least two more calls to make sure that you have established a strong connection. On your second call after you apply to the grant, “is a good time to ask when decisions will be made and when you might expect to hear. You may also invite the program officer to visit your organization and/or take them on a tour of your program or facility.”

C) Use strategic networking to connect with decision makers. Find out about major conferences or workshops in your area where top foundation officers will be present. Use LinkedIn and foundation websites to learn as much as you can about these foundations and participating staff. Then all you have to do is to prepare your thoughtful questions and have your elevator speech handy. Have you created and practiced your elevator pitch?

7. Focus on Individual Major Donors and Community Influencers

While foundation outreach should be an important part of your long-term strategy, one area which is often overlooked and underappreciated is the individual donor. According to Giving USA 2014 report, the single largest contributor to the increase in total charitable giving in 2013, over 2012, was an increase of $9.69 billion in giving by individuals. This is a powerful signal.

Who is this mighty individual donor?

Well, it could be your next door neighbor, or someone who is the best golf buddy of your Board member. But most probably, it’s the donor who is already on your list of supporters, who has not been approached for a major gift just yet.

According to Blackbaud’s research Best Practices for Fundraising Success, many nonprofit organizations expect to receive 80 percent of their funding from 20 percent of their donors.

Yet recently, “many organizations have seen this ratio shift to 95/5 or even 97/3. This dramatic change is due to a combination of shifting wealth, a weakening economy, and the changing priorities of funders.”

Moreover, in today’s volatile economic conditions, you may face an increasingly likely reality that your donor base has begun to shrink, while many of your usual suspects get overused.

What is the way out?

 What you need to do is smartly diversify your approach. The Spectrem Group study indicated that there were 8.6 million households in the U.S. with a net worth (excluding primary residence)
 of at least $1 million.
Tap into your Board’s network, exhaust all possible options by having a confidential prospecting conversation with your trustees. You’ll turn up a range of prospective donors.

Next, you’ll need to figure out the giving patterns and history for each prospect. Once you’ve done your homework, you will have to decide who will be the best asker. Remember your AAA system? Now is the time for the asker to shine.

Finally, let’s summarize our 7 ways to make it to your big and hefty fundraising goal in 2015:

1. Choose an Effective Fundraising System
2. Recruit Well-Connected Volunteers
3. Hone Your Story
4. Find Your “Blue Ocean” Niches
5. Create Predictable Lead Generation
6. Pick Up the Phone: Make Calls to Target Foundations
7. Focus on Individual Major Donors and Community Influencers

Now it’s your turn. What fundraising systems have worked for you? Do you have any other ideas on reaching your fundraising goals? If so, share them with me and my followers in the comment section below.


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Andrey Gidaspov is a published author, fundraiser, and a passionate “dot connector.” He is passionate about connecting people and ideas, creating new social ventures and helping non-profits find new funding streams. 

Follow him on Twitter (@AndreyGidaspov) and check out his blog (www.gidaspov.com) for more useful tips on creativity, innovative marketing and fundraising.

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