Getting Donors to Become Fundraisers

Tips from our reader Margie McCurry, Ph.D. Central Coast Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice Foundation: We’ve had very positive success having our board members…and even non-board donors…just call some of our top donors each month to say “thank you.” The relationships that have been made are positive and strong, we learn a lot more about our donors from these calls…and find those making the phone calls are then much more receptive to go on visits with the staff to the donors they have called; they say why they believe in the nonprofit Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, either as board members or prior donors, and are comfortable either asking for another, larger gift…or letting the staff guide the conversation into an ask. This is a 53-year old VNA and Hospice providing skilled in-home nursing care to almost 5,000 square miles in central California….we’ve been in a lot of bedrooms!

Rich’s Tips

“Focusing on raising donors means that an organization systematically diversifies its sources of funding, builds the number of people helping raise money and diversifies their skills.” – from Kim Klein’s book, Fundraising for Social Change

This weeks Rich’s TIPS is the third part in our series on individual donors. In the first piece two weeks ago, we listed ways to identify potential donors. Last week, we went through ways to close the ask and ‘trade-up’ donors. This week we’re looking at some strategies for turning donors into fundraisers.

Clearly before someone becomes a fundraiser for your organization, they must FIRST become a donor – without this they have no integrity in asking others for money. This is just the first step. When donors donate money, they demonstrate that they trust you and see some value in your organization. Your goal with any donor, is to deepen their investment and involvement in the organization. The next step is to get donors to become a fundraisers for the organization.   How do you stir them to ‘open-up’ their Rolodex and say to their friends: “I think you should support this group and let me tell you why I support them.” Here are some tips for moving this process along:

  • Collaboration, Moves Management – In fundraising ‘lingo’ the term “moves management” implies tracking the ‘moves’ or collaborative steps of your donors to know as much as you can about them and  to track information on them such as: family members, birthdays, anniversaries, where they went to college, what boards of directors they are on, et cetera.   Try to have at least three contacts or ‘moves’ with your donors per year.   This will deepen their involvement and engagement in your organization.
  • Donor Thank-you – After each ‘move’ or meeting with your donor, write a personal, hand-writtennote, acknowledging their support and involvement.   Get these out within 24 hours after the donation.
  • Ask and You Will Find – The number one reason people contribute is that they are asked (most successfully by someone they know). Ask your closest donors whether they will give you a list of 10 potential donors. If this list includes very wealthy individuals ask your donor to set up a luncheon meeting with you in attendance. It is often difficult to recruit your donors to ask their friends for money. Don’t ask them to ask for the money.   Ask them to set up the meeting for you(or the CEO) or another board member to ask for the money.   Other ways to ask:
    • Ask the donor to ask their company for corporate sponsorship dollars to underwrite the cost of your golf tournament, annual dinner, or special event. Also have them look into their company’s matching gift program.
    • Ask your donor who goes to church or synagogue to set up a meeting, for example,  with the president of the congregation’s Women’s group and ask if you might be able to speak to the women over lunch.   Always collect snail and email addresses from the women in attendance.
    • Ask your a major donor to set up a parlor meeting in their home and invite 10 of their friends. You don’t have to ask for money at the parlor meeting, but it could be a wonderful cultivation opportunity.
  • Direct Mail – Acquire lists of 10 names from your closest donors and send direct mail pieces to the people on these lists. When writing the direct mail letters, ask the donor to write a personal note in the front of the letter and to follow-up with a phone call.   If they make a phone call, the giving should increase almost 100 percent.
  • Prospect Research – When you are invited to go to a prospect appointment with a large donor, always make sure you do your homework and research to find out the prospects: interests, age, where they went to school, giving interests and passions; what boards of directors they are on, and ‘appropriate giving levels. ‘

Ultimately, the goal is to build deeper and more committed relationships on behalf of your organization while at the same time expanding the base of support. Engaging committed donors in the process will require a commitment of time and energy on your part, but the rewards can be exponential.