How Can We Increase Our Individual Giving Dollars?

November 25, 2014

Dear Rich,

Tis the season of giving. As a smaller organization, how can we increase our individual giving dollars? We do not have a fundraiser on staff who is continuously cultivating donors. Still, we have to compete for individual donations with those larger agencies who do have such staff. With the giving season upon us, please provide us some strategies to capture more from this season to give. Help!

Carlo Kriekels, Co-Founder & Executive Director
YESS Institute

This is the season – from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until around December 20 – when about half of all the donations in America are made. The country gushes with emotion for four weeks and then almost hibernates for 11 months!

Over 75 percent of philanthropy in America comes in the form of individual gifts, and yet raising money from individual donors is always a challenge for organizations that do not have a professional fundraiser on staff. This is the reason why so many small to mid-sized organizations are overly dependent on grants.

It’s a struggle, but if you can begin to build a base of individual donors, in time – and with nurturing – these donors will make your organization more sustainable. Small gifts lead to major contributions and bequests, and regular donors can open doors for you to other funding sources, such as their church, their employer, or their service club.

Here are some strategies that small organizations can use to capture more donations in the holiday season (they work just as well for large organizations!)

  1. When sending out the holiday appeal, have each board member write a personal note on the request to those people they know. This is a surefire way to increase donations. It’s even more effective if the board member follows up with a phone call – this will significantly increase the number of donors who respond and the amount of their gift.
  2. Circulate a list of all the people who came to your special events during the year and ask your board and staff to identify people they think are potential donors. Then take them out for lunch or coffee. OK, so one board member can only manage so many lunch or coffee dates – this is a great way for committed volunteers or long-term donors to get involved and help raise funds. People are much more likely to give when asked by someone who already makes a personal contribution.
  3. Encourage board members to have coffee with three of their friends during this giving season and ask them for donations. If board members are uncomfortable asking their friends for money, go with them and make the ask yourself.
  4. Ask donors who are good friends to host a holiday party at their home (or a local restaurant) and invite some of their friends. You or a board member should attend to discuss the impact of your organization and ask for a year-end donation.
  5. Invite your staff members and board members to make an additional year-end gift to the organization this holiday season.

None of these above ideas require a professional fundraiser, but they do require some coordination and strategy, and people willing to ask for money. See if your fundraising committee can work with you to identify potential donors and get the ball rolling.

Good luck!


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