1) Leverage Your Mission and Vision
Donors don’t give to projects or initiatives – they give to causes, missions, and visions of futures in which the problem no longer exists. Your ability to tell your story – the narrative that makes your nonprofit unique and valuable – is what compels donors and foundations to finance your work. As author Don Miller once wrote,
“We live in a world where bad stories are told. Stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything, that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines. How easily the world looks to it in wonder.”
The resources below shed greater light on the importance of storytelling in fundraising and the ways in which we can cast vision with others.
2) Treat Donors as People, Not Projects
Many nonprofit leaders feel that a fine line must be walked with donors and benefactors. While they often want to invite philanthropists into the conversation and decision-making process, some are likely to be concerned about these individuals and groups taking total control of the organization and preventing the staff from pursuing options that they believe to be in the best interest of the beneficiaries and clients.
Some donors may have no interest in telling the organization how to spend their gifts while others may want to play a very hands-on role. Despite the wide range of donor personalities and requests, a few guiding principles can inform the way that we proceed with them moving forward:
- Donors are not ATMs or piggy banks. They are human beings, created with dignity and worthy of relationship.
- Donors may have skill sets or relevant knowledge that could prove helpful to the organization in the future (and may be willing to provide them if asked).
- Ultimately, the nonprofit staff members have the authority to exercise discernment and determine how unrestricted resources will be used.
- While donors’ wishes should be considered, laser-like focus on the mission is paramount. If the leadership team gives in to mission drift, they may try to become “everything to everyone,” threatening the novelty, expertise, and effectiveness that comes with filling a niche gap in the market.
The resources below will help you and your team navigate these relationships and enhance your efforts to retain passionate donors, small and large alike.
3) Learn How to Care for Donors as a Faith-Based Organization
While nearly all nonprofits attempt to articulate a mission and vision to justify their existence and rally donors around the work they pursue, FBOs are uniquely advantaged in this realm. The beliefs Christians hold are to shape every aspect of their lives – how they treat others, where their money should go, what type of work they should pursue. It informs how they see themselves in relation to God, humbles them (as they come to understand that they have been rescued by grace through faith alone and not by merit), and provides a strong foundation on which the argument for irrevocable human dignity can be made. It is this Imago Dei – the image of God that placed upon every human being – that gives every person value and worth and compels many believers to start nonprofits or give of their financial resources to such causes. Without exploiting Christians and other religious adherents, FBOs can leverage their sincerely-held convictions, mission, and vision to nurture a greater “spirit of generosity” within the larger religious community for projects that promote human flourishing.
4) Discern When to Ask and For How Much to Ask
Let’s be honest, it’s never easy asking someone else for money. For many of us, the experience is humbling, and we don’t exactly love the vulnerability required in that moment. “Making the ask,” however, shouldn’t be the first move in the dance of donor cultivation but one taken after the prospective donor has had time to get to know you, trust you, and fall in love with your organization. Much like a man dates a woman prior to “the ask”, a development professional must be intentional about getting to know the donor personally and speak to his/her concerns, hopes, and fears.
Additionally, fundraisers must learn when to make different kinds of asks and identify when and how to help one-time givers become recurring donors. This requires thoughtful on boarding, donor segmentation, and storytelling, but the sustainability driven by recurring gifts can help your organization thrive and better pursue restoration in your community. The resources below will help your team start to consider various forms of gifts as well as strategies for each kind.