ShortBooks - Fundraising

Are you presenting your organization and your work in ways that both engage donors and inspire giving? Let Barefoot Creative help ensure your donors are loyal and your programs are funded. Explore these strategies of fundraising to get you started, then give us a call to set your plan in motion.

#1 ASK
(for what you need)

Many not-for-profits are eager to inspire people with their work, but hesitant to ask supporters or pre-supporters to join their efforts. The best fundraising clearly defines the call to action with a specific offer personalized to their audience. 

Ask boldly and ask often. Within the organization, you may feel your donors are fatigued by online, email, social, letters and offers. In contrast, that donor may receive mail daily from a multitude of sources. Without your offer in the mix, you could be losing out. 

Remember, the donor is excited to join in your work! As non-profits, we need to re-think the way we approach our supporters. They are not supporting our organization – they are investing in change. 

Whether it’s humanitarian relief, reaching the lost, post-secondary education, or whatever your focus, you’re empowering the donor to accomplish something they could never do on their own! 

No apology needed.

(influence change)

According to an Ignite Lab public opinion poll, 82% of Canadians believe charities are important and 76% of Canadians think charities have a positive impact. 

People believe in what you do!

Whatever your organization’s mission, we know you’re doing great work. Let your accomplishments motivate your fundraising to inspire others to join the work. 

You give ordinary people to a chance to change their community, and the world. Build a long-term relationship with supporters, making them a partner in your mission.

(focus on what you do best)

What is an offer? 

The offer is a clear articulation of what the supporter can do. Be diligent about developing the offer in a way ordinary people can understand. Lose the program language (save that for government funders and certain foundations). Open-ended offers have their place, but donors prefer direction in their giving. For example, which is more compelling:

A - Please give any amount you’re able to help us end poverty in Africa. OR...

BWhen you give $30, a child in Africa is given everything they need to start school – books, pencils and a uniform. Without this education, they’re sentenced to a life of poverty. 

The choice is obvious, yet we see option ‘A’ being used often as organizations try to ensure all bases are covered in funding their programs. All tests show that to raise more funds, strategically drill down to a more specific and understandable offer.

Also, make your response device clear and simple. If a donor has to work too hard to give you a gift, they’re likely to give up trying. Your online form should be as simple as iTunes or Amazon. If you are sending a paper form, clear the form of unnecessary information. Make sure the donor can fill the form out easily (even better – fill it out for them).

(not stats)

Aunt Mae is not trend-setting. Cousin Billy, while his complaint about your online approach to raising money may be valid, it may not fit your audience. We know that, in some cases, campaigns that have the most complaints also have the highest return on investment. Why? Because they create an emotional response. 

Practise graphing results, analyzing the big picture. While your donor/customer service team should always engage personally with donors/customers, marketing decisions are made on the basis of trends, not personal opinion. 

True story… a client requested an entire mail campaign be written with a “country rose” coloured font. Of course, we balked. They insisted. It was a fantastic experience (the client will never suggest that again).  We know you have similar stories. Testing is fantastic. Trust the results because they will help you understand the trends of your audience. 

We can learn so much by monitoring the trends of giving, not the individual statistics. Keep moving forward, track and study the trends, then look at the big picture.

(make it measurable)

For some charities, including a premium gift with the mailing will boost donations. In others, that same premium will make giving plummet. We can only know what works best with your audience if we test. 

Be strategic. The component you’re testing must have measurable, not anecdotal, results. Keep all other aspects the same to ensure a more accurate test. 

For example, if you’re testing your outer envelopes, ensure all inside components between segment A and segment B are identical. If not, you won’t have a definitive understanding of the role the outer envelope played in overall giving. 

There are times to test creative and make a whole new package. The winning package then becomes the control and you can start testing that package. Knowing the trends of your donor base takes the guess work out of marketing.

(invite new people)

Our studies show that the biggest barrier to organizational growth is acquisition. TV, once very successful at inviting new donors to join, has plummeted (with a few exceptions). It is tempting to cut out the acquisition budget, as the short-term ROI is often in the negative. Inexperienced fundraisers are appalled at the cost of new acquisition. 

Cultivating your loyal donors has a much bigger pay-off in the short-term. 

But discontinuing acquisition is devastating. Acquisition is a key component of long-term success.

We have seen it. For two or three years the organization sees a rise in revenue and a real rise in ROI. Then it starts to drop. Within five years, there is a real problem. Old donors drop off, and without a solid acquisition strategy, your revenue begins to plummet. 

Integration is imperative when attempting to cut through the noise of today’s busy world and get your brand noticed. Online, face-to-face and direct mail work together to reinforce a consistent message to potential donors.

Today, the organizations with the fastest growth are organizations invested in brand and acquisition. 

Yes, acquisition costs money. But keep your eyes on the goal. The lifetime value of your donor is what to keep in mind when acquiring new partners. There is no ideal cost per new donor – you need to look at your own history to reveal the lifetime value of each donor, how long before the acquisition cost is recouped and how many new donors become major donors. 

But one thing is definitive – without any acquisition initiatives, your organization will most certainly be in trouble down the road.

(invest in people)

Your donors want to feel like you’re aware of, and grateful for, their personal support. In fact: 

  • 95% of donors in a recent study stated they would appreciate a thank-you call within a day or two of the organization receiving their donation.
  • 85% said such a thank-you call would influence them to give again.
  • 84% said they would definitely, or probably, give a larger gift.

We can further build relationships with our donors by investing in your relations team. Software like Barefoot DIGITAL helps your team to quickly access, on their smartphone, data about a particular donor – their giving preferences, donation history and any other notes you’ve acquired.

This makes personal visits and phone calls easy and helps you donor feel appreciated. 

Whether mass, middle or major donor, make sure you’re listening and responding to keep the conversation going and the relationship strong.

(at least twice a year)

Lapsed donors are important to our overall fundraising strategy
– that’s why we haven’t deleted their names! There are many reasons a person might not give a gift. Perhaps this is a temporary season in their life when they cannot give, but they’re still engaged with your organization, so don’t forget about them!

At least twice a year, consider sending a special appeal that recaptures this donor group’s attention. Something hard-hitting and personal. You can also consider an integrated phone campaign to do a quality check on these donors. 

Who should be considered part of the “deep lapsed” donor group? We would suggest you include donors who have not given a gift in up to 60 months. One client reached out to donors who hadn’t given in 5-10 years. The result? Huge success... over 5% of the donors they reached out to gave a gift.

(yes, use the story arc)

While there are several strategic factors involved in creating a successful fundraising appeal, we need to capture the donors’ attention with an emotional hook. 

Your story should be told the way we learned in grade school – set the scene, illustrate the crises, tell the climax of the story… but then leave the donor wanting a bit more. In a traditional story arc, we would normally solve the crises in the ‘falling action’ stage of our story before wrapping everything up nicely for the end. 

When telling a story in fundraising, we need the donor to remember the crises are only solved when they give a gift. The DONOR is the solution. If we wrap up the story and solve the crises in the appeal letter, we’re telling the donor they aren’t needed in our story. 

Remember, your organization’s work is valuable. There is no need to inflate the truth or create unnecessary drama – trust your mission, trust your donor and honour the beneficiaries by telling the true story of need.

(have parties)

Part of cultivating your donors is letting them know when their support has accomplished great things! Thanking your donors should be a regular habit – done quickly and after every gift. 

But if you’re able to share a more in-depth success with your donors through a special evening or online event, go for it! Seeing the results of their donations both affirms their decision to give to you and encourages them to keep giving more. 

Celebrate the wins!

(tortoise beats the hare)

There’s a rhythm to donor cultivation and fundraising. To create long-term donors who are faithful to your mission, you need to be consistent in building that relationship. 

If you’re constantly reinventing yourself, your visual brand, your offers, your message… your donors aren’t going to recognize you. They know the organization they first gave to – nurture that relationship with consistency, familiarity and appreciation to ensure long-term donors. 

True story… a client was really excited about adding new programs to their mission. With each new program, they created an entirely new brand. It was exciting! We had long discussions about building the parent brand, ensuring long-term donor loyalty. They weren’t convinced. From their perspective, the excitement around new images, names and icons created more support. 

Then the executive director came face-to-face with the power of brand. During his annual visit with one of his most faithful and generous donors, he learned that the donor was changing allegiances. The donor’s son had had a life-changing experience that summer, and the father was putting his financial support towards that organization. Politely, the E.D. asked what the organization was. The E.D. was grateful to hear it was one of their programs – branded and communicated in a way that it was impossible to link it to the mother brand. 

Two lessons:

  1. Make sure your brand is strong and stick to the brand, even if you like making new icons.
  2. When you visit faithful donors, know the background. The E.D. should have known that the donor’s son was a volunteer in their program. Ensure that kind of data is easily available to your face-to-face fundraisers.  


Communicate with Impact

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