Understanding Nonprofit Fundraising Best Practices and How Nonprofits can Raise More Donations

Understanding Nonprofit Fundraising Best Practices and How Nonprofits can Raise More Donations

Fundraising has always been the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization,and that's not going to change anytime soon. But that doesn't mean the landscape of effective fundraising isn't changing at a hectic pace with all of the technological advantages we have today. It's just we now have so many tools at our disposal, as do our competitors, that it's become a crowded sector with everyone working to grab donor's attention.

Today's fundraising environment is more competitive than it has ever been before. And the world's problems seem to just be multiplying leading to a need for even more nonprofits to fill the gaps and help where they're needed. This leads to some fierce competition when it comes to the limited amount of donors there are, and unless you're following our guide on the best practices for nonprofits, you're organization is going to come up short on it's fundraising goals.

Creating and Tracking Financial Goals

One of the very first steps in reaching any type of goal is to know what the goal clearly is, and then to map out a plan to achieve it. This includes your organization's finances as well as all of its other activities. Your plan should be worked on by its Board of Directors as well as any other key people within your organization.

Right from the start you need to come up with obtainable financial and operational goals and ways to obtain them on a monthly basis throughout the year. The more you can map out from the beginning of the calendar year, the clearer you'll understand what needs to be done, what resources will be necessary, and what results you expect with your fundraising ideas. The big plus here is that today, it's easier to understand where you are and how to improve upon your situation with all the tools we have to gather real data on our efforts.

Past performance is one area to always consider when looking to a new action plan. Using real world data you should be able to see how well your organization did in reaching past goals, and where more work or different tactics need to be employed. Data can tell us how well a campaign or other fundraising activities have done, and where they fell short. On careful examination, we may even be able to explain precisely why an event failed, or how it can be greatly improved upon so that it's more effective.

Here are some questions that can help make things clearer for you and your team when thinking about your organization's finances:

  • What are our specific financial goals for the coming year, and what is our long-term financial vision for the organization? What can we do today that helps us align both with our short and long term goals, other than getting more donors? Are there areas where we need to cut costs or invest more resources? 
  • What sources of charitable revenue do we currently have, and what new sources of income can we explore to diversify our funding? Are there foundations or grants that we can apply for that can help diversify our nonprofit and provide different services?
  • Can we analyze historical financial data to identify trends and patterns in our revenue and expenses? What can we learn from this data? Are there any trends we can spot, either positive or negative? What does the data tell us about our own campaigns and initiatives? What does this data tell us about how we compare to other nonprofits?
  • Do we have a clear understanding of our best donors and their giving patterns? Can we segment our contributor data to tailor our fundraising efforts more effectively? How can we use financial data to strengthen relationships with our donors? 
  • How can technology and financial software like PayBee be leveraged to streamline financial management and reporting processes, or help with fundraising or donations?

All of this data, when correctly analyzed can really give you a clear picture on how your entire organization is doing. But this is also past data, and although it can help you a great deal, you still need to be aware on what's going on around you as far as the economy, new technologies, more competition, and any number of other factors that can impact your organization. Those nonprofits that can both use past and present financial data while taking into account new trends or opportunities will have a much easier time keeping their nonprofits running and even thriving.

Fundraising Action Plan and Calendar

Now that you know the numbers and what your expectations are for the new fiscal year, it's time to plan out exactly how you plan to go about obtaining all of these new goals. This includes everything from planning an event calendar ahead of time so you have proper time to organize, to assigning all the tasks that will need to be completed to the best people so your fundraisers go off without a hitch.

Some other factors to think about during this process are what type of events to hold, how you will market your campaign, what will the costs be, will properties and equipment be available on the dates you need and a host of other questions.

It's also important to know special days like giving days and cause days throughout the year. If your nonprofit fits, special days like Earth Day (#EarthDay) or International Youth Day (#YouthDay) can reap big rewards when you hold events and create awareness ahead of time. And #GivingTuesday is always a major day for donations and often coincides with a nonprofit's year end events which often bring in more than 30% of their total donations for the year.

Armed with clear focus and timely action plans, your nonprofit can get the best head start on their most important campaigns, making sure details aren't overlooked, or rushing to complete tasks due to lack of time or formal planning. It's best to use a software platform that can create calendars and assign tasks all through the backend, as well as communication channels to keep everything organized and in one place. PayBee excels at this and can make all of these tasks as simple as inputting your campaign information.

Understanding Your Donors

If you're not building relationships with your donors on a continuous basis while keeping track of every detail of what they have done over the lifetime of supporting your organization, and be able to decide where they are in the donor lifecycle so you can get them to become a major or recurring contributor, you're nonprofit is leaving a lot of money on the table.

This may all seem like a lot of time and effort, but it's completely worth it. And with technology that can keep track of every single detail about a contributor, and even help you keep in contact with easier like PayBee, you have a serious advantage over all the other nonprofits vying for your donor's support.

Think about your donors as a new friend, and that's exactly how they should be treated, with the same attention and kindness you treat your friends with. So your new friend 'Barbra' has just donated $10 to your animal shelter nonprofit. Excellent, but that small sum isn't going to help that much. But it is a commitment on Barbra's end, as she has given you enough trust to fork over some of her money. It may seem like a small step, but it means a lot!

Now that you have her attention, and first donation, it's time to build a profile that will help you build a stronger relationship over time. For each and every contributor you should have all the relevant information as far as name, address and phone number. But the really valuable information is in the details.

You should already have procedures in place when thanking a contributor for their donation. And it's best if you can talk to them either on the phone or better yet over a cup of coffee. This is a great time to ask some deeper questions. For an animal charity you should ask if they have pets of their own, would they be interested in volunteering any of their time, and why they decided to give to your nonprofit over another. These are all great, easy questions most donors don't have a problem answering.

If things are going well, you can get into what she does for a living, does she have a spouse, kids, what are some of her favorite hobbies or past times. Just imagine all the ideas you can get and how specific you can tailor a thank you note, or a volunteer request with all of this information. Plus think about how special Barbra would feel when you've taken the time to know her personally, and not just as another donation.

Another way all of this data can help you and your team is when looking to recruit new donors. If over time your data tells you most of you active donors are women between the ages of 30 to 50, married with kids, this can help you narrow your demographics as far as advertising, and help you hone a more strategic message tailor made for your demographic. It could also suggest you should have more 'kid friendly' events rather than black tie galas.

At the end of the day, the data you collect on each and every contributor is completely worth it, and may be the defining factor on whether your nonprofit thrives or collapses. Donors will always be the lifeblood of a nonprofit, so why not allow life to be more enjoyable for your donors and yourself by building real relationships that at the end of the day benefit all involved.

Potential Donors and Volunteers

Your contributor numbers obviously directly impact your fundraising and financial state, and you need to always be working to increase the amount of donors as well as their donation amounts and habits. This means connecting with potential donors and getting them to commit to your organization and cause by making an actual donation, or showing their support in a meaningful way like volunteering.

Each year you should specify how many new people you plan to reach and have support your nonprofit, as well as the number of new volunteer so you can measure how effectively your strategies and campaigns are working to recruit them. This should also include a clear path on how to obtain your goals that includes ways you plan to communicate and persuade new people to come and support your mission. Many volunteers become donors or help support their organization of choice in more ways than just time. So don't overlook these valuable resources!

Crafting a Compelling Story for Your Nonprofit and Fundraising

When it comes to fundraising or gathering support for your nonprofit, nothing does better than having a great story to bolster support and ignite people to give a donation. Just think of the news and how certain stories force you to feel. Or a really sad or funny movie, the story of the characters or their plights connect you to them so you feel emotions like empathy or sometimes even hatred. These stories tear at our emotions and allow us to feel things, even if we'd rather not feel anything.

This is the same when it comes to creating a story for your own nonprofit. Charities that create sterile, fact ridden messages rarely gather numbers of supporters or do well with fundraising. This is because there is no emotional connection. You're asking people to part with their money, but unless you give them an emotional reason, you'll rarely succeed.

The easiest way to understand this is through two examples. Read what I've written in both and ask yourself which organization you'd rather donate to and why you would decide that way. Then use those same answers to craft your own copy or story.

Example 1: We Care Animals is a rescue and animal shelter dedicated to helping pets in our community. We have saved hundreds of dogs and cats over the years, and your donation goes a long way to helping us succeed in our mission. To date, we have spay and neutered over 500 local animals and helped keep the stray animal population down across the board. We provide veterinarian services to all that need it because of your donation But in order to continue our work, we need your support. Please give now.

Example 2: We  Care Animals is a local rescue and animal shelter right here in Tampa, Florida. Everyday we work hard to find and help all sorts of endangered and helpless pets that have been abandoned like Spot, a puppy we found in a dumpster that was worm ridden and near death. It took our vet a month to nurse Spot back to health, but today Spot is running and playing with the other dogs in our fenced in animal shelter, tail wagging, and is ready for a loving and happy home. Or Whiskers, a beautiful Siamese cat that was reported having a litter of kittens and living under a bridge. When we found Whiskers and her newly born litter of kittens, they were malnourished and flea ridden. The kittens needed to be bottle fed and Whiskers needed to put on a few pounds before we were able to spay her and let her nurse her litter again. Now Whiskers and her family are healthy and pest free and looking for a loving home to brighten. And we're grateful we have helped so many strays right here in our own home town. But sadly, there are many more strays we just can't reach due to budget restraints. Now more than ever every dollar counts. If you can help us help them, a donation of any size you can give can help a great deal. Just a dollar a day can save an animal from certain death. Please take a minute and become part of our mission to help every one that needs it here in Tampa.

Now looking at both stories, who would you choose to give a gift to? And yes, the second is longer, but that isn't why it's much more powerful than the first. The second example connects with a person's emotion, just like all great copy writing, advertisements and those clickbait social media titles you just can't resist clicking on.

This is one of the most important aspects of any campaign, your message, your mission and what you are trying to achieve. How you're helping and the impact it has had in a real, emotionally filled way. If this is something that goes beyond your writing skills, we recommend hiring a professional copywriter as this message is an investment that can pay off more than you could ever imagine.

Raise an Online Presence for Fundraising 

You need to have some sort of presence online. In fact, it's pretty much mandatory as one of the stipulations in applying for a 501 is that you publicly post your financials and make them publicly accessible. The easiest way to do this is through your own online presence whether it's your own website or blog, or a site through a nonprofit platform.

There are advantages to having either a self hosted website, or one with your organization platform provider. And even if you do have a great website of your own, there are some things that are better left to a platform like donations pages that require special SSL certificates and other code to keep valuable contributor financial information secure.

Here at PayBee we are always sure our pages integrate into your nonprofit's marketing by allowing you to change colors, graphics or whatever is needed in order for your donors to have a seamless experience when giving to your nonprofit. And we work hard to be sure technical details like page speed and ease of use are all at their optimum levels so you never loose a donation due to a contributor becoming confused or frustrated.

Taking Advantage of Fundraising Software for Nonprofits 

The nonprofit sector is highly specialized and has many unique requirements in all aspects of their business. That's why it's extremely beneficial to use a fundraising software specifically created for nonprofits to assist them on reaching their goals. Platforms like these don't just make everyone's lives dramatically easier both on the front-end and back-end of your nonprofit, but they also assist your organization in growing its revenue base faster through a myriad of tools and options that can pretty much run every aspect of your business.

If you're not acquainted with nonprofit software yet or their potential, we've listed out some of the most important things to look for and why the feature is so important in running a profitable organization.

Online Donation Processing and Management

One of the most important tools for any nonprofit is a way to collect donations easily, and in a way that doesn't inhibit the donor's giving process. This means there needs to be multiple secure payment options like credit card processing, Stripe and other typical forms of payment that show up on any online device from a phone to a desktop computer. These pages should be customizable so you can match your nonprofit's colors and designs for a fluid experience.

There should also be the ability to track your donor's giving during live in-person events that can automatically keep track of their gift, personal details and create a tax exempt receipt for them at any time. All of this information can be very useful when it comes time to decide how profitable an event was, or when deciding on how to manage and segment your contributors. This should all be easy enough for you or your volunteers to operate with the least amount of complications using a simple form in the backend.

One last tool that is a must have as far as payment processing goes is the ability to allow for recurring gift giving. Recurring donation tech is a huge boost to any nonprofit, and the option to create a recurring gift should be smooth and as easy as making any other sort of donation. In fact, when you're using PayBee, there is an option on our payment pages that asks if the patron would like to switch their donation to recurring. This little detail helps boost contributor giving which in turn boosts your organization.

Donor Management

Every advanced nonprofit platform must have a complete patron database for tracking and managing contributor information. The data that's collected will help you make better data driven decisions based on facts and not just intuition. One of the best features of these tools is the ability to create contributor profiles with giving history, preferences, and contact details like email. This information will help you categorize and segment your donors for targeted outreach for better results.

You should also have the ability to communicate through many different media like email or social media, matching what your donors feel most comfortable with. These communications can also help build a better understanding of your donors and what makes them tick. And these communications will all be available to your whole team or anyone with access to your user dashboard like management, so no more forwarding emails to new employees or volunteers.

Fundraising Campaign Management

In order to launch and run a successful fundraising campaign strategy, you'll need to plan out each and every detail of the event as well as track every result possible. This means communicating with your staff and volunteers as well as scheduling appointments, signing contracts and a host of other responsibilities. This is where these top platforms really shine as they can assist in making all of these details almost automatic.

The best platforms should be able to list all the tasks that need to be done, assign someone to be responsible, communicate any changes instantly, and track all the results all from one easy to use dashboard. This make the entire strategy process manageable and allows everyone involved to be on the same page.

From setting up a secure and user-friendly online donation form where supporters can easily contribute to your campaigns, to monitoring your campaign's performance through data and analytics during and after the event. Each detail of your fundraising strategy can be easily assigned, monitored, and the results can be collected in order to give the best feedback on how to improve later campaigns. This process also ensures that the campaign adheres to legal and ethical standards, especially regarding financial transparency and contributor data protection.

Multi-Channel Online Fundraising Event Management

In today's highly fragmented marketing landscape, many campaigns to raise funds practice a multi-channel approach to reach and raise awareness with their supporters, utilizing various methods like online fundraising, social media, email marketing, direct mail, a daily or monthly blog, events, and telemarketing to reach donors through their preferred communication media. That means your software platform needs to do all of this, and do it well!

Hybrid events also need to be an option as well as completely online events. Many people no longer have the time to always go to a live event. And with the aftermath of COVID, some are simply nervous of the idea of being in a room full of people. So give them the option of supporting your mission without ever leaving their home through an assortment of online event software. It's even possible to use your favorite streaming platforms like YouTube and Facebook all from the backend of a good software platform.

You can even implement peer-to-peer fundraising capabilities where your donors get their own page for an event and get their family and friends to donate for you. There are simply too many possibilities for fundraising using these tools and the only way to really understand their potential is to try them out. You can do that here using our free demo. Not employing these advanced tools in your nonprofit fundraising strategies today will leave your nonprofit at a serious disadvantage.

Super Charge Your Nonprofit Fundraising and Donations With These Best Practices

The first tip we have for you is to start looking for ways to diversify your earnings potential. Look for opportunities you're are not yet targeting like grants or donations from foundations. Look to see if there are local businesses that can support you in ways other than financially, like giving you free event space, or letting you hang posters or leave fliers for their customers to help spread the word about your nonprofit.

Take advantage of technology in all its many forms. This includes using nonprofit software platforms like Paybee so your nonprofit is able to leverage data and analytics to base informed decisions on and optimize your fundraising efforts with factual hard data.

Harness the power of social media accounts like FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, TicTok and the many others available by creating some of the best content you can find on Google, then sending it to your blog and audience and direct them to your fundraising pages. You can further your reach through email and old school media like newspapers and magazine articles as well. With today's technology and tools you can automate many of these tasks so it's as simple as pushing a send button.

Lead your supporters through the donor lifecycle to secure larger donations or monthly giving by employing a strategic and thoughtful approach to donor cultivation. Have a strategy that can be shared with your entire team so everyone knows how to talk and close new and existing contributors.

Explain Legacy Giving and how it can help your organization in the future, and how giving part of a patrons estate to a nonprofit can help reduce tax implications when distributing their willed assets. These are also called Planned Gifts as they will come about in a future time.

Create a blog where you can connect to your supporters and consistently provide them with updates on your fundraising, feedback on a recent campaign, any social event gatherings, or simply introduce them to any new team members or management that have joined your nonprofit. Matching your content strategy whether old school media like email or social, it's important to match the way your supporters most want to consume and read their media is key here.

Final Thoughts

Following our fundraising best practices we've listed above will give your nonprofit a serious leg up over all the other nonprofits trying to steal away all of your best patrons.These fundraising strategies and best practices have been proven to help any organization raise money faster and easier as well as making nonprofit fundraising through strategic marketing and a smart use of data more profitable.

Fundraising for nonprofits has never been easy or simple, and with more competition entering the sector than ever before, you need to take advantage of every tool and strategy possible when it comes to today's nonprofit fundraising environment. Taking advantage of media and crm tactics can help campaigns become more successful with the same amount of fundraising, while adding good services people want or other financial opportunities like recurring donations or a matching gift can help diversify your nonprofit so it doesn't need to rely strictly on donations.

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Nonprofit Fundraising
Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.

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