Almost every nonprofit relies on its donors in some way. However, getting donors to give money for your cause is not always so simple. It requires building solid connections with your donors and ensuring that they fully understand the impact of their contributions.
Fundraising is a complex process and making mistakes along the way is not unusual. Let’s look at some of the most common fundraising mistakes to avoid.
Failing to Build Relationships with Your Donors
Building relationships is the most important aspect of fundraising. Maintain your relationship with your contributors by staying in touch with them and thanking them for their support to your organization’s success.
Contact first-time contributors as soon as possible after they make their initial gift.
Call as many contributors as possible, if not all, on a regular basis, regardless of the size of their donation. For example, schedule “thank you” phone calls into your team’s calendar every week, or arrange a thank-a-thon — an office donor calling event where you may spend the whole day contacting contributors to thank them.
Not Doing Enough Research
One of the most common fundraising oversights is failing to do your research. This can lead to asking for too little, too much, or asking for a contribution too indirectly or too casually.
Choosing how much to ask for is a difficult decision. Some of it is based on understanding physical and vocal clues from the possible donor, but there is plenty you can do to prevent making this error.
So why is research so important? You may miss out on major contributions that might help your company if you are unaware.
Do your research, look into your prospects, and then listen carefully. Pay close attention and actively engage. For example, perhaps you intended to ask for $25,000, but your prospect suggested throughout the discussion that they would be willing to donate $100,000. Who would want to miss out on such an opportunity?
Not Following up Enough
It’s a fundraising misstep that virtually everyone makes — failing to send enough follow-ups. The secret to avoiding the problem is to have a simple, reliable process to follow.
Start by compiling a list of donors and prospects, including contact information, along with notes about your interactions. This information should also be in a database where you store any other donor or prospect information.
Then, plan your follow-ups by developing a specific strategy that maximizes the chances of reaching donors and encourages them to give.
You can automate the follow-up process by setting up tasks and scheduling them each month by using fundraising software. You can also set up reminders so that you won’t forget to send a thank-you note after a donor makes a gift.
You may want to send a follow-up letter, make a phone call, or schedule a face-to-face visit. Regardless of which method you choose, be sure that your messages are clear and concise and the information you share is memorable and doesn’t waste the prospect’s time.
Asking for Donation too Soon
Many nonprofits solicit donations as soon as a person comes into touch with them. So here’s a simple rule: if a prospect connects with you, don’t contact them right away to ask for a contribution.
You might assume it won’t hurt, but the truth is your relationship is starting on the wrong foot. Many people are simply put off by such a sudden and direct request.
Instead, before making an ask, concentrate on developing and cultivating the relationship. Only then will you be on your way to establishing a long-term and sustainable funding source for your nonprofit.
Forgetting to Test Your Campaigns
You can prevent most of these fundraising mistakes if you carefully test your campaigns. Many nonprofits do not thoroughly evaluate their messages before distributing them.
Most organizations do not do split A/B testing to try alternative subject lines, copy, or question strings, which is a wasted chance to learn from the science of drawing on what works and discarding what does not work with your list.
Often, this is what separates the best fundraising campaigns from the rest. And most organizations do not test email, direct mail, telemarketing, and online fundraising messages at the same time.
All of these mistakes cause organizations to vastly overestimate their response rates, which is a dangerous mistake. As a result, some organizations spend millions of dollars on their acquisition efforts but end up making only modest contributions to the bottom line.
Over to You
The secret to fundraising success is to recognize the top fundraising mistakes and do your best to avoid them. Fundraising mistakes happen when you don’t do enough research and don’t build strong relationships with donors. You have to go out of your way to show that you appreciate them. It is not enough to send out letters asking for money. You have to follow up with your donors. You must show them that you care.