Practical Tips for Young Fundraisers
Diving into the nonprofit fundraising world for the first time can be overwhelming and intimidating. Regardless of how many fundraising years we have under our belts, we can all appreciate the challenges experienced by fundraisers early in their careers.
This shared sentiment inspired OAI’s recent Ask a MentORR event. Eleven young fundraising professionals, representing DC-area nonprofits, joined six OAI junior team members to discuss their fundraising challenges in our DC office. The attendees and OAI team collectively shared advice, suggestions, and potential solutions to address the common challenges raised.
The peer-to-peer discussion created a collaborative and supportive environment, and participants walked away with tangible and practical recommendations for moving their fundraising work forward. Below is a snapshot of the challenges we discussed, and their potential solutions.
“My board members promise to make introductions or send outreach, but they don’t follow through.”
- When you check in on your board members’ tasks, make their job as easy as possible. This could be in the form of providing draft language for outreach, researching and sharing prospect contact information, and arming board members with easily shareable marketing collateral.
- Choose who follows up with board members wisely. A board member may take a request more seriously if received from a CEO, CDO, or another organizational leader. Partner with these leaders in your organization to help drive board members’ action.
- Assistants can be the key to unlocking a board member’s outreach. Cultivate a relationship with your board members’ assistants. Then, work with them to follow up on their outreach.
“My board doesn’t fundraise.”
- Begin building a culture of philanthropy within the board by ensuring that development strategy is incorporated into each board meeting agenda. Partner with your CEO or CDO to share the development team’s long-term strategy and progress towards goals at meetings.
- Consider creating a development committee, comprised of willing board members and key volunteers, to help the development team drive its long-term fundraising strategy. An active development committee can potentially fill a funding gap stemming from a board that’s unwilling to fundraise.
- Develop a board member job description, incorporating a “give/get” minimum and other fundraising-related responsibilities. Work with your board chair to garner support from board members to adopt and embrace the “give/get” by 1) communicating expectations, 2) describing how staff will support the board members in achieving their goal, and 3) acknowledging the give/get may be achieved through connections and influence as opposed to personally giving.
“I’m unsure how to appropriately mention planned giving to a prospect.”
- Target prospects who are 55+ and already loyal annual donors, regardless of their gift size.
- Create a legacy society to recognize planned gift donors and offer membership benefits. It can be easier to ask a prospect to join a legacy society than to ask for a planned gift outright.
- Avoid using planned giving jargon when discussing with a prospect. Describe planned giving to prospects as you would any other gift type. Create talking points, scripts, and/or other reference materials to guide the development team through prospect conversations.
“We struggle to convince dues-paying members to make a philanthropic investment.”
- Consider creating a giving society with associated recognition and benefits to encourage members to donate.
- Offer creative recognition opportunities unique to your organization (e.g. onsite recognition at member conferences) and design benefits to appeal to your members’ interests (e.g. invitation to town halls hosted by the CEO).
“Our last fundraising event surpassed expectations and we don’t know how we’ll maintain revenue levels next year.”
- Individually steward the previous event’s donors as soon as possible to prime them for their next solicitation.
- Develop your event’s leadership structure 8-12 months out from the next event and develop “give/get” minimums for all leadership roles i.e. Co-Chair, Host Committee Member, etc.
- Prioritize your cultivation by targeting renewals before focusing on new prospects and lapsed donors. Identify which past event donors could potentially upgrade and solicit them for a higher amount.
The above is just a glimpse of our Ask a MentORR event discussion. We’d love for you to join our next conversation. If you or a junior member of your team is interested in attending OAI’s next Ask a MentORR event in DC or NY, please contact Derek Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.