Fundraising can be hard or fairly easy. It really depends on the way you prepare, the way you ask, and perhaps most important, the way you feel about the project. Here are ten tips for success:
(1) Begin with the right attitude. When you approach someone for a donation, understand and believe that you’re giving them a valuable opportunity to support you, a tangible way for them to promote the issues they believe in, and a means to participate in the wellbeing of their community. Keep this in mind and you’ll convey confidence rather than seeming apologetic or hesitant.
(2) Do research and create a database. Create a fundraising prospect list of individuals, corporations, unions, policy groups and foundations that might possibly donate to your cause. For major donors that require numerous contacts before they contribute, create a spreadsheet to keep track of every time you’ve communicated, their requirements, and deadlines. Know the basics about any individual you’re approaching, such as giving history, issue interests, profession and family.
(3) Make a personal connection. Nobody gives unless they are asked, so be ready to do a lot of asking. Use the telephone extensively; you will get very little money by just mailing out a request. Follow up by phone again and again, and for major donors, visit face-to-face. Establish a friendly rapport that will facilitate not only your initial ask, but the basis of a continued relationship. If you have a friend in common, your children attend the same school, or you’ve both been publicly supportive of the local YWCA, make the connection. This will put you at ease, make the chat more conversational, and help gain the donor’s trust.
(4) Make an ideological connection. For example, if this potential donor is a member of a local union and has fought for collective bargaining, talk about how you have been a tireless advocate for workers’ rights. Highlight shared values and make it clear why your cause will make a difference on their issues.
(5) Communicate viability. People like to back the winning horse, or at least one that has a shot at the roses. Give a snapshot of how and why your cause can win. Share your fundraising success, key endorsements, and statistics that show your battle is winnable.
(6) Use the “RAT” method. After you make a connection, transition to “I need your help” and communicate viability. When you make your ask, use the RAT method: have a Reason for the request (e.g., to pay for a specific mailing), ask for a specific Amount (ask high), and give a particular Time when you need to receive the money (soon).
(7) After making the ask, stop talking! Say “will you please give $500 to help us?” rather than “I’m hoping you will give…” or “will you consider giving…” Hoping the donor will give implies she doesn’t need to answer you right now. Offering her the option to “consider” giving is easy, who wouldn’t “consider” it? And then after you’ve made your ask, be quiet. Don’t try to fill the silence or lower your request to fill the void. Give the potential donor time to respond.
(8) Have options available. If you request $500 and the donor balks, provide other options. You can ask her to become a sustainer or give $100 a month for the next five months. You can provide additional incentives for the full gift by offering free tickets to your next event. You can ask the donor to give $200 and raise $300. Or you can simply lower your request. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, just keep it all donor-centric and know when to stop.
(9) If you hold a fundraising event, keep the overhead costs low. Better yet, create a host committee that pays for the overhead, so the cause keeps all donations.
(10) Say thank you and follow up. Express your appreciation and ensure that appropriate follow up—such as donation collection, mailing of a thank you note, and updates to your database—are conducted. The most likely contributors are the ones who gave to your cause previously. You’ll be resoliciting that donor before you know it!