Hank Rosso tells us, Fund Raising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving. The real question is once that joy is recognized, how can that joy be channeled into a gift for your cause. We live in a very generous society. Some people can make major donations to support a cause, but many, with minimal means, will also provide support. During the holiday season we are inundated by requests from many worthwhile causes. Which one should someone chose and why?
What is Your WOW?
Over the last few months, we have all watched the fundraising appeals from a range of charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, St. Jude’s Hospital, and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. Each tells an effective and emotional story concerning their charity. The story embedded in each message is their WOW factor. It is what differentiates them from others. It appeals directly to those generous people who want to support a worthwhile cause. It has an emotional message, whether it asks that you support the needy or children with a life threading illness. These decisions are made from the heart.
As staff and board members of nonprofits, we need to look first to our organizational vision and mission statements. They should clearly state what we want to do and how we are going to do it. If they do not, they may need to be revisited. Use this as the starting point of finding your WOW
The next creative step is turning that vision and mission into a compelling story. There is no more effective tool in promotion than a story and that story may take several forms. It may be easy to tell an emotional story about helping a sick child or feeding a family in need, but it may be more of a challenge to tell an impactful story about joining an association or a chamber of commerce. Look to your successes. Tell about an association member who was able to expand its membership as a result of ideas learned in a training program. Tell about the chamber member who was able to grow their business through networking at a social. Every nonprofit has a WOW story, which are often taken for granted by staff and board members. Find yours and tell it.
Telling the Story
Of course, we have seen many promote their cause through the media. It may be effective, but very costly. Most of us do not have the budget to launch that type of campaign. But the most important part is to consistently tell your story to potential donors or members.
Never overlook the obvious. A local organization works with individuals with disabilities. They help them develop life skills and in some cases find meaningful employment. Last year they launched a fundraiser project to sell barbecue lunches. They cooked the pig, make up the plates and delivered them to local businesses in the area. The project was an enormous success. One day in a staff meeting, someone remarked that although people were enjoying the food and service, many didn’t even know who we were or the impact of our work. We were not using it as an opportunity to tell our story. As a result a trifold brochure was printed and delivered with each meal. The brochure highlighted the accomplishment of one of the clients as a result the organization’s efforts.
All nonprofits should develop a mailing list of active and potential donors or members. Every effort should be used to incorporate email addresses into that list so that it can be used as a means of communication. Regular newsletters and announcements of events can be provided as a means of telling the story and keeping people informed.
The Board of Directors
People should be recruited to serve on your board of directors based on their ability to provide one of the 3 Ws, Work, Wisdom and Wealth. The work W is important because many nonprofits need help to supplement a small staff in implementing activities. One of our nonprofits has a staff of only three people and counts on board members to volunteer with registration at events and to serve on committees. The wisdom W also is important. Lawyers, accountants, marketing specialist and others provide services that strengthen the board.
The wealth W is an important part of fund raising. In many nonprofits board members are required to make a financial contribution, but of equal importance is their access to others who either are able to contribute or can influence contributions. Many businesses such as banks budget contributions to nonprofits as part of their marketing activity. Access to decision makers at those firms is important. Personal invitations to their friends and associates to visit the nonprofit or particate in an event can also help with contributions.
Have a Plan
I was once told by an executive director that his organization was faith based and God would provide. The next time your church needs to expand or build a new sanctuary, will your pastor rely on increased prayer to fund the project? I assure you that he and his finance committee will have a plan. Faith will help but executing a plan will yield results.