This post is part of my year-fundraising series. This fall, you can follow along here to receive training and tools that will help you launch a year-end fundraising campaign by October 1. The lessons I'm offering are best for small nonprofits (five or fewer employees). Ready for an amazing and successful Giving Season? Rock 'n' roll.
I made the mistake of thinking I could keep working on my year-end fundraising series while on family vacation. I should have known better. I won’t make that mistake again.
We did enjoy an especially long and wonderful family vacation, so thank-you for giving me time off!
I hope you got some special R&R with the people you love over the last few weeks of summer.
We are still on track for your year-end fundraising campaign by October 1.
To help you along, here is a fresh version of the year-end fundraising checklist and timeline.
This lesson/post is the backbone of your year-end fundraising campaign.
I believe and follow this “iron law” of small nonprofit growth:
As our partners go, so goes our fundraising.
In the last lesson/post, I suggested putting supporters into three (familiar) groups: acquaintances, friends, and partners.
Briefly, here’s how I decide who goes in each group:
Strangers are not supporters, but some of them could be. They don’t know us and we don’t know them (yet). This group has about 7 billion members!
Acquaintances make some small connection with us, but that connection is rather impersonal and the value is quite small. Facebook friends or volunteers who come with a church or school group are examples of acquaintances.
Friends make the personal choice to give something of personal value. They come to fundraising events, give money here or there, or volunteer once in awhile. They know you and you know them.
Partners give almost as often as we ask and they often ask us how they can give more. They are regular donors and volunteers who are passionate, personal, and purposeful. They think of our mission as their own mission. They think of our organization as a fellowship of which they are proud members. They are eager to invite the people they know to support us. Partners are in it with us.
Why put our supporters in these groups? Simply this: Our small nonprofits have tight limits on energy, money, and time. We can’t afford to waste those precious resources, so we need to invest them where they will get the best results.
If you believe the 80/20 rule (and I do), partners (20 percent or fewer of our supporters) contribute or influence 80 percent of the energy, money, and time flowing into our small nonprofits. Partners give us the best return on our investment of energy, money, and time--not just now, but in the future as well.
That’s why I invest 80 percent of my small nonprofit’s energy, money, and time in partnerships. Partnerships almost always assure me of success; strangers, acquaintances, and even friends are a crapshoot.
This doesn’t mean I ignore strangers, acquaintances, and friends; it just means I limit my investment of energy, money, and time. In a future lesson, I’m going to show you how to make a real plan for making these groups part of your year-end fundraising campaign. The main thing to grasp now is that these groups do as they see partners doing. When partners give big, strangers, acquaintances, and friends are likely to give more. When partners don’t give, no reason exists to believe any other group will give at all. As partners go, so go the rest of our supporters.
We need to make partners the engine and focus of our year-end fundraising campaigns. No group of supporters will give us more “bang for our buck.”
I use a three-step process to work with partners on year-end fundraising:
Step One: I make a list of my partners--the people who are passionate, personal, and purposeful about my small nonprofit. If you’ve been following along, you did this in a previous lesson/post.
Step Two: Since partners are personal, they need and want a relationship with us. An email or form letter is no way to make the most of a partnership; we have to make it personal. This takes time (which is in short supply, especially around the end of the year). In Step Two, I ask how many personal partner relationships my small nonprofit can handle during the campaign.
Step Three: I make personal connections with each and every partner before the campaign to find out how much they are likely to give and when. This becomes the backbone of the campaign and tells me what I can expect to raise.
For a year-end fundraising campaign at a small nonprofit, this three-step process should be happening now through October.
Let’s go through each step in some detail. Along with the instructions below, I’m going to share some free tools I made to help you get through the process better and faster.
Step One: Make your list of partners.
If you’ve been following my year-end fundraising program, you have a list of partners in an Excel spreadsheet or on a legal pad. Maybe you have 25, 50, 100, or even 200 names.
If you haven’t made a list of partners yet, review this lesson and take some time to make your list.
Once you have this list, transfer the names to the Partner Power Ranking Tool. To access the tool, click on this link, then make a copy of the template and save it into your own Google Sheets. Complete instructions on how to do this are in the first tab labeled “Instructions.”
In the “Worksheet” tab, enter the names of your partners in Column B (“Your Partner”). I suggest using “Last Name, First Name” format in this column. The order does not matter at this point. Just put in as many partner names as you can (up to 100). Note: You should include organizational partners as well as people: Companies, foundations, government agencies, schools, etc. The idea here is to list the organizations and people who are the most enthusiastic and supportive of you.
Step Two: Figure out how many personal partner relationships your small nonprofit can handle.
Remember: Partners need and want personal. They give the most and they are willing to give even more when they feel like they have a real relationship with us. A year-end fundraising campaign’s success depends on the way we interact with our partners before and during the campaign.
Someone from your small nonprofit has to get together in person with each and every partner: Eye-to-eye, face-to-face, voice-to-voice. The success of a year-end fundraising campaign turns on this.
This is where you may push back.
You may say: “I don’t have that kind of time on my hands. I work for a small nonprofit, remember? How am I supposed to schedule meetings with a hundred partners before the end of October?”
Answer: Enlist your board and staff leaders to help. Prioritize your partner list so you have a manageable group to contact this fall.
You may push back again: “Are you kidding me? The people on my board and staff would rather go to their own funeral than have to ask someone for money!”
Answer: You don’t need board and staff leaders to ask for money; only feedback and suggestions. As long as you have one person (you?) at your small nonprofit who is willing to ask for money, everyone else can focus on forming and keeping good relationships. Believe me: This makes your asking ten times more effective.
The idea in Step Two is to figure out three things:
How many partners can your small nonprofit personally engage for year-end fundraising?
Which partners are most important to year-end fundraising success (if you can’t reach out to all of them on a personal level?
Which board members and staff leaders at your small nonprofit are going to serve as “relationship managers” for your year-end campaign and which partners they will meet?
The number of partners you can personally engage in your year-end fundraising campaign depends on the number of “relationship managers” you have at your small nonprofit. A relationship manager is a board member or staff leader who enjoys getting to know people and having relationships