7 Fundraising Basics to Reinvigorate Year-End Giving

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Whether you’re a newbie to fundraising, or a seasoned professional, it’s always a good idea to go back to the basics—fundraising basics, that is. Innovation is great, but there are some tried and true best practices that sometimes slip a busy mind. Especially with the year-end giving push coming up, let’s review some of the basics of fundraising.

Fundraising Basics 1. Relationships are key.

It’s easy to stick to cultivating your top tier donors, but don’t forget those in the middle, and those who make up your annual fund. But you say in protest, I don’t have the bandwidth to have personal relationships with the 8,000 people in my organization’s database.

Don’t kid yourself!

Of course, you can’t develop a one-on-one relationship with every single person in your database, but you can customize your communications with your donors according to their preferences. So let them feel heard. Ask them how they prefer to be contacted—and how often. Don’t start your appeal letter or email to them with “Dear Friend” or “Dear Supporter.” That’s the kiss of death. It’s easy to customize greetings with mail merge. Doesn’t “Dear Fred and Ethel” or “Mr. and Mrs. Mertz” sound warmer?

Fundraising Basics 2. Clean up your database

How many returned envelopes did the post office make you pay for with your last appeal? Save yourself time and money and send your database out for a National Change of Address clean-up. Many mailing houses also provide this service. Run an NCOA at least annually (and before your year-end appeal, please.)

Also, run spell check on your database, and make sure you’ve included all the necessary fields, including zip codes.

Fundraising Basics 3. Steward your donors

There’s a big difference between “donor relations” and stewardship. Good stewardship should include:

• Thanking the donor immediately as well as acknowledging their gift whether small or large.
• Build trust by doing what you said you’d do.
• Honoring donor intent in your thank-you letter
• Keeping anonymous donors truly anonymous

Fundraising Basics 4. Make it all about them—not you

Focus on your donor. Make him or her the s/hero of your story. If meeting with them personally, listen. Truly listen—don’t be thinking ahead about what your response should be. Reflective response is an art—“so what I hear you saying is …”

Tell a story about a life that’s been touched and transformed. Follow that up with, “Without your generous gift, Dory…” or something similar.

Another nice touch can be sending a photo of someone your organization has touched (but only if they signed a photo release!) along with a note thanking them for caring and for their generosity.

Fundraising basics 5. Segment your donors

Split up your donors into the following categories: major donors, middle donors, and everyday donors. You may want to craft your messaging differently for each category and use this to customize ask ranges. (More on that below.)

Fundraising basics 6. Make sure you’re asking for the right amount

If your donor gave you $25 last year, ask for $30 this year. If they gave you $1,000, ask for $1,250. Make sure your response device is customized and don’t make the entry-level gift very low.

Fundraising Basics 7. Run spell check, please

Nothing galls me more than receiving an otherwise well-crafted year-end appeal, whether by mail or email, and finding a glaring spelling error. For instance, using the word “wonton” instead of “wanton.” It makes your organization look bad (and it might make you feel dumb.)

Ready to roll up your sleeves for the year-end fundraising push? We hope these tips about fundraising basics have been useful. Let us know.

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