In order to ensure fundraising success, you must build relationships with donors. But where do you begin?
Tapping your network
The first thing to do when looking for new donors is to look at the key players within your nonprofit’s network. These players can include your Board of Directors’ connections, friends of your current donors, guests of special events, alumni of your programs, and more.
These people are already connected to your organization and should be more willing to hear about what you do and the impact your nonprofit is making. Once you’ve touched base with this tier of connections, your circle of influence will continue to expand.
To begin the process of donor acquisition, complete a sphere of influence exercise with your Board of Directors. This exercise will give them the opportunity to document their network of folks so you can begin to build relationships with donors.
To complete this exercise, each person should be given a sheet of paper with a center circle and spokes off of it. Ask board members to write their name in the center circle.
Then ask them to come up with categories of people they know. Family and friends, people with whom they do business, and members of civic groups are examples that can be shared to get the ball rolling.
Once the board completes this exercise, they will have a list of names that can be vetted down to five people each that they will cultivate.
Starting the donor cultivation process
Please don’t just jump straight to the ask! You need to cultivate the prospect and build the relationship between them and your organization.
This is not a step that can be skipped. It lays the foundation for the ask, and it’s the gateway for building a relationship with your prospect, communicating with them, and ultimately moving them towards the ask.
There are many ways you can cultivate donors to build a strong and growing relationship with your prospect.
Throwing a house party
A great strategy is holding a non-ask event such as a house party. A house party provides a fun and social setting for your nonprofit to get to know prospects on a personal level.
This purely social event brings together current donors, potential new donors, and lapsed donors. The important thing is that you don’t ask for money at the event. Instead, use this as an opportunity to engage in conversations about your prospects’ interests. Along the way, sprinkle in tidbits about your nonprofit’s impact to win their interest.
Here’s what you need to do when planning and throwing your house party.
1. Figure out where your event will be held.
A house party, as indicated in the name, should be held in a home. House parties are more intimate in nature, so hosting it at someone’s house is always a good way to go.
Consider asking a board member or major donor with whom you have a close relationship if they’d be willing to volunteer their home for a few hours. The advantage of this is that board members and donors almost always cover the food and beverage cost for the party. Another option would be an AirBnB, a donor’s or board member’s place of business, or at your nonprofit office.
Whatever you decide, make sure the space is small enough for people to have meaningful conversations, yet big enough for you to present your nonprofit case in a memorable way. A good ambiance allows your guests to be engaged and comfortable. The goal is to make the guests comfortable so they can learn more about your nonprofit, your mission, and how they can get involved.
A house party can be easily hosted on Zoom, as well.
2. Make a planning timeline and set a budget.
Since a house party is meant to be small in nature, usually a gathering of about 10 to 20 people, you might only need one to three months to plan. A house party should be no longer than two hours if it takes place in person and no longer than 40 minutes if held using Zoom. They should be short, sweet, and to the point.
The budget for a house party should be small as well. Your menu might include light appetizers with wine and water. As mentioned above, usually the host of the house party will cover the cost of the food and beverages.
If that’s not the case, the budget guides the size of your event. Consider having your board members split the cost of the food and beverage menu if the host isn’t able to cover the costs.
If you’re hosting the house party via Zoom, consider partnering with a local restaurant or bakery to deliver meals, beverages, or desserts to guests’ homes so that they can enjoy them while on the Zoom call.
3. Decide who to invite.
The beauty of a house party is that the board member or donor invites their friends who want to learn more about the nonprofit. The guest list is solely up to the host. This helps expand your potential donor pool while making your guests feel more comfortable by having someone there that they know.
Even if your event is not hosted in a house, your board can take on the responsibility of the guest list. This will ensure that the guests are their peers.
4. Include a component of networking where board members and staff can interact with donors.
The house party should start with an informal welcome by the host where they explain their connection to the organization and why guests have been invited.
To create a time and space for networking, board members and staff should serve as greeters, welcoming the donors to the event. Mingling is a key portion of the event. Board members and staff should serve as ambassadors and share their involvement with the organization and what it means to them.
5. Have an established program for the event.
There should be time allotted where the Executive Director highlights the organization’s history, mission, and the underlying philosophy, programs, and services, financial numbers, and, most importantly, vision for the future. This should also include time for attendees to ask questions. Questions are a way to engage donors in the organization.
Your organization’s mission and impact should be woven throughout the event. The primary purpose is to drive the message that your nonprofit’s work is important and only possible with the help of donors like them. Just remember: You’re not asking for money.
Be sure that you have handouts that donors can take away with them, providing an overview of the organization.
6. Include a moving testimonial.
The testimonial should illustrate the impact and emotional power of the nonprofit on the client. Consider getting a high-quality video testimonial from a client or, if possible, having them attend the party to give an in-person testimonial.
This piece cannot be skipped. You must make an emotional connection with the donors.
7. End the event with a thank you and wrap up.
Be sure to thank the guests for attending, remind them to provide their contact information on the sign-in sheet, and let them know that staff will be contacting them in a week to get their feedback and advice. When you reach back out, you can ask them how they felt about the event, what was most impactful, and if they have any suggestions. This sets the stage for post-event follow up.
The follow up is where you work to nurture your relationship with the attendees. End the follow up by asking if they’d be interested in getting involved with your organization and in what capacity. Their answer will set the stage for communication going forward and is hopefully the beginning of a long-lasting donor relationship.
Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.