Nearly a year after the pandemic hit, nonprofits across the country are getting used to fundraising in new ways. While some have found quick success, however, others are struggling to make up fundraising revenue that came from in-person events they can no longer hold.
In this guest post, Track15, a nonprofit consultant firm, shares a case study that explores what best practices to implement during this pandemic and in a post-pandemic world.
The problem: What do you do when one in-person event accounts for all of your fundraising revenue?
One of our clients holds a very successful gala every fall. This gala was responsible for 80% of their budget. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of last year, the organization was bracing for the worst. How would they raise money when their “golden egg” was no longer an option?
The solution: Create relationships and garner trust.
To address our client’s crisis, we went back to the basics:
- Creating an annual giving campaign
- Establishing foundation relations
- Defining the major donor journey
- Diversify your fundraising
- Holding a virtual event
1. Creating an annual giving campaign plan
Our client rarely communicated with their donors or asked for money outside of the event. Throughout our years of nonprofit work, we have created a giving formula that features four thematic giving campaigns with a monetary ask.
Executing on four giving campaigns a year will not only help your organization raise money, but it will also act as a form of stewardship, allowing your donors to stay up to date on what is going on in your organization and what your needs are. In our client’s case, we noticed that their donors were not donating outside of the event because they were never asked. As the old saying goes, “Ask, and you shall receive.”
When our client started asking via engaging campaign emails and social media posts they began receiving more gifts than ever outside of their typical gala season.
2. Establishing foundation relations
Our client thought they weren’t receiving grant money because of a bad application or because they didn’t meet the general requirements. In reality, the issue lay in their lack of relationship-building.
We always recommend establishing relationships with grant makers before applying. Our experience with foundations has taught us that grants are more likely to be awarded when the nonprofit and foundation’s leadership have a relationship that includes regular communication, stewardship, and timely reporting.
3. Defining the major donor journey
We use data to tell the story of our clients’ major donors, and this data allows us to create a journey for each individual. In the case of our client, they did not know at what point in the donor journey their major contributors were stationed. We were able to garner more support from their donors by creating ultra-targeted communications based on where they were in their journey.
The lesson: Diversify your fundraising
Nothing can replace the energy and excitement of an in-person gathering, but events in general should be regarded only as a piece of your fundraising puzzle and not the whole picture.
A financial advisor would never suggest investing in one stock and one stock only; similarly your organization should not invest in one type of fundraising method. Diversification is key to financial success in your personal life and in the nonprofit world.
Fulfilling fundraising needs through mini digital campaigns, cultivating foundation relationships, and engaging major donors in specific and targeted ways help ensure that money is coming in through channels outside of events.
Holding a virtual event: When you need to do it and how to do it right
To our client’s credit, they quickly pivoted their in-person event to a virtual format. Showing your supporters that you can pivot quickly and do the hard work to keep your organization afloat is an admirable demonstration. We highly recommend that organizations hold on to some sort of fundraising event during these times, but we also recommend that it be executed in a way that is purposeful and effective.
Before planning a virtual event, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I accomplish the same fundraising goals through a digital campaign?
- Who do I want to attend and how can I target those guests to ensure the most attendance?
- Am I having an event just to have an event or am I going about this intentionally so that it not only benefits our constituents but also our donors?
By asking yourself these questions, you will be better equipped to host a gathering that is intentional and makes sense for your organization.
If you do go ahead with a virtual event, here are our recommendations:
- Overcommunicate with your invitees. Online gatherings can be tricky and confusing. Trust us, your donors will not mind if they are reminded more than once how to log on, participate, and donate!
- Pre-record content when available. To mitigate technical difficulties, we recommend working with a professional videographer to pre-record most, if not all, content and edit in a way so that it appears “live” to the viewer.
- Center your event within a larger giving campaign. Attendance will not be the same virtually as it is in person. For that reason, it’s important to give your potential attendees many opportunities to give if they cannot attend your virtual fundraiser.
This is a very overwhelming time for all nonprofits, and while we do not seek to diminish the struggles your organization may be facing, we do want to instill hope that implementing a holistic fundraising approach in this new environment is possible.
You can start using these best practices at any time and at any stage your nonprofit may be in. As you try out these best practices, recall the service that you are doing for your community and feel proud that you are making a difference in the lives of those you serve.
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.