A fundraising plan contains the fundraising activities your organization will implement over a set period of time. These activities will have specific, measurable goals. The end result will be a sustainable fundraising program that provides the necessary funds to fulfill the nonprofit organization’s mission. The fundraising plan is a powerful tool for any nonprofit. Before proceeding to Part 4 in our Writing a Fundraising Plan series, please review Part 1: Planning to Plan , Part 2: Reaching Out Into the Community, and Part 3: Engaging Your Board in Fundraising.
Part 4 of our series on Writing a Fundraising Plan examines the critical aspect individual donors have on your fundraising program.
According to Giving USA’s annual report on philanthropy, 79-83% of all charitable gifts in the United States come from individuals, living and deceased. The percentage has stayed within that range for at least a decade. Organizations that focus their fundraising efforts on writing grants and implementing special events would be better served by developing strategies to improve communications with their individual donors.
First Time Donors
One of the most critical issues facing nonprofits is donor retention. Statistically an organization that secures 100 new donors in 2015 will only retain 40 of them in 2016. The donors will go away; they will make their charitable gift to another organization. One of the reason’s donors cite for not giving to an organization a second time is “the organization does not care about me.” Donors want to be appreciated.
Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Applied Research and author of Donor Centered Fundraising, has conducted a number of research projects regarding donors’ attitudes. Her work concluded that donors are more likely to give a second time if: 1) their gift was received and the organization was pleased to receive it; 2) their gift was set to work as intended; and 3) the program or project the gift was for had the intended impact.
Additional research has shown that the first item can best be served by picking up the phone and calling the donor. Let the donor know you received the gift and that you are thrilled; and thank them. You do not even have to speak to the donor. You can leave a voice mail. This step is huge and can be a deal breaker. Your plan might be to have staff call all gifts under $250 and have board members call donors who make gifts over $250. These phone calls will not only make the donor happy, but it is also a positive experience for staff and board members.
The second item donors want can be managed with the written thank you sent within 72 hours of the organization receiving the gift. The third item requires the organization to send a letter three to six months after receiving the gift letting the donor know how successful the organization was in fulfilling the goal of the fundraising activity. Let the donor know if you helped 50 children or 100. If you fell short of the goal, let them know why.
If your organization does not retain these first time donors, you will be spending a majority of your fundraising efforts seeking new donors rather than moving your current donors up the giving ladder to major and planned gifts.
Mid-level donors may be segmented into one to three groups depending upon your definition of a major gift. For example if you classify a major gift as $5000, then mid-level donors are probably donors who give $250 to $4,999 annually.
For donors under $250, your plan will be to create strategies to move them into a mid-level group. You might want to give this group a name, such as Friends, and not give them benefits that you would give to higher giving groups.
In my example, I will have two mid-level groups: $250 to $1,000 and $1,001 to $4,999. Each of these groups will be a donor giving circle or club. The giving circle might have an event once or twice a year with a speaker or have a social with the executive director to learn what is happening at the nonprofit. It is important to have a plan to recognize these donors at a donor appreciation event, in the newsletter or on a donor wall. The benefits are ones that encourage communication and learning; and are social in nature. The goal is to create a sense of comradery and belonging.
Mid-level donors have the potential to be major or planned giving donors. Taking the time now can reap wonderful results for your organization later. Information just released by the Chronicle of Philanthropy noted: Nearly 80% of planned-giving donors also gave 15 or more gifts during their lifetimes to the nonprofits named in their wills.
Major Gift Donors
To plan for major gifts, you first must determine what a major gift is for your organization. Analyzing your database is the best place to start. You want to work from the top down. Determine what a major gift is, and then what would you consider mid-level donors. Your lowest giving level is donors who fall under the mid-level groups.
Once you have determined what a major gift is, for example $5,000 or more, then identify who in your database is already at that level. Meet with a few of these donors to identify what they would like in a major gifts giving circle or meet with one of them who is an influencer and will help draw others into the giving circle. Define the giving circle benefits and invite those who are at that level to a VIP event. Encourage them to bring a friend who might want to give at the major gifts level.
You will also want to analyze your database for individuals who are in your database and can be encouraged to move up to that level. In addition, a small group of the major gifts donors could meet and brainstorm names of individuals in the community who could be invited to an event to learn about the organization and be solicited for a major gift. The goal is to start within the organization and move out through personal circles. This will enable you to grow the major gifts giving circle organically.
Like the mid-level giving circles, you need to plan social and educational opportunities that create a sense of belonging and purpose.
The next part of the fundraising plan will tackle a few thorny issues such as lapsed donors.