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Ask the Fundraiser: Engaging Your Constituents

By July 11, 2023October 19th, 2023No Comments

Your organization may be doing just fine without holding fundraising campaigns to raise additional money. Your organization may receive enough revenue from program service fees (memberships, use fees, camp revenue, etc.) and government grants. If that’s the situation and you have all the money needed to launch your upcoming projects, you can stop reading here. However, if there isn’t enough to refurbish the building, hire extra staff, or anything else on your wish list, your organization may want to consider fundraising.

Just as a political campaign works to keep their constituents (or potential constituents) engaged in their campaign, nonprofits also need to work to engage their constituents. Not with dozens of unread emails arriving in their “Inbox,” but by getting people committed to your mission. It requires work, establishing relationships, and keeping those constituents engaged.

The first step is finding out who your most dedicated volunteers may be. If necessary, send out a survey to your donors asking their thoughts on how they think they can best help the organization. You may be surprised by the answers.

One of the easiest ways to promote engagement is to ask people to volunteer – not to chair a committee or put-up posters. That is too much of a commitment and is just boring; even the volunteer knows it won’t have a lot of impact. Ask them to use social media, posting something about your organization and why they think it’s a good cause (ensure there’s a link for the volunteer’s family and friends to donate!). Ask them to do a live stream on Facebook or other social media platforms, explaining why your organization is important and close to their heart.

Ask volunteers who “want more to do” (yes, they’re out there – you just need to ask them!) how they best think they can help. Is it serving on a new gala committee? Or is it serving on a summer picnic committee?

A summer picnic doesn’t need to be a fundraiser. It can be a celebration of all the organization has accomplished to date. It can include constituents and volunteers, which helps engage volunteers with your organization’s mission on a personal basis. Depending on the number of volunteers you have, it could be a volunteer-only event, recognizing their contributions to your organization. Present certificates of service – or plaques for long-time volunteers (5 years, 10 years, etc.). Secure a donation of ten $10 gift cards to Walmart, Target, Amazon, or a popular retailer and hold a door prize drawing for them for anyone present. Volunteers will feel appreciated, and you can never say “thank you” enough.

Research attendees

Whenever you hold an event (whether fundraising or other) and have a list of attendees, you need to dive into that list. Who is this person? What are their motivations for being involved at this time? Have they donated to your organization in the past? If so, how much and when?

If the attendee is a current donor look at their donation patterns. Do they make a memorial donation every year? (If you don’t already have a page for Memorial donations set one up immediately! And ensure the donor and the family of person being honored or remembered is notified of the gift – not the amount – just the gift.) Has their donation amount increased every year? Have they designated a donation for a specific program (a restricted gift)?

Is the attendee new to your organization? Assign a Board member (best), super engaged volunteer (2nd best), or staff member to meet them, chat with them, and obtain any information about their interest in the cause. Make sure the person assigned documents what was said and what they surmised at the event. For example: I spent 20 minutes talking with Mrs. Jones. She’s a widow and lost her husband last year during COVID. Her children don’t live locally. She may be interested in a “naming” opportunity.

Follow up with new attendees via text. While it’s easy to delete an email message, statistics show that 89% of text messages are opened.

If they’re not familiar with the facility invite them on a personal tour. If they are familiar with the facility the Executive Director or CEO should ask for a meeting to “pick your brain” obtaining their thoughts about where the organization is and where it could go. (If you don’t have “a physical facility” contact us for information on how to overcome that.)

Hold “community meetings”. Invite people that you think have connections and/or the wherewithal to donate to your organization. In the explanation of the community meeting say, “we’re trying to obtain information from our supporters concerning the future of the organization.” The attendees may be able to make donations – starting small and getting larger or they might be passionate about the mission. One is potential donors; the other is potential volunteers.

Randi Corey, Manager of Special Events and Partnership Development at 501(c) Services, has served as Executive Director of multiple nonprofit organizations. She has coordinated nearly 100 fundraising events raising a total of almost $29 million. She’s also supervised more than 750 staff and/or volunteer-coordinated events raising an additional $41 million. Randi has experience coordinating walks, galas, golf tournaments, sports challenges, stair climbs, celebrity waiters, 5K runs, and more.

(Image by Wavebreakmedia-micro from Freepik.)

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