Did you know that Giving USA 2010 reports that that 83% of contributions came from individuals last year?
Broken down, 75% came from individuals during their lifetime and 8% came via bequest. That means that only 17% of contributions to charities came from corporations and foundations, combined!
Unfortunately, many charities’ philanthropic income looks exactly the opposite, with 80% or more of their donation dollars coming from corporations and foundations and less than 20% of their donations from individuals.
So, how does your income compare?
We’re not talking about major gifts here. The key is to incorporate face-to-face asking as part of your ongoing annual fund efforts. And to do that, you’ll need an individual giving program.
Creating an Individual Giving Program in 4 Steps
If you read my last post, Boards: The Secret to Successful Fundraising, you learned why it’s imperative to have a fundraising board. The first step of starting an individual giving program is to get your board members to give, so start here.
Step 1: Identify Prospects
The first official step in the fundraising cycle is to identify prospective donors. The best place to find prospective donors is from your current donor pool. You can use your database to identify your best donors. If you’re just getting started, and don’t have any current donors to pull from, you’ll want to use your board and staff members as a resource. Ask them for names of friends and colleagues who might be interested in the mission of your organization.
Once you’ve identified some prospective donors – I recommend starting with a list of about twenty – it’s time to start cultivating them.
Step 2: Cultivate
Cultivation is the next step in the fundraising cycle. Fundraising is ultimately about relationship building, and cultivating is about building relationships, which makes this a very important step. Cultivation is the opportunity for prospects to learn more about your organization, and it’s also a time for you to get to know the individual you’re cultivating.
Some examples of cultivation activities might include taking them on a tour of your program and meeting with them at their home or office.
It’s important to educate the prospect about your programs, services and needs (gap in services) and it is equally important to learn about the individual.
You’ll want to ask questions such as:
- Why is our organization / mission important to you?
- What do you love most about our organization?
- Would you like to get involved (volunteer) at our organization and how?
Step 3: Solicit
Once you’ve gotten to know your prospect and educated them about your organization, it’s time to ask for a gift. Try not to worry too much, because you’re not asking for a “major” gift, but an annual one. So relax – you don’t need to have researched their entire background, become their best friend, learned about all of their assets, etc.
In order to be properly prepared to ask for an annual fund gift, all you need to know is that the person is interested in supporting your organization or cause, and that they have some financial capacity.
One of the keys to good solicitation is to ask for a specific amount for a specific thing.
For example, “I would like you to consider a gift in the range of $500 for snacks for our after school program.” Or, “I would like you to consider a gift in the range of $1,000 to support our ongoing operations – to make sure we are able to continue our afterschool program, which enrolls over 100 children each year.”
Most importantly, once you’ve make the ask, be quiet! As they say, the next one to talk, loses. Once you’ve made an ask, you need to give the person a few seconds (or minutes if necessary) to think about it and answer. If you talk first, you’ll probably sabotage your efforts by saying something like, “I know that’s a lot, how about less?”
If you get a “yes,” congratulations! Find out how you should follow up and collect the gift.
If you get a “no,” find out if it is a “hard” no – a not now, not ever kind of no, or a “soft” no. A soft no is the no you get when there is the opportunity to continue the conversation. Find out what’s wrong and what it would take to turn the “no” into a “yes.” Maybe you asked for the wrong project or the wrong amount.
Step 4: Steward
Stewardship, or the thank you process, is one of the most important in fundraising and often the most overlooked. Be sure to thank your donors multiple times and in various ways.
For example, a donor can receive a thank you call from a board member, a thank you letter from the executive director, a thank you email from the development director, or public acknowledgment in a newsletter. There are dozens of ways to thank your donors – be creative!
Proper stewardship can lead to lifetime donors with increasingly larger gifts, in addition to high donor retention rates. Be sure to thank and appreciate your current donors.
If you’re already soliciting individuals for your annual fund, great job! Try to cultivate more and ask for larger gifts. Consider multi-year requests.
If you’re not yet soliciting individuals for donations to your organizations, why not? What are your obstacles? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d be happy to share my advice.