Fundraising is all about relationships — but what do you do if your organization is so new, or so grant-focused, that you don’t have any relationships with individuals who might become donors?
In other words, today’s question is: How do you get individual donors for the first time?
Fortunately, the answer for how to get first-time individual donors is simple!
Start with your Board and Staff
Start with your board and staff members. Why? Because they (and you) already have relationships with individuals, including individuals who might be interested in making a gift to help your nonprofit achieve its mission.
But don’t worry — you don’t have to make a list of everyone your staff and board members know. Instead, do a variation of a fundraising exercise I do at board retreats:
- Draw a circle and write your name in the center (have each board and staff member do the same).
- Draw several spokes (maybe six or eight) from the center of that circle. At the end of each spoke write the name of a group of people you know, such as “friends,” “family,” “neighbors,” and “colleagues.”
Now, identify one person from each circle who share these two key characteristics:
- Capacity. They don’t have to be rich! However, they do need to have some disposable income to share.
- Inclination: An interest (or preferably a passion) for your mission, the cause you serve, or your organization.
This is how the vast majority of nonprofits raise their seed money — by leveraging the personal relationships of their key staff and board members.
Cultivating First-Time Donors
Now that you know the basics of generating that first prospect list, the next step is learning how cultivate these prospective donors and prepare them to be asked for gifts. We’ll cover that topic in an upcoming edition of “Ask the Fundraising Expert.”
In the meantime, if you want more details about identifying prospects — particularly major gift prospects — my new book, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops, will guide you step-by-step through the entire process in under 5 hours per week.
Let’s Talk About It!
Has your organization developed a unique way to connect with first-time donors?
Share your stories and ideas in the comments.
Do you have a question about fundraising that you’d like to “Ask the Fundraising Expert”? Ask in the comments below or contact me here.
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