I’ve just discovered the 2016 report “Fundraising Bright Spots: Strategies and Inspiration from Social Change Organizations Raising Money From Individual Donors,” commissioned by the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in partnership with CompassPoint. The study reveals four characteristics shared by top fundraisers. You can read and download the full report here (DO IT), but here are the headlines. Is your nonprofit a Bright Star too?
Core Belief #1: Fundraising is Core to Your Organization’s Identity
For Bright Star nonprofits, fundraising is another form of community-organizing toward the ultimate realization of an expansive vision. These groups are building life-long relationships with strangers and current supporters. They don’t do it by sugar-coating the facts or employing abstractions about their Causes. Instead, they build data (like this); they take supporters out into the field; they give supporters a real-world understanding of the scope of the community’s need and deputize supporters to spread that understanding to others (maybe like this). When your supporters know this much about your Cause and your Work, they naturally want to give financially to extend the impact of that work.
Core Belief #2: Fundraising Is Distributed Broadly Across Staff, Board, and Volunteers
Too many nonprofit fundraisers report they are solo flyers within their nonprofits, left alone to build the relationships it takes to sustain everyone else’s work. But the most successful nonprofits cited in the study use their development directors in a completely different manner (when they have development directors at all). At the most successful nonprofits, development directors are the air-traffic controllers of relationship-building, supporting staff, board, and volunteers with training, data, direction, and inspiration. Everyone engages donors in the work of the organization. Everyone plays a role in building support for the mission. This approach offers so many advantages, including giving young staffers a glidepath for becoming uplifting leaders and storytellers.
Core Belief #3: Fundraising Builds Strong Trusting Relationships Among Staff, Board, and Volunteers
Bright Star nonprofits seek to improve the lives of everyone they touch. The clients, the patrons, the members, the board, the volunteers, the staff are all elevated by their involvement with the nonprofit. Supporters give financially because they know there is real need, and they trust the organization to address the need (maybe because of communications like this). These relationships begin with the trust and kinship felt by staffers for one another. If there’s dysfunction within the ranks of an organization, donors will eventually sense it – and be isolated by it. Foster love and respect for others – even if your work involves pain or complexity. That trust and accountability encourages involvement – including financial support.
Core Belief #4: Fundraising Seeks Continuous Improvement
Successful fundraisers take their system and apply it with discipline and a constant eye toward refinement. They experiment, and they measure. They ask questions, and they apply the answers they hear. They stay eager to apply new lessons and explore new questions. This approach extends to their communications with donors. They do not fear telling donors the truth. They help donors understand the true nature of the work – its ups and downs, its eternal verities and wildly unpredictable variances. Messaging like this requires ongoing training about research, trends in community need and in organizational growth. Internally, this kind of training keeps the silos at bay; externally, it builds trust and awareness.
How many of these beliefs are core to your organization? If you’re not sure how to start building your nonprofit’s fundraising effectiveness, let me help you!