Every time I receive a message with a link to a crowdfunding page – without accompanying text. Every time I receive a request for a donation addressed to ‘dear Sir’. And every time I receive a call for support from someone I never heard of before, writing on behalf of an initiative I don’t know at all…. Yes, each and every one of those times I feel an urge to write about this. The number 1 fundraising key to success – building relations with your donors before you even come close to asking for any kind of support.

Spam

In short, all messages that are not personalized are spam. It is possible, like with commercial spam or phishing attempts, that someone will respond to it and donate. Like, perhaps every 1 in a ten thousand. It is more likely that people will ignore your message as spam. And in a worst-case scenario people will get irritated by your impersonal approach. I mean, who can feel seen and appreciated if they are and feel female and are addressed by you as Sir? I know I don’t.

Sustainable fundraising?

You can easily understand that if you want to have sustainable fundraising success it is helpful if people are not irritated by you, if they are not ignoring your message and if they are not just donating one time as a result of spammy message. You don’t want to need to find new donors every time you need resources. Instead, you want to have a loyal, trusted base of supporters you can count on for a longer period of time. People who know your work. People who like your work because it is aligned with their own dreams and values. And people who trust you to do that work in the best possible way with integrity and transparency. People who trust you to use their money, grant or sponsorship as carefully as if they would be spending it themselves on the dream shared between you and them.

Know, Like, Trust

Helping donors get to know, like and trust you takes times. But it is not a game of waiting for time to pass. You need to be actively, consistently and intentionally working towards giving people a chance to get to know you. You need to work to give them reasons to like you. And you need to work harder to provide them a solid basis of evidence for trusting you.

Relations building!

To summarize the above – you need to build long term relations with your donors. It does not matter whether they are private individuals or grant-making donors or sponsors. In all cases you are dealing with people who manage the money and other resources their organization makes available to your nonprofit. Building solid relations takes time. I don’t know of any way around that. It takes time, and consistent and intentional action.

But I am in a hurry

Sending 5 messages in one day will not speed up the process of your potential donor getting to know, like and trust you. That is not systematic work toward building a solid relation. Almost all urgent calls for support work only if the addressee already knows, likes and trusts the organization sending the urgent call. So if you are in a hurry you need to find other ways of generating income. Trying to transfer your hurry to a donor, pressuring them into a fast donation while they are not yet comfortable with you in my experience never works. And such attempt to pressure someone into supporting your work you may cause you to even lose that person as a future donor altogether.

My three tips

  • Spend time to analyze your existing donors, finding out what is important to them and how you can serve them best. Spend time creating content that keeps your donors happy and satisfied.
  • Create a persona for your ideal donor, so that you have someone in mind when writing messages and posts. This can help you be more personal in your messaging and/or social media posting.
  • Use any chance you have to meet a (potential) donor to listen to them. What are their dreams that your work is helping achieve? What are values to them that you are upholding in your work? Gather information so that you can get better at serving information to them in the right way and at the right time to keep them happy and proud to be your donor.

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free Facebook group

You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.