The year’s fundraising drives are laid out before you and your colleagues. The sting of the Great Recession still hurst most Americans, even if the stinger is gone. The prospects can look intimidating. Even though your charity or nonprofit does good work and has the track record to prove it, this moment might be a good moment to look at a hard fact of fundraising: what will entice more donations, micro or macro, NOW?
A big follow-up question might be this: We have the track record of great work, but are we telling people the stories of our work that will entice them to join us? Could we enrich our storytelling with engaging videos? Do we have an untapped constituency who might want to follow us via social-media platforms? Do our grant proposals contain the poetry of our successes and ambitions, as well as the prose of our upcoming plans?
But the answers to these vital questions are longer term. Answering them will take guidance, and the payoffs will mostly come in 2013. Your organization is looking for a big spring influx of support. How to open up that spigot? Steven Levitt, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, and , essayist and journalist – men most famous for the best-seller Freakonomics (2005) – found a few simple ways to do so. Here is an audio podcast of their ideas about fundraising from NPR’s Marketplace:
What Makes a Donor Donate? A Freakonomics podcast (opens in new window or application, depending on your computer’s setup).
Takeaways: first-and-foremost, offer a raffle! Fundraising goes way up if people have the fun opportunity to get something out of it. Prizes inspire participation. What Levitt and Dubner do not explore, but is worth noting, is the fact that as your organization solicits donations to a fundraising raffle, your organization enjoyes an exchange of publicity with businesses for almost no cost.
Next, strive with a larger donor to offer matching funds (a tried-and-true tactic of National Public Radio). And yet, as their research bears out, matching funds over one-to-one (a major donor matches each dollar given with her or his own dollar) does not notably improve the donation pool. In other words, no need to scare off a big donor with a request for a 2-1 or 3-1 matching grant because those odds do not increase the amount of money you will raise anyway.
Finally, make sure your organization has skin in the game. Let your audience know that they are not s0 much supporting you as helping you leverage the investments you’ve already made. Again, notice that all three of these tactics involve (developing) relationships with donors and recipients, not a you-give-we-work monologue.
Does your charity’s experience match the claims of these authors? Have you found a different way to inspire donations? We’d love to hear from you!