By Wayne Elsey
Fundraising is the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. But, planning and executing effective fundraisers is not an easy task to juggle while pursuing your mission. However, without crafting and enacting successful fundraisers, nonprofit organizations would not be able to continue their charitable work.
While many fundraisers focus on the amount of funds you earn, what has a greater impact on the progress of your organization is the amount of support you receive.
Rather than focusing on just revenue, your nonprofit organization should be focusing on building relationships with your donors and expanding your engagement with your community.
Bring your nonprofit’s fundraising success to new heights by focusing on these 5 ways to expand community engagement:
- Donor Communication
- Social Media Fundraising
- Community Events
- Community Drives
- Corporate Philanthropy
Let’s delve into the top strategies to expand your community engagement and your organization’s fundraising strategy!
1. Donor Communication
Think of pursuing your mission and engaging your community as twin sides of the same core goal. You have to put time into both tasks to succeed as a nonprofit organization, and hosting fundraising campaigns is where they meet.
Nonprofits need to fundraise effectively to garner support from their community of donors. For the best results, and to ultimately make more of an impact, you must keep your communication donor-centric.
Donor-centric communication shows your donors that you care about them and their community. Focus on your donors’ interests, acknowledge them in your appeals, and recognize donor differences to enhance your donor communication.
Do not fall into the trap of writing generic donation appeals and other communications— it’s boring and irrelevant. Become fluent in the language of your donors and talk with them, not at them.
For example, if your organization is located within a school district, try to organize fundraisers to be held throughout the school year. Reach out to parents, teachers, and the district’s board to promote all of the benefits incorporating fundraisers would provide their children, their families, and their communities.
If your nonprofit, for example, holds a shoe drive fundraiser, focus your communication efforts on the points that truly matter to your donors. Emphasize the impact donors will make if they participate in the fundraiser. Emphasize that by engaging with your nonprofit, donors can teach students the benefits of philanthropy and unite their community by aiding others.
Before sending your next donor message, make sure that it follows these donor-centric tips:
- Stay focused on your donors and their needs. Your organization’s communication with your donors should remain focused on your donors, their aspirations, and how your organization aligns with their interests.
- Lose the jargon to gain donors. While your organization’s office may be up-to-date on all the latest nonprofit jargon, many of your donors are not. Do not patronize, confuse, or bombard them with unfamiliar language. Opt for decisive and donor-centric communication instead.
- Glow with gratitude. Your thank you letters should demonstrate your appreciation for the donor’s gift. Your appeal should be teeming with compliments, praise, and recognition of your donor’s efforts.
- Illuminate their impact. Show your donor more than your gratitude, show them how their gift made (or is going to make) a valuable impact. Specify the exact ways their contributions will be used—can $25 feed a family of four for one week? Include photos, personalized messages, or videos from those impacted by your donor’s contribution. Personal appeals to your donor will create stronger bonds with your organization.
- Recognize each donor specifically. Storing information in your database and referring to this relevant information about your donors is vital to the success of donor-centric communication. The way you address each donor should differ depending on whether this is a first-time donation, an increased donation, or a recurring donation.
- Build relationships and trust with your donors. Ensure that your appeal is directed toward the correct segment of your donor base. Your message to a committed donor of five years should not sound the same as your message to a new donor. Personalizing messages to your donors will foster trust and build relationships.
With these facets of donor-centric communication incorporated, the next message your organization sends to your donors should illustrate how much your nonprofit cares about the individual donor and your community of donors.
Once you’ve got your messaging down-pat, it’s time to think about how you’re going to distribute those messages. By using the powerful features of social media fundraising, your nonprofit can create stronger ties between your organization, your donors, and your community.
2. Social Media Fundraising
As the popularity of online fundraising among donors continues to rise, ensure that you are maximizing your community engagement by investing in your online outlets for both communication and fundraising.
The useful aspects of social media have allowed for two very prominent nonprofit fundraising techniques to stem from this central concept:
What if there were a way to grow your organization’s social media presence and use your online prominence to secure more donations? With crowdfunding, there is.
Crowdfunding not only provides the opportunity to increase your fundraising revenue but also enables your organization to strengthen and widen the scope of its community support. By fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork with crowdfunding, your organization can capitalize on community support and the power of social media to spread awareness. Crowdfunding enables your organization to:
- Collect small donations from a broader audience by convincing them to fund your cause
- Make your fundraising appeal outside of your usual donor base
- Grow your donor community
- Share your mission, fundraiser, and impact
- Promote your campaign on all social media avenues
Check out this list of some of the ultimate crowdfunding websites. Choose a platform that will help expand your community engagement and your crowdfunding campaign’s success.
Crowdfunding, however, isn’t the only social media fundraising tool. With peer-to-peer fundraising, social media gives supporters the chance to fundraise on your behalf.
With crowdfunding, your nonprofit organizes the campaign and solicits donations. With peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising, your donors act on your behalf. Your supporters are given the opportunity to make more of a direct impact and take on more responsibility by creating their own fundraising pages for your organization.
When donors engage with your organization through peer-to-peer fundraising, they:
- Share their fundraising content with all of their social circles across their various social platforms
- Raise money in support of your organization through online promotions
- Convince their friends to join your organization’s fight and invite them to your events
- Expand your organization’s reach to new prospective donors
- Persuade their peers with personalized appeals
The absolute magic of P2P fundraising comes from the relationships that your organization will build. Carefully cultivating donor relationships can be a tricky process, but with peer-to-peer fundraising, your organization reaps the reward of previously developed relationships between existing and potential donors.
Through networking with your donors, your organization receives an immediate donor referral. It’s a boost of trust and authenticity to prospective donors to hear about the amazing work that your organization does from someone that they already know and trust. Remember to follow the donor relationship advice in section 1 to help you keep these new donors.
With social media fundraising, your organization can more easily optimize your web presence for mobile donors while gaining new relationships. With these relationships primed, you can continue to grow them by inviting donors to community events.
3. Community Events
Communities are built on trust. Without the stability of trust and transparency, your organization’s donor base would dwindle, and your fundraiser’s effectiveness will suffer. After all, donors need to trust that you’ll responsibly steward their gifts. One way to expand your nonprofit’s community engagement, your community trust, and, thereby, your fundraising efforts is to host community-oriented events.
Whether you hold an open house or coordinate a silent auction, you need to do something special for your donors as a way to thank and encourage them. There are so many fundraising ideas out there that can engage, enliven, and educate your donors about your organization’s cause.
Your community events do not need to be elaborate productions— in most cases, that will work against your goals. Forgo the glamorous for the authentic.
- Keep it informal and informative. Let your donors drop by after work, with their children, or in any way they can. Do not exclude donors with any formal dress code. The gathering should be a chance for your organization to meet and impress donors, not for donors to impress one another.
- Keep it personal. Embrace the proximity of your donors. You have an opportunity to speak with each donor personally. Take advantage of this opportunity instead of speaking on stage.
- Keep it focused on the community. The point of these community events is to bring people together, inspire community spirit, and achieve donor unity. If your donors can work together to solve a problem in front of them— like seeing which team can surpass the others in collecting and donating running shoes—they can work together with your organization to help the people/community you serve.
- Keep it fun! Make sure your donors are having a good time. Do not allow donors to leave your community event without a smile. It will not bode well for their loyalty to your organization or the community’s trust in your organization.
To maximize your organization’s community events, your fundraisers must increase community engagement. One of the most potent events you can do to harness community spirit is a community drive.
4. Community Drives
Hosting community drives highlight the ties between your organization and the community, ultimately strengthening your bond. Community drives not only support your organization, but they support your community.
Hosting community drives is an innovative and inexpensive fundraising idea for your organization to grow your community connections. Because these types of fundraising events are low-cost, your organization can build your community without blowing your budget!
Try coordinating one of these drives into your next community fundraiser
- Used book sale
- Used cell phones
- Running shoe drive fundraisers
- Prom dress drive
- Recyclable drive
There are plenty of ways that your organization can inspire your community into action and demonstrate the power of teamwork. While it is certainly essential to unite your organization with your community, it is equally important for your organization to partner with your community’s corporations.
5. Corporate Philanthropy
The rising generation of donors and consumers are socially conscious and philanthropic. That means that for both nonprofits and corporations to secure these incoming prospective donors and consumers, they must work together. They must engage in corporate philanthropy.
Corporate philanthropy creates opportunities for both nonprofits and corporations to expand their community engagement through corporate giving programs.
Corporate giving programs allow:
- Nonprofits to secure more financial backing to achieve their missions
- Corporations to gain socially philanthropic equity among their consumer market
- Both to expand community engagement because employee donations drive the programs
With matching gifts and volunteer grants, the two main types of corporate giving programs, your nonprofit can maximize the number of donations it receives and encourage further community involvement.
Matching gifts are the buy-one, get-one coupon of the nonprofit world. The matching gifts process is a simple one:
- A donor makes a gift to your organization
- They check their eligibility in a matching gifts database
- If eligible, they submit their application for their matching gift request before their company’s deadline
- Your organization receives the donor’s initial gift plus a matching gift from the donor’s employer based on their matching gift ratio.
Without any extra work on your organization’s part, you have just increased your organization’s fundraising efforts and your donor’s impact two-fold!
The more your organization expands its community engagement and encourages matching gifts, the more success you will have with your fundraising.
Volunteer grants are the premier way for corporations and nonprofits alike to encourage direct community engagement. When employees of eligible corporations volunteer their time to better their communities, companies donate financial compensation to match their employee’s efforts.
With volunteer grants, donors in your community can now directly impact your organization through both hard work and financial benefits.
Your nonprofit is all about one thing: achieving your mission. But your nonprofit’s fundraiser is all about another thing: your community.
You cannot achieve your mission without the support of your donors and your community. Try incorporating these 5 ways to expand your organization’s community engagement and the impact your supporters have on your nonprofit’s fundraisers.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Sneakers4Funds, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.