Tips on Donor Giving

10 Tips for Nonprofit Fundraising

With over 80 percent of the total private giving in America (totaling over $250 Billion annually) coming from individuals, every nonprofit organization should strive to have a percentage of their income annually derived from individuals. This funding source is one of the most “controllable” income streams ( in a world that sometimes feels out of control) and has a tendency of increasing in a predictable manner each year. Essentially, the ‘eye on the prize’ for many nonprofits is to have a diversified funding stream with a clear donor development program. Additionally, all nonprofits should be conscious of prospecting for new donors, upgrading donors, and asking donors to put the nonprofit in their wills.

To this end, the following are some TIPS in raising money from individual donors:


1. Personalize your donor relationships. People give to other people and not just to causes and institutions. Make sure you know what your donors like about your organization, and what programs and people turn them on. Most donors will make a decision based on the relationship they have with either you or one of your leaders. Never forget that.


2. Donors fall into three groups and the strategies are different for each group:

The first is the small donor – this is the person who will give under $100 per year. The most cost effective approach for this type of donor is generally through direct mail. Try at least three mailings per year.

The second is the mid-level donor (giving $100+ to maybe $500 per year depending upon the size of the organization). Why not try a “parlor” meetings for this group? This type of meeting is typically put on by one of your volunteers or board members who invites 10 people to their home for a bar-b- que or reception and to discuss the impact of the organization. At the end of the meeting, the host asks for a contribution. If 10 people give $250, your organization has grossed $2,500 at that event.

The third donor is the major donor ($500+). These donors are always courted individually over lunch, or at their homes.


3. Always try to build your donor and prospect list. Every time you speak at a church, rotary club, etc., try to collect addresses and email addresses of the attendees, then put these on your organization’s mailing list. The information should then go into a database where you keep accurate and disciplined records of every contract, donation, etc. Once per month, email these contacts updates of your progress and impact. Additionally, ask each of your board members to supply 10 names and addresses of people they know who are likely to donate to your cause, then do a direct mailing to these people with a follow up call coming from the board member. Other ways to add to the list: Ask your staff members, your friends, and your relatives to provide you with names and addresses of prospects.


4. Urgency Without Crisis. When asking people for money, either in person or in writing, ALWAYS illustrate a sense of urgency in terms of why you need the money NOW. Unless you are truly in crisis-mode, do not imply that without their donation your organization is going to fold – BUT make it clear that without their money one of your important programs may have to be dismantled (or something to that effect).


5. The best donors in America are inside religious institutions. Try to speak to the womens’ groups at the largest churches in your community, and ask everyone to provide their name, address, and email address to receive further information, or to be put on your newsletter list. Quickly follow-up with a request for support.


6. Speaking of churches, every church has a senior group. Many of these people are retired and come with time on their hands and generations of experience in marketing, finance, public relations, accounting, etc. Get them involved. They are an excellent group to jumpstart a planned giving program


7. Can’t say “THANKS” ENOUGH. After receiving a gift, be sure to thank the donor in some way (written note, phone call, in person) within 48 hours. Thank them again, publicly, in your newsletter. I have found a unique and thoughtful way of showing thanks is through a thank-you letter to the individual’s spouse, mate, mother or father.


8. When writing a direct mail letter, always put a personal, handwritten note, on the FRONT OF THE LETTER. This will get their attention immediately. Also, if you have less than 500 individuals on your mailing list, ask some of your volunteers and board members to get together (not for a pizza party because the envelopes will look terrible) and have the group hand address the envelopes.


9. When asking for money, always try to ask for a specific sum, or a specific time period and for a specific program or project. People like to know where there money is going.


10. It is critical that you feel good about your organization when you ask people to support it with donations. When you make the ask, do it in a way that shows them you are asking for an INVESTMENT that pays tremendous dividends in better health care, food for the hungry, cultural enrichment, or whatever you are involved with. It is important that you believe in your product and you are proud to ask people to support something that you intimately believe in.


These tips came from one of the following sources:

RichTips Non-Profit Management Newsletter

Training Resources for the Environmental Community (TREC)

and, The Lands Council