These days, it’s pretty common to be solicited for donations in front of stores, through email and regular mail. In fact, people are inundated with messages trying to encourage them to give. While many will give readily to causes they already believe in, they will probably be reluctant to donate to causes that are not currently on their list.
“Switching” causes, or adding a new one to their list means extra work for potential supporters when they do their due diligence to see if your cause is worthy, and it may also mean having to scrape out a bit more from their budget.
Anticipating your donors’ thought processes and integrating potential solutions to them into your fundraising strategy is vital when trying to encourage people to donate to your cause.
Use the following tips to help you encourage people to diversify in their charitable giving, and present even reluctant donors with a reason to say “yes” your cause:
1. Make your cause personal to make it relevant
When you ask people which charity they donate to, many will happily give you the name, and explain what it means to them. We all tend to help charities which have some personal relevance to our own lives. Ask yourself “how is our cause personally relevant to a potential supporter? Does your work affect them directly? Or their family or professional or ethnic group etc.?
It may not be obvious right away, but many causes that seemingly have nothing to do with our lives can make an impact if you look at the bigger picture. A great example of this is raising funds for an after school program. It doesn’t just help the kids and their families, but the whole community.
2. Tell a story about your charitable work
Besides explaining the connection of your cause to the greater good, it also helps to tell a real story about your work instead of simply asking for donations. A true story about how change came about because of your hard work will let your donors know more about your group and will lift their confidence in you. People like to know exactly where their donations are going and what they will achieve by giving money, so make it easy for them by being explicit about how you put their donations to work, and the good which it will do.
Leading charities use this tried and tested method in advertising, by using real case studies to describe what they do, and how funds are used within the group to make a positive difference. Take a page out of the successful marketing campaigns run nationally, and give the whole picture about your cause instead of just asking for a donation.
3. Make your cause enjoyable for volunteers and donors
There’s nothing like raising a feeling of community and good spirits to get volunteers engaged and willing to participate fully in fundraising. Don’t forget that your fundraising volunteers present part of your cause’s image. Having arguments during a fundraising event, or engaging volunteers who aren’t fully prepared or informed, or not being well organized in general is bad publicity and will turn off donors. Take care in how you present your cause by being well prepared, training your volunteers and putting on a smile.
4. Be clear about your finances, needs and results
Just as city councils demonstrate how their budgets are spent on policing, waste collection and other initiatives, so your group should be able to show exactly how money is used to make a real difference in the lives of those it supports.
Be forthcoming about your finances and let potential supporters know where they can find more information online, especially from sites like CharityNavigator.org and Guidestar.org. But if your non-profit is not included in these databases, be sure you make your finances available on your own site. If someone is seriously considering donating to you, they will do some research anyway – make it easy for them to get the right information.
Also, don’t be afraid to show your pragmatic side when it comes to financial matters. Your idealistic side can only reach so far before it gets to the point where words alone just won’t be enough. One way of achieving this is by demonstrating how a specific amount of money has turned around someone’s life for the better. It will also make it easier to encourage people to offer that specific amount, because they’ll be able to see a direct link between what they give, and what benefits they will achieve with their donation and also make it easier to budget their charity dollars.
5. Show professionalism
Another way of encouraging people to give to your cause is by representing your cause in a professional way. You can gain more credibility by appointing a well-spoken person to interact with the press and the public, have a well organized website, have all your printed materials, website and emails written in a concise and professional way, use letter head, possibly have ID badges or branded materials. Having said this, take care to avoid giving the impression that you’re spending too much money on marketing your cause.
Last but not least, they “thank you!”
If you’re known to be the charity that actually appreciates and thanks its supporters, it will not only encourage your current supporters to give again in the future, but it will also show potential supporters that they will be appreciated should they decide to give to your cause. (Sample fundraising letters.)
It may be tough to encourage people to start donating to your cause when they’re already giving to other causes, or if they don’t think your cause is important enough. But staying on track, accounting for every dollar and demonstrating over and over again how your cause makes a difference not only for certain people, but for your community as a whole (or another greater good) will over time build a solid base of supporters you can count on.