Who would ever think that a book written back in 1932 about non-profit fundraising would still hold true today? Lyman Pierce was an early pioneer in revolutionizing non-profit fundraising most notably for various YMCA organizations around the country. From his book “How to raise money” (Harper & Brothers, 1932) he is quoted as saying “These major factors, which determine to a considerable extent in advance the potentialities of a campaign, are as follows.” Let’s discuss each one of these 11 tenets identified by Pierce.
We should start off by saying that he is not saying every fundraising effort you undertake has to hit up every one of these items in its fullest form. But rather he is imparting his knowledge and success elements to allow you to frame up your fundraising efforts and compare your success with his. So let’s break these down and explore in more detail.
An appealing case – Ask yourself one question; “What is compelling about our fundraising campaign?” Can you identify the 1-2 key elements that make your campaign unique? No, not the fact that you are changing the food or venue from what has been done before, but what makes your ‘ask’ stand out. What is your appealing case for the funds? Just saving animals isn’t enough. Take a page from the for-profit corporate world and use the SMART model that corporate employees use to build their annual goals, but aply it to your case for funding. Is your case Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic and Timely.
Competent agency management – In Pierce’s case he hired a PR agency because he was dealing in the millions and tens of millions range of fundraising. But you can be successful if you think like a PR agent would. They understand the goals of the campaign, they identify who to target with awareness blasts about it, and they have thought through and proactively created FAQs to answer questions before they have to be asked. If you don’t know what questions you’ll be asked about your fundraising, go back to the drawing board and think through how targeted and appealing your request really is and hone the message.
A reasonable objective – As we mentioned above related to making your case SMART, reasonable is a key component of what makes a fundraiser stand out. Nobody wants to give to a small organizations’ “general campaign to raise $300k to save more animals.” Nor do they jump at the opportunity to “make our community a no-kill community.” Neither of these objectves are reasonable to achieve at least in the eyes of the person donating their money. Give your potential funders something they can wrap their heads around and break larger projects into components so they are more reasonable to achieve.
A friendly, well-informed constituency – Trying to raise money from donors that do not understand your mission, cause and campaign is nearly impossible. If I were raising money to feed Pandas, that might get some funding. If we add a fact that Pandas eat 28 pounds of bamboo daily to meet their dietary needs, that may get your attention. If tell you that it costs $11.50/hour to feed 1 Panda bamboo ($276/day or ~$100k/year), now we are informing our constituency and solciting at the same time. You can sponsor a Panda for a day for $276 and we’ll name the day after you.
Timeliness – Simply stated, this one is saying that the timing of your campaign matters. Ever notice how fundraising for the HSUS and ASPCA kicks into high gear after a natural disaster? People are more aware of the disaster and the pump is primed so to speak for them to get involved and help. Choose when you are doing your campaign so you’re not conflicting with every other one out there (i.e. Giving Tuesday in December). Or maybe you want to align it with another campaign to feed off of it. Either way, timing matters.
Numerous points of contact – How many unsolicited requests for donations do you receive in the mail each year? If you’re like us, a lot. This fire and forget approach to fundraising may bring in some money but you’ll spend a lot of money to get any return. Think of your fundraising campaign like a strategy. What are the 5 ways you are going to connect with a potential donor? Direct mail could be one, maybe a newsletter, a phone call, invite to an award dinner, and a seasonal note. What Pierce was pointing out is that reaching out once to a contact and expecting a donation is less likely to be successful than having multiple points and angles that you’re connecting with them.
Unhurried period of preparation – Yup, he nailed it here. How many times have you caught yourself saying “It’s Christmas already we need to get our fundraising going” Or have you found yourself urgently begging to raise funds for a particular animal you just received into your organization? Those fundraising campaigns that are not hurried have more time to prepare, strategize and plan. So plot them out on a calendar and don’t procrastinate and you’ll find they are more productive.
An adequate scale of giving – When you do your fundraising campaign, do you maximize your donation from each potential donor? Studies have shown that putting more targeted numbers as “suggested donations” will yield much higher donations. So instead of $25, $50, $75 and $100, why not tie the donation amounts to your specific campaign? In our Panda example, we would put $46 (4 hrs) $92 (8 hrs) and $276 (24 hrs) as an example. This gives people a specific target and ties it directly to your education.
Substantial preliminary gifts – Depending on the size of your organization, this one may be tricky to attain right out of the gate. Keep in mind though that substantial is relative. $276 in our example above can be considered substantial if we have 10 family members at our fundraiser. The idea being that seeding the pot will encourage others to do the same. Have you ever considered encouraging some of your key donors to publically make an announcement at your event regarding what they are willing to contribute? Set the bar and that will seed the field of others to donate.
Tested methods – There are lots of books, blogs and other information out there on types of fundraisers to try. What Pierce was saying here is that you should test your methods of fundraising. So don’t just keep hitting your head against the wall with the same approach. Mix it up and try something new. Test out what works and what doesn’t for your constituency.
Competent direction – Tying it all together we come back to whether your organization has a competent direction. So many animal welfare organizations solicit grant funding but their purpose is too limiting or not impactful enough to warrant a grant. This is usually because they are thinking too small and do not have a medium to longer term stratetgy for how funding will be used, data will be tracked and results will be published. The clearer your roadmap is and how this campaign fits in more specifically, the more successful your fundraising will be.