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Fundraising

What Are the Most Common Fundraising Pitfalls? Here are Three You Should Know

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Fundraising ranks high on the list of a nonprofit’s priorities. Everyone wants to get better at fundraising; after all, the better you are at this critical task, the more funds you have to support your work!

Creative fundraising campaigns tend to get the publicity with writes up in your favorite nonprofit journals or marketing magazines. However, there are times when too much of a good thing can be confusing, underwhelming, or just plain wrong for your nonprofit.

As you consider your next fundraising campaign, keep in mind these three lessons from the world of fundraising. Keep them in a file of “what not to do,” so you don’t repeat the mistakes of others. Learn, grow, explore, and yes, test new concepts, but beware of these three fundraising pitfalls.

The Big 3 “What Not to Do” in Fundraising Marketing

Pitfall #1: Being so clever you miss the point and confuse donors.

It’s easy to get lost in a clever campaign. Perhaps you’re tired of the same-old fundraising campaign your organization has used successfully for the past several years, or you feel the need to try something different. That’s fine, but make sure the cleverness doesn’t outweigh the point of the campaign.

A too-clever campaign may rely heavily on puns, graphic gimmicks, or similar ideas to deliver its purpose. What ends up happening is that donors glance at the advertisement, experience momentary confusion, and set it aside. Instead of motivating them to donate, the ads gets tossed in the bin or ignored.

Avoid the too-clever trap: To avoid this pitfall, you can test the “clever” campaign against the tried-and-true response piece. See if the smart piece outperforms the stalwart marketing piece. Mail or send the same number of pieces to a split of your audience. This is called an A/B test and pits A, the clever campaign, against B, the tried and true one. Since you already know the average results of your tried and true campaign, you can see easily if the new piece outperforms it.

Another and simpler method is to show the piece to five random people, perhaps friends, family, or those unaffiliated with your nonprofit. Ask them questions: would they donate? Do they understand the point?

These two steps can save you from wasting time, money, and resources on something that won’t get you the results you desire.

Pitfall #2: Going overboard with design or enclosures.

Yes, it’s a time-tested nonprofit marketing tactic to include a small gift item to entice people to send money back. Stickers, stamps, a notepad, a pen, these are all fine…to a point.

But if your charity is asking for money, consider the impression these gifts make. Are they useful items? Are they expensive items? If so, they might be perceived as frivolous expenses instead of a simple gift.

Another way in which nonprofits sometimes go overboard is by using paper or design that appears expensive. “What!” you may argue. “That paper was much less expensive than the other kind we used to use, and it looks so elegant!”

That may be true, but potential donors only see the surface. They understand what appears to be a very expensive mailer and may perceive that you are ‘wasting’ money on marketing. Err on the side of caution and ensure that your designs reflect the spirit of your nonprofit.

Pitfall #3: Amateurish design.

Design is more than adding photographs or using fonts to punctuate a mailer for effect. Too many colors, competing fonts, a smattering of graphics, and you could end up with a marketing piece that confuses rather than motivates people to act.

A professional graphic designer understands the impact that color, visuals, and type make on the page. Designers know where to put the call to action (the request for donations) and how to set up a mailing panel appropriately. Hiring a professional nonprofit marketing agency or graphic design skilled in designing for nonprofit fundraising is a worthwhile investment.

Nonprofit Fundraising the Right Way

Don’t let the mistakes of the past weigh you down. If, as you’re reading this, you see errors that your nonprofit has made in the past, note them and move on.

At Welter Consulting, we act as the bridge between your nonprofit and the software that you need to succeed. This includes fundraising software to track, manage, and measure the impact of donor contacts. We are here to help you with software selection, implementation, training, and audit preparation. Contact us at 206-605-3113 for a consultation today.

Using eBay for Fundraising Auctions

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eBay, the ubiquitous auction website, offers more than a platform to sell off old clothes or knickknacks you no longer want. It has become a powerful forum for nonprofits to raise funds.

The Nonprofit Times reports that eBay for Charity helped nonprofits generate a record $102 million in 2018. Many charities use eBay as a fundraising auction platform. Warren Buffet, the famous financial expert, helped raise $3.3 million for a human services charity auction via eBay. The charity auctioned the opportunity to enjoy a meal with the financial whiz (and the chance to ask him for tips!). Other charities have raised more modest funds, but many are using eBay as a reliable fundraising outlet.

eBay for Charity:  Four Opportunities

eBay for Charity offers nonprofits four ways to raise funds via the site:

  1. List your nonprofit on the website: Individuals can find and ‘favorite’ the nonprofit of their choice. When they shop on eBay, a portion of the proceeds is sent to their selected nonprofit.
  2. Donate directly: eBay sellers can check a box off during the listing setup process to indicate that a portion of their fees and/or sale goes towards a charity.
  3. Charity auctions: Nonprofits can set up a charity auction on their own, or a series of charity auctions, using the platform.
  4. Direct sales: You can also set up shops and stores on the popular site to sell goods with the proceeds going to the organization.

Does It Work?

Many people express skepticism about the site’s ability to help charities fundraise. After all, isn’t eBay a place for good bargains, discounts, and used goods?

Yes, and no. Over the past several years, the site has evolved as a viable shopping platform, a place where entrepreneurs can set up their online stores at a fraction of the cost of self-hosted sites and stores. Many run their entire businesses via eBay, either selling new goods, reselling goods, or using a combination of sales and auctions.

Warren Buffet’s charity raised over $3.3 million, as we mentioned above. Are other nonprofits raising money using the site’s features for charities? A press release issued by the company makes it clear that yes, they are:

  • The Prince’s Trust, a U.K.-based nonprofit headed by Prince Charles, raised about $138,000 in just 24-hours. The campaign promises to help budding entrepreneurs ages 18-24.
  • Homes for Our Troops, a USA-based nonprofit that helps veterans, raised $160,000 to build specially designed handicapped accessible homes for severely injured veterans. The nonprofit used a 10-day auction format to raise funds.
  • Seattle Goodwill: Goodwill stores offer clothing, furniture, and other items at retail shops around the nation. However, the Seattle store recognized the power of reaching a wider audience and listed their items in an online store powered by eBay. The store quickly realized that they were making much more money online than in their stores, with goods selling far above the asking price.

These are just a handful of stories shared by the company to demonstrate how different nonprofits use the site to raise funds. But doesn’t it give you some great ideas? For example, you can:

  • Run a celebrity auction: Like Warren Buffet’s donated dinner date, how about seeking a local celebrity for a charity meal auction?
  • List donated items: List donated items in an online store or auction site and promote the event to your email list. Make sure you have a suitable donor contact list and donor management software to run your campaign.
  • Ask your followers and fans to select your charity as their desired nonprofit on the site. This way, whenever they purchase on eBay, a portion goes automatically to your nonprofit.
  • Encourage people to list items for charitable sale and donate the profits to your organization. It’s fast, easy, and straightforward.

Are you ready to try eBay for Charities? Sign up on the site, and let the fundraising begin!

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Storytelling for Fundraising – But What Do I Say?

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In our last article, we talked briefly about the importance of getting your board “on board” with fundraising efforts. Boards should lead the way in the fundraising department and set the tone for the entire organization to encourage support and donations.

One way in which you can encourage your board members to participate in fundraising activities is to change the mindset around fundraising from a chore to a pleasure. How can asking for money be a pleasure? When it’s framed as a story with a message at the end, it becomes much more fun to talk to people about your nonprofit and yes, ask for a donation.

If you’re not a natural storyteller, never fear. We have several tips to help you think on your feet.

What Stories Should I Tell?

Stories for fundraising take several forms. These include:

  1. Stories about the organization: Talk to people about how your organization became involved in its work. Who was the founder? What did he or she do? Where did you start? Most board members know their organization’s story by heart. It’s a great place to start. The ending can be, “We need your help to keep the story going…” and then the call for a donation.
  2. Stories about individuals: Individual stories stick in people’s minds the best. Who are the people you have helped? Tell their individual stories and include details (without compromising anyone’s privacy, of course). For example, a nonprofit that donates mosquito netting to villagers in Central and South American can share how it helped one woman give birth to a healthy baby by preventing zika virus infection. It’s stories like this that connect people emotionally to the charity to which their funds are donated.
  3. Ask the other person their story: This is an interesting twist on storytelling for donations. Instead of telling your story, or the organization’s account, ask the other person their story in reference to your organization’s mission. Someone seeking donations for an education nonprofit may ask, “Where did you go to college?” and the answer may lead to a story about how the potential donor chose their college. This can segue into a discussion about how they paid for college, the opportunities a college education opened for them, and so on. From there, you can weave the story of how your nonprofit helps people go to college and why their donation is essential. You use their story as a springboard for the donation request.

Connecting the Dots, Story-Style

Stories connect the dots between the work an organization does and the impact it makes upon those it serves. Data about the organization is important; after all, people do want to look up nonprofits on sites such as GuideStar and Charity Navigator to ensure that their donation is going to an organization that manages its work responsibly.

But it is the stories that people remember, not the facts. An animal shelter helps place dozens of dogs and cats annually, but it’s the story about the shelter dog who woke his family up by barking and saved them from a fire that will keep donors interested. It’s asking the donor if they’ve ever rescued a dog from a shelter and seeing their eyes light up when they tell you about Duke and what a great dog he was, and then reminding them that the Dukes of this world also needs a home. Stories, and the emotion they convey, connect the dots between heart and mind, donor and organization.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Help Your Board with Fundraising – Teach Them to Be Storytellers

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There’s an “F” word that even the most seasoned board hates to hear: fundraising. Boards should be your primary cheerleaders and fundraisers, leading the charge to support the organization’s mission and development through effective fundraising.

Yet many nonprofits struggle to achieve their fundraising goals and find their boards sadly lacking in that department. How can you overcome your board’s reluctance to be part of the fundraising team?

Three Tips to Make Fundraising FUN!

These three tips can help turn fundraising from the dreaded “F” word and put the FUN back in fundraising.

  1. Speak positively about fundraising: Many nonprofits bring up fundraising reluctantly as if it were a chore like cleaning out the garage. Instead of starting your fundraising discussions with sentences such as, “I know no one likes fundraising, but…” try to be positive about it. “Here is your opportunity to truly make a difference in our organization.” Help board members understand the positive impact their efforts make. Reframing the discussion around fundraising can help turn it into a positive activity rather than a dreaded chore.
  2. Provide training: Fundraising is more than asking people for money. Board members may not be aware of effective methods of fundraising such as storytelling (which we’ll get into in a minute). They may need coaching, encouragement, and examples to understand how to raise funds for the organization.
  3. Offer supporting materials: One way to make fundraising easier for your board is to provide them with supportive marketing materials and other items to make it easier for them to share the nonprofit’s story. For example, a video on your website or social media pages showing the positive outcomes of your foundation’s work can make it much easier to share the message with others about how your organization is making a difference. Powerful marketing materials can make it much easier to open up conversations around the organization and then close by asking for support.

Storytelling: Part of the Art of Fundraising

Communication professionals know that generalized information is difficult for people to grasp. Talk about a famine in Asia and people skip over it in the news. Share an image of one starving child and tell his story and people are galvanized into action.

The same goes for fundraising activities. It’s easy to say no to someone asking for a donation if you just ask for it for an organization. If you tell a story, with a beginning, middle and end, and a personalized message, people grasp the meaning. They are more likely to donate money to an organization.

Help your board understand the power of fundraising through storytelling by sharing with them:

  1. Personal stories and anecdotes they can use as part of fundraising conversations.
  2. Emphasize emotional connections. Emotions are remembered long after dry facts are forgotten.
  3. Draw people into the story. Listen to the best storytellers (TED talks are great places to go for inspiration and to learn how to frame a story).
  4. Teach your board members basic storytelling techniques – pacing, emotional connection, specific examples.
  5. Share examples on your website and social media platforms, too.

Stories hold great power. That’s why we start children off with fairy tales, fables, and imaginative stories when they are young – it boosts the imagination and helps kids frame the world around them. Stories for nonprofits help them illuminate their mission and vision and make it feel genuine to the people who can contribute funds to support the accomplishment of their goals. It’s the opposite of “begging” or “arm twisting” for donations. And best of all, it feels good to share the positive!

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.