Non-profit fundraisers are having a hard time of it this year. People want to be generous and support their favorite causes, but when they’re worried about having enough money to pay their bills, charitable giving goes to the end of the list.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just means that PTO fundraising ideas have to get better. They have to work to establish a high profile in their communities – be that a small town or a much larger area.
So what should they do?
- Continue with direct mail, to a targeted audience
- Write and submit press releases – often
- Use e-mail effectively
- Jump into social media
Let’s take these one at a time.
Direct Mail: I know many are fearful of using direct mail. It’s expensive, and they might get no response. Avoid that in two ways. First, sort your mailing list. Send only to those who have given in the past. Right now isn’t the time to mail to a “cold” list or to those who have been on your list forever and have never responded.
Next, write an exceptional letter. Forget the “we” and focus on your donor. Most volunteers who are called upon to write a fundraising letter naturally think it’s about their organization or their cause. As a result, they start right off with “We need.”
That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. It might meet with limited success when the economy is good and people have money to spare. But in this economy, the likely response will be “Who doesn’t?”
Focus your letter on the donor. First, thank him or her for past support, then go right on to showing the good you’ve done with that money. Tell of successes before you tell of what is still left to be done.
Your job here is to make that donor want to be a part of your good work – to show him how good he’ll feel when he does his part to make more good things happen. Once you’ve got him in that frame of mind, ask for the donation.
Here is where you can also share future plans or show the work yet to be done. If you’re involved in a special project, tell him how much money you’ll need to get the job done. Do ask more than once, and do make it easy by including a reply device and a self-addressed (not stamped) envelope.
Press Releases: This doesn’t have to be “breaking news,” it just has to be news. Write a steady stream of press releases that tell about the work you’re doing. Talk about the successes; talk about your organization’s place in the community; talk about future plans. And of course, if any of your volunteers or staff take special training, or if you’re holding a workshop or any kind of event, send it in a press release. Look around you – what’s going on in your organization that you’d tell a friend about in an email or a phone call?
E-mail: Get serious about collecting those addresses and getting permission to use them. Then assign your best writer to send a note out regularly. Once a month is good, more often is better. Tell your supporters what’s going on with the group. Take photographs and include them in the e-mail. (Remember to downsize photos so they fit within the message!)
What do I mean by “best” writer? Someone who not only has a good command of basic grammar and word usage, but who can tell a story in an interesting manner. Your goal is to involve your readers/donors with your organization by painting word pictures along with the photographs. Let them “see” what’s going on and enjoy feeling that they’re a part of it. If you do this well enough, you might even gain some new volunteers!
These e-mail messages need not be long – and in fact probably shouldn’t be. You want to keep their attention, after all. Don’t make every one an appeal for money, although you can include a donation link on every letter. Just in case someone reading has an impulse to give, you want to make it easy.
These emails don’t always have to be good news and success stories. If you have a disaster to report, do it, and ask for help. For instance, if you’re an animal rescue and you suddenly have a “puppy mill full” of dogs who need to be placed in foster care or paid kennels, appeal to your email readers to help. If you’re running a woman’s shelter and the furnace goes out mid-winter, send an urgent appeal for help with the repair bill.
You can also use a blog to keep your supporters current, and set your autoresponder to let them know when there’s a new post.
Social Media: Organizations who have volunteers with time to keep up with this are having success at reaching donors, and even raising money through sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Learn to use these sites to let others know about your successes and your failures. Be sure to tell the stories that keep people interested.
With only 140 spaces you can’t tell a story on Twitter – but you can tell it on your organization’s blog, and invite people from Twitter to come and read.