6 Tips to Apply Positive Persistence to Get Your Donation!
As a fundraiser, the best way to cope with constant rejection is increased persistence. The most common response to a fundraising request is silence. Then the second most common responses are “no,” “not now,” “we can’t help you,” or variants of the same.
The most successful fundraisers are persistent – those that keep trying, those that keep asking, regardless of the seemingly endless stream of snubs and negative responses. Here are some tips on how to use positive persistence in your nonprofit fundraising to finally get to the “yes.”
1. Send enough fundraising emails
Fundraisers often make the mistake thinking that sending too many requests annoys their nonprofit’s members and supporters. The reality is no – if people do not want to hear from you, they’ll take themselves off your email list.
The majority like to get your emails – it makes them feel like they’re an important part of your work. A study by M and R Benchmarks showed that, on average, successful nonprofits send 24 emails a year asking for a donation – that’s 2 emails a month.
Small nonprofits, however, often make the mistake to only send a few email appeals a year. Mix up your emails with success stories, testimonials, and updates on your programs to diversify and keep your members informed. Eventually members will feel vested and click through to donate.
2. Send enough fundraising letter appeals
Don’t make the mistake that one mailing is enough. First, some donors will like one appeal over another, so it makes sense to reach out with different types of letters. One could be a testimonial letter about the impact your nonprofit had on a client, and the next letter can be a testimonial from a donor herself about why she gives.
Plus, you don’t know when your donor or prospect is able to give. Maybe end of year is a terrible time for one donor because she has children for which to buy Christmas presents and is completely tapped out of extra cash. Possibly in March though, she gets a raise and is feeling generous.
Send letters at different times of the year to cover your bases. And don’t make the other mistake that e-appealing is better to save paper and resources. Personal appeal letters are still the most effective way to fundraise for the grassroots nonprofit and will be for some time, if not always!
3. When your grant proposal is rejected, reach out
The best fundraisers know that a grant rejection or a corporate proposal rejection can be a foot in the door instead of a sign that its bolted shut. Instead, they use a rejection to reach out and cultivate a government agency, foundation program officer, or corporate giving representative.
Specifically, call the person who signed the rejection letter or emailed you and ask if you can discuss ways in the future to partner with the agency, to clarify any points in the proposal to make it stronger for their next funding cycle, or to simply invite them to your office to see your work and learn more about who you are.
Rejections are communication – and any communication with a funder is cultivation to get a grant later on. Filing the letter away without following up is a mistake.
4. Call people after you send appeal letters or emails
Especially in the case of corporate sponsorships, you need to actually call your donor prospect after you send an appeal letter. Hardly ever will a person or corporation read a letter or email appeal, write a check, and put it in the mail.
Get the person to whom you sent the letter on the phone for a few minutes to explain your appeal and ask personally for a donation or a corporate sponsorship. If he agrees, you should send a new letter or email thanking him for his pledged support with explicit directions of how to get the gift to you – a self-addressed, stamped envelope if by mail, or a direct link to a secure server if online.
If your request is large, you should always ask to meet in person at the donor’s convenience – in their office, at their house, or in your office to show them your work in person if he would like to visit.
5. Fundraise at all of your programs and events
Even if your development plan deems half of your yearly events “cultivation” or “program” events, it is a mistake to not make a donation ask of all event attendees every time you have an event.
People give at the moment they are the most engaged in your work. Even if a donor just gave you a gift, when she attends your thank you dinner she might be so moved by the family you highlight in a testimonial that she is happy you send an additional request for support.
Or when a person visits your museum for the first time with a friend, he is so provoked by your educational programs that he wants to make a donation and is thrilled you include a page long appeal letter and giving directions in your walk through materials he took home.
Never lose out on an opportunity to ask, especially when emotions are high and the moment is best!
6. Have someone else ask for a donation the second or third time around
Another trick, if you’re unsuccessful the first or second time you send a letter or get a donor on the phone, is to wait a few months and have a board member or another leader in your organization call the prospect up.
Sometimes it is just a question of personality – maybe you didn’t hit it off with the contact, but someone else in your organization will! Good fundraising organizations segment all of their donors and assign the best possible contact within the nonprofit to make the call. Fundraising at its roots is a matchmaking game. Use it to your advantage and don’t take it personally.
Fundraising is all about how to manage the silence and the rejections and turn them into something positive. The real key is think like your donor, to empathize with her decisions to give or not to give and when, and to then ask her at the right time in the right way! Most likely you have to apply persistence to find that precision.
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>> Read more articles by Devon Reeser
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