I was fortunate to view a webinar provided by Pamela Grow’s Simple Development Systems membership program. The presenter was the amazing Leah Eustace of Good Works. She talked to us about bequest fundraising for small shops.
Yes, you read that right.
As I listened to her practical advice, I realized too many smaller shops don’t even attempt some kinds of fundraising. Maybe you believe you’re too small. But if you’ve ever said, “Oh, planned giving? We can’t manage that.” or “Monthly giving? Let’s wait until we have more donors.” then you’ve been cheating your organization of the support it needs.
Many of the things we know we should be doing are possible. Too often, we allow fear or bureaucracy to get in the way.
Considering a planned giving program?
Is your first stop a big board committee and lawyers? Are they focused on your largest donors and securing complex planned gifts? Figure on that taking years…
Leah suggests you start by making sure donors know you’ll accept bequests. Get that on your website and all your fundraising materials. That wasn’t so scary, was it?
Then what if you looked for the most loyal donors on your list and sent them a simple and personal mailing? There’s a lovely example here on SOFII. I know planned giving sounds scary. You immediately think of complicated legal documents and tax maneuvers. But most legacy gifts are bequests. Bequests are not that complex. And you won’t be handling the legal work. (Read some more good advice on the topic of bequests here from my friend Michael Rosen.)
This is definitely a situation where some action is far better than doing nothing!
Monthly giving is another.
Years ago, I read an article by Harvey McKinnon about monthly gifts. (I’m pretty sure it was in Mal Warwick’s newsletter at the time, but I can’t find a link. Here’s a presentation that might help, though.)
I guess I didn’t know any better, because my first thought was “let’s do this!” It wasn’t all that complex. The biggest hurdle was selling the idea internally.
I knew it would take time to build a program – maybe years. But I also knew any step in the right direction was positive. So I came up with a name for the program. Wrote some copy. Targeted some of our most loyal donors. And just did it. Does the organization now have hundreds of monthly donors? Nope. But the program grew every year that I solicited for it and we saw very little attrition.
What else are you putting off?
Is your website very 1995? It’s far less expensive and easier to set up a decent site now than it was then. Do a little research and push for a refresh, because you’re probably losing money every day!
Are you short on staff, but blessed with a loyal donor base? Have you ever read Mal Warwick on raising $1000 gifts by mail? I read an article he wrote on the topic years ago. (I’ve since read the book – and you should, too. As he promises, it’s “mercifully brief” and packed with good information.) Following his suggestions, I put together a very personal mailing. The early responses were great. (Unfortunately, it was the fall of 2008. And just as I started getting responses, the market crashed. Some timing, you just can’t control.)
Your smaller size shouldn’t prevent you from trying.
You can roll things out for smaller groups and see how they work. You probably don’t have to climb through layer on layer of bureaucracy before you go ahead. And you can offer donors very personal attention. That’s a huge advantage.
The things you put off aren’t likely to raise any money. So quit stalling. Pick something today and do it!