Fundraising builds communities.
Those communities might be based in a particular geographic area. Or they might encompass the world, but a specific interest. But the goal is the same: find the people who care a lot about the mission.
Fundraising is an important way to build community. Because for many people, giving money is how they choose to be involved. It’s how they join your community.
Foundation and corporate support can generate large gifts. But those gifts often represent buy-in from a few important people. Not to be ignored. And sometimes, they can lever more emotional and volunteer support.
But there’s still space between the individual and the mission.
That’s why individual fundraising is so important. This is where broad-based support for your organization and your mission grows.
It’s not easy. Building that support – that community – takes consistency, determination, and great communication. You refine your message, you offer compelling reasons to help, and you make sure you welcome the people who say yes.
Asking for help might feel uncomfortable at first. But once you understand that you’re inviting people to be part of something they care about, it gets easier. And once you focus more on the people than the dollars, you will start raising more of the dollars.
I heard a political campaign staffer answer a question about the value of $5 gifts once. She said it perfectly: “Every one of those gifts is a vote.”
Every gift you generate is a vote for your mission. And every vote matters.
The strength of diverse community
Think about who you want as part of this community. If your goal is a diverse group of people, then you need to find those people and show them why your cause matters to them.
Fundraising isn’t just about finding rich people.
And sure, it can seem harder to find and build relationships with 1,000 people who give $25 than 25 people who give $1,000.
But here’s where your commitment to diversity comes in. Are you willing to work harder? Are you willing to intentionally seek people out? Are you willing to listen to people from different communities and welcome their thoughts?
Are you willing to invest in your volunteers, too? Their time is valuable. And what about the beneficiaries of your work? Have they been willing to offer stories? That’s also giving and should be recognized. Their story, shared with others, might actually be what drives many other contributions.
Every person involved in your mission is strengthening your community.
Are you willing to hand over the credit?
If your message is all about your organization, you limit the number of people involved. It’s that simple. People should never be made to feel like bit players in this work. Every gift matters and so does every donor – regardless of the gift amount.
Keep in mind that $25 donors may not always be $25 donors. Someone’s address doesn’t always indicate their means. How much you give doesn’t, either. Those of us who have done this for decades can all remember a smaller dollar donor who left the organization a bequest. Or who suddenly began giving much more.
Their donations grew because they felt valued. They felt important to the mission and the community.
So let go of the urge to promote your organization at the expense of your supporters. Puffing your organization up is not the way to gain new donors or volunteers. Give up the spotlight.
If your organization succeeds, your community (however you define it) thrives.
Building your community is a commitment
Caring about the community means doing the work to build a community. One based around the importance of your mission. One that represents your organization’s values. (And if those values don’t reflect diversity and inclusion, then start there! You have to put your own house in order first.)
And keep in mind that while a donor’s gift is a commitment of sorts, the amount doesn’t always reflect their level of passion. I remember one donor who sent $3 in cash a few years in a row, with a scribbled note. From the note, I knew that gift was meaningful to her.
And I’ve known very wealthy people who gave generously to a wide range of organizations. The dollar amount seemed large to most organizations – but it wasn’t at all difficult for the donor. Those gifts were a sign of general approval, but not a commitment.
Build a strong base to support your mission
A well-planned, well-developed individual fundraising program takes time to build. But it will be your best hedge against economic or social fluctuations. It will also be the best way to welcome a wide variety of people to be part of your mission.
So, commit to doing the work to build a program. Find the people likely to support your mission. Ask them to help. Keep communicating with them. Treat them with respect and as part of the community you’re building – together.
Then keep at it, year after year.
A nonprofit organization is a willing group of people who have a vision of how to make the world better. They work together to support that mission. And they keep the doors open to other people who would like to help as well.