Today's post is part 5 of chapter 5 of my book, A Day of Hope: Leading Volunteers to Make a Difference in Your Community. I realize that some of these posts might not be exactly related to "leadership," but I believe they are relevant. Feel free to pass them on to someone you know who works at a nonprofit organization or church.
Financial donations from individuals and companies can be the easiest donations to receive. Sometimes they are the smallest donations, but they can lead to other personal connections, volunteers, and support for your cause that you wouldn’t receive without them.
Financial donations were the main way I began fundraising for A Day of Hope, not because I did it on purpose, but because it was how people wanted to support my work. If they didn’t want to volunteer or donate food, they would offer to give me money. At the time I didn’t have an official process to follow for fundraising, but I soon developed one because so many people offered to donate.
If you’re looking to fundraise money from individuals and/or companies, simply start by thinking of the people you know. Think of the people who are close to you and who might have the financial ability to donate to your cause. Who might that be? For me it was two of my former bosses. They knew me well and knew that I wanted to sincerely help people. So I asked them first. Start with the people you know. When looking for people to donate personally to A Day of Hope, I believe there are five categories of people you can look to.
- If you know the person as a friend, co-worker, or family member
- If you know the person donates to other organizations
- If you know the person attends church
- If you know the person volunteers at any organizations
- If you know the person is good hearted and compassionate
Take these five categories and think about people who might fit into one of them. If some people come to mind, you’ll need to plan what to say in asking them for a donation. Here’s some text from what I usually say when I’m asking for a donation.
Me: Hi John, this is Christopher Scott, how are you doing?
John: I’m great, how about you?
Me: I’m doing good. I wanted to chat with you about something. Do you have a few minutes?
John: Yes, wassup?
Me: I’m volunteering with this program called A Day of Hope here in Turlock where we’re trying to feed people in need for Thanksgiving. We’re trying to raise some funds to purchase turkeys for these families. Do you think you would like to make a donation to support our work?
Then the conversation goes from there. Sometimes they will say yes and offer to donate right there on the spot. Sometimes they will say that they need to think about it and that you need to call them back. Or they might ask for some more information on your project or a place where they can do some research on their own.
If you don’t feel comfortable calling someone on the phone to ask for a donation, don’t sweat it. You can do other things to fundraise money. For instance, you can send letters to people if that makes you feel more comfortable. Letters are not as effective though because people gets lots of mail every single day.
The best tactic I’ve found is to send a letter and make a phone call. This takes a little more time, but it dramatically increases your effectiveness as a fundraiser. Some people are auditory learners while others prefer to learn by reading. So when you send a letter to someone to ask for a donation and then follow up the next week with a phone call, your chance of receiving a donation will dramatically increase.
When sending a letter, make sure that the letter is clear and concise, quickly gets to the point of why you’re writing to them, and talks about what you’re trying to do and why you need their help. Makes sure you include a pre-addressed (but not pre-stamped) envelope so they can easily send back a check. I’ve included a sample letter in the appendix.
The timing you send letters in is very important. It needs to be close enough to Thanksgiving to give a sense of urgency to send in the donation but it also needs to give enough time to consider the idea of making a donation. I always send two sets of letters. I send the first round of letters on October 1st, which is plenty of time before the actual Thanksgiving holiday. Then about November 10th or 15th, I send a second letter. This letter only goes to the people who have not yet made a donation to A Day of Hope.