Tapping Your Sources
Yes, “tapping your sources” is just another way of saying, “asking for money.” Let's face it, you will need to ask for money, whether it is asking people to buy something, take part in an activity, or simply donate.
While much of this book focuses on planning your special fundraising events or activities, there are other means of raising funds, most of which are standard practice for nonprofit organizations. Established and even newer nonprofits use three methods regularly: direct mail, telephone soliciting, and Internet contributions.
Think of direct mail, and you'll immediately think of the junk that fills your mailbox every day. The reality is, however, that direct mail works. If it didn't, you wouldn't be getting piles of junk mail every day. While most of it may be tossed, an occasional item may catch someone's attention. People do respond to a small percentage of the so-called junk mail, and that percentage makes direct mail economically worthwhile for most nonprofits.
While only a small percentage — perhaps 2 or 3 percent — will respond, direct mail works because you are dealing in volume. The more you send, the more that 2 or 3 percent return amounts to in revenue. In addition, you are spreading the word about your organization and your cause to a mass audience.
If your direct mail piece is related to an upcoming event, make sure it is sent out with a sufficient amount of advance notice. Include all pertinent information (time, place, admission price, and so on). Last but certainly not least, retain a dependable mailing house that can get your mail out quickly and professionally. There's more on direct mail in Chapter 7.
One of the biggest factors in the success or failure of a direct mail campaign is the quality of your presentation. Look to professionals who have written direct mail pieces for some guidance. Your message should be clear, concise, and attention-grabbing so that it stands out from other mailings.
Telemarketing, as you probably well know, is still alive and well, but it has drawbacks. It can potentially alienate prospective donors. So why do people still consider telephone solicitation? It can work if it is done effectively and to the right people. This is where knowing your target audience can help an organization reap big rewards. Volunteers from a school calling at 4:30 in the afternoon and then apologizing for interrupting a parent's day is a better start than making a random call at dinnertime and launching into a sales pitch. Your telemarketing method should be based on research, personal attention, and honesty.
The telephone has become less personal over the past decade because of the widespread, unauthorized use of mailing lists. People no longer answer the phone expecting to hear a friendly and familiar voice. Instead, they often do not answer the phone at all if they do not recognize the phone number on their caller ID. If they do answer, it is often with a “Who is this?” attitude, bracing themselves for another solicitor.
The bottom line is, telephone solicitation can work only if it goes against what has become the norm — impersonal, scripted (even automated) cold calling. You need to be personal; call people who are involved in your cause and talk to them like real people. Chapter 7 covers soliciting by phone in more detail.
There are guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the time periods in which you can call, and what constitutes harassment or inappropriate conduct in such solicitations. Get a copy of the FCC regulations and any local laws governing phone solicitation. For more information, visit
Websites and other online strategies enable fundraisers to cast a very wide net for an increasingly broadening audience. A website is a most effective tool to communicate information about your organization and even to provide a link where supporters can donate money easily and securely. Some hesitation about donating money may exist on the part of the public, especially if they are unfamiliar with your group. Obviously, the bigger the organization, the more confidence people will have in the security provided by the site.
While the Internet has become increasingly popular among nonprofits, the old door-to-door solicitation approach has diminished greatly. It has gone from one of the leading methods of raising funds to last on most listings. Safety issues, the time involved, and the ease of getting donations through the Internet have all but eliminated this once viable means of solicitation.
On your site, make it obvious where the donations can be made and make the contribution process very easy. In fact, it should be possible to contribute from every page on your site.
Web fundraising is becoming more prevalent as online security measures become stronger. A website should also serve as a place where people who learn about your organization can then send a donation via snail mail. Fundraising over the web is covered in more detail in Chapter 7.