Most of what I know about nonprofits I learned from my dad. In addition to being the wisest person I’ve ever met, he spent a large chunk of his career working with or at nonprofit organizations.
Along the way, as I did my homework in the corner of a board meeting or was a guinea pig for marketing proposals, I picked up on the many things that make nonprofits – and my dad – truly great.
In honor of Father’s Day, here are the lessons I’ve learned from dad and his holiday, which you can use to shape your organization’s fundraising ideas:
1. Know your audience
I never bought my dad a tie for father’s day, because as stylin’ as he is, he hates ties. They make him feel suffocated.
Instead, I opted for bicycling garb, or a cool cooking gadget, or Alice’s Restaurant on CD.
Except at a nonprofit, you’re not giving gifts, you’re asking for them. Your organization needs to do your part to get to know the people who might support your cause.
Pay attention to who shows up to your events. Ask them (informally or by survey) about their other interests, or what about your organization appealed to them.
Find out where and how your donors prefer to give, and meet them there. Online donations made up 6.7% of all fundraising last year, with online giving growing almost 9% from 2013 (according to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report), so be sure your emails are designed to motivate giving, your website offers the best experience possible, and all your content is optimized for mobile.
Reach out through social media to get input and learn about those who follow and engage with your mission.
This way, when it comes time to make an ask, you’ll be that much better prepared to do so.
2. Personal always beats generic.
The gifts my dad always loved the most were the ones that didn’t cost much (if anything). Once I made him a tiny camera out of clay, complete with “Nikon” in tiny silver Sharpie letters, because 12-year-old me couldn’t afford the real deal I knew he had wanted for some time.
Your nonprofit can be personal in its fundraising efforts, too, like offering individualized benefits and incentives for donors – experiences like a behind-the-scenes tour of your operation, a one-on-one chat with your CEO, or a VIP ticket to your next event. All of these build a human relationship with your organization.
When you can’t engage face to face, technology can bridge the gap. Follow these tips on developing tangible connections through your social media account, like always responding to comments and adding a name to your messages.
Also, use your donor management software to send targeted emails to different categories in your database (annual donors, one-time donors, lapsed donors, etc.). Network for Good’s marketing blog has a great post on email segmentation for nonprofits.
And, as Father’s Day gifts show us, something you make with your own two hands can be incredibly meaningful. Step outside the digital world for just a minute to craft a unique, handwritten thank-you note.
3. Don’t leave things to the last minute.
You may have thought you would get Dad tickets to that Phish concert (my dad is actually more of the Rolling Stones circa 1972 type), but you waited until three days before Father’s Day to order online and now they’re sold out.
You’re probably panicked and now have to throw together a gift last minute, which rarely goes as well as something thought out with care.
When it comes to fundraising, you can’t just run to Target and pile your cart with anything emblazoned “#1 Dad.”
Instead, you have to take the time to craft a fundraising plan. Joe Garecht of The Fundraising Authority has a detailed guide to making your plan, and you can also check out this worksheet from Network for Good. Some basic elements that you must include:
- Last year’s income and expenses
- This year’s projected budget
- What you need to fundraise to make your budget
- The specific campaigns you’re working on
- The goal for each one
- How each campaign fits into your overall mission
- The big-picture tasks that need to be accomplished for each campaign to be successful
4. It’s all about saying thank you.
Like any holiday, for Father’s Day the sentiment outweighs the gift-centric, Hallmark-ified version that we see in stores and on TV.
No matter how you do it, saying ‘thank you’ is central to Father’s Day and fundraising.
Be genuine and heartfelt. Spend the time to think about the difference a donation made before you sit down to write. Telling donors about the specific impact their contribution made is a great way of acknowledging their generosity.
But maybe you’re not the best person to say thank you. You could pass the thanking baton to someone who was affected by donor support.
It could bethe woman who is a homeowner for the first time, or a classroom that got new supplies. Nothing is cuter (and more hilarious) than thank-you letters written by elementary school children. Trust me on this.
5. Celebrate all year long.
Father’s Day comes once a year, but my dad rocks 24/7, 365.
So do your donors. Or, they can, if you do your part to honor them no matter the season.
Keep up regular communication with your database, not just when someone writes a check. Remind them (through email, newsletters, and social media) about the great work your nonprofit is doing, and how every little bit of help powers change.
Recurring giving campaigns are another tactic for keeping your donors involved on a regular basis. While annual donations are great, monthly contributions can be even better for building relationships with your supporters. Reward and recognize donor loyalty publically and privately and it can feel like every day is a holiday.
If your donors are anything like my dad, they deserve more thanks than I’ll ever manage to say. But I’ll keep trying.
Let us know your best dad-inspired fundraising ideas in the comments below, and happy Father’s Day!
Images by Abby Kahler
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