How to Triumph at Fundraising: The Strategy and Tools for Success

Ok, so you have a great cause, but you’re struggling with fundraising. You’ve tried networking and events, but you don’t have a long-term strategy in place; you’re just flying by the seat of your pants, you don’t know how to create a fundraising strategy, and you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we summarize the research to bring you a strategy that puts you on the path towards successful fundraising, along with the tools and resources to help you get each stage of that strategy right.

Where the Real Value Lies

Many fundraisers make the mistake of thinking that success in fundraising comes simply from finding donors, so they focus their attention and resources on marketing, investing in social media, building a great website that attracts donors, fundraising events, and crafting the perfect fundraising appeal.

The problem is, they forget about creating a long term strategy that will help them hold onto their donors. As a result, donors are dropping off like flies! In fact, research says that a typical non-profit will lose 50% of its donors between the first and second donation and up to 30% per year thereafter.

So, they end up back at the beginning, scrambling to find new donors to replace the ones who have left. This is not where you want to be. “New donors are expensive to get and rarely give much the first time” says Penelope Burk, celebrated researcher and author of Donor Centered Fundraising. Not to mention that your efforts are mostly in vain. Response rates from new prospects are pitiful – sometimes as low as 2%.

Ask from someone who is already a donor, however, and that response rate skyrockets to something like 60-70%, drastically improving fundraising success. So, your strategy for fundraising has to go beyond acquisition. You’ve got to get donors to stick around. This is where the real value of fundraising lies. In fact, research shows that even boosting the retention rate by as little as 10%, can increase the lifetime value of a non-profit’s donor base by up to 200%!

How do you get donors to stick around? Well, you give them what they want. And here’s the good news: we already know exactly what that is.

The Strategy for Donor Cultivation

According to Burk’s national research studies on the key motivators of donor loyalty, 93% of donors would be influenced to stay loyal and give increasingly generous gifts over time if they got three things from the charities they support:

  • Prompt and personalized gift acknowledgement
  • Confirmation that funds will be used as originally indicated in the solicitation
  • Measurable results on donors’ last gift before they are asked for another one

So, if you’re going to increase donor retention, you’d better build these things into your fundraising strategy. Many non-profits get this wrong. They view fundraising as a transaction that ends at the gift, and forget about communicating with donors after the gift was made. Don’t make the same mistake. If you treat donors like an ATM, most won’t make it to a second donation.

Instead, think of fundraising as a cycle that includes a carefully planned communication strategy. After a donation is made, donors should always receive:

1. A prompt thank you that reassures them their donation will be used as intended

2. An update that shows measurable results on their gifts at work

If you can get this cycle down, you will create the perfect donor experience for each of your donors – they will stick around, give more, and fundraising will be much more successful with fewer resources.

The Tools To Get it Right

Of course, it’s not enough just to have the strategy and know each stage of the cycle, you still need the tools to implement it and help with getting each piece of the puzzle perfect! Here’s help with both:

Help with implementation

Being able to implement this strategy relies on having a good donor management database. Because donors will enter the cycle at different times, you need to be able to track who is where at all times, so you can follow-up with them accordingly.

If you’re using an excel spreadsheet, or a clunky database that makes it difficult to track donors, maintaining this strategy will be impossible.

Help with perfecting each stage

It can be simple, however, with a good donor management database that gives you:

  • Website integration that allows you to capture donation information made online in your database seamlessly, so no donation is overlooked.
  • Automatic reminders that guide you through the cycle for each donor, alarming you when you need to thank a donor, send an update, make the next ask and even when to make a larger ask, so the cycle is always running smoothly.
  • Built-in email marketing tools that let you personalize each piece of communication with important donor information in just a few clicks.

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