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Charity Fundraising - Part 1

Oftentimes, a non-profit group will ask for donations via a direct solicitation. There are literally dozens of books about this type of charity fundraising, so Iíve limited this article to an overview of different solicitation approaches. Part Two will cover common mistakes to avoid.

Think about doing something different than youíve done in the past. Consider offering something extra on top of your donation request. For example, consider doing some type of donor recognition with an item like a wall plaque or a personalized brick during capital campaign drives.

Donít be afraid to vary your pitch from time to time. No one wants to hear the same tune over and over again, so make sure your message changes with the times.

The bottom line is: 'You need to ask for donations, so why not do it right?'

In charity fundraising, direct solicitation takes many forms:

Direct mail request
Fundraising letters are mailed to some combination of supporters, businesses, residents, potential constituency, etc. Mailings can vary from a simple postcard to an elaborately crafted, multi-page letter spelling out a groupís positions while also supplying a donation envelope or postcard.

Maximize results with this type of approach by focusing your efforts on building (or buying) a database of potential supporters and directing your efforts at these targets exclusively.

Personalized e-mail request
Similar to direct mail, a message is distributed to either a limited number of previous supporters or to a qualified group of potential contributors. The best messages are those that spell out a need, offer a solution of sorts, and create a sense of urgency via a call to action.

Avoid sending unsolicited, generic e-mails to large groups of strangers (aka spamming). Keep your e-mail lists private. Donít provide 'spam food' for others.

Donor list
This is the premier tool in direct solicitation. Building your donor list is the second most important thing to do. The most important is to ask it to support your cause.

Remember the pyramid of donor potential and donít waste your best prospects with a phone call. Make the call to the wealthy only to set up an appointment to discuss your groupís unique value and donor recognition program.

Phone solicitation
Like the other types of direct solicitation, work from a list of potential supporters, not a telephone book. If you are light on names, consider swapping lists with an organization of similar ideology.

Phone solicitation works best if you have a phone script, but only refer to it, donít read from it. Make the phone call a conversation while getting your message across. Donít try to force a pledge. Personally, I donít like this form of solicitation. To me, itís just another telemarketer asking me to part with my money.

I receive an average of three telemarketing calls per day, usually at dinnertime or kidís bedtimes. None of these people have a relationship with me, nor will they ever establish one through those methods.

Always work from a list of known supporters or from a list of people familiar with your organization. Otherwise, youíre just another annoying telemarketer.

Group pledge drive
These involve getting people to sign pledges supporting a large cause from within their own group. One example would be the United Way type of fundraiser where an organization seeks pledges from amongst its members toward their own group donation goal. Another would be a capital campaign for a new building at a private school.

Personalized pledge drive
Here, someone is raising funds for self-promoted cause. Oftentimes, these involve a individual raising money on their own to achieve a goal. Examples would include someone soliciting funds for a self-rewarding event (pay for trip to World Youth Congress, etc.) or an individual getting backers linked to a bigger cause (pay ten cents a mile to back me in the bike-a-thon to help fund The Special Olympics).

Voluntary network of supporters
The best way to a steady revenue stream is to build one of these. Often seen in causes like public television or animal rights movements, they usually involve a central rallying point with emotional significance. Your best source of new volunteers is by asking your existing volunteers to recruit additional help.

Event sponsorship
This approach involves raising money by selling the rights to sponsor an event or some portion of it. Sponsors receive signage rights, prominent mention in event literature, and many other forms of recognition. This is widespread in the sports area and closely imitated elsewhere with many companies now sponsoring things like charitable golf tournaments, etc.

Personal sponsorship within an event
A further subcategory involves sponsoring an individual while they participate in a group fundraiser. These range from backing the efforts of a bicyclist within a local MS event to participating in The March of Dimes. This approach works best with either a noble cause, a challenge goal, or a strong personal connection.

Corporate donations
This involves approaching large companies either for group appeals or for a straight donation to a cause. Many publicly traded corporations have a person or department responsible for community giving and philanthropic efforts. Find out who that person is and be prepared to tell them why your cause is worth their time and money. Make sure you offer to include their company name in any advertising or public acknowledgement.

Seeking grants
Usually, this involves writing a proposal and presenting it to a decision-maker for approval. These grants could be from philanthropic groups, foundations, corporations, or governmental bodies. Often, they are tied to clearly defined expenditures or portions of an overall solution such as a grant for a new computer system for an organization.

Auction of donated goods
Here, a group will raise money by asking supporters to donate items that can be resold to other supporters or to the public. Items auctioned can range from fine art to leftover clothes. This method works best when tied to an auction of an ďexclusiveĒ nature with restricted access and where refreshments are served.

Membership drives
This type of fundraising involves building a supporter base through signing up new members and collecting dues. Itís used by organizations ranging from the PTA to the NRA. Works best when tied to strongly supported group goals. Consider small monthly dues with a discount for annual payment. Give visible membership recognition such as bumper stickers, T-shirts, or member cards. (Think merchant discounts on the back of the card.)

Door-to-door appeals
Neighborhood canvassing approach to fundraising. It works best if youíre either a known local cause, part of a national or regional campaign, and can provide documentation of your membership within a certain organization. Drawbacks include resentment of intruders, laws against, permit requirements, and limited success rates.

Media-based appeals
These can vary from appeals for disaster relief to telethons targeting specific diseases. As with any fundraiser, the appeal must contain a call to action while creating a sense of urgency. Strive to overcome inertia as well as objections. Consider hiring a professional copywriter to craft the message to ensure getting the maximum response.

About the Author: Kimberly Reynolds writes about fundraisers and tips on charity fundraising on her website. Find hundreds of fundraising ideas on her website.

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