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5 actionable steps to improve individual giving programs

September 21, 2021
A nonprofit employee speaks to a donor on the phone.

WealthEngine, a wealth intelligence and data-driven marketing platform, has worked with nonprofit organizations for over 15 years to optimize and expand their fundraising programs. Here they offer some easy, actionable ways to take the first steps to improving individual giving programs.

Historically, many nonprofit organizations were able to make progress toward their purpose by obtaining most of their funding from corporations, government programs, and foundations. Now, however, many are seeing the need to diversify their funding sources due to stricter guidelines around government spending and a changing economic landscape. 

In recent years, individual giving accounted for 67% of all charitable giving in the United States. Because of this popularity and because individual giving is less volatile than government, corporate, and foundation funding, the pursuit of individual gifts by nonprofits is not going to change. Let’s dive into five steps you can take to improve your own fundraising programs to target these crucial gifts.

1. Start with your VIPs

Think of fundraising in terms of concentric circles. In the middle is your organization, and surrounding that are your board members and leadership. These are the VIP members of your nonprofit that can provide valuable ideas for your campaign.  

When you begin planning your individual giving campaign, use these tips to get your organization’s VIPs involved:

  • Request buy-in from leadership on your fundraising processes and include them in the creation of your campaign messaging.
  • Inspire board members to increase their comfort levels and participation in your fundraising activities.
  • Aim to reach 100% board participation in your fundraising before taking your campaign to the public.

Whether or not you expect board members to be individual donors themselves, all board members should play an active role in your nonprofit’s fundraising.

2. Leverage connections

Once you’ve gotten buy-in from your board and inspired them to get more involved in fundraising, move beyond the inner circle to your leaders and board members’ networks of connections. 

Identify prospects from within these networks, then enlist your board’s support in inviting them to engage with your organization. Perform outreach through direct mail or email, or consider hosting small events at board members’ homes or on-site. Educate, inform, and involve these prospects in your work to cultivate long term relationships.

3. Find new potential supporters

Next, move beyond these initial networks of connections into general prospect research. Having a clear understanding of your current donors is the best way to find new prospects who are likely to donate as well.

Ask the following questions about your organization’s donors:

  • What do your board and other donors have in common?  
  • Do your donors live in a specific area?  
  • What causes or initiatives do they care about the most?  
  • Are they active in politics?
  • How do they spend their free time?

Using these types of questions about your current supporters, you can find others with similar qualities and interests. Find relevant prospects by purchasing prospect lists customized for your target audience from a wealth screening company. Or, if you have more time and resources, locate prospective donors by monitoring traditional and social media. When you understand what motivates your supporters, targeting the right prospects becomes much easier. 

4. Segment your donors and prospects

As your prospect and donor lists grow, so will your need to personalize the communications you send them. For example, the way you thank a supporter for their gift should align with their gift level. Major gifts warrant higher levels of personalization and appreciation than mid-level gifts, and new donors will need more information about your organization’s activities to get to know you better.

To tailor your fundraising asks, start segmenting your constituents by giving amount, frequency, and capacity to give. You’ll see true fundraising growth when you tailor your asks to each donor’s giving capacity and affinity.

5. Practice multi-channel fundraising

Communicate with your donors and prospects across multiple platforms using a variety of content types, making sure to keep your messaging and branding consistent. Your fundraising campaign can include direct mail, phone calls, email, social media, and event components. 

Donors have different communication preferences which may change over time. A donor who gives by email today may prefer to give via direct mail or on your website in two years. This is why it’s critical to have an integrated campaign across multiple channels.

How software can help individual giving

Combine these five strategies with the right donor management software for best results. Bonterra Donor Engagement customers have access to critical constituent information, including donor profiles, contact information, and wealth intelligence, all at the click of a button.

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  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas