How To Raise More Money

Philip Manzano • Apr 26, 2018

Nonprofits always want to learn how to raise more money.

While I’d love to tell you that we have all the answers to your fundraising woes, it’s not the case. But, the good news is that the sector is full of experts and knowledge. We are successful when we work together to solve these problems and share that knowledge. That’s why we took some time to sit with some experts about this very topic.

Leigh Schumann of Fawkes+Holly recently had a chat with us about fundraising.

Leigh is a creative communicator with eight years of experience sharing the heart of non-profit organizations across cultures and continents. From Swaziland to Ethiopia, Mozambique to Vancouver, her asset is the ability to powerfully connect donors and sponsors to the impact they are making in the world. With a diverse skill set and unique global experience, Leigh is passionate about equipping small charities with the words, images, and strategies they need to extend their reach and increase their revenue.

She also spoke at Capacity Conference in January, touching on the importance of donor retention.

What is the most common problem that clients come to you with?

We hear a lot of different problems, but the one that always seems to pop up is this: “We don’t have the capacity and resources needed to raise money properly – and even if we did, we don’t know where to start”.

It’s a pretty common thing to hear in my line of work. Fundraising is often a task done on the side of people’s desks, and it’s hard to know where to start and what to prioritize. What ends up happening, is that people get into a vicious cycle: they start fundraising, they are unsure of where to start, they take a shot in the dark, and then eventually run out of time and resources to keep it going. Inevitably the fundraising programs atrophy. And that’s not an encouraging place to end up in.

Everyone wants to raise more money. What are three practical steps any nonprofit can make to start getting more donations?

As I mentioned earlier — knowing where to start is a big issue for smaller nonprofits. You are preoccupied with a lot of other tasks when working at a nonprofit, so being strategic may not always be top of mind. But here are three tips that I can point to that will help any nonprofit:

1. Speak directly to donors – use gratitude and impact as your vehicles to start lines of conversation with people. Thank them for their contributions, and then let them know what you’re doing with their donation. Communicate that impact and continue to build resonance with them, and their inboxes

2. Focus on Retention – make a mental shift from focusing on donor acquisition to donor retention. It’s about 10 times more expensive to acquire new donors than it is to keep existing ones, so focus on the ones that have already shown you some love.

3. Keep track of everything – Whether it’s a CRM or a spreadsheet, make sure you have a place to keep track of all the details your donor gives you. Have a place to start building a bio of a donor. This also helps you fully understand the cycle of giving.

What’s the most important part of fundraising?

I’d say that the most important part of fundraising is the attitude toward fundraising.

I often find that there is this belief among young fundraisers that asking for money is a shameful act of outstretched arms. It absolutely is not! When you fundraise, you are inviting people to be part of your nonprofit’s work. You’re inviting them to make an impact in the world.

And moreover, donating can actually be a huge joy for the donor. It can be a meaningful activity that they look forward to. So go into your fundraising efforts with this in mind. It will change the way you strategize and give you more opportunities to create meaningful touchpoints along your donor journey, and truly get back to relationship building.

Relationship building is the fun part of the job. This is where you actually relate to your work in a tangible way. These relationships mean something important to the overall mission, in a very concrete way.

Now for something a bit more tangible, can you walk me through one of your most successful fundraising campaigns?

Sure thing. One of the most successful campaigns we ran happened for a youth-serving organization.

The success came because we paired the campaign with the organization’s mission. Having this alignment was key to creating impactful messaging.

This particular campaign had to do with back-to-school and was set to run in early September. This is typically a low time for fundraising, so we didn’t have too many things to compete with. Because of this theme, we were also able to reach out to local media who were also interested in back-to-school initiatives. We were able to create multiple donor touchpoints and get in front of a lot of donors.

It was successful, ultimately because of the number of donor touchpoints we were able to create. There were follow-ups. There were opportunities to share impact. There were opportunities to say thanks. All of these things helped to grow the campaign and strengthen relationships which have set them up for a promising future.

Any final bits of advice?

My final bit of advice is not to assume anything about your donors.

Let’s say that your donors didn’t engage with an email that you sent out. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t engage. Ask yourself — did you have a clear CTA?

This low engagement may just mean that you didn’t ask them to do anything specific. Be clear with your calls to action, and make your fundraising decisions based on those responses. It takes a bit of time to learn this, but it’s one of those things that you only learn by practice.

As the Founder of  The Lipstick Project, Leigh has been named to BC Business’ Top 30 Under 30 list and has been nominated for the YWCA’s Women of Distinction Awards. She has spoken at TEDxSFU and Sam Sullivan’s Public Salons. She has an MBA from Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business.