Thursday, July 25, 2013

Create Sustainability with Community-centric Fundraising

Donor-centric fundraising is outdated. 

We all hear a lot about donor-centric fundraising and the importance of nurturing donor relationships, of having a customer-service attitude when it comes to financial supporters and volunteers. The problem with this attitude is that it’s outward facing. Donor-centric fundraising keeps supporters at arms-length, in essence telling them that they are apart from the organization. Though many of the same ideals of donor-centric fundraising apply, there is a better way. Community-centric fundraising builds on the best practices of donor-centric fundraising, but makes supporters part of the organization, rather than apart from it.

Let’s admit it: we often don’t want our supporters too close to our work because we don’t want to have to listen to their ideas and criticism with a smile. What we often forget in the daily grind is that we likely couldn’t continue our work without these supporters. We forget that they are just trying to help because they care about the work the organization does and they see us as their teammates in meeting the mission goals. Community-centric fundraising turns supporters into teammates, growing the bond between them and the organization, all while creating sustainability, generating revenue, and lowering operating costs.
Just like donor-centric fundraising, community-centric fundraising begins with an attitude shift to viewing every contact with every supporter as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship. You’re not after a one-time donation, you’re after a lifetime of contributions. Those contributions don’t only come in the form of money. Volunteers and people who will spread your message are as vital to the mission as financial contributors.

Remember to update your supporters as often as possible. Newsletters are a great way to communicate longer pieces of information, but using social media like Facebook, Twitter, and HuTerra to share news puts your message in front of supporters with little effort on either part. Don’t wait for the big announcements. Let your supporters know what the organization does daily to work for the mission. Small daily updates provide transparency, and make supporters feel like they really know the organization and the people who work for it.

Get to know supporters by name, and get them to learn the names of the people working at your organization. Donors give more when they make a human connection, and volunteers are much more likely to show up if they feel welcome. An empty smile when they come in and a mumbled thank-you when they leave does not create a sense of community. Take your time and nurture these relationships—you’ll get more from supporters for the effort.

Perhaps even more important than individual contributions is turning supporters into advocates for your organization. You want them to know about the organization and the work it does so that they can spread the word. Educate supporters on the data so they can answer questions. Prepare them to speak on the organization’s behalf, then ask them to help you spread the word.

You can use social networks to ask for help. Offer your supporters some information about the organization, like a great infographic, and ask them to share it with their friends and families. Ask them to share their testimonials about the organization. Ask them to take a few minutes to fundraise on the organization’s behalf.
Too often, we focus on asking the individual donor for money. We should also ask them to share links to the fundraisers. Community-centric fundraising goes beyond that. It gives supporters the tools to get imaginative and create fundraisers that support the organization. Enabling existing supporters to fundraise on the organization’s behalf, in their own way, gets your mission message out to a much larger audience than the one your development director can access. It also creates revenue with little work on the organization’s behalf.

By making supporters part of the organization, rather than apart from it, you mobilize an untapped workforce for the cause. Free onlinefundraising tools allow supporters to create their own fundraisers for you organization, and they never have to touch the money. That means that the more your supporters fundraise, the more donations show up, and the more resources you have available for building donor relationships so more supporters will fundraise on your behalf.  

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