Fundraising is just like organizing—it’s about building relationships through one-on-one conversations. Speaking to donors in person allows you to build strong relationships, which will lead to increased donations over time. Prospects for fundraising can be anyone who is interested in supporting your group’s work—including current donors, event/action attendees, local philanthropists, and others.
Research Your Fundraising Prospect
How do you determine who is a good prospect? The two main factors are proclivity (do they share the same progressive values as your group?) and capacity (do they have a level of wealth that will allow them to give?). Some other things to look for:
Have they given to local or national progressive candidates for office? How much have they given?
Have they given to local or national non-profits? How much have they given? What kinds of causes do they care about?
Are they on the board of directors of any local non-profits? Do they volunteer regularly with a cause they care about?
Here are a few helpful tools for finding this type of publicly-available information:
Google - Google is a great place to start! Remember that you can narrow down your search by using quotation marks around names and phrases. A great way to find annual reports to look for donors/board affiliation by putting the their name in quotation marks followed by *pdf, e.g., “John Smith” *pdf.
Social Media - Social media (specifically Facebook and Linkedin) can be used to determine involvement with other organizations .
FEC.gov - The Federal Election Commission’s website allows you to look up federal political contributions. Many states also have similar state level databases.
Your local business weekly paper - if you’re in a larger town or city, you may have a local business-focused paper that covers the current job promotions and charitable involvement of local executives in your community. See if there’s one for your area at www.bizjournals.com.
Use this information to determine your ask amount. Keep the “ask” within your donor’s capacity (e.g., if they typically make $100 gifts, it’s reasonable to ask for $150 or $200, not $500) to better your chances of getting a positive response.
Create a Case for Support
A case for support is a document that tells prospective donors what your organization has accomplished, as well as what you hope to accomplish moving forward. It should include your group’s history, vision, impact, and goals.
Focus on your group’s strengths, not just your needs, to demonstrate how you make an impact in the community.
Be both emotional and rational by including accomplishments and stories that appeal to the heart, as well as statistical information where possible.
Once created, you can tailor your case for support for each prospect. In some cases, you won’t want to present a formal document, but it doesn’t hurt to create a case for support to ensure your talking points are clear and concise! And don’t forget to practice! Use your spouse, your dog, or your mirror to practice your pitch out loud.
The Meeting and Ask
Once you’ve determine the best prospects and practiced your case for support, it’s time to start having meetings. These can take place pretty much anywhere - an office, coffee shop, or restaurant - but be sure it is a place where you are comfortable having a private conversation and where your prospective donor will be comfortable too.
Start by getting to know one another! It’s helpful to start the conversation by asking about the prospect’s values and philanthropic interests. This will allow you to tie their interests into your work. Be sure not to “talk at” your prospect. While you want to present the information you put together, you don’t want them feel like they are sitting through a lecture. Allow them time to ask questions and provide feedback. This should feel like a conversation because ultimately it is! This is a great opportunity to learn about what they care about and share what your group is accomplishing.
Once the conversation starts to wind down, it’s time to make the ask. You should have a specific ask in mind (determined in the research phase), but you may need to adjust based on the conversation. After you make the ask, stop talking and listen! A helpful trick to make sure you don’t ramble and talk them OUT of support is to casually take a sip of whatever you are drinking after the ask.
Fundraising isn’t an exact science. You may not get an immediate answer, so part ways and be sure to follow-up. Other times, you may do everything right and still get a “no.” It won’t feel great, but it’s not the end of the world! If you’re comfortable, ask for feedback so that you can make improvements for next time.
Use your best judgement, but in most cases you will want to continue to cultivate your prospect. Fundraising is a long-game, and some people take longer to “buy-in” and make a financial commitment. Show them you care either way! You may also discover that while some folks aren’t the right fit to make a donation, they can still make an excellent addition to your group.