Picture this: you’re running a fundraiser. You’ve got a great cause to get behind and a team of dedicated volunteers. Yet somehow, when all is said and done…your event was an utter disaster.
Wait, what? What happened? How did things go so horribly wrong? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Generally speaking, when a fundraiser fails, it can be traced back to one of several reasons.
There’s No Plan (Or A Terrible One)
First thing’s first – take a look at your fundraising plan. What strategy do you have to inspire your audience to donate? How do you intend to promote any events you want to run? What strategies do you have in place to keep people engaged during and after your events?
“I know lots of nonprofits who host a gala or auction in the spring, golf tournament in the fall, luncheon in May, and send a year-end appeal letter in December,” writes Notes on Nonprofit’s Alyce Lee Stansbury. “This is not a fundraising plan. This is a series of fundraising strategies strung together throughout the calendar year with little or no thought to what happens before and after each strategy.”
Of course, even if you have a plan, that’s no guarantee you’ll succeed. You need to also be certain that you’ve set realistic goals for yourself, and accounted for the resources you actually have at your disposal – not just the ones you’d like to have available.
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a telemarketer working on the behalf of a police fundraising banquet. Before he even finished describing the banquet, he piled on strong-arm tactics, repeating over and over how hard the police work to protect us and how much they’d appreciate my patronage. Worse still, when I informed him I’d rather not make a donation over the phone and would prefer to show my support at the event, he grew annoyed and insistent, eventually hanging up on me.
I don’t think I’ll be attending that banquet.
If you’re going to raise money for a good cause, you need to do it in such a way that people don’t feel unduly pressured to donate. You have to be respectful about it – because otherwise, you’re going to drive away more supporters than you pull in.
“What’s Social Media?”
This one’s quite self-explanatory. Modern organizations – especially charitable ones – need to make use of social media for promotional purposes. Sites like Facebook are the perfect avenue through which to draw in supporters, as they let your brand establish a close, personal connection with supporters.
That said, you need to be certain you’re targeting the right social network. Your marketing efforts will fall flat if you’re not reaching the people likeliest to take an interest in your charity. Paige Kutilek of YouCaring has some valuable advice in that regard:
“Social media has transformed how people give so it is important for individuals fundraising online to embrace the Internet’s influence,” writes Kutilek. “As stated in Pew Research Center’s 2014 Social Media Update, multi-platform use is growing, with 52 percent of adults using two or more social media sites.”
“Remember that different age groups are attracted to different social platforms,” she continues. “The same study revealed that people who are 18 to 29 years old use Twitter and Instagram more frequently than any other age group; so in order to reach all age groups it is vital to use multiple social platforms to gain the greatest amount of buzz for your campaign.”
The Story Is Muddled (Or Nonexistent)
What story are you telling your audience? What sort of narrative have you established for your fundraiser and your cause? Do you have a clear message, or is everything muddied and blurred?
Your cause could be the most giving, beautiful, and perfect one in the world, but if you aren’t able to convey it adequately to potential supporters, then you aren’t going to get any money.
“No matter how obvious your cause is, you still need a clear message that wins over the hearts of people,” explains the Nonprofit Information blog. “A fundraiser to help find a cure for breast cancer is clear to most without further explanation. How specifically are you going to use the funds? What specific research are you using the money for? What results specifically do you hope for? Being specific will give people a greater sense of why your cause is important, but it will also communicate to them that you are serious.”
There’s No Innovation (Or Enjoyment)
Last but certainly not least, you need to be sure that your fundraiser is unique, and that it creates a sense of ‘fun.’ Fundraising drives can be some of the most frustrating, boring affairs in the world, so unless you want to draw in more than the most dedicated of donors, you need to take a few extra steps to make things exciting.
“It is imperative to keep your fundraiser enjoyable,” says Nonprofit Information. “Few people will care about your cause enough to show up even though it’s boring. Creating a fun-filled atmosphere will not only bring your guests back in the future, but it will increase the morale significantly among your workers and volunteers.”