The Fundraising Secrets of Top Non-Profit Organizations


While there is a science behind fundraising, it’s not rocket science.

The vast majority of successful fundraising involves building relationships.  That means identifying new prospects, engaging with them, cultivating a relationship with them, and then asking them for a gift.  Then continue to build your organization’s connection with them, and rinse and repeat.

Every successful non-profit takes that formula and tweaks it to meet their own needs and work with the resources they have available.    Top non-profits organizations take it a step further, though, and use what I call “fundraising multipliers.”  These multipliers are small changes in fundraising strategy that result in exponential fundraising growth.  In many cases, these multipliers mean the difference between surviving and thriving in a development program.

Here are the three most effective fundraising multipliers used by top non-profits:

#1 – Top Non-Profit Organizations Add Phone Calls to Most Tactics

I have learned from experience that when I talk with a smaller non-profit, and they aren’t raising the money they would like to raise, the reason is almost always that they are trying to rely on impersonal fundraising tactics.  They are sending out letters, raising money online and through social media, and holding the occasional event.  But they are usually not doing fundraising meetings in person or over the phone.

The more personal you get with your fundraising, the more successful you will be.  That’s why top non-profit organizations add phones calls to most of their tactics.  After sending out event invitations, they follow-up with a call.  When they’re holding an online giving day or crowdfunding campaign, they pick up the phone to ask people to donate.  They call their donors to check in, give them updates, and keep them in the loop.  Smart fundraisers use the phone (and in-person meetings) as often as possible.

#2 – Successful Fundraising Programs Ask for Referrals

One of the best places to find new donors is inside your current donors’ personal networks.  Your supporters’ friends, family, colleagues, vendors, clients, and neighbors are all more likely to give to your non-profit than a random stranger… particularly if your donor makes a warm introduction for your fundraising team.

The only way to get a referral to your donors’ friends is by asking for one.  Yet, I would wager that fewer than 10% of all non-profits are systematically asking for donor referrals on a regular basis.  Top non-profit fundraising programs have a plan in place to ask their supporters for new referrals every year.

#3 – Smart Non-Profits Separate Cultivation from Asks

Many non-profits like to mix cultivation and ask opportunities in their fundraising communications.  This means they send out thank you notes that include a donor reply envelope, or ask for money at the bottom of their donor newsletters.  This results in a donor communication that isn’t particularly good at cultivation (because the donor sees the ask and counts it as a fundraising piece), and which isn’t very good at fundraising (because the communication is usually split around 90% cultivation and 10% ask).

Smart organizations don’t make this mistake.  They let their cultivation mailings, e-mails, and calls be 100% cultivation, and they let their ask letters, e-mails, and calls be 100% asks.  This lets each communication shine and assures that each donor will feel respected and appreciated… while also making sure that your asks are as clear and effective as possible.

Remember, top non-profit organizations use each of these three fundraising multipliers as central components of their development programs.  If your organization is not currently using these strategies, see how you can incorporate them into your fundraising plan this year.

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Photo Credit: Dennis Skley