New to raising money? Avoid the #1 Mistake - Starting with your mission | Track It Forward

New to raising money? Avoid the #1 Mistake - Starting with your mission

Written by James McBryan

Raising money is hard!  If you’re part of a smaller nonprofit where nobody has connections, you’re probably considered holding a bake sale or going after big corporations for grants.  I’ve done both, and they don’t work.  I brought my friend Jaime, who is an expert at raising money for nonprofits, to offer an approach that actually works.  If you have any questions directly for him, he will be answering question in the first 24 hours of this posting!

Nonprofit work is hard.  And largely for reasons that don’t exist in the for-profit world.
 Aside from all-too-common budget constraints and staffing shortages, which many for-profit businesses suffer from too, stakeholder relations can be a whole new animal for new nonprofiteers.  This problem becomes exacerbated when trying to grow your organization’s donor-audience.


Donors are totally different than customers, and so is donor list-building.


In the for-profit arena, marketing boils down to identifying a market need, and selling your superior solution.  Customers pay you to continue to directly solve their problems.  However, as a nonprofit, your funding does not come from those whom you directly serve.


Donors are not customers.


Many nonprofiteers jump straight to cause marketing. This assumes that your nonprofit’s programmatic work is your organization’s product, and your donors are akin to customers.  


While selling donors on your programmatic work is important, and that is often done through the power of storytelling and regular progress updates.  However, if cause marketing is your only tactic, your donor acquisition will plateau.


"That’s because cause marketing is only appealing the the sliver of the population who immediately identifies with your cause."


Whether it is protecting your local watershed, solving hunger in Cambodia, or Type Five diabetes, unfortunately, the amount of people who immediately align with your cause right away, and are ready to support your organization’s solution, is limited.


At the beginning of a donor relationship, your first goal is simply to start a conversation with as many potential donors as possible.  


Yes, eventually, your audience will have to identify with your cause and your organization’s solution to make the leap to a donor.  And more than likely, you already have the pieces in place to help them make that leap - your regular communication mix of passionate storytelling, celebrating wins, reporting on progress, etc.  This is the cause marketing machine you’re more familiar with.


Before you can start up that machine, you need to make healthy small talk with as many people as possible.  These are relationships after all.


So how do you start a lot of conversations?


Value.  Direct, Immediate Value.


Value is a more sustainable way to start the conversation with a prospective donor.  It expands your potential audience and helps drive continual supporter engagement.


What is the direct, immediate value I can provide to new donor prospects?


You want to start your conversation with Everyday Donor Joe (EDJ) by offering him a tool or resource that will solve an everyday problem for him.  That’s direct value.


So what direct value can your organization provide to Every Day Donor Joe?


Well, that’s different for every organization.  


So what’s a good place to start?


Your organization is most likely a thought-leader in its field.  Leverage this by packaging some of your unique information for EDJ’s everyday use.  Look for the crossover between EDJ’s everyday problems and your organization’s unique information.

  • Health orgs - EDJ could use some health tips from a respectable source such as yourself.  Or finding healthy recipes to cook for the family...

  • Visitor-based orgs - how about something to EDJ plan the next family trip?

  • Preservation orgs - help EDJ get the most out of his next hike through your stunning environment

  • Homelessness and welfare orgs - what are some tips to help EDJ make sure he’s on solid footing too?

The more you get to know Everyday Donor Joe, the more opportunities you will uncover for your organization to provide him value.

 Now promote that value.

 Make it into an easily consumable PDF guide.

 And then share it!

 When Everyday Donor Joe sees that you have something to help him in his Everyday Life, he will gladly join your list.  “What a great organization to provide this to me for free?” he’ll say.

The same goes for the entire new market of donor prospects whom are now your organization’s target market.  Without even mentioning the amazing work your organization does, you have expanded the market of people who care about your organization to everyone with the same everyday problems as Joe.

 “It sure is nice for [YOUR ORG] to help me solve [My PROBLEM],” EDJ will say.  And, “oh wow, they really have a lot to offer when it comes to [YOUR ORG’S PROBLEM].”

 This is a strong position for your organization to now tell EDJ and his friends about your cause and your solution.  Turn on the cause marketing machine, and turn EDJ into YDJ (Your Donor Joe).

PS - Your current audience will appreciate this too.  Value marketing is a great engagement tool to revive stagnant supporters, or start cultivating the to become monthly donors.

Jamie works to grow the LeadPup brand and find product solutions for clients. He is dedicated to helping those who are building a world we all want to live in. Outside of LeadPup, he helps run a venture fund and chases good dirt, rock, or snow. Before finding nonprofit digital marketing, he led many community initiatives within the Boulder startup community.