My previous post was about organizations tidying up their events program, deciding what works, what could go by the wayside, and the importance of focusing on the event activities that will yield the best results in the time frame available to make them happen this year.
But that’s not enough. Nonprofits are figuring out that tried and true events just aren’t going to get them where they need to be financially by the end of the year. Revenue is needed right now from those events is being delayed. There isn’t going to be enough time to pull off all the event activities that organizations would normally do in a year, which will have a negative impact on event revenue; events are likely going to have to adjust their formats to some degree, which will also impact revenue; and then there will be fierce competition as many organizations try to squeeze all of their events into the same reduced time frame, which will negatively impact event revenue even more.
Smart nonprofits have to think about other fundraising methods that they haven’t considered, or have outright dismissed, in the past. This is going to push many executive directors and board members out of their comfort zones. But they have to do this to survive.
The first alternative fundraising method they should look at is meeting with individual donors (in a responsible manner of course), starting with board members, and asking them to step up their level of commitment and make a larger gift, at least for the current year. This is simply the fastest and least expensive way to make up for lost event revenue. It is also the most repugnant to many ED’s and board members.
The second method is reaching out to large numbers of donors and prospects through direct mail fundraising letters. This can also be done relatively quickly, but does involve upfront expenses for printing and postage. Without an established direct mail base the results can be disappointing, so start with past donors and past event attendees who have already contributed, and expand your list from there. Results tend to improve over time with those who respond. An additional advantage to direct mail is that it gives the organization an opportunity to tell its story.
If the cost of printing and postage is cost prohibitive, email and phone-a-thons are alternative methods to direct mail if you want to reach large numbers of people. But email has an even lower response rate than direct mail, and phone-a-thons are very labor intensive for staff to organize and volunteers to implement.
The third method, really an entirely different source of funds, is grant writing. This is an inexpensive but time consuming revenue source, which can require detailed applications and a lot of internal research regarding budgets and demographics to demonstrate the effectiveness of an organization. The bonus is that you may learn more about your organization and be better able to tell your story going forward.
Grants are highly competitive, you cannot reasonably expect to receive funding from every organization you apply to, especially as a first time applicant. The process is slow, responses from granting foundations and agencies can take months. As a result an organization should clearly understand what grant funders are interested in and only apply for funding when the organization fits that interest, and only apply for levels of funding that are commensurate with other similar non-profits that have been funded in the past.
By rounding out their fundraising program to include multiple approaches, organizations can meet their current year goals, and building a stronger, more stable fundraising program for the future.
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