Right on the Money: Five Fundraising Resolutions for the New Year

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Keychain shaped like a dollar sign.

Here’s a fact: People – as opposed to corporations and foundations – give 80 percent of philanthropic dollars each year in the United States.

And here’s a myth: People are giving less to charity because of the recession.

Kim Klein, an Oakland, CA, fundraising consultant says that while corporate and foundation giving has dipped, individual giving has stayed constant for the past few years.

More reason, she says, why youth-serving nonprofits should focus on bolstering support from people in the new year.

Creating a reliable fundraising program, she says, means “building over time a broad base of individuals who support you and hopefully increase their giving over time. And they talk about you to their friends, so they become mini fundraisers.”

We asked Klein what five resolutions youth-serving nonprofits should make in 2012 to help them boost the amount they raise from individuals.

1. Make the case for your cause. “People are going to give money away,” Klein says. “My job is to say, ‘As long as you’re giving it away, why don’t you give it here.’ My job is not to prejudge whether they have the money to give away.”

She advises youth programs to take a page from public television and share this message on their websites, in printed materials and in public appearances: “Our work is made possible by people like you.”

2. Ask lots of people to give, knowing not everyone will. The likelihood of someone giving a gift depends on how you ask, Klein says. Ask someone for a donation in person, and you have a fifty-fifty chance that they’ll say yes. On the phone, the likelihood is 25 percent. A personalized letter has a 10 percent chance of gaining your organization a charitable gift, while a direct mail appeal (a form letter sent to hundreds of people) has only a 1 percent success rate.

3. Use a variety of strategies to reach different people. Send a personalized email to all past donors. Call people who’ve given $100 or more in the past. Ask board members in person and follow up with a phone call. And so on.

4. “Thank before you bank.” A phone call, a thank you note, a small token of appreciation. All of these things let people know they’re not just an ATM to you. And donors you’ve thanked for their gifts are more likely to give again.

5. Ask the people most loyal to your cause. They’re most likely to want to give, Klein says. Loyal supporters include your volunteers, your board members and even alumni of your programs.

In particular, Klein says not to fall under the mistaken impression that you shouldn’t ask volunteers for money because they’ve already given their time. “It’s very unusual to find people who volunteer who don’t also give,” she says. “So if your volunteers aren’t giving to you, they’re giving to someone else.”

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