There is no shortage of tips and tricks to raise more money floating around the internet. How to host bake sales or sell wrapping paper, things that serve as annual drives or one-off efforts for a trip. Non-profit organizations spend much time and energy on the process and we understand the frustration that can come from feeling like you're not connecting.
From our work with non-profits, both domestic and foreign, here are a few things we'd recommend keeping in mind.
1. Listen To the Questions They're Asking
Don't fill in the answers you think they want, listen to what they're actually asking. While you live and breathe your mission and your vision, other people do not. Learning to speak the language of others is a key part of successfully navigating donor relationships. If someone is asking about how your staff is trained in accounting, they do not want to hear about how dedicated your staff is or how flexible, they want to hear that someone on your staff understands literal bookkeeping. Not every conversation is a pitch, but every conversation potentially lays groundwork for future relationships.
2. Be Honest About Where the Money is Going, and Be as Specific as Possible
This is often a sticking point: donors rarely want to hear that their money is going to keep the lights on or pay a staff salary, but that's often exactly where the donations are going. However, most donors want to be able to trace their specific donations to the work of the mission you've convinced them to believe in. If the most important thing really is keeping the lights on that month, learn to communicate that in the language the donor understands.
3. Communicate Clearly
This is not a tip to spend all your time listing facts and figures, but instead to learn to tell a story succinctly, clearly, and well. This is also a reminder to be consistent; hap-hazard communication speaks of a hap-hazard organization and one to which donors may be cautious to trust their money with.
4. Cultivate Relationships, Especially with Donors Who Want to be Team Members
Remember that not all donations are monetary and not all donors want their relationship to be transactionary. Many donors want to feel part of your movement; you've sold them on your vision of how your organization will solve a problem and they want to be part of that solution. Tell them what's going on and how they can be a part of the mission. Provide multi-level entry points to participation, from one-offs to permanent volunteer positions.
If donor relations is a significant part of your job, the process can be overwhelming. Networking or membership in professional organizations (like ADRP or Donor Relations Guru) can be helpful. Consider, as well, contacting Abbey Research to ensure you're working as efficiently and effectively as possible.