Discover some game-changing tips that will help your organization find nonprofit CRM software that's the perfect fit.

Choosing a Nonprofit CRM: 8 Game-Changing Tips

Hear stewardship advice from a variety of nonprofit experts

Donor Stewardship Expert Advice from 29 Industry Leaders

Donor stewardship is one of the most, if not the most, important activities a nonprofit does. That being said, it can be a tricky beast.

NonProfitEasy’s team has compiled advice from a variety of experts from the nonprofit sector on how nonprofits can perform effective stewardship for their donors.

Listen to your donors

You’d be surprised how much you can learn about your donors if you’re willing to listen! If you develop trusting relationships with your donors they’ll be the only focus group you ever need. 

Amy DeVita, Chief Operating Officer at Third Sector Today and Top Nonprofits, says:

“Although I’m not personally involved in nonprofit fundraising, I’m very fortunate to get to interview some incredibly successful nonprofit leaders in my line of work! The best practice that I’ve heard time and time again: “Listen” to your donors.

At first blush, it may seem counter-intuitive that “listening” is more important than “telling,” “suggesting,” or “asking.”

But, by listening, you are letting your donor tell you how they want to be further engaged with your cause— and they will be charting the course to a successful and more meaningful relationship for you to follow.”

Vanessa Chase, Fundraising Consultant and Owner of The Storytelling Non-Profit, says:

“Survey your donors! If there’s one tip that I think can make a big difference for stewardship plans it’s to do a donor survey.

Send one annually that includes 5 to 7 questions about donor demographics and their overall satisfaction. It can provide non-profits with vital data points about their donor audience and how they can better steward their audience.”

Craig Linton, Founder of Fundraising Detective, says:

“Never miss an opportunity to get feedback from your donors. Not only does it strengthen your relationship, but it can identify common problems that you can solve to improve your donor experience.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Quality over quantity of communications

Donors who have given to multiple nonprofits are likely inundated with follow-up communications. Make yours stand out by ensuring they’re high quality and meaningful!

Kivi Leroux Miler, President of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, says:

So many nonprofits send bad thank you letters – if they send them at all! Nonprofit thank you letters need to be thought of as a very important, highly strategic piece of communication.

A thank you is NOT just a tax receipt. It should look like a personal letter from one friend to another. Ditch the predictable openings like “Thank you for your gift of…” or “On behalf of our organization…” Draw in the donor immediately by placing them front and center. Something as simple as “You made my day…” is much better.

A great thank you is the first step in creating a relationship with your donor that will inspire them to give again and again.”

Tom Ahern, President at Ahern Donor Communications, says:

“A prerequisite for above-average donor retention is a well-planned, donor-centric communications program that begins with a welcome.

Jeff Schreifels, Senior Partner at the Veritus Group, says:

“It’s sad, but just like we’ve all become accustomed to bad or mediocre customer service and we accept it, it’s the same with donors who give large, multi-year gifts. They have come to expect very little of us.

This is where you can have an advantage over other charities. Your mindset should be that because they gave a gift, I’m going to do the unexpected and cultivate them so wonderfully that they can’t wait to make their next gift.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

True gratitude will make all the difference

It’s because of generous donors that your organization has the opportunity to make a difference. Make sure they know how important they are by thanking them early, frequently, and in a variety of ways. 

Chris Moore, Executive Vice President of Innovairre, says:

“In today’s fundraising environment, where retention is the new acquisition, the days of having a revolving door of endless new donors are long gone!

The need to thank donors promptly and personally is more critical than ever.

After all, it’s not the first gift that’s most important – it’s the second, and first impressions count; you have to earn the right to ask again!”

Claire Axelrad, Principal at Clairification, says:

Effective stewardship can be summed up in two words: gratitude and impact.  Think hard about what you’re grateful to your donor for.

It’s not money; it’s the impact they’ve made possible. Tell them; show them.

It doesn’t matter how great your relationship is now. If you don’t demonstrate repeated gratitude and/or can’t show your donor their money is creating an impact, there won’t be much of a relationship for long.”

Joe Garecht, Founder of The Fundraising Authority, says:

“Your non-profit would not exist without your donors. So why not start treating your donors like the essential members of your team that they really are?

Your donors are the heroes of your work… your program staff and volunteers are important, but your donors are essential. Make sure they know that!”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Always connect donors with your organization’s mission

A charitable donation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Make sure your donors or potential donors know where their money is going and the difference that they’re making to your organization. 

Marc Pitman, Fundraising Coach at The Nonprofit Academy, says:

One of the most important things to do in donor stewardship is connect the donor to the mission. We need to bring donors into what my friend, Shanon Doolittle, calls these ‘mission moments.’ We often overlook these because they’re things our nonprofit is doing on a regular basis. But these are exactly what the donor is investing in. And since they’re happening on a regular basis, it doesn’t take a lot of programming or organizational inconvenience to bring donors in.

The best part? When non-fundraising staff see donors get excited about their work, the non-fundraising staff start willingly helping with the fundraising!”

Sarah Bernstein, Founder and Owner at Philanthrodata, says:

“I would suggest that in acknowledgements and reports to donors, that nonprofits emphasize what they can accomplish with and because of donors, what donors have made possible, rather than a litany of the organization’s achievements.

For example, they could talk about what it means to the people they serve to know that the community (of donors) believes in their potential and has demonstrated that by investing in their future. Also, they should pay attention to the people who pay attention to them, especially the donors who follow them in social media.”

Lomesh Shah, Founder and CEO of NonProfitEasy, says:

“Too often, nonprofits will separate fundraising activities from their ‘mission’ as an organization.

We try to encourage nonprofits to always link any monetary solicitation with a tangible outcome.

This is an easy way to show donors that their donation is making a difference and showcase process after a fundraising campaign.”

Remember to follow up, and follow up, and follow up!

Donor stewardship is not a one and done sort of activity. It’s an ongoing relationship with donors that your organization should constantly be looking to deepen, develop, and grow. 

Julia Campbell, Principal at J Campbell Social Marketing, says:

“Donor stewardship does not mean just sending a thank you note and then contacting the donor again the next time you need money.

No. You need to tell donors how the gifts made an impact and continue to build the relationship with them.”

Eric Rardin, Vice President at Care2, says:

“Committing to year-round stewardship will retain current donors and recruit new repeat donors. Their funds are an extension of their faith in the organization and the missions, so remember: you’re not only stewarding their money, you’re stewarding their trust.

Care for your donors by investing in them — send a personalized thank you note; a formal, written thank you note; mid-year update; and a personalized ask the following year.”

Brian Dowling, Principal and Founder at SupportingFundraising.com and SupportingAdvancement.com, says:

One of the most important stewardship activities are reports sent to donors on a periodic basis informing them about what has been done with their investment in your organization. “

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Find ways to engage donors of all donation levels

Having industry leading donor stewardship means you are engaging potential donors at all giving levels, ages, and exposures to your nonprofit. Think about the different ways your organization can find opportunities to interact with organizations of all types. 

Alex Saavedra, Digital Marketing Manager at Greater Giving, says:

“Young donors are hands-on and serious about helping. The common thing among young donors is the desire to be involved—especially when working on limited budgets, the amount they care and want to participate may not be matched by how much they can give.

A donor is a long-term investment—if these donors have a positive experience with your organization when they’re young, they’ll continue donating long into the future when they have more disposable income.

Provide opportunities for young donors to get involved in other ways besides donating (such as volunteering and hosting their own local events such as a 5K).”

Bill Tedesco, CEO of DonorSearch, says:

“Prospect research can help your front-line fundraisers identify which donors have the capacity to give a major gift and a history of past philanthropy.

This will enable your development team to ensure that those major donors receive excellent stewardship to keep them engaged for years to come!”

Brian Lacy, Owner at Brian Lacy and Associates, says:

“Annuals funds are a great way to cultivate a strong pipeline of donors who have the potential to make a major donation down the line. The secret to your success in this effort will be your organization’s donor stewardship program!”

Focus on stewardship, not solicitation

Soliciting donations is only one part of donor stewardship. Make sure your communications with donors are varied so they’re receiving a diversity of information about your organization.

Farra Trompeter, Vice President at Big Duck, says:

“Celebrate your donors and make them feel like heroes. Highlight your accomplishments as theirs!

Highlight what your donors care about. Not sure what that is or why they give? Ask them via phone interviews or surveys.
Don’t just ask donors to give. Make sure to book-end any appeal with non-donation actions, updates on results, and word of thanks.”

Erik Anderson, Founder & President of The Healthy Non-Profit, says:

“Donors are not ATMs, they are people with wishes and dreams. Your job as a fundraising professional is to help people realize those dreams. You are not a mugger lurking in the shadows trying to snatch a donor’s wallet or purse. If there is one guiding principle that is paramount to all other fundraising best practices, it is treat your best donors like you would your childhood BFF.

  • Check-in with them from time-to-time.
  • Care about what is happening in their life.
  • Put their needs ahead of your own.
  • Spend time with them figuring out what they want their philanthropy to accomplish and then show them how your organization can help them accomplish their goals and dreams.

The more personal you can make your cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship interactions, the stronger your relationship will become. Philanthropy done right can be enriching for all parties involved!”

Bond Lammey, Senior Associate at Bentz Whaley Flessner, says:

“Put as much effort into creating a stewardship plan for your donors as you do in creating cultivation/solicitation plans. Your best future donors are your current donors, and if you neglect to demonstrate how much you appreciate your current donors, you run the risk of losing them as donors.

On a slightly related note, I recently made a first gift to an organization. About six weeks later, I got a letter in the mail from them. While this was a long time to wait for a thank you letter, I was glad to see it in my mailbox.

I opened it up…only to discover that it was a solicitation!

I was being asked for another gift before I had ever been thanked for the first one!”

Eliza McNulty, Board Member at the Associaton of Donor Relations Professionals, says:

“To be truly donor-focused, donor relations and stewardship programs must find the sweet spot between developing policies & procedures, gathering donor feedback and exhibiting empathy.

We must step into the shoes of our donors, aim to understand their feelings and perspectives, and use that understanding to guide our actions.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Mix up how you do donor acknowledgement

There’s more to donor communication than email and direct mail. Mix up how you interact with donors to separate your organization from the rest!

Joanne Fritz, Nonprofit & Charitable Organizations Expert at About.com, says:

Multi-channel fundraising is a hot topic, though no one talks about multichannel thanking. Consider thanking by snail mail just another channel for your campaign.

Many people who receive your direct mail appeal likely respond by going to your website and donating. It’s a matter of convenience, not dislike of the mail.

John Haydon, Digital PR and Fundraising Expert at Inbound Zombie, says:

“Social media empowers donors to share stories about the causes they care about. If they care enough about yours to make a donation, they’ll care enough to share your campaign on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

One of the best places to promote sharing is on your “thank you” pages. These are the first pages donors see after clicking “donate”, so the likelihood they’ll share the campaign is relatively high.”

Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation, says:

“Make sure to include matching gift appeals in your donor acknowledgements. It’s an easy way to let donors know that they might be eligible to double their donation!”

Transparency and trust come first

If your organization is doing great work and making a positive difference in the world then don’t hide it! Be open and honest about how you’re using donations or where your organization is looking to improve in the future. 

Larry Johnson, Founder of 8 Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, says:

“Seemingly counterintuitive, freely and openly admitting your mistakes, is one of the most powerful forces in renewing your donors. Total transparency—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

What does this do? It shows your respect for your investors and gives you the ability to continue making promises going forward. It’s one of those ironies of life.”

Erin Moyer, President at the Association of Donor Relations Professionals, says:

“To keep donors coming back, you must not only show them that yours is a quality organization with a solid reputation, but also one they can trust with their money.

After a first gift, each experience and touch you give your donor will help them further identify with your mission and ultimately strengthen your relationship.”

For more great fundraising tips, check out our ultimate CRM tip sheet!

Use technology to make your donor’s lives easier

Technology is revolutionizing the nonprofit sector by making it easier than ever for donors to engage with causes they care about. Figure out how your organization can embrace technology to make the donation process and stewardship process as simple as possible for prospects or donors.

Meagan Nordmann, Digital Marketing Lead for @Pay, says:

In order to keep an ongoing relationship with your donors so that they become repeat donors, organizations must be sure that the online donation process is as simple as possible.

Currently, most nonprofits require donors to visit multiple web pages, or remember a username and password, or download an app, or enter 57 keystrokes of payment information every single time they want to give.

There are express checkouts now that let donors give in just a few clicks, no matter what device they are giving from.

Rafi Norberg, President of Helperful, says:

“Linking to your donation pages or including call-to-actions at the bottom of your virtual communications will encourage some percentage of the folks who visit your website to become first-time donors.

This is a simple, automated way to improve your inbound donation pipeline.”

Click here to download our free fundraising software checklist.

 

Mastering Donor Acquisition: 9 Easy Steps for Success

Organizations value acquisition over retention at every giving level. Larger nonprofits tend to balance acquisition and retainment, but many smaller organizations don’t have the money or staff to do so.

Smaller nonprofits focus on retention, but they know that acquisition must be increased in order to raise more money.

The following best practices can help grow your donor population and keep your organization well-funded for years to come!

  1. Show potential donors how your nonprofit uses donations.
  2. Promote to donors online for better donor acquisition.
  3. Send direct mail for better donor acquisition.
  4. Take your fundraising online with crowdfunding campaigns.
  5. Provide exemplary stewardship to increase donor acquisition.
  6. Get creative at special events for increased donor acquisition.
  7. Focus on high-quality donors for the best donor acquisition rates.
  8. Use surveys and use them a lot.
  9. Give gifts in exchange for donations for better donor acquisition.

Let’s dive in!

Skinny-top-CTAs-for-Fundly

Show your donors how your nonprofit uses donations for your best donor acquisition.

1) Show potential donors how your nonprofit uses donations.

Showing donors specific evidence of how far their money will go can help to encourage donations from new sources.

Ray of Hope explains using their preset donations on their donation page what varying monetary donations do to help. This gives donors tangible evidence of how their money will be used, so they’re giving to something more concrete, as opposed to a nonprofit’s ambiguous overall budget.

See how Ray of Hope's designated donation uses help encourage contributions.

Demonstrating the work your nonprofit does is a promotional act that can be performed through words, pictures, and other types of media:

  • Share pictures of your work on social media.
  • Send emails detailing what recent fundraising has allowed you to accomplish.
  • Incorporate examples of your work on your website.
  • Improve direct mail by showing donors exactly what their money goes towards.

‘Showing’ is about both citing specific evidence and showing that donations will go towards specific actions.

For example, showing a prospect that her money will go towards a specific event might lead to a donation. Being able to show that the money will go into a fund that’s specific to this discussed event assures the donor that her money truly is going to what you say it is going to, and not into an ambiguous or unspecified bank account.

Is there an opportunity to improve your organization’s fundraising? Take a look at our ultimate fundraising event checklist to find out!

In summary: Letting donors know how their funds will be used can lead to more donations because they’ll instantly know how their contributions will impact the people or communities you serve.

Promote to your donors online for the best donor acquisition.

2) Promote to donors online for better donor acquisition.

The internet provides a bevy of options to both connect with and promote to donors. Not all online channels serve the same purpose, but they can all work together to acquire donors:

  1. Search engine marketing (SEM) — Advertising through Google and others search engines requires money, but it’s hard to raise money if you don’t spend some. You want your ads to attract people to your website in an effort to raise awareness for your nonprofit. Additionally, Google can offer up to $10,000 dollars in monthly Adwords spending to organizations that qualify for their Google Grants program.
  2. Social media — People who follow you on social media are generally more engaged with your nonprofit, and you have the chance to share meaningful content with them. This content, such as that shared by Ceres Community Project, should educate them about your organization, how to donate, and other relevant topics with the aim of acquiring email addresses.See how promoting your fundraiser to donors online can help raise donor acquisition rates.
  3. Email — Donor conversion through email averages about 33%. That’s a far cry from everyone you reach out to, but 1/3 is a desirable amount. The trick is to send the right messages at the right times, as you don’t want to overwhelm donors, give them extraneous information, or seem spammy and get blocked by internet service providers. If you do email right then you’ve got a great chance of acquiring more donors than you would through any other online medium.

In addition, adding a little variety to your organization’s outreach allows, you to interact with more potential donors.

In summary: Whether you use email, social media, search engine marketing, or a combination of all three, make sure to use these outlets not only to reach out to current donors but also to target new potential supporters.

Send direct mail for better donor acquisition.

3) Send direct mail for better donor acquisition.

The internet makes it easy to stay in touch with prospects, but some people crave a more intimate form of communication. Some fundraisers think that letters are out of date, but many older donors either don’t use or don’t respond to email.

Direct mail matters because older donors are often an organization’s biggest supporters.

An alternative to typical letters is to offer something for purchase that can be delivered through the mail, such as the cookbook offered by Ceres Community Project.

Not only is purchasing the cookbook a form of donating, but it must be mailed to the buyer, the cost of which is already covered by the purchase. This is a great opportunity to include more information about your organization in an attempt to turn a cooking enthusiast into a fully-acquired new donor.

Selling items, such as cookbooks, requires upfront costs, but it’s okay because you’ll be able to make it back in the future. Not only will many of your new donors give future gifts and recurring donations, but the amounts of those donations can increase over time.

In summary: Spending money to acquire new donors through direct mail is an investment in future donations that will more than cover the price of those initial mailings.

 

Take your fundraising online with crowdfunding campaigns.

4) Take your fundraising online with crowdfunding campaigns.

Crowdfunding makes it easy to run specific fundraising campaigns.

Most software allows you to create a handsome webpage, share pictures, video, and other media to easily articulate your campaign, and process payments through a secure online service. Nonprofits can run multiple campaigns at once and manage them all on the go thanks to mobile compatibility.

See how you can boost donor acquisition by starting a crowdfunding campaign.

The beauty of online fundraising is that it can help you to reach new donors. Many donations may come from loyal donors, but online campaigns make it easy for them to share your cause with friends and family through social media and email, so you stand a good chance of landing donations from new sources.

Online campaigns are also easy for nonprofits to promote to new prospects through their own social media profiles, email, and other online channels.

Learn about Fundly, a powerful online fundraising tool from NonProfitEasy.

In summary: Crowdfunding is an inexpensive way to widen your nonprofit’s reach and raise funds for your campaign. Best of all? There’s no limit to the number of crowdfunding campaigns you can launch.

Provide exemplary stewardship to increase donor acquisition.

5) Provide exemplary stewardship to increase donor acquisition.

People prefer to give online. It’s a safer, faster, and increasingly more credible way to raise funds.

Online fundraising also extends the opportunity to interact more with potential donors. You can share pictures, videos, links, and other informative content that can educate people and build the sort of goodwill that could lead to donations.

Stewardship extends beyond promotion. On top of marketing, the chance to interact with more donors means that you may receive more leads who want more information on your organization before donating. Your staff will likely interact with potential donors, and it’s important to treat prospects well from the start.

While your nonprofit might provide a great service to the world, people will judge your organization according to their interactions with your staff, so you want those experiences to be positive.

Ceres Community Project exerts great stewardship on their website.

They use language like, ‘our actions’, ‘together’, and ‘Join us!’ to convey a sense of inclusion in their community. They do a great job of conveying that their mission depends on a team effort that extends to both its donors and the community. The language is simple, but the impact can be large in how it could encourage new donations.

Another way to boost your nonprofit’s stewardship is by creating membership programs.

When donors sign up for your membership, they’re agreeing to make an annual or monthly contribution in return for discounts and other perks.

What’s great about membership programs is that donors get even more opportunities to interact with your organization, allowing you to cultivate long-lasting relationships.

When prospects form a positive affinity for your organization, you can begin a conversation about major gifts or planned giving.

Planned gifts are major gifts given in wills that can make a big difference for your organization. Receiving planned gifts is a long game, and the key to success is building great relationships that take foundation in a dedication to exemplary stewardship.

There are a lot of great resources available if organizations want to learn more about planned giving. It’s important to come prepared if your organization wants to start soliciting major or planned gifts.

In summary: If you want your donors to stick around, it’s important to make sure that your organization shows your appreciation so donors know you value more than just their money.

Get creative at special events for increased donor acquisition.

6) Get creative at special events for increased donor acquisition.

See how specialty events can help with donor acquisition.

Similar to Sarah’s Race for literacy in Nepal, BATS Theatre is nonprofit dedicated to improving New Zealand performance work. Let’s say they host a show and pass around jars in which the audience is meant to place donations during the performance. The response is fine, but BATS receives only money and no names.

At the same show the next year, BATS disperses programs that contain envelopes and pencils. The audience is meant to write their names and contact information on the envelopes and place their donations inside. This time, the theatre not only raises money, but they acquire a host of new email addresses, too.

It’s one thing to acquire new donors and another thing to land new donors who you can ask for donations from again and again.

The concert fix is an example of a simple, creative solution that turns one-time donors into possible recurring donors.

Events of any kind are attractions that can bring new faces into contact with your nonprofit.

You can also implement fun activities such as raffles and games to help paint a positive image of your organization.

In summary: Events provide the perfect opportunity to rack in donations and the contact information of new donors.

Focus on high-quality donors for the best donor acquisition rates.

7) Focus on high-quality donors for the best donor acquisition rates.

A one-time donor isn’t as valuable as a continual donor. Additionally, donors who give bigger gifts are more valuable than donors who give less.

Finding high-quality donors requires a focus on building relationships, as opposed to seeking donations. Money is what you want, but you’ll likely receive more money, and hopefully more than one donation, from people who feel a more intimate connection to your organization.

Focus on your high-quality donors to help boost donor acquisition.

While major gift donors tend to be previous donors, and specifically mid-level donors, who, over time, decide to give more, you should try to predict which prospects might be apt to eventually become your major gift donors.

Pursuing prospects who won’t give as much or as frequently isn’t worth the time that could be spent talking to prospects who will give consistently, in large amounts, or both.

How do you know what to look for?

  • Think about what characteristics your current loyal donors share.
  • Find out if the prospect has a history of giving to other nonprofits.
  • Look for wealth markers, such as real estate ownership, to gauge the prospect’s capacity to give.
  • Ask questions that demonstrate if the prospect has an affinity for helping out causes like yours.

Your donation page can also do the work of encouraging people to become high-quality donors.

Mentor Me’s donation page has a few key features:

  • A small button labeled ‘Monthly’, which gives donors the option to schedule automatic, recurring donations.
  • A big blue button, which suggests that a nominal amount be added to the donation to counteract payment processing costs.
  • Mentor Me requires that donors provide the full gamut of contact information, so that these new donors may be contacted to give future gifts.

The work of finding high-quality donors usually happens before someone lands on a donation page, but smart, subtle tweaks can help your donation page to encourage more people to give a little more or more frequently.

In summary: There’s not an exact science to knowing who will and won’t make a good donor, but looking for telling signs can help your nonprofit to dedicate its time to soliciting the right people, which should land you more high-quality prospects, more donations, and waste less of your fundraising resources.

Bonus! Learn how prospect research can help you find more major gift prospects.

Use surveys and use them a lot for your best donor acquisition rates.

8) Use surveys and use them a lot.

Many donors need to be provoked in order to speak up, and it’s an important responsibility for your nonprofit to seek what people think.

If you don’t know why people are giving, or why not, then you’re not learning how to improve fundraising appeals to new prospects.

Surveys need only ask the questions that your nonprofit wants answered, such as:

  • What did you enjoy about the donation process?
  • What could be improved or removed from the donation process?
  • Why did you choose to give to our nonprofit?
  • Why did you elect not to give to our nonprofit?
  • How do you decide where to donate?

The questions on your surveys will be relative to your organization and timely needs. Request for people to participate in your survey after donating or send out the survey in a newsletter or its own email.

Try running a raffle or prize giveaway to encourage participation. Survey results become more statistically relevant with the more responses you receive.

Surveys don’t have to be forms, either physical or online. Mentor Me offers mentor roundtables to discuss the program, so they’re constantly learning what’s working, what’s not, and how the program might be improved.

Once you have your desired information, use the data to improve your fundraising appeals and who your fundraisers focus on.

In summary: Surveys should be used frequently, as your organization is always changing, people are changing, and the ways fundraising can be conducted are always being tweaked. Surveys supply the information to help your nonprofit stay ahead of the curve.

Give gifts in exchange for donations for better donor acquisition.

9) Give gifts in exchange for donations for better donor acquisition.

The people want tote bags, jackets, coupons, hats, pens, and anything that’s free. People love free stuff, and giving out nice gifts can help to encourage donations.

Many nonprofits give out gifts for a certain level of giving, such as a donor must give at least $50 to receive a free bag. Some nonprofits give out different gifts depending on the amount donated. What all gifts do is incentivize giving, as people are now not just helping a cause, but also receiving a nice gift in return for their philanthropy.

See how offering gifts in exchange for donations can help increase your donor acquisition rates.

Raffles can be a type of gift giving to encourage donations, such as the wine cellar raffles held by Mentor Me. Not everyone wins, but the potential of winning encourages people to donate by purchasing tickets.

Not only does the winner feel good about being rewarded for a donation, but it’s fun for people to compete in a game of chance while knowing that, at the very least, their money is going towards a good cause.

Promote the gifts as part of your fundraising appeals, as some people might choose to donate to a cause that gives them something tangible in return for their money.

A gift might not only make the difference between no donation and a donation but the difference between a small and large gift, as people may jump to higher donation levels in order to receive a free gift.

In summary: Giving donors a gift with their donation can encourage new donors to support your mission and help you spread the word about your organization.


All nonprofits have a vast array of donor acquisition methods to choose from. Choose wisely, tailor the strategy to your organization, execute well, and never stop improving your tactics.

And don’t forget that great fundraising management can make your life so much easier!

Find out more information on donor acquisition with the following resources:

  1. Fundly’s Nonprofit CRMs: 11 Expert Tips. Looking for the right CRM for your organization? Check out our expert tips before you start shopping around!
  2. Double the Donation’s Top 10 Nonprofit CRM Vendors. Get the best of the best with Double the Donation’s list of top 10 CRM vendors for nonprofits like you!
  3. Salsa’s Donor Acquisition Best Tips. Still looking for help with donor acquisition? Check out Salsa’s best practices.

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Summer Camp fundraising

Nine Unique Summer Camp Fundraising Ideas

 

Kids will do the craziest things: sneak attack counselors with water balloons, get lost in the woods after being explicitly told not to enter the woods, cannonball into the shallow end, eat sunscreen, and the summer camp memories go on and on.

While camps are seasonal fun, raising funds to maintain the campgrounds, improve the facilities, and provide scholarships is a year-round effort.

Fortunately, there are a near equal amount of summer camp fundraising options as there are unpredictable things that a camper might do.

These are summer camp fundraising ideas to help you raise the funds to bring back those kids, and unforgettable memories, year after year.

1) Haunted forest

While summer camps are seasonal attractions, campsites can be repurposed and used to raise money year-round.

Some camps are run out of churches or other buildings devoid of forests, and that’s okay. A haunted house can be just as good as a haunted forest. Executing off-season fundraising events entails crafting events specific to the time of year, knowing what staff you have available, and what your budget is for such an event.

Photo of haunted forest fundraiser

Photo credit: Markoff’s Haunted Forest

 

Calleva, a summer camp and year-round outdoor school, hosts Markoff’s Haunted Forest during the month of October. This horrifying attraction helped raise the money for the Markoffs to start their summer camp. The annual tradition now raises so much money that they donate a portion of their proceeds to local charities.

An inexpensive way to create a haunted house or forest is to reach out to campers and parents to create costumes, decorations, and to serve as some of the characters lurking throughout your campsite of horror.

2) Recycling for cash

Summer camps can run programs to raise money from recycling. Camps don’t even have to reach out and form specific partnerships, as many recycling facilities will accept recyclable materials from the general public and offer cash in return.

Most camps advocate such programs to their campers. A way to make the recycling program fun is to turn it into a competition. Whichever camper or group of campers raises the most money wins a prize.

Picture of recycling

Photo credit: Fun Cheap or Free

 

Kids can raise hundreds of dollars in a mere week from recycling. Families, colleges, restaurants, and other businesses produce tons of recyclable material every day that can be turned from waste into valuable funds.

Recyclable materials that can be turned into cash include:

  • Plastic bottles
  • Aluminum cans
  • Ink cartridges
  • Cell phones
  • And more!

Camp Henry encourages campers to collect recycling and turn it in to recycling centers that pay for such materials. Recycling programs can do good for both the world and your camp at the same time.

3) Bake sale

You’ll probably have people interested at the word ‘chocolate’. If not, try ‘brownie’, ‘fudge’, or ‘hard candy’. People who still don’t pay attention have probably forgotten how to smile.

Summer camp bake sale

Photo credit: Cross Community Church

 

Bake sales are a chance to get kids and parents more invested in your camp. Ask families to commit to baking a certain treat. This ensures that your bake sale will offer a variety of desirable goods while getting people both more involved in the event and willing to spread the word. You can host bake sales at your campsite or other community locations where you might reach a larger audience.

The First Baptist Church in Friendswood knows how to go big with bake sales, which probably has something to do with Friendswood being in Texas. Not only did they host a bake sale, but they marketed it as a way to gather treats for Super Bowl parties.

Bake sales can work at any time of the year, but doing them in conjunction with big events can boost your profits.

4) Car wash

Rub-a-dub-dub, your car is too big to wash in a tub. However, arm kids or staff with sponges, soap, and water, and they can spend some hot summer days making cars shine.

Car wash fundraiser

Photo credit: Riverview United Methodist Church

 

Car washes can be hosted at your campsite or at locations throughout the community. Not only will this raise money for your camp, but it can increase exposure, so that more kids register the next summer.

A YMCA in South Carolina demonstrates the true power that car washes can have when they involve the larger community. By pairing with the Family Justice Center and the All Saints Church, the YMCA was able to host a car wash at a local parking lot to raise money to enable children of victims of domestic violence to attend their camp.

5) Campsite events

Camp Saginaw rents out their campsite for conferences, corporate picnics, weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, college leadership programs, and more.

Renting out your campsite can be a lucrative endeavor that also keeps your facilities in use, so your campsite becomes more useful to the community, as opposed to sitting around for months.

Wedding Venue

Photo credit: Episcopal Traveler’s Weblog

 

Other events include dances, movie screenings, family game nights, and pool parties. Get creative with your event suggestions, let the community know that your camp grounds are available, and let the people party! Or get married. Or picnic. Or whatever their hearts desire and they’re willing to dedicate money to.

 6) Crowdfunding

Summer camps are communities, and you can use that community to raise needed funds. Kids have parents, who have friends in the community, and all of these people can be sought to help your fundraising campaign to create scholarships, improve facilities, or other endeavors.

How? For starters, crowdfunding websites help nonprofits to create professional looking webpages and accept donations.

What’s important to realize is that a crowdfunding campaign does nothing by itself. You need to reach out to friends and camp supporters, potentially through email, to promote your campaign. A crowdfunding website makes donations easy, but you have to alert people that a fundraiser is going on.

NonProfitEasy crowding tool

 

If you’re interested in learning more about crowdfunding, we invite you to take a look at Ignite Fund. It’s NonProfitEasy’s powerful crowdfunding tool for summer camps of all locations and sizes.

 7) Sponsorship letters

A lot of families struggle to afford summer camps. You can empower kids to raise the necessary funds themselves.

Sponsorship letters are emotional appeals that campers write and send out to friends, family, and businesses in order to raise money to go to camp.

Kids should write about what a week of camp means to them, when and where they’re going, and include pictures, if possible. Promise to let any sponsors know how the experience goes, as following up with a heartfelt thank you is the least you can do in exchange for financial aid.

Writing these letters can be a bit of work, but it can be an effective way to pay for camp or raise money on behalf of a camp. Thanks to computers, kids only have to type up their letters once, although handwritten letters can provide the kind of intimacy needed to sway certain potential donors.

Kids of Deaf Adults (KODA) camp Midwest provides more information on how kids raise money to attend their summer experience, as well as a sample letter.

8) Yard sale/auction

Your camp has old stuff. The community has old stuff. Local businesses may be willing to donate items for sale or for auction. Reach out to people, see what you can acquire, and organize a yard sale or auction that can raise lots of needed money for your summer camp.

Copper Cannon Camp in New Hampshire is a free summer camp, and part of how it raises money to pay for all of its campers is through an annual auction. The silent auction attracts people from all over the state, who bid on items ranging from vacations to televisions to sponsoring campers for multiple days.

Auctions can be hosted at the campsite, at other community locations, or online. Providing a nice dinner and some live entertainment, such as music, can help to attract a wide variety of people, including those who have never attended your camp.

9) Public Classes

Summer camps teach kids art, swimming, tennis, science, and about loads of other topics. Why not teach people about those subjects year-round?

Camps have the facilities to host classes both for adults and children. Groups can rent your facilities to host their programs at your campsite or you can hire seasonal staff to teach various classes throughout the year. This is a great way to keep your facilities in use while bringing in extra funds.

Classes can attract families whose children don’t yet attend your summer camp, which can result in new campers when summer rolls around. Remember that any event hosted at your campsite is also a potential opportunity to showcase your grounds to new people.

Montgomery Parks in Maryland hosts summer camps, but also offers classes throughout the year. They create guides to keep people informed of what’s going on and the opportunities their parks make available to the community.

Fundraising is hard work, but with a little creativity you can make it a fun, varied experience. Variation helps to raise money from a wide array of people, all of whom you can easily manage with the help of a CRM. Choose the fundraising strategies that work for your summer camp and get started today.

If you want more fundraising ideas, take a look at these helpful resources:

  1. 33 Fundraising Ideas for Schools and EducationIf your school needs to raise money to support a summer camp or other program, we have a list of ideas to help you reach your goals.
  2. Fundraising Ideas for Kids and FamiliesTypically, to join a summer camp the participants have to pay a fee that covers boarding, food, and other expenses. Learn how you can raise money to cover your child’s camping costs with our fundraising ideas for kids and families.
  3. Crowdfunding Tips: Quick and Easy Ways to Raise More MoneyCrowdfunding is a great way for organizations, churches, and individuals to raise money for their cause. Learn how you can implement best practices into your campaign to reach your goals.
  4. 53 Fundraising Ideas for Churches and Religious Organizations. Often churches and other faith-based organizations organize summer camps for their congregation’s youth. Learn over 50 ways you can raise money to cover the costs of running your camp.
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4 Things Nonprofits Needs to Know About Prospect Research

A pack of crayons can be so exciting to a child, as the plethora of colors opens up a world of possibilities. Likewise, your nonprofit’s donor constituency consists of a variety of different individuals who each have a different background and relationship with your organization.

Nonprofits should try to focus their fundraising efforts on those donors who have the capacity to make generous donations. It can be challenging to know where to get started, which is why many nonprofits invest in a fundraising technique called prospect research.

In this article, we’ll discuss the answers to four questions about prospect research:

  1. What Is Prospect Research?
  2. How Can Nonprofits Conduct Prospect Research?
  3. Why Should Your Organization Invest in Prospect Research?
  4. What Types of Organizations Use Prospect Research?

Let’s jump right into the first question!

 #1: What Is Prospect Research?

Prospect research is the process of researching existing or potential donors who have the capacity to give to your organization. Fundraisers, development teams, and nonprofits all use prospect research to stay abreast of who to focus their efforts on.

Prospect research can unearth of variety of information including:

  • Personal backgrounds
  • Basic contact information
  • Philanthropic motivations
  • Past giving histories

Another key component of prospect research is wealth screening. While the two services often get confused, wealth screening is a type of prospect research that looks at a supporter’s giving capacity to determine if the individual would be willing to give more.

Some indicators of a prospect that’s willing and able to give more include:

  • Past giving history to your organization and other nonprofits
  • Political giving
  • Real estate ownership
  • Business affiliations

Combined with your other prospect research, you’ll gain better insight into your supporters as well as learn if these donors could become major or planned contributors. Best of all, conducting wealth screening is a strategy that every type of organization can use, and it fits any budget. Many of the tools used to find wealth indicators offer free resources for organizations!

Additionally, your CRM can track this information, so you can access more information in one place to make more individualized fundraising appeals to donors who have a higher affinity for your organization or capacity to give.

The bottom line: Prospect research is a strategy that any nonprofit can use to learn more about current donors and prospects. The information can be used to help organizations create a tailored cultivation or solicitation plan.

#2: How Can Nonprofits Conduct Prospect Research?

There are several ways to conduct prospect research, and your preferred method should depend on both the number of prospects you wish to research as well as your budget:

Prospect Research Company

These companies can take your list of donors, screen them against a variety of public and proprietary databases, and provide you with detailed philanthropic and wealth information. A prospect research company can screen prospects daily, weekly, or monthly, according to your schedule.

Additionally, if you were to partner with one of these companies, they will look at various aspects of prospect research, such as a donor’s:

  • Past giving habits
  • Philanthropic involvement
  • Contributions to other nonprofits

With detailed insights on your donor, this information can help you discover potential major donors. It’s all the prospect information you need to find major gift prospects in less time so you can allocate more of your resources to other fundraising efforts.

Prospect Research Consultant

Working with a consultant is another option for your nonprofit. Much like a prospect research company, consultants can do extensive research on individual major gift prospects using public databases.

What sets a consultant apart from a prospect research company is that they can help you take the information they’ve obtained and develop effective solicitation and engagement strategies. Not only will you get key insights into your organization, but you’ll also receive expert advice to help you reach out to these potential major donors.

There are so many different types of consultants, and many professionals can perform more than just prospect research. That’s why it’s important to find a consultant that fits your organization.

Look for a consultant that has experience working with similar organizations and references that you can contact. Talking with consultants’ past clients will give you a feel for how they approach prospect research. If you’re happy with a consultant’s results, you should see if they offer other services and look into bringing them on to assist you with other aspects of your fundraising strategy.

Hiring the perfect consultant takes a lot of work. If you want some guidance on how to start your search, Averill has a comprehensive fundraising consultant guide that can help!

Do-It-Yourself

The last option your organization has is to complete prospect research in-house. This approach will save you the most money, but it’s best to conduct prospect research yourself when you have a prospect researcher on your staff. This person, or team of researchers, will know how to efficiently gather and organize information from a plethora of databases.

If your nonprofit can’t afford a prospect researcher, then there’s always a more makeshift approach to prospect research that a current staff member or team of staff could learn to conduct. This process involves online research using sites like Foundation Center, Guidestar, and Bloomberg to learn about your donor’s philanthropic involvement.

As you consider the best approach for your nonprofit, be aware that there are advantages and disadvantages to each option. Weigh the pros and cons to determine the way that will best fit your needs and budget.

The bottom line: While there are several ways organizations can conduct prospect research, the best approach is to use an expert—whether it’s a consultant or an in-house researcher.

#3: Why Should Your Organization Invest in Prospect Research?

Identify major gift prospects

You choose the company you keep, and, as a nonprofit in need of funds, you want that company to include as many major gift prospects as possible. Major gift prospects have the capacities to give transformational gifts that allow you to surpass fundraising goals and better fulfill your mission.

Indicators of high quality major gift prospects include:

  • Past charitable giving to your organization
  • Past charitable giving to other nonprofits
  • Nonprofit involvement as a foundation trustee or director
  • Political giving
  • Real estate ownership

Prospect research will uncover this data, so you can find new major gift prospects fast. When you store the information in your CRM, you have a wealth of prospect data from which to craft individualized ask strategies to the prospects who are most worth your time.

Moreover, new major gift prospects don’t always come from new donors. In fact, most major gift donors begin as annual donors, which is why it is important to screen your loyal, even if minimal, financial supporters.

Learn more about your volunteers

Volunteers are the people who give their time and energy to bring your mission to the masses. Without them, your nonprofit would struggle to find the manpower to make an impactful difference.

A benefit of volunteers is that many of them are eligible to apply for volunteer grants. Prospect research reveals employer information, which you can use to discover which of your volunteers work for companies that offer these types of grants. Of course, store this information in your CRM in order to capitalize on this form of corporate giving each time that an eligible constituent volunteers.

Make the most out of your organization’s events

Party planners hate when they don’t know how many people are coming. How much pizza should they order? Is a larger room necessary? Does the clown have enough balloons?

Take your events seriously and plan ahead. You want to know who is coming to your events so that prospect research can swoop in for the big assist. Prospect research allows you to screen your attendees, so you know who to provide special perks to and direct your major gift officers to converse with, at an event. In a case study put together by IMPACTism, a nonprofit advocacy group, the worst use of nonprofit time was when staff could spent their time at fundraising events talking to all the wrong people, when plenty of major gift donors are standing out in the open.

The bottom line: Investing in prospect research is worth the time and money because you’re able to get deeper insights into your donors and volunteers. Plus, you’ll be able to find major donors faster with these strategies.

#4: What Types of Nonprofits Use Prospect Research?

The truth is that every nonprofit can benefit from using prospect research, but the process and its results may be different for every type of organization.

That’s why we’ve created a list of the organizations and the types of supporters that they can conduct prospect research on:

  • Schools: K-12 schools and universities can conduct prospect research on parents, alumni, students, and faculty. This research can help schools determine which supporters have the potential to become major donors. In addition, the information can be used to plan your next fundraising event.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals can use prospect research to gain a more complete picture of their patients. In fact, many prospect research services allow hospitals to send in newly admitted patients to complete daily screenings. Healthcare organizations can use the information to determine how much to ask donors.
  • Greek Organizations: Fraternities and sororities can use prospect research to learn valuable information about alumni. Bulk screenings are the perfect service of many Greek organizations.
  • Faith-Based Organizations: Churches, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship can conduct research on new attendees at services as well as long-term congregants to determine who can contribute major gifts. Faith-based organizations can also use prospect research to plan and devise other fundraising initiatives.
  • Arts and Cultural Nonprofits: Organizations that focus on the arts can screen ticket purchasers, event attendees, membership holders, and consistent supporters to learn which donors have the potential to give more.

As you can see, there are plenty of organizations that can benefit from prospect research. Even if we didn’t list your type of organization, gaining deeper insights into your supports can offer a ton of valuable advantages.

Just be sure to evaluate your organization and the kind of information you want to gain from your supporters to determine if prospect research is right for your nonprofit.

The bottom line: Prospect research is a strategy that can be used by virtually every type of organization. The trick is figuring out what information is going to be the most applicable for your organization’s needs.


With prospect research, you can improve the capabilities of your CRM and lead better directed and more individualized fundraising campaigns.

Want more fundraising advice? Check out these additional resources:

  1. Ultimate Guide to CRMsOnce you’ve performed your prospect research, you’ll need a place to store all the data you’ve gained on your donors. Nonprofit CRMs are the perfect place to store your information and track the progress of your fundraising initiatives.
  2. Full List of Fundraising IdeasWith more information on your prospects, you can boost your fundraising efforts and tailor your initiatives to best suit your prospective donors. Get our complete list of fundraising ideas—perfect for any cause.
  3. Donation Request LettersLearn how to write the perfect donation letter to ask for gifts using the information you gained via prospect research.

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