Marketing is a concept all to familiar for non-profit community-based organizations (CBOs). See, a CBO is a different type of non-profit in which a majority of the funds each organization has is used to provide services and programs to local consumers. Many CBOs rely on state or federal grants, private donors, and fundraising. State and Federal grants are hard to come by now-a-days with intense competition among providers, and even if you do get the grant, funding restrictions can put a limit on the amount of money you can spend, or restrict what you can spend the money on. In order to address this, many agencies rely on private donations and fundraising to provide a majority of their services and programs. Private donors and fundraising dollars are like “free money”, very rarely do donors restrict what you can use the money for. In order to make sure you have the money your organization needs, you must employ a variety of marketing strategies.
Special events and fundraisers
Hosting larger special events and fundraisers are one of the easiest ways to get the funds rolling in. Many “bougie” people find these bigger events as a way to show off their success rather than helping out the community. Let’s face it, if you’re spending $150 a ticket to go to a classy gala or donor reception, you’re probably not doing it to provide a meal to someone in need. These events are great for businesses or politicians, because not only is it a tax-deduction, but it’s also a way to show that you or your business is “giving back” to the community.
In order to have a successful special event or fundraiser you want to do some research on what will provide the most “bang for your buck”. Oftentimes organizations will throw these elaborate events not taking into consideration the amount of money it costs, and they end up in the red (negative). If you’re going to do a big event, work on sponsorships, or in-kind donations of venues, volunteers, food, and more. If you can keep your costs low, then you can be sure that $150 ticket price will have some money left over. Many businesses, restaurants, breweries, etc. would be more than happy to donate raffle items, gift certificates, or provide food at no cost to the organization. Make sure you present these places with how you will mutually benefit from them giving you free stuff, i.e. you’ll include their menu on your social media or website, or you’ll plan to have your company holiday party at their location. Make sure you don’t step into unethical favors here though. Also, don’t make promises you can’t keep!
Next, plan the event based on a per-person cost. Take all the expenses and divide it by the number of estimated guests you plan will attend (it’s better to use information from past fundraisers to get this number). Once you have a per-person cost, you can then attach a price to each ticket to make sure it covers their attendance, and you make something off of it. A good fundraiser actually makes money, not just does it for the small publicity.
Organization awareness and outreach
Another big component to obtaining those donor dollars is to make your area aware of the services your org. provides. Think of this as marketing a product. Telling people about your product is a good start, but really explain how the product benefits them, even if they may not be a consumer. For instance, you may be an organization that helps the homeless. It’s great to talk about how you do this, but also talk about how it impacts the community, or the donor themselves. People want to know what is happening with their money, explaining how their $200 donation will be specifically spent is a good way to get them to say yes.
Also, you want your donors to feel like their money actually makes an impact. Most donors give because they feel it is the right thing to do, let them know it was. Talk about specific occasions that donor dollars helped someone. For example, last year John Doe donated $250, and that money helped us get one of our clients with four kids out of an abusive household and into an apartment of their own. The client now has a steady job, and is helping to give back by working with some of our other clients. Examples about how the money is being spent is a perfect way to pull at donor heart-strings.
The most important thing about making your organization visible and expressing your needs is to be transparent. Everyone can see through someone who is trying to “sell” their products or services. Be genuine, explain why the money is actually needed. Donors are generally well educated, and can tell if you’re just schmoozing them to see the dollar signs. Keep in-touch with your donors. A huge part of marketing is making sure that there is a plan to get new customers, but also to retain the ones you currently have. Make sure you spend just as much time getting new donors, as you do keeping the current ones. A simple thank you note and monthly letter isn’t sufficient. Send out cards on their birthdays or holidays. Make sure if you do this it’s personal, not generic. Have your staff all sign these cards, include a blurb about something only you and the donor discussed, or ask how Sally Sue and Jimmy John are doing in college.
Making your organization known in the community involves multiple steps. You can’t just be focused on what the organizations does, but also on how it impacts each and every person in the community. A business is never successful when it only focuses on what it has or what it does.
Think outside of the box
BE CREATIVE! Ugh! It’s so sad to see organizations do fundraisers and events just because they’re used to it, or because other organizations have done it. Come up with something fresh and new. Recently my partner’s parents went to a fundraiser in which each attendee was given a ticket and got to take home one of one-hundred pieces of original art. They paid $100 for their ticket, and got to take home a beautiful piece of artwork from a local painter. The coolest part is that your ticket number coincided with the order in which you got to pick, number one picked first and number one-hundred picked last. This is something super creative. Now as a marketer I know they could have taken it farther, and could have allowed people to pay a little more to ensure they received a ticket in the 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, and so on. When you’re creative about your fundraising approach you can then adapt new ways to make more money, as well as, give your guests a chance to have a little excitement.
Coming up with fresh ideas also helps to bring in donors that frequent other special events. If someone already went to a fashion show fundraiser that year, and you planned to do the same thing, chances are you won’t have the best turnout. Look at what other agencies are doing, and be different!
Collaborate with other agencies
Finally, look at ways in which you can collaborate with other local organizations on a fundraiser. Yes, this will require you to split the funds, and yes you will have to work with and compromise with other agencies, but the up side is that you have now doubled your potential pool of donors. Many donors have specific organizations they give money to. It’s okay to recognize you may not be on that list. By collaborating with an agency, which may be on that list, you now have potential new donors which means more money coming in. Collaborative fundraisers are perfect for those grass-root organizations that may not be able to afford a development coordinator, and could use the extra help planning and carrying out the event. The more people involved, the less work you have to do.
Donors like to attend fundraisers, it looks good for them, and they most likely would also like to attend them less often. Providing a collaborative fundraiser allows them to “kill two birds with one stone”. Possibly making them spend a larger amount of money at one time since they don’t have to think about holding back for the next fundraiser.
Fundraising for non-profit CBOs isn’t easy. Having the right marketing strategy will help make sure you have a plan to help meet those fundraising goals! If your organization is struggling with meeting these goals don’t forget, The Tipsy Marketer is just an email away.
If you have questions or comments make sure to post below.