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AMiable Solution #336: Five Tips for Fundraisers

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If you have a child going back to school right about now, you’ll probably soon be affected by a common school activity: fundraisers. And while you may pass on the wrapping paper, frozen pizzas, and popcorn, you still have the power to help inspire future professional fundraisers.


Whether you have new hires in the office with little nonprofit fundraising experience, college students working through an internship, or even an enthusiastic neighbor-kid finding his/her voice in selling, you can encourage their understanding and success in non-profit fundraising by offering these tips from the pros:


· Target your audience. Really. Alan Sharpe a fundraising practitioner, author, trainer, and speaker, suggests segmenting your audience, and then segmenting those segments. For example, don’t just target “donors.” Create separate letters/campaigns for active donors, lapsed donors, and former donors. Address annual donors separately from monthly donors. Tailor your gift requests differently for major donors than minor donors.


· Write to an individual. Every letter or appeal should be addressed to an individual—not a company or group—and should address the recipient by name. Use the word “you” frequently.


· Think like an individual. Someone’s name is going at the bottom of the letter. Your letter should sound like it’s being written from one person to another, not from an organization to a group.


· Make it personal. Tell your recipient about a person, not a problem. That’s not to say you can’t talk about the problem. After all, the problem is the reason you’re fundraising. But talk about the problems in terms of the people affected. Think in terms of telling a story. How has your problem impacted your main character? How has the resolution, which your fundraising provides, changed the life of that person? How can your potential donor help more people like that?


· Focus on benefits, not needs. Joanne Fritz, the expert on nonprofit organizations and philanthropy for The Balance Small Business, says, “Donors give to get something in return, like the good feelings that come from helping others, or an opportunity to enjoy a great experience. They are not interested in your budget deficit.” Fritz suggests focusing on both the intangible benefits—like the lives saved or human dignity restored —and the tangible benefits—like early admission to a special exhibit at your museum —of donating.


Fundraising letters, like any other marketing format, take time, practice, and precision to perfect. The end result, however, can have immeasurably lasting rewards.

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