Pop quiz: Historically, what has been the biggest source of private giving in the United States? Is it corporationsFoundations? Nope. The answer is individuals. For over 65 yearsindividual giving has represented around 70 percent of total giving in the United States, and early reports are showing that 2020 saw increases in giving from individual donors. 

successful nonprofit has diversified funding streams, and individual donors play an important role in sustainability, especially during times of crisis. Here are a few tips to help you build strong relationships with individual donors to support your cause in these uncertain times: 

1. Engage and retain 

No matter what gift amount or level of donorloyal donors help sustain an organization. Good news! A recent study by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project finds that charitable giving grew 10.6 percent in 2020 over 2019most of that growth was from more donors giving small gifts less than $1,000. Your top priority should be retaining those new and loyal annual donors. They are your new and greatest fans, and the potential for them to give more is strong. Keep in mind: Many folks give an initial, smaller “test the waters gift,” so a follow-up plan is key for retention. The more your supporters are engaged, the more potential there is for them to give again. Don’t leave any supporters out of your engagement and stewardship plan. This is a great time to get creative in these socially distant, virtual times by testing new engagement activities and offering a variety of ways for prospects and donors to be involved in your cause. I recently attended a local nonprofit’s virtual dinner party that was free and had a suggested donation. They provided menus in advance and had live mixologists and chefs instructing us how to make the dishes. It was fun, we learned about the nonprofits important work, and got to learn new recipes and techniques. 

2. Ask (then listen) 

There is no single answer to why people givehowever, one thing remains clear: People give because they were asked (read the Psychology Today article, Six Reasons Why People Give Their Money Away, or Not for more reasons). Every donor is different, so asking the right questions (then listening) will provide you valuable information that leads to asking for their supportGet curious! Ask thoughtful questions. Why did they geinvolved in the causeWhat motivated them to give to your organization or others with similar missions? How would they like to continue to be involved in the workIs there something they would like to know more about? The discovery step in building a relationship with the donor is truly at the heart of the processIt helps you learn more about them to identify the right ask to make and the right timeA good fundraiser asks good questions and is also a good listener. 

Check out the short video below to learn why it’s important to get to know your donors before asking for a gift.

3. Build your online presence

In this virtual world, it’s more important than ever to plan ahead and manage your nonprofit’s online presence. Just like your organization is doing prospect research to find new donors; potential volunteers and supporters are basically shopping online for organizations to get involved with. To ensure you’re telling your organization’s story the best, make sure you’re regularly updating your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. Reminder: The organization is the expert on the work, not the donors. That’s why they are investing in you. Share your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by sharing demographic information about leadership, and highlight your impact in the community. Transparency matters. A new Give.org report shows that nonprofit’s accomplishmentsare one of the top three factors inestablishing donor trust. You have the power to tell your organization's story your way. Claim your free GuideStar profile to boost your online presence.

Check out the short video below to learn how your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile can amplify your online presence.

Would you like to practice telling your nonprofit’s story, listening your way to the ask, making the ask, and engaging donors? Join us for our new five-week Fundraising Academy: Cause Selling Fundamentals cohort program to learn how to build strong, lasting relationships with donors and connect with your peers. Learn more and register for the virtual workshop series. 

About the Author(s)

Krista Berry Ortega (she/her) Programs Manager - West, Candid

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