A Halloween Special – Overcoming Fundraising Fears

Halloween can be a scary time, not only for trick or treaters but also for fundraisers. By far, December is the best month for fundraising results. In fact, in a typical organization, 31% of all donations come in the month of December.

Preparing for the End-of-the-Year

However, to have a good December, non-profit organizations need to have active Septembers, Octobers and Novembers. Initially, you have to cultivate and then put a request in front of donors to receive a donation in the first place. Then it’s important to understand that it often takes time for people to make giving decisions, and the larger the decision the more time it can take.

Sure, organizations are pretty good at direct mail and special events. However, I often find that many non-profits miss out on the biggest source of potential income, and that is face-to-face solicitations of donors and friends. Simply stated, one successful major gift can exceed the proceeds from a direct mail piece or a fundraising event or both.

Face-to-Face is Still Best

For example, a study conducted by Cathlene Williams, revealed that the vast majority of nonprofit fundraising events yield $100,000 or less. After expenses, the yield is closer to $50,000 to $60,000. Yet, with a large enough database, the likelihood is high that there are several $50,000 to $100,000 donors right there and available to be cultivated and asked.

Also, according to Charity Science, the average response rate for donor renewal direct mail is about 8%, with the total giving from that source accounting for about 7.5% of the organization’s income. Likewise the ROI for fundraising events is often a lot less than anticipated.

Now I’m not suggesting that those efforts should be eliminated. They are important parts of the overall fundraising strategy, but they are not the only part. That’s where major gift, face-to-face solicitations enter the picture. While direct mail is the most expensive and least effective form of fundraising, face-to-face solicitations are the least costly and most effective form.

Why Face-to-Face? 

In our research on capital campaigns we’ve found on average that face-to-face solicitations typically yield a positive response 70% of the time. Of course, well-balanced development programs include all of these methods and more. My point here is simple…when nonprofits neglect face-to-face solicitations the program is far from being balanced.

In fact, gifts are much larger in face-to-face visits than in any other form of fundraising. Well then, if 70% of the time (many of our campaigns have achieved rates in excess of 80%) a peer visits a peer in a face-to-face solicitation the answer is “yes”, why wouldn’t an organization want to do more face-to-face solicitations?

So What’s the Problem?

 Well it’s time consuming and labor intensive, but mostly it’s fear. There are many fears non-profits face in asking volunteers to help them make calls. In order to get individuals comfortable in soliciting major gifts, organizations often have to work through those fears. Some of the more prominent fears include the following:

  • They’re afraid they’ll make mistakes and not be successful
  • They’re afraid the prospect will get angry
  • They’re afraid that the prospect will say “no”
  • They’re afraid they don’t have enough time
  • They’re afraid they will annoy friends
  • They’re afraid they don’t know how to fundraise or they can’t get comfortable with the idea

Actually, we’ve found all these fears among volunteers, but none of them is insurmountable. In fact, with appropriate and strategic responses and training each one of them can easily be overcome. In fact, over the next week or two we will address each and provide remedies to overcome them.