Fundraising attracts people with a huge range of talents and skills. Every fundraiser continually works to meet new goals and perfect their craft, but some have greater success than others. What’s the secret of those top-performing fundraisers? Good habits. If you’ve ever tried to incorporate a habit into your life, you know it’s easier said than done.
If you’re curious about the habits of successful fundraisers, you’ve come to the right place. It might seem like the top fundraisers out there were born with an innate ability to bring donations rolling in, but in reality, most of them have worked long and hard to build the habits that anchor their success. We’re going to take a closer look at those habits and how you can actually make them stick in your everyday fundraising efforts.
Benefits of Strong Fundraising Habits
Obviously, the most desirable benefit of developing good fundraising is that you’ll be able to secure more money for your organization. However, there are five other tangible benefits you may not have considered yet.
1. Reduced stress
It’s hard to overestimate the value of a reduction in stress. Between meetings, calls and events, it can feel like you have too much on your plate — and that can impact your effectiveness overall. By establishing good habits, you give yourself a template that helps structure your activity and reduce the possibility of things falling through the cracks due to the distraction of stress.
2. Improved outcomes
Reaching your organization’s philanthropic goals will always be a challenge. Setting yourself up with the right habits gives you a strong foundation to meet that challenge. Think of it like this — you wouldn’t enter a baking contest with no recipe. You might be able to throw something passable together, but without having the steps and ingredients laid out, you’ll have to work a lot harder to make a lower quality product.
Developing good fundraising habits is like having your recipe memorized. Each habit is an ingredient, and all of them work together to sweeten your outcomes.
3. Greater follow through
One of the main goals of any fundraiser is to improve follow-through. Follow-through is critical from two angles — donors and your organization. Follow-through from donors means more consistent gifts — bread and butter for any organization.
Follow-through on your end means your organization and everyone in it are achieving the goals you outline in your fundraising efforts. The right habits will increase your ability to follow through on your own day-to-day responsibilities as well.
4. Greater appreciation from donors and sponsors
Successful fundraising relies on the cultivation of strong relationships with donors and sponsors. The habits of effective donor developers increase your ability to communicate and connect with the people in positions to donate.
5. Greater impact
The best fundraising habits help your organization do the most good it can. When donors see that your efforts are organized and methodical, they become more likely to part with funds. And of course, with more funds, your organization can do more of what it does best.
The 7 habits of highly effective fundraisers
You’ve likely heard about habits for successful people. May have taken a closer look at some of these habits and how they can apply them in specific industries. Here are seven habits you should focus on in your fundraising:
1. Pick up the phone
Of all the tools in your fundraising kit, nothing works quite like picking up the phone and getting directly in touch with your donors. It’s the next best thing to face-to-face contact and doesn’t require as much of your time or energy. When you’re juggling a full workload, taking time out for donor calls may feel insignificant, but it’s one of the most important habits of effective personal fundraisers. Here are two ways to make your phone calls more productive:
- Make time for one donor call every day. Often, making just one call feels more manageable than setting aside hours to call all your donors.
- Stand up during your phone calls and look in a mirror when possible to create energy throughout the call.
2. Focus on metrics
There just aren’t enough hours in the week to complete every fundraising activity you have on your docket, so it’s critical to spend your time on activities you know will work. How do you know what works? By checking your metrics. You should carve out time at least twice a month to update yourself on the numbers and refocus your energy in more productive areas when necessary. Metrics to track include:
- Cost per dollar raised
- Fundraising return on investment
- Donor retention rate
- Gifts secured
3. Ask for referrals
The best way to grow your pool of donation prospects is to harness your donors’ social networks. They likely know other individuals interested in and able to contribute to your cause. In many cases, donors will be happy to pass on information that will help. Here are two habits that can boost your referrals:
- Keep a list of referrals and identify the most likely future donors.
- At least once a year, ask board members and donors for referrals.
4. Diversify revenue streams
Depending on just a couple of revenue streams is a recipe for disaster, especially for non-profits. There’s no way to guarantee that your sources of revenue won’t dry up eventually, leaving your organization in the lurch. If you want to keep your organization flexible, you need more than one source of revenue. Work on diversifying your revenue streams by:
- Spending a few hours each month researching new fundraising activities.
- Focusing on diversification even within a single strategy.
5. Strengthen your board
Your board has the potential to be a significant source of support for development within your organization. Extremely successful fundraising often means creating a supremely successful board. Get the board in your corner and help them grasp their own fundraising potential with these habits for successful boards:
- Provide training opportunities and support for board members.
- Organize a giving campaign for your board.
6. Prioritize work
Filtering out the busy-work is key to effective corporate fundraising. As a leader in your organization, you have to be sure you’re spending your time on the activities that provide the most value. To help with prioritization of tasks, try these strategies:
- Delegate work when you can.
- Approach activities with an experimental mindset. Does this activity work, or should we cut it?
7. Practice your craft
The desire to get better at fundraising isn’t enough to hone your skills. Practice may not make perfect in this industry, but it’s the only way to push past your limits and develop your fundraising abilities. The myriad ways to bulk up your skills include:
- Attending seminars, trainings and conferences on fundraising.
- Working with your peers to practice writing more effective fundraising letters and pitches.
Incorporating effective fundraising habits won’t happen overnight. Developing good habits requires a sharp focus and willingness to do just a little bit more every day. Successfully implementing all seven habits can make a huge difference in outcomes for your organization and is a good start for catapulting you into the ranks of the fundraising elite.
Challenges to building effective fundraising habits
Every self-improvement project has its difficulties, and it’s no different with fundraising. There are four major pitfalls to watch out for as you work toward building better habits.
1. Lack of knowledge
The habits of successful fundraising can only improve your performance if you have a solid foundation of knowledge in the field. If you don’t have much of a knowledge base or have experience in only a few areas of fundraising, it’s crucial to find a mentor who can help you get down the nuts and bolts of the most effective fundraising practices.
Harness whatever resources you can to increase your general knowledge, and try to dig up specific case studies that can help you determine what methods are the most appropriate for your organization. Look for ways to expand your organization’s reach and accessibility, like online donations or mobile bidding for auctions. When it comes to fundraising, knowledge is power.
2. Lack of clarity
One of the most common fundraising challenges is getting your messaging right. If donors don’t understand your appeal, they won’t support your cause. When crafting communication materials, proposals and donation request letters, your appeal needs to be crystal clear.
A smart way to gauge the clarity of your message is to ask people how they would pitch your cause during fundraising meetings. If everyone is on the same page and able to clearly articulate the goals and advantages of the cause, that’s a good sign that you’re on the right track. If people seem confused or unable to describe your cause, it’s time to focus on reworking your messaging.
3. Lack of connection
Donors and sponsors need to feel connected to your cause and your organization if you want their continued support. The best way to ensure they feel like valuable champions of your cause is to keep them in the loop through follow-up, donor meetings and other types of communication. You can easily remedy a lack of connection just by picking up the phone.
In addition to direct contact, indirect messaging like newsletters can keep donors engaged without being intrusive. It’s also critical that donors can find adequate information on your cause without having to contact you. Your organization’s website should be informative and mobile-friendly so it’s easy for busy potential donors to access on the go.
4. Always putting out fires
It’s common for fundraisers to get trapped in a cycle of constantly-shifting emergencies. Much of the time, you’re actually rushing to deal with something that you could delegate to someone else. If you find yourself constantly putting out fires, remember to prioritize work. For example, if you find out your event venue was mistakenly double-booked, you don’t have to drop what you’re doing to get on the phone with the company when you can delegate the task to someone else.
How to help others establish the right fundraising habits
Once you begin successfully incorporating new and effective fundraising habits into your work, you’ll be in an excellent position to share the knowledge you’ve gained with others in your organization and field at large. Here are three tips on how to help others develop good fundraising habits.
1. Be open to questions
People first learning how to raise funds effectively have a lot of questions, and it’s important to be open to them. Be willing to explain how you decide which donors to call and when, or why you decided to delegate a particular duty to someone else. When people feel comfortable asking you questions, they’re often able to learn more quickly than they would on their own.
2. Facilitate training
Ongoing training is an essential tool for all fundraisers. One of the best ways you can help others build good habits is to create opportunities for formal training. Whether you’ve attained enough expertise to run workshops yourself or want to attend a professionally-run program, training sessions create immense opportunities for learning.
3. Provide support
Burnout in the fundraising field is a very real concern. Cementing good habits can help keep mental health robust, but your co-workers might need support during the learning curve. Let people know that their efforts are appreciated, and consider compiling a list of resources for them to check out when they’re feeling stressed.
How annual events can support your fundraising
One of the best sources of revenue for any donation-seeking organization is the annual event. Well-planned and well-marketed events like silent auctions can be a significant source of funds. It takes all these habits to pull together an annual event that will encourage donors to give generously, although there are many fundraising tools you can use to make your job easier.
GiveSmart is a fundraising software that makes events of all varieties more engaging for donors and easier for you to arrange. The event management platform makes communicating with your guests a cinch, with features like automatic generation of receipts upon purchase completion and the ability to send messages to individuals and groups. Item management allows you to organize and log all your forms of revenue for easy access and tracking of return on investment.
GiveSmart’s mobile-friendly sites, text-to-give and online auction functionalities bring fundraising into the 21st century. With the power of this platform, anyone with access to a smartphone can be a potential donor. By making it easier for people to give, we make it easier for you to be successful in securing the funds your organization needs.
If you’re interested in streamlining your donation and event management process, GiveSmart can help. Send us your details, and we’ll set you up with a demo of our software so you can envision exactly how our industry-leading technology will transform your fundraising efforts. With GiveSmart and a suite of good fundraising habits, you can make an even greater difference for your organization.