Eight Ways to Jump Start Your Fundraising Creative

jumper-cables1It’s easy to develop a fundraising idea. The real challenge in donor development is coming up with fundraising ideas, continuously, so that you can present your contributors with a steady stream of varied giving and engagement opportunities.

Depending on the size of your organization, your healthy membership program may rely on you to develop anywhere from four to twelve to twenty (!) fundraising campaigns per year. Sure, you know your organization is awesome, but saying why and how up to twenty different ways in a single year – let’s face it – is not easy.

So when you’re out of ideas, which you occasionally will be, here are eight ways to jump start your creative thinking and get the ideas flowing again:

  1. Roll up your sleeves. Go to work – on the program side – for your organization for a day. Serve meals, put up drywall, go door-to-door. You’ll be inspired all over and will no doubt find new ways to convey that inspiration to your organization’s donors.
  2. Reverse the way you build your case for support. Most of us naturally take a funnel approach to building a case for support. That is, we start wide with the big picture of what our organization does and then we narrow in and substantiate with specifics on why our work is important and examples of the impact we have. But if you build your case the other way around instead, you’ll actually end up with a more effective case. Next time, start narrow – tell a single story conveying your impact on an individual level – and then expand to the larger discussion of what your organization is doing and why the donor’s support matters. For inspiration, check out The Girl Effect, a collaborative effort that manages to talk about and tackle global world poverty from a very simple starting point and perspective: that of a 12-year-old girl.
  3. Check your idea file. What, you don’t have one? Well get started right away! It can be hard copy, electronic, or both. Whichever, keep a folder of clippings, notes and samples from other organizations that you like. Individually, they’re just scraps but collectively they can be a valuable springboard for new ideas.
  4. Share with and learn from other nonprofits and colleagues. Make time in your calendar and budget to attend high-quality conferences. But don’t be a session hermit. As Seth Godin points out, it’s the engaged conversations you have in hallways that can often be of the greatest value. I’ll be headed to one of my favorite conferences later this week by the way – NTEN‘s Nonprofit Technology Conference – which kicks off on Thursday. If you’re not able to enjoy the opportunity to engage and learn in person, you can still attend online.
  5. Read up. What’s going on in the news about your issues? What are people saying? Are they saying good things or bad things about your issues? Are there any new studies or statistics that are relevant to your organization’s work? Spend an hour taking the external pulse on your issues and your reading will likely spark ideas for new ways and reasons to make your organization’s case for support.
  6. Remember that donors don’t want to hear about your programs; they want to know what you accomplish. Nonprofits usually organize their program areas in ways that make sense from an implementation perspective. Programs are things like: “Education,” “Research,” “Advocacy,” and “Community Outreach.” This is rarely compelling from a donor’s perspective however. Donors don’t give because you “do community outreach.” They give because of your organization’s impact, and at the most individual level possible. So instead of showcasing a program in your next appeal, think carefully about what you really do. I still think one of the best examples of this is the American Cancer Society‘s More Birthdays campaign. For all the organization’s many program areas and initiatives, this campaign distills the impact and goal of ACS into one simple thing: more birthdays.
  7. Spend an hour with your results. Data is one of the best places to look for messaging and campaign ideas. What approaches have your donors responded to the best? Which issue areas have your donors been most interested in? The least? Sometimes revisiting your results helps shape new ideas and approaches that you can test in your program.
  8. Take a walk. Seriously. An apple can’t hit you on the head if you don’t step outside. And by outside, I mean anywhere you’re not staring at a computer screen or mobile device. Your most inspired ideas – of any kind – are more likely to show up on those rare occasions when you’re unplugged and alone with your thoughts.

For fresh ideas and inspiration this week be sure to follow the Nonprofit Technology Conference on Twitter via hashtag #11NTC.


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