CE Logo
When the ALCU raises $24 million in one weekend - it's the progressive movement's version of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

While of course we all have donation envy, there's a lot to learn about how, in this pivotal moment, our organizations can build the support they need to face these challenging times. What are some of the principles that led to that $24 million jackpot - and how can we apply them across the sector?
People Want to Take Action

People's impulse to give is coming out of a deeply-felt desire to make a difference. In the face of new policies put into place every week, donating to nonprofits fills a need to replace hopelessness with action. In the same way that pleas to call politicians are ricocheting around the Internet, an appeal to donate offers a powerful way to counter the new Administration's most distressing orders.

But it's important to choose the correct framing for your fundraising message. Messages asking people to invest in strategies for victory are much more effective than communications focused solely on what's wrong. Donors want to feel that they are contributing to a successful effort to make a difference. The most forceful ACLU tagline? He Discriminated: We Sued.

The nonprofit community is an integral part of combating hopelessness. Every nonprofit must find its own way to help potential donors be part of the solution - both programmatically and in our fundraising messages.
Build Donor Loyalty and Commitment

Large-scale impulse political giving has the most in common with disaster-relief gifts. These gifts arise from an immediate, emotional response to the moment, not necessarily as a statement of support for an organization's core issues. Even the ACLU is having a hard time converting impulse donors to monthly sustainers.

Think of a disaster-relief gift (and that's what Trump resistance gifts are - an attempt to forestall a perceived disaster) as a door-opener. You know your donors are concerned and that they think that your proposed action might be part an effective strategy. But that's all you know. Your job? To build a relationship so their next gift is actually made as an investment in your agency.

That's one reason why, from a fundraising standpoint, creating volunteer opportunities can help build familiarity and donor loyalty. Consider how you might reinforce donor/volunteer identification with your nonprofit (T-shirts with your logo above the slogan?) as they show up to volunteer, attend your rally or sign a petition, to help convert casual givers into donors who are enthusiastic about your cause.
Ask for Specifics

Whether you have volunteer opportunities or not, consider targeting your appeals to particular actions rather than the overall cause. It's often easier to move new donors to give $50 towards a specific rally, legal need, or counseling session, than for a more general gift. Start people off with concrete asks (that can be met successfully, so you can "share our victory" with supporters afterwards), and worry about converting them to general donors later down the road. Goodness knows there's no lack of urgent concrete needs right now!

Remember those unique strengths that you have as a
local organization which give you a comparable advantage over national nonprofits - you're on the ground making a palpable, touchable difference in your communities. That immediacy allows all of us - families/friends/neighbors - to exhibit our core values. Use that compelling vision in your fundraising appeals.
Set Up For the Long Haul

Finally - these challenges aren't going away soon. If your organization is not around to lead the charge, who will be? But if all your fundraising is action-specific, how can you keep the lights on and staff around to steer the movement forward?

The answer is the 20% strategy. As much as you can, allocate 20% of all fundraising proceeds to keeping the organization itself alive. After all, if there aren't any computers, how can you send out a call to bring people to an impromptu rally? That's an extreme example, but it's a telling one that anyone can understand. Without adequate infrastructure, rapid response is ineffective.

And don't "ask for permission" for this strategy - even with institutional sources, tell the funder that you're doing t
his and why. If they push back, you've at least started a dialogue on what it really takes to implement systemic change. (With small individual gifts, no explanation is necessary - if the action they're supporting takes place, however you spent the money to get there is fine.)
The Urgency of Now

We're in a time of heightened anxiety - we feel it, and so do our donors. Without being unduly alarmist, let's acknowledge this shared viewpoint and extend our sense of communal responsibility to the fundraising sphere. 
From Junior Board to Organizing Support: Make The Road New York

Cause Effective client Mak e The Road New York (MRNY) builds the power of Latino and working class communities to achieve dignity and justice through organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and survival services. Since the election, MRNY has been at the forefront of New York City resistance to anti-immigrant policies and practices.

With heightened visibility due to its high-profile organizing efforts, Make The Road New York started fielding numerous inquiries from people wanting to help. With limited staff, MRNY realized early on it needed to heighten its efforts to incorporate this new supporter energy. MRNY decided to transform its Junior Board, named Aliadxs (allies), from a cohort of 7-8 high powered young professionals into a larger group committed to providing political support and direct action while organizing fundraisers for the cause.

Over 400 people came to the last Aliadxs meeting, where people volunteered for new tasks and were encouraged to make recurring donations and recruit 10 friends. MRNY has received many new donations from this group, including a number that were made in someone's honor, or that came through opportunities such as businesses donating the proceeds from a day of operations.

Because MRNY pushed the idea of monthly giving through the message "Give us money we can count on," close to half of their 2017 donors have become monthly givers. But because these monthly gifts tend to be smaller than one-time gifts, monthly giving constitutes only about 10-20% of MRNY's small donor support each month.

Read more about Aliadxs in this Chronicle of Philanthropy article
Cause Effective Can Help

We'd love to help you think through your donor strategy - drop us a line. Especially during these challenging times - we're here to help.

Judy Levine 
Executive Director  
Cause Effective Around Town
Workshops, donor survey, blog posts...and more! 
Upcoming Workshop: Moving Your Board Beyond Events-Based Fundraising

When it comes to engaging board members in fundraising, special events are familiar territory. At their best, board members rally to find sponsors, sell tickets, and network like pros at the event itself. Afterwards, they may exhale and sit back for much of the year until gala time rolls around again.

But there is an alternative to this cycle. In this workshop, Ngozi Okaro and Judy Levine from Cause Effective will share strategies on how to turn events into a launching point for your board members to recruit new supporters, deepen existing relationships, and get out and ask year-round

Foundation Center
Wednesday 4/19/17
10:00am - 11:30am

Register For This Free Workshop
Excellence in Fundraising and Resource Development

To examine your organization's management practices and receive expert feedback to strengthen your ability to meet your mission, consider applying for the 2017 Nonprofit Excellence Awards. Applications due 4/21/17 are currently being distributed, with application clinics taking place in every borough.
Fundraising information for large nonprofits is readily available, however, small and mid-sized organizations are often left out of focus. The Individual Donor Benchmark Survey is an annual national survey of development practices and results for nonprofits with budgets up to $2 million. If your organization fits this profile, we urge you to participate in this data collection process so your voice can be heard as part of this analysis.

Click here to get a copy of the 2016 survey results - and here to participate in this year's survey.
From Cause Effective's Blog:
Well, let's say, ¾ - way....

I'm talking about the idea that once board members get activated, it makes more work - for us, as staff.

We have to give them lists! We have to research options! We have to do the legwork! Yipes! We already have full-time-plus jobs... 
Invest in Good Work

Support Cause Effective's commitment to the dynamism and diversity of New York's nonprofit sector.

Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter
For almost 35 years, Cause Effective has strengthened the nonprofit sector by increasing the capacity of more than 5,000 nonprofits to build sustainable communities of supporters.  We provide carefully tailored counsel to help nonprofits diversify funding, raise more money from individuals, activate boards of directors, and get the greatest value from anniversaries and special events so they can achieve long-term, community-based change.

To learn more, please visit www.causeeffective.org.