Join fundraising master trainer, Chad Barger, CFRE, for a workshop focused on finding potential supporters for your nonprofit organization. Chad will review the best practices in fundraising prospect identification and provide practical tips for how small nonprofits can maximize their network.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Chad, I got 2:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Chad: Sounds great, Steven.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Good morning if you’re on the West Coast, I should say. And if you’re watching this as a recording, I hope you’re having a good day, no matter where and when you are. We are here to talk about where to find potential donors to support your cause. We’ve got a good old-fashioned donor acquisition webinar for you today. I’m super excited and I’m glad to see you all here joining us. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. 

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. Just to be on the lookout for an email from me with all those goodies. So if you have to leave early, or maybe you get interrupted, or a kid that you’re homeschooling virtually comes into your home office, don’t worry. We’ll get all that good stuff to you by email later today and you’ll be able to share it with a friend or a colleague too if you want.

But most importantly, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments that you have along the way. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. But don’t be shy. There’s a chat box and a Q&A box. You can use either of those. You can even send us a tweet. I’ll keep an eye on Twitter. But bottom line is we’d love to hear from you. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. We want to keep it as interactive as possible. 

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars every single Thursday afternoon, been doing them for almost 10 years. We got almost 1,000 sessions. It’s kind of hard to believe. Pretty cool archive there. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond these webinars or if you’re a first-timer, Bloomerang is also a provider of donor management software. So check that out if you’re interested or curious or maybe you’re thinking about switching soon. You got a lot of good options out there for sure, but, you know, we’d love it if you considered us as well. There’s videos you can really get a good sense of what we’re all about here at Bloomerang. But wait at least an hour to do that. Don’t do that now because we got Chad Barger here. Chad, what’s going on? Are you doing okay?

Chad: Hey, man. I am great. I’m just wrapping up a week here and thrilled to be doing it with Bloomerang. So it’s been a while since I did one of these and . . . back.

Steven: I know. I feel bad because the sessions are always great. And the last time you did a webinar for us, I was in some random airport terminal hoping that the overhead announcements wouldn’t come on while I was introducing you. And somehow I made it. Somehow I found those like seven minutes of silence.

Chad: You pre-warned me, but you were in cold sweats there. It was the . . . 

Steven: That was bad. But this is great. Now I’m in the office because nobody’s traveling and that’s not going to be a problem. But, yeah. Chad’s all over the place. He’s doing webinars all the time. He has his own webinar series, which is really good too, which you’ll want to check out, all kinds of good stuff over at One of my go-tos is I always love seeing those emails come in because there’s always great advice from Chad. And what can I say? He’s a master trainer. He’s a coach, big time strategist, and has helped a lot of organizations over his career. So you’re definitely going to want to follow him online. So I’m going to pipe down, Chad. I’ll let you bring up your slides here are and you can talk to us all about finding those donors.

Chad: Awesome. Well, that is great. Thank you, Steven. Just verifying, we have SlideShare and . . . 

Steven: Yeah. It looks good.

Chad: All right. Well, everybody, thank you so much for joining. Great to see a crowd here. I’m wrapping up my week with this. I’m taking tomorrow off for a little self-care. So I’m thrilled to be spending time with you all and talking about where to find donors. You know, so much of what I talk about, what all these webinars, what blog posts, everything out there is talking about is it’s really going into strategy tactics, you know, objectives, all the what we do that supports our mission, vision, and goals. It’s the what. But today we’re not really talking about the what, we’re more talking about the who. So who do we use these tactics with that piece? We’ve all seen this, the donor pyramid, right?

We’re talking about the very bottom layer, that very bottom, the potential constituents, the people in our community, who do we get into the pyramid? I have some issues with the pyramid because it never actually looks like this, but for the sake of showing what we’re going, the pyramid, it’s that first tier. It’s also . . . we call it that pool of prospects, right, in the asking cycle. That first step, that pool of prospects that we’re then going to qualify. We’re not talking tactics, we’re talking the who. The who. So I’d said right there that pool of prospects, pool of prospects. Well, I don’t know about you, but I would give anything to be here right now, you know? Some exotic location, you know, nobody around and quiet, you know, or maybe a best friend that I haven’t seen in a long time.

But this is not what we want our pool of prospects to look like. We don’t want it to be solitary. We want it to look like this. To be filled to the max with as many people, as many of the right people as possible. I don’t know about you, but I pulled this slide deck open to update it. Hadn’t done this presentation a little while and now I find this to be like the most terrifying slide ever. There are way too many people way too close to each other. But, you know, that’s what we want. We want to fill the pool with as many of the right people as possible. And I’m going to give you some ways to do that today as we look where to find that. 

I don’t need to tell you much about me. Steven already did that. Bottom line, I’m a career fundraiser, served 20 years as a frontline fundraiser for the organizations in the top row and a CFRE and a master trainer with the Association of Fundraising Professionals. These days I spend my time doing fundraising, teaching, training, and coaching with my own firm, Productive Fundraising. And I have the honor of teaching the fundraising courses for both Temple University and their 10-week online certificate program and Messiah University for their undergraduate courses. So love to teach and train and share the knowledge I have to take other organizations to the next level.

Oh, yeah. And I have this little bit of an addiction to personal productivity. It’s actually my favorite thing to talk about even more than fundraising. So you’re going to see some of those things kind of come in here with systems, check boxes, lists, you know, just deal with it. It’ll help you, trust me. It’s my problem. I know. But I like to do that. I like to give you those tools to let you work more efficiently because I have this belief that raising funds for causes you care about shouldn’t mean working 60 hours per week forever. Yes. There’s sometimes we need to do that, you know, before the big event or virtual gala or, you know, campaign launch, whatever it is. Sometimes it’s required, but it shouldn’t be all the time. I have so many colleagues, former colleagues that have kind of left the field and burn out and I’m on a quest to keep good fundraisers fundraising, so hopefully some of the things you learn today can help you do that and keep serving those causes we care so deeply about.

So we’re just about to hop right into it here. What I’m going to cover today, first talk about the who, who are we actually looking for? Who are we trying to find in prospecting? Then seven places to find them, so seven places that I’ve seen all types of organizations successfully find donors. You already know most of them, you just forget about some of them or you don’t have a way to optimize getting those. And where not to look. It’s just as important. Well, where should you not spend your time or at least not spend your time until you’ve looked at those seven places? And then finally, I got to give you a tool or something. So we’re going to do my next 50 plan. So a plan for identifying and prioritizing your next 50 prospects. And then as Steven said, we’ll do some Q&A at the end, so feel free to get those questions coming. 

Steven will send you the slides and the recording. I have some additional resources as well on my website. So if you go to, simply look for today’s date and Bloomerang, click on that and it’ll take you to a page with all of the templates and resources and other links that I mentioned in today’s webinar. And we are ready. So who are we looking for?

Well, let’s start with who we’re not looking for. We’re not looking for a fundraising unicorn, fundraising unicorn. So I’m a very happy man. I can use my unicorn slide today. My kids have actually named this unicorn. His name is Fluffy, but we’re not looking for a fundraising unicorn. So what is a unicorn? Well, a unicorn is like a mythical creature, right? It’s something that we would love to see that doesn’t really exist or maybe exists, but they’re hard to find, they’re hard to get, you know, right? We’re after horses, not unicorns. Continue the analogy. But what’s a fundraising unicorn? Well, here’s a few. You know, Beyonce, Oprah, maybe Bill and Melinda, right? They’re all incredibly philanthropic people that have done so much, created so much good energy, and philanthropy, and encouraged others to do the same in the world.

And, yes, they care about causes, maybe they even care about our cause, what our organization works for. But if we’re a small community-based organization, not in their community, chances are, unless they have some kind of funding initiative we can apply to, they’re not going to support us. So let’s quit talking about them. Quit talking about those fundraising unicorns. 

And there’s some others that we talk about too. You know, we talk about the millionaires or the wealthy people in our community. And for many of us, they are fundraising unicorns as well. Unless we have a connection to them, unless we personally know them or a board member has the relationship with them, they’re not really approachable to us. And especially if we’re in a field that they don’t really care about, you know? If they give all of their money to the arts and education and we’re in human services and we have no connection to them, even though they are a well-known name, we might know what they look like, we might’ve had a passing conversation with them at one point, they’re still a fundraising unicorn.

So, first things first, let’s not waste our time there. Let’s spend our time kind of going after folks that we really want to. So who should you chase? And I’m going to change that word down here. Who should you seek to build a relationship? That’s what fundraising is. It’s the relationship-building field. So who do we seek to build a relationship? 

So let’s dig in there, who are we looking for? First off, what type of donor? This comes from Giving USA. It’s a couple of years old now, but the percentages have basically stayed true. And I like this slide created by MarketSmart. So I still use it. But my point here is what type of donor gives the bulk of the money. Look at it, 77.6% comes from individuals. So just like in our solicitation time, just like in our stewardship time, we should be spending the bulk of our time with individuals. Not chasing those sponsors, not writing another grant. Yes, we need to do that, but building relationships with individuals needs to be that key focus if we want to take our organization to the next level.

So individuals, that’s what we’re after. We are looking for individuals and specifically, you know, any individual would be great. They can all make contributions, but specifically high net worth individuals are what we’re looking for. High net worth individuals. So what are the characteristics of those? Well, you can define it however you want, but for here, we’re saying, you know, they have a million in assets and maybe $200,000 in annual income. That puts them in the top 1.4% of the U.S. population. 

And some interesting facts about that group. That 1.4% of the U.S. population make 72% of all gifts to nonprofit organizations. They make 72% of the gifts coming from individuals. So that 1.4%, it’s hugely tilted, right? I love this fact, 50% are also volunteers. They don’t just give money. They give time, they care. They’re deeply invested in these causes. The volunteer give 56% more than those who don’t. This is why we should try to engage our donors and give them these experiences and invite them to volunteer. Less than 50% have a strategy or budget for their philanthropy. Yeah. Only half of them have a plan. So you can appeal to them as a cause they don’t support. Half of them don’t already have those funds allocated and may be open to supporting your organization as well.

The most frequent reason for stopping support is too frequent solicitations but without communication of impact. You can solicit frequently. You should be asking, but you have to relay that impact between the asks there. What did you actually do with the dollars, what good did that cause in the community so that they’re going to want to do more? 

And the preferred form of introduction, small exclusive event in the home of someone they trust. Little house parties. These have been hard. These have gone to Zoom, but that’s hard. So hopefully we can get back to these, but that’s what they like. Let a trusted friend introduced me to a cause that’s near and dear to them in their home, over good company, good food, and go from there. 

So that’s who we’re looking for. Where do we find them? We are primarily looking for individuals. So most of these are going to be for individuals, but I will give a tip each for companies and foundations. And with that, guess what? You’re still looking for individuals, because how do you get that support? You find the decision-maker and you build a relationship with them. You find the decision-maker in the company, you find the decision-maker at the foundation. Build that relationship. Don’t just be sending blind paper out there. Build that relationship.

Location number one. Here’s where we’re going to start. And very appropriate for a Bloomerang webinar. We’re going to start in our database. Start in that database. Whatever you use, start there. And we’re going to look for factors that identify a good major gift prospect. So these are people that are already giving to you. Yes. We’re looking for . . . We’re going to talk about new donors today. But a lot of times we forget to look at the ones we already have. They may be giving you modest donations, you know, $50. They send you $100 every December. Every time you send a newsletter, they respond with, you know, a100 bucks, something like that. You know, it’s nothing screams, I’m a major gift prospect, but they’re there. They’re hanging out. Maybe you’re just not one of their top causes, but maybe it’s because you haven’t asked them or given them a reason to be a top cause.

So what does this look like in our database? Who are these people? Well, first we can look at those past donations, recency of giving, frequency of giving, and monetary amount. This is a way to analyze those donors. If they’re giving more, the most recent donors who are giving frequently. So they’re giving more than once a year. So that newsletter donor that gives every time and the monetary amount. Obviously, the more, the higher. So we can actually score them that way. Many databases will actually look at this or there’s some Excel downloadable templates that can do this analysis. But looking in there, who’s kind of waving their hand a little bit and says, “I could do more? I could do more.” And we’ll give you some other ways to find them too. 

Other things, you should have your volunteers in there. They should be flagged. Who are those volunteers that are also donating? There’s probably ways, opportunities to upgrade them as well. Who gives in multiple capacities? Who volunteers in multiple capacities? Who volunteers at a leadership level? All potential folks. 

Former service recipients. Those of you with alumni are incredibly lucky. You have that set group that has an affinity and a connection to your organization forever. Also hospitals, other people with patients or service recipients, you know, people that go through your program and then later on or excelling in life. Great place to reach out.

And then through research. We can do net worth screening. We can do wealth screening of our database to find out who are these hidden gems? Who are the ones that have supported us, but not a leadership level, but have a lot of capacity? There’s a couple of the indicators here, but it pools public data public. Public data. We’re not doing anything sneaky. It’s all publicly available data that these wealth-screening companies pull together and then they can analyze our names and come back with recommendations of who we should potentially reach out to. And I’ll give you some vendors for that, that you can talk to, but highly recommend that, especially going into a capital campaign. It’s real key thing. You just kind of be able to know where to focus your time.

The key to doing all of this is recording everything and knowing how to get it out. So get it in your database and become a query master. Know how to pull that data out. I know so many people that have great tools but just don’t know how to use them. Don’t take the time for training. So please do that.

If you want to do a capacity screening, there’s a lot of great companies out there. DonorSearch, WealthEngine, both well-known. Recently, I’ve really liked a company called Windfall. I have links up to them on the website, on the Resources page for you. But bottom line, just talk to them, see if it’s a right fit. Many of them will do like a little sample screening for you so you can see what it looks before you make the investment. But definitely screen your database, I like to say at least every three years, if not on an ongoing basis. I know many of the CRMs have that kind of built in and you can even get flagged on a, you know, daily, weekly, monthly basis of, “Hey, this person gave to you recently,” and is, you know, showing high wealth indicators.

The other thing I like to look for in my database is work affiliations. Work affiliations. So business owners, obviously. If somebody lists that they own a business, then they can give both personally and through the business. It might be two different pots of money for them. But I also really like senior-level employees. Senior-level employee, so somebody that’s like a vice president at a bank. Even if they don’t control the funds, they can make an introduction to the person that does. So the vice president of lending can introduce you to the vice president of community affairs who handles the charitable budget and probably the sponsorship budget for the organization. So they can open that door. They’re already supporting you, they would love to see their company support you too. They’ll open that door for you. 

And then employers of your board members. Many companies have a pot of money, pot of the contributions budget that is reserved for their board members. They know that the board members are going to come, so they just set some of that money away. Is your board member asking? Are you asking them to do that? Have they explored that? Ways to do it. 

To do work affiliations, you have to ask for them. And not everybody’s going to give it to you, but you can figure it out over time. Some people will use their work email address to sign up for things. So you’re going to find out their employer there, you can look for them on LinkedIn. That can tell you sometimes. Do a little research and on a donation reply card. I like to keep these, you know, lean and mean, not a ton of extra information. I don’t know why some people still ask for fax numbers on these. Who’s going to fax their donors? Most of them don’t even have a fax machine. But anyway, ask for the employer. So not a lot of people will fill this out, but some will. Some will scratch in the employer or the title. If you get, you know, ABC bank vice-president, that’s an indicator, all right, we should look at that, see if we can make that connection. Even if they’re already supporting us, maybe we can deepen that connection that way. So I have a sample donation reply card on the Resource page. You already have one, but if you want to have that as a reminder, go for it.

All right. Location number two. Let’s stay on that company-front here a little bit before we circle back to individuals. Location number two is from your bookkeeper. From your bookkeeper. From your bookkeeper, your CFO, your treasurer, whoever pays the bills. This is what I want you to ask for. I want a list of payables sorted largest to smallest from the last 12 months. So who did we spend money with? Who did we spend money with? Our landlord, our suppliers, our electric vendor, our bank that we have a big loan with. Whoever it is, where did the money go? Where did the money go? 

So give me the list, you know, or top 10, whatever. But for most of them using QuickBooks or something like that, this is an easy stock report. This isn’t a lot of work for them. That’s payables for the last year, cumulative, sort it largest to smallest. Just start going down the list. Who isn’t currently a donor? 

And I kind of like this question, who should be a bigger donor? You know, they’re one of our top five folks. You know, we spend, you know, $100,000 with them per year and they’re $250 golf tournament whole sponsor. That might warrant a conversation. Maybe that we should deepen that relationship and not just have them be a vender, but let’s talk to them about being a partner. So the payables, great list. Well, why do people skip this? They don’t look at it. Or the, you know, financing and development and fundraising never talk to each other or sometimes there’s an adversarial relationship. You know, I’ve seen that for sure. But, yeah, they are holding a list of potential donors for you. Just get it. Just get it.

All right. Number three, from current donors. So let’s get current donors to introduce us to their friends, right? We’ve seen it all the time. It’s why peer-to-peer fundraising exists. It works. People give to people. People give to people they know, like, and trust, and we need to get them, you know, identify folks for us. But I know some of you have done this exercise, you know, at your board meeting. 

Oh, I love the slide. I include it in many presentations. Hopefully your board meeting does not look like this. I always say the only thing good going on here is they’re well hydrated. No clue why they have that much water. But, yeah. You’ve gone to a board meeting you’ve said, you know, “We have had a lot of success fundraising, but we’re kind of a . . . the prospect pool is running dry.” Love that line. “The prospect pool is running dry. We need to get some names of additional potential supporters that we should reach out to.” And we pass out a piece of paper. Maybe it has a couple of lines on it. And we say, you know, “If everybody could give us three names of somebody in their personal or business network that you think might be interested in supporting our organization, that would be great.”

We do that. We give them a couple minutes and we collect the papers. And a lot of them look like this. I did advance the slide, right? It’s still blank. They didn’t write anything down. They didn’t write anything down because we instantly have this reaction when somebody does this. It’s like, “Oh. I don’t really know anybody.” Of course they know somebody. Everybody knows somebody, you know, we know people, everybody, but we didn’t help them come up with that. We didn’t paint the picture of who potential supporters are for our organization. And they’re also afraid. They are very afraid of what happens next. So in order for this to be successful, whether it’s with our board or just major donors, friends, whoever, volunteers, volunteers are great at this if we make it easy for them. Even if they aren’t a major donor, they may know potential people in their network. But we have to fix this process a little bit.

First off, we have to kind of paint the picture. Who is a typical donor for our organization? I always say start with the average. So the average donor in the U.S. is a 62-year-old college educated female. That’s the last statistic I changed. It’s been hovering right around there my whole career. The age number changes a little bit, but it’s always a college educated female. They just tend to be the philanthropic decision-makers in the household if it’s not shared. 

So there’s a starting point. Based on your organization, how do you skew from that? More male, more female? Age change and interests. What are they into? If you are a environmental organization, I bet they’re into gardening, or camping, or outdoors, or hiking, something like that. So just kind of come up with some attributes, maybe talk about a donor you have that kind of fits that standard donor role. It’s not going to be a characteristic of everyone, but it helps to paint that picture. You do this and they say, “Oh, you know, that sounds a little bit like my neighbor, Monica. Huh? I wonder if I could reach out to her.” All right? So we do that. 

Sometimes they still are going to struggle with coming up with those names. So I like to give questions, questions like who were the last five people you’ve gone out to dinner with? This is a hard question now because we have to go back so far in time. But who do you send holiday cards to? Who do you exercise with? I really like this one. Where do you go to have, blank, done? Nails, the car, hair, you know, all those local small business vendors that are potential supporters of the organization. You know, they don’t have to be huge supporters. They can still be very characteristic.

So these questions all come from a great tool put out by Joan Garry. Joan’s a nonprofit management and leadership consultant. If you don’t know that name, I encourage you to look her up. She has a great podcast too, but this is a packet she has on her website. I have it linked up on the Resources page, but it’s called “How to Grow your Army of the Engaged.” And it’s just a 10-page packet of all these kinds of questions with blanks afterwards. So it really helps to fend off that, “Oh, I don’t know anybody” question. So great tool. Encourage you to grab that. 

All right. They still have the issue of, they’re not going to write down a name because they’re afraid. What are they afraid of? They’re afraid that they’re going to write down a name and tomorrow morning you’re going to pick up the phone and say, “Hi, Joe. Well, this is Chad Barger with ABC organization. Our board member, Ralph, he wrote your name down during a prospect identification exercise yesterday and said that we should reach out for a $5,000 donation on your credit card. May I have that?” We would never do it, right? But they just go to kind of like worst case scenario of, “Oh, they’re going to embarrass me. They’re going to throw me under the bus. Ah, what are they going to think?” So we have to say, what’s next? What’s next?

Well, for me, I like some kind of introductory event. Yes, I know it’s still hard to do events, but I have seen these done successfully as virtual. Many organizations are kind of pausing on these and planning for the fall a little bit, but it’s a perfect time to do that planning. So an introductory event. I always like to do like a five to seven on a weeknight, I call them executive-level networking sessions. You know, it’s simply that. You know, it’s local business leaders and high net worth individuals that want to get to know each other but don’t want to go to massive things where everybody’s approaching them. Keep it intimate, you know, 30, 40 people max and, you know, a little bit of refreshments. Cheese, fruit, wine if you can, whatever. And five minutes in the middle, simply ring glass, talk about the organization, thank them for coming. No pitch. And then afterwards you follow up and ask if they’d like to learn more about the work you’re doing in the community. 

The board member or the volunteer or whoever it is that’s giving you that name, they can send the invitation, they can come with them, bring them. They can do the follow-up so you can meet them wherever they’re at. But make it easy. There’s no pitch. There’s no hard sell. It’s just an opportunity to learn more. I’ve seen this done as like fireside chats, bagels or muffins in the morning with the executive director. You know, you can craft it anyway, but some kind of easy way to just come learn more and there’s some kind of side benefit for me as well as I might meet some interesting people. That helps too.

All right. Location number four. We are going to do one on foundations here from grant research. So grant research, not just saying, “Oh, I saw this foundation supports that organization. Maybe they’ll support us.” You know, “I’ll go pull their 990 and see how to do that.” Right? Yeah. We do a lot of that, but I’m talking actual grant research, doing a comprehensive search of based on the mission we have and our location, what foundations are out there that support organizations like ours, at least on paper. So that formal research process. Have you done that? Have you done that recently? You know, sometimes it makes sense to do that again every, you know, three years or so, you know, new foundations do pop up. New funders do pop up. Funders change their giving priorities. So do the research every so often. I have three options and three price points. The first one’s free. So the Foundation Center has the funding information networks.

So this is the Foundation Center grant database available for free use as part of the funding information network. So this is a network of . . . I forget the number now, but I think it’s about 300 organizations locations across the U.S. that have free access to the database. Mostly it’s in libraries. And, you know, if you’re in a fairly populated area, my bet is there’s one of these within 60 miles of you or so. When you get out west, it might be a little bit more, but Foundation Center, Funding Information Network, free access. Typically you can use your computer, but you have to be on their WI-FI network. But you can go to the library. Go to the library, spend an afternoon, do some research. Have a volunteer go to the library, spend an afternoon, do some research. All right? So that’s the free one. I have the link to the lookup for where those locations are on the Resources page.

The next one cost a little bit of money where you’re going to pay for access to that. So you can do it, the research from your office, from your home, wherever. I haven’t priced these recently, but you’re usually looking in the $500 to $1,000 a year range. Foundation Center’s there, GrantStation’s another one. There’s a bunch of options out there. But look around if you want that capability.

My favorite is the third, outsource it, outsource it. Have somebody in your local market, ideally trained in grant writing do the research for you. They probably already know the foundations they’re researching and finding that could be matches and they’re going to know if they actually support environmental causes or not. Or they say they do but all the money goes to, you know, animal welfare or whatever. That insider knowledge, it’s really valuable. And I find too that, you know, it depends, varies greatly on the market. But you’re usually looking for about the same price of a one-year subscription, maybe a bit more. You can oftentimes get a grant report. So ask your . . . if you don’t know any local grant writers, freelance professionals, I usually say start with your United Way or your community foundation. They typically know folks that do this and can look into it for your organization. Save your time for individual focus, outsource the work on the foundations. Always do that.

Location number five, from other nonprofits. From other nonprofits. So more and more, we have this kind of shrinking pool of donors last year kind of threw out the water a little bit, but prior to that, donors had been shrinking. We’d been losing, you know, maybe 2% of donors year over year. That will probably resume post-COVID. I hate to say it, but it just kind of seems to be the trend of fewer people giving more money. So that donor pool is getting smaller. So that means people that are giving are already giving to other places, they’re just not giving to us. So if we partner with other nonprofits on things, we’ll probably have an opportunity to meet people that are already philanthropic and giving in our community, they’re just not giving to us. So it’s kind of this question of who seems to support every other nonprofit in town, but doesn’t support you yet, right? That’s kind of our thing.

So where do we find them? Well, all kinds of organizations love to publish donor lists, right? Capital campaigns, what do we do? We build a donor wall. It’s right inside the lobby of all the big org headquarters buildings, and, you know, theaters and whatever, educational institutions. It’s right there. There’s our donor list. Arts organizations. I have a deep love for the arts. I spent 10 years working in them. Met my wife in high school marching band. So we’d go to all kinds of stuff. What do they do? Programs. What’s in there? Usually are complete, alphabetical, comprehensive list of donors. So it’s out there. Who’s philanthropic in your community?

One of my favorite tasks for board members that say, “I’ll do anything to help you, but don’t ask me to fundraise.” I just ask them to collect these for me. Collect these for me. Maybe if you have extra time, if you’re retired, you know, put them in a spreadsheet for me. Let’s just see who are the leadership-level donors at other organizations. That’s out there, that’s who’s philanthropic. And now I still need to find that connection, right? What’s that connection or they’re a unicorn, but I’ll work. I’ll try to find that unicorn if I know they’re a leadership . . . not that connection, not the unicorn at another organization. So definitely it’s one way to do it. They’re putting it out there. Let’s see who’s supportive.

All right. I am a child of the ’80s, so I have to have a little fun when I use the word collaborate there. Some of you get that joke, some don’t, but I already dated myself. I’m not going to explain it. But collaborate, collaborate with other organizations. And I like this example . . . actually, it happens in my local hometown. I live just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and two organizations with very different missions collaborate there on an annual fundraising event. It’s called Elegant Progressions and it is a December holiday house tour where you dine in each stop. So you have appetizers in one place, dinner at another, and dessert at a third. They do it jointly. 

The two organizations are the historic Harrisburg Association and the Kidney Foundation of Central Pennsylvania. Right? Totally unrelated. One’s in healthcare, one’s in historic preservation. They’re both really small and would really struggle to pull off this event on their own, but they come together, they each have different pieces that they do, and guess what? They have different donor bases, but different donor bases that are in the same community and are philanthropic and probably know each other and are fine learning about another organization. So they actually grow their support and expose new people to this. 

I mean, it’s an expensive ticket. It’s like 500 per couple. So the people that are coming, have means and have the ability to support additional organizations. So it’s a great to open, to expose your organization, put your mission out before other philanthropic people in your community. It doesn’t have to be a big fancy gala. It can be, you know, one of those networking receptions. Just do that, you know, executive level networking session, partner with another organization, and well, let people learn about your cause. Great way to do it.

Number six. Number six. From customers. Customers. And I know some of you were saying, “Well, we don’t have customers. We have donors. We don’t sell anything.” Some of you do sell things, you know, certainly my arts organizations, you sell tickets. In normal times, you sell tickets. But, you know, you have that patron list. So approaching them, having a process to convert patron ticket purchaser to donor is something we should do. There’s so many arts stuff and that just doesn’t happen. They have my contact information but all I ever get is their season brochure. They don’t solicit me. Give me an attractive opportunity. You know, reach out, start me off at a $10 a month, monthly donor. I’d probably do it. Well, a lot of those are out there. So are we reaching out and having a process to give that opportunity to those customers?

For those of you that don’t have customers, you can create customers. And this is probably not my starting point here. Probably the last one I’d recommend that you do, but you can create customers. You can sell something. And I’m not telling you it’ll launch and whole new business line and try to be a crazy profitable and have this take over your fundraising. No. I actually don’t even really care that you make money with it, but I want you to sell something fun, different, edgy that kind of is tied to your mission. So it takes your mission to the next level, lets them support it, maybe lets them show your mission, it’s fun. I don’t know. Whatever. But it’s designed to attract customers that care about what you care about, right? So they’re already going to care about your cause if they buy this thing. Your goal is not to make money, just cover your costs and, you know, cover production costs and shipping. Make it an easy yes. Make it affordable. And your goal is to just put your organization on their radar because once they buy it, you have their contact information. Then you can start this process to convert them to donor.

What should you sell? Well, you know, t-shirts, fun t-Shirts, you know, for a humane society, animal welfare organization, something with, you know, cat mom t-shirt. Sure. These are actually all real examples. So you could certainly do apparel. People love to buy that. 

This is one of my all-time favorites. I do some work with state parks and forest associations and many of them do a passport. So it’s a list of all the parks in the state and there’s a place where you check off, or get a stamp, or a sticker from the park office as you try to visit them all. If you complete the book, you can send it in and get, you know, like a medal, dog tag, whatever, but it’s kind of a fun process, but it really serves the mission. People are buying this. 

I know of an example that last year in COVID quarantine shut down time, what did people do? They went outdoors, right? They had record sales of these books. They sold out. I think they printed like 5,000 of them and had to do another run. Guess what? There’s a huge donor pool, huge donor pool that came out of nowhere that really spent a lot of time and enjoyed and got some respite in parks last year and now they have their contact information. They can design that funnel.

And finally, you know, masks kind of were all the rage. People were doing this last year. I think this is Museum of Modern Art in New York City . . . could be wrong on that. But yeah, masks, designer masks. This one might be over. I think we all have a significant mask supply at this point, but what is going on? What can we tie ourself to? What’s trending? What fits our mission? What’s something, you know, kind of silly, dumb, fun, edgy? Those kinds of things are what works. 

Like I said, I wouldn’t start here, but find something to works. It could be a general feeder of getting you, you know, 15, 20, 30 names a month. And you can outsource fulfillment. You don’t have to be the one putting mailing labels on those kinds of things. Just price that in there too. You know, usually whoever creates it for you will ship it for a couple extra bucks.

All right. Our final location, number seven, from special events. And I put it last. I usually have it up towards the beginning because it’s been hard to get donors this way in the last year. Some of us have done really well with this with virtual events because virtual events open, you know, essentially the world to us. But getting contact information from virtual events has also been a challenge, even though we’d gotten a lot more exposure from some of them. 

So I’m saying from special events and the reason I say that is because I have a little different primary purpose for events than most people do. Most people think the primary purpose of a fundraising event is to raise money, right? Right. It’s a fundraising event. It’s not a friend raising event. We are trying to raise money at it.

All right. That’s great. I agree. If we’re spending the time, energy, all of that to do an event, it should raise money. But that’s my secondary benefit, the secondary benefit. What’s the first purpose, the primary purpose? Acquisition. Acquisition, getting new donors. Fundraising events give us a unique opportunity where we have some kind of fun activity in our community. Something they want to come to. So especially if our event is a little edgy and unique, you know, it’s tied to something fun, it’s the big party in town. Something like that rather than, you know, just another golf tournament or another awards banquet, another gala where it’s really our insiders that are attending, something fun, different out there can attract new people. And it’s an opportunity for our current supporters to bring new people to it and they can learn about our mission. So acquisition. But most of us don’t design our events this way. Most of us don’t do that. We design it just as a way to get our current donors to come attend something and give us more.

They would probably give us more if we asked, so we don’t need to design it for them. We need to design it to attract new folks. What type of donor? Individuals, right? Individuals are who attend events. So the primary purpose of fundraising events should be to find new individual donors. But a lot of times we get these people coming and we don’t get their names or their contact information. You know, Barbara and Michael buy a table at the gala. There are six other names, six other people that come and we never get their names. It’s just Barbara and Michael’s table. Well, we need to capture that. Figure out who is attending at our event. No Jane Doe’s at events. It’s not what we want. 

Some ways to do that. I’m going to breeze through here just. Before the event, always be asking. Always have ways to capture that information, be asking them to fill in the names of their ticket. 

Golf foursomes, another one. Very common. And we only have the foursome leader’s name and we don’t get all the other ones, but give them ample opportunity to fill that in, follow up at the event. 

Bidder pre-registration works really well for capturing contact information. You know, you don’t have to do checkout at the end, scan your credit card, we’ll automatically email you a receipt. Now we’re getting an email too. Even better. 

Sign-in sheets. Just be willing to explain that, but that relentless contact info capture at events is essential. After the fact, surveys can work well too, but just make sure your event is designed to bring in new donors and you have a way of getting their contact information so you can follow up, perhaps inviting them to one of those get to know us events and design this process that goes from attendee or transactional donor to relational donor.

So those are our seven places to find prospective donors. In your database, vendor lists, donor referrals, grant research, supporters of other nonprofits, customer lists, and they’re in our special events. So those are my favorite ways. There are other ways.

Where not to look . . . And I’m not going to say never use these, but I find them expensive or time-consuming and not always producing great results. So where do I say not to look? You know, buying lists. Unless you’re a really big organization with a really big budget, buying mailing lists of, you know, subscribers to gardening magazines in the three zip codes around us. Yeah. They might be interested, but the return on investment there is not very good. What you’re typically doing is losing a little money on the first donation because of the list purchase with the hope that you start making money when they make a second donation. And it’s just, you know, rolling a dice till you really work out that pipeline. And for many small organizations, that’s just not a great strategy or it’s not a great starting point. 

Same thing with social media ads. You know, you can find people there, but, you know, it’s expensive and if you don’t have that dialed in, I would much rather start with the seven other areas, unless we really know what we’re doing there. 

Facebook fundraisers, kind of another way. You know, we’d think it would be great. Somebody donates their birthday, you know, and all that’s out there. We get some money and we get new donors. But what don’t we get? We get very little contact information. Usually we just get names. We don’t get emails. It’s hard to follow up with them. They’re essentially transactional donors. So let’s try to drive them to our site so we can actually capture that information. 

And finally, billboards, print advertising. You know, the days of putting, something you clip out in the local newspaper and mail in. I always think of like the turkey campaigns around Thanksgiving when I say that, and it’s just, you know, I don’t think it’s going to work as much anymore. Online would definitely be a bit more successful, and that’s really expensive, even if you get a deal. So they can work, just not areas that I would start with.

All right. We’re going to wrap up here and give you some final tools before we get to Q&A, and this is the next 50 plan. So plan for identifying and prioritizing your next 50 prospects. Wouldn’t that be great? You just had a list of 50 and they’re prioritized, you know where to go. Well, here’s what we do. We’re going to brainstorm, find these donors, and we’re going to identify connections, we’re going to prioritize and rate them, and we’re going to set goals and act. This is how we get new donors. Brainstorm, find the connection, figure out who I’m talking to first, and do it. It’s not rocket science. Nothing in fundraising is, but we just kind of need to set a process here. 

So brainstorm. I gave you lots of ways to brainstorm today. Get those vendor lists, do that prospect identification exercise with your board, your volunteers, lead donors, other folks, all those things we talked about today, we’re really brainstorming. We’ll get people to engage and build that list, capture that contact information, and build it. So there’s your brainstorming. They’re coming from our seven places.

So seven places. Just find seven from each, right? It’s not that hard. Seven places, seven from each. There we’re at 49. I would say fundraisers aren’t good at math. We’re just good at getting the money, not counting it. So it’s close enough to 50. You’ll get a few extra in one, a few loss in another. It’ll work out to around 50. But just spread it out, right? 

Then we’re going to find the connections. We get these names, you know, we have the vendor listed there. Well, who manages the account with that vendor? Okay. It’s Darlene. Let’s talk to Darlene and see if she can introduce us to her sales rep who’s going to introduce us to the person that is the decision maker at the company. So it’s kind of following these networks. If we don’t know the connection, you know, somebody suggests a company or a foundation, simply asking our board, “Who do we or you know that knows someone at ABC Company at XYZ foundation?” Just asking, putting out that list of, you know, “Here’s our top 50. Who do you know that works at any of these places?” And putting it out, you know, all different people. Yes, our board, but full staff. Staff know people. A lot of staff are married and they have a spouse that works somewhere and has their own network. They may know somebody. They might’ve gone to dinner with somebody just recently and are volunteers. You know, even if they can’t support us at a high level, they might be able to make some of these introductions. So find those connections. 

I also love LinkedIn for this purpose. If you have a robust LinkedIn account, you’re connected to your board, volunteers, highly encourage you to do that. You’re going to be able to see, put in the person, who’s the, you know, head of community relations at the company or the donor and it’ll tell you how you’re connected. Who do you know? Simply ask them for that introduction. Fabulous use of LinkedIn in the nonprofit sector.

All right. We got our 49 or 50 on our list. We found some connections. Now we’re ready to rate them. We’re going to rate them. Simple ratings just because, where do I start? I got 50 names. You know, I only have time to work two or three of these at a time. So LAI, this is our rating scale to show us where to put our energy. We’re going to rate each of them on three characteristics here, linkage, ability, and interest.

Linkage, what’s the connection? If I know them personally, it’s five. If another staff member does, it’s probably a four. If a board member can introduce us, it’s a three. If it’s a, you know, loose linkage, you know, they were engaged years ago, maybe it’s two. And if we have no linkage it’s a one. 

Ability. A rough estimate. Maybe it’s coming from our wealth screening, maybe it’s that we’ve seen them support other organizations at a high level, but what’s their ability to support us with a major gift? Five being highest.

And finally, interest. Do they know about us? They don’t know about us, have never done anything with us, never attended an event, that’s a one. If they’re a current volunteer and doing something and attend events, you know, that’s closer to a five. So give a little arbitrary, but give a rating to each of them. 

And on the download page, I have a form for you that can kind of simplify this process. Just fill it in. Here’s your brainstorming from your source. Here’s the name, there’s our known connection. Rate each of them, linkage, ability, interest. And then, you know, if it’s Excel sheet, it’ll do the math, sort it by your LAI rating and there you go, you got your contact date and your notes. You’re ready to go. You’re ready to reach out. That’s on the resources page. At that point, you’re ready to use those strategies, tactics, objectives we have to fundraise. You can use your visit request, email, or letters, and all the things we have to begin that fundraising process.

The final recommendation I have is don’t do this process if you’re not going to do anything with it. Don’t go through the laborious process of finding new prospects if you’re not going to follow up. How do you make sure you follow up and reach out? Set monthly or weekly goals. Can you reach out to one potential prospect a week? Can you three donor meetings a month? Keep a contact log, have some kind of something in your to-do list. Reserve time on your calendar for this to make sure you have the time to do it. What gets measured gets managed. So measure this stuff, make sure you’re doing it and it’s not just a, “Oh, when I get some time, when I have extra time, I’ll work the prospect list.” It’s the same way we want to send thank you notes and they never happened. “Oh, when we have some downtime, we’ll do I thank-a-thon.” No. We got to make it part of the process.

All right, folks. That is the end of our content. I have a few additional free resource resources for you and then we’ll hop over to Q&A and my good friend, Steven, will help me navigate there. I’m sure you’ve been asking away. And I’d love to connect with you. I go by Fundraiser Chad on all the social media channels. I’m usually sharing some fundraising tips, free resources, webinars I’m doing, those kind of things. And, of course, I have to sneak in some personal productivity tips as well. So I’d love to connect. I’m most active on Instagram and Facebook these days. Sorry about that. And I send out a free weekly email with one resource, one webinar. I know you get a ton of stuff, but I try to just really streamline it. So sign up for that. It’s on the Resources page. The resources in today’s webinar are part of the free resource library on my website. So I shared four or five today. There are nearly 100 in there, samples, templates for just about everything. So if you’re looking for something, that’s a great starting point.

For those of you in small shops that have nobody to talk fundraising with, nobody to say, “I have this crazy idea. Do you think this would work?” Or, “Do you know anyone that does this?” Or, “Do you have a vendor for that?” I work primarily with small organizations that are almost always in this boat. So a couple of years ago I formed a private Facebook group called the Fundraising Buzz Fest, and it is simply that – fundraisers helping fundraisers. Nearly 600 people in there now. And my sole job is just to keep the salespeople out. No selling CRMs in there. And we just have a good conversation of supporting each other.

Finally, as Steven mentioned, I do my own a webinar series, a free monthly webinar. And my next one coming up is my May webinar and we are going to do events. And this is a new . . . it’s kind of a retooled webinar kind of talking about the new events climate and how can we take advantage of this current opportunity on saying to optimize our events and maybe make it be a bit more of an acquisition event. And we’ll talk a little bit about virtual and maybe the new hybrid reality and those kinds of things. So if that’s of interest, feel free to sign up. That’s on the Resources page as well. That is on May 26th at 1:00 Eastern. And with that, I am done talking. So we are going to switch over to your questions, go from there. And I am going to stop my slide share. 

Steven: You get a 15-second break, Chad, before I go to the first question. But that was awesome. Great tips there. My only complaint is the slander on the fax machine. I’m a big fan of sending faxes. It’s something . . . 

Chad: You like faxing donors, huh?

Steven: I love it. I’m a big fax guy.

Chad: Doesn’t it just rang for like 30 minutes straight and they never . . . 

Steven: No. I can’t use the scanner because it scans it and then it sends it to you as attachment and you got down on the attachments and to the fax just goes right through, baby. It’s this like. So I’m going to be the last person sending faxes anyway. I’m just stalling now. We got a lot of good questions. Chad, you know, thinking of . . . going back to your database, you mentioned hiring a grant writer and a grant researcher. What about hiring a prospect researcher? When is that appropriate? Is that a good idea, I would assume?

Chad: Yeah. You can do that. I find unless you’re in a, you know, a major metropolitan area, there’s typically not a lot of freelance prospect researchers around, but that’s a role too. It’s less important that they may be to be from your area. So something you can do, you know, I think unless you’re going into a capital campaign or something like that, you know? And there’s a lot of tech that can do this for you that just overlays and, you know, it’s basically got a profile for you, you just type in a name, make sure you got the right person, and you’re good to go. So can be, but yeah, I like to outsource the grants first.

Steven: That makes sense, and especially locally. One thing that occurred to me, Chad, while we were talking is sometimes sensors reticence to ask volunteers to give if they’d never given before, like, “Hey, you know, they’re volunteering. We don’t want to upset that or, you know, cannibalize that or anything.” What’s your take on that? It seems like maybe those people will be pretty good prospects, but I understand the concern.

Chad: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, there’s hesitation. You don’t want to feel like you’re taking advantage of them or they’re already giving you so much. But, you know, I like to think about, you know, last year was the year to really do it because they couldn’t volunteer and they still cared and they wanted a way to help. So it was like the one thing they could do. Excuse me. And I really like trying to get the volunteers to be monthly donors. So like a low-level monthly donor. And that, you know, you’ll spend 20 bucks a month at Starbucks, wouldn’t you spend 20 bucks for the organization you love kind of deal. So that can kind of resonate sometimes, creating a little club or something like that can work, but they really see it every day and know exactly where the dollars go.

Steven: That makes sense. This is a good one from Stephanie. I think this was a prompted when we were talking about the board getting involved. She’s wondering if you’ve ever used that exercise with your board. Is there another way to talk to the board about that before they’ve sort of exhausted the list? Like in other words, you know, how do you know when maybe they truly have gone to the bottom of the well there?

Chad: Yeah. So both of those are actual real-life scenarios for me of that. I passed out the blank sheet and we collected blank sheets. And I have used that Joan Garry packet with lots of organizations now as I do some board trainings and it really does seem to start getting some names. I like to send it to them or send it with them, give them some time after we’ve kind of painted that picture and it can work really well. And, yeah, you’ll want to do it periodically, you know, maybe not every year, but every 18 months or something to kind of keep that pot full, keep that pool full. 

And the other thing I like to do is chances are you probably have this weird list in your database of, you know, people. Somebody added it as a potential prospect at some point, they never gave anything. We don’t have a contact information, but wouldn’t it be nice if, you know, ABC Bank supported us? So they’re in there. I like to do like in a board report or some correspondence, just put four or five of those names in there of, “Hey, if anybody has a contact at any of these organizations, let us know. We’d love to have a discussion with them.” So rather than, “Will you review my prospect list of 500 names,” you know, here just sending out a couple and you’ll get a response of, “Oh, yeah. You know, we do business with them. Let me see who manages the account. I’ll see if we can get a coffee set up.” So easy ways to kind of motivate them if we don’t want to do the full exercise.

Steven: That makes sense. Well, it’s almost 3:00. There’s a lot of good questions in here. And I’ll put you on the spot, Chad, since you, you mentioned the fundraising group. That fundraising group is awesome. Is that a good place where maybe people can not only ask you questions, but also the group members? I seem to see it that . . . 

Chad: Yeah. Sure thing. That is even better than right now. We can have a discussion and, you know, you can get feedback from other great fundraisers. I saw a couple of names of folks that joined today that are in there. So shout out to all of you and yeah. Let’s crowd source your answers and get some insight from not just Chad, but people in the trenches right now seeing it. 

Steven: Good. I’m going to shoot that link in there again. The fundraising, the Buzz Fest.

Chad: The Buzz Fest.

Steven: There’s always good stuff in there. It seems to show up in my timeline and just really cool discussion. So that’s a good one. Folks should be a member of. Chad, this was awesome. Thanks so much for doing this. I’m glad that we could talk when I’m not in an airport and you’re looking good there too. So thank you.

Chad: Yeah. Sorry. I blasted you with the white today. I usually try to do the gray or the light blue since not so shiny there, but the laundry is a little behind this week at the Barger house. I hope it’s . . . 

Steven: That’s okay. We’ve all been on Zoom for, you know, a year and a half and it’s like who cares anymore, right?

Chad: Yeah. Right. We’re done. I look forward to the day that I can leave the Zoom basement studio and join you all in person at fundraising conferences and AFP chapter meetings across the country. Can’t wait. Hopefully by fall, but we will see.

Steven: Hopefully soon.

Chad: Yup.

Steven: Well, hopefully we’ll see all of you again on an upcoming webinar. It was nice to see a full room. I think we had a most, you know, 500 people at the height here. Thank you for taking the time. I know you’re all super busy, you got a lot of things to do. We got a cool webinar coming up next week, kind of a different one than we’re used to, a panel discussion. This is special. This is not something we do very often. Not by choice. It’s something that I usually have to rely on other folks to pull together. And that’s what happened. I am going to take a backseat on this one. I’m actually going to pass my moderating baton to somebody else who will do a way better job than I do anyway. But it’s still a Bloomerang webinar. 

Next Thursday, really interesting discussion on the topic of being let go from your nonprofit, not just a fundraising job, but your nonprofit job in general. If that’s never happened to you, I’m happy for you. You should come anyway because I think you’ll be prepared and if you’ve gone through this, I think it will also be good for you as well. We’ve got some in the trenches fundraisers who all have experience with this. And I think it’ll be a really fun discussion. So next Thursday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, totally free. And we’re going to record it. So if you can’t make it, don’t worry. Register anyway. We’ll send you the recording. It’s okay if you don’t show up live. We won’t even know that that happened probably. So it’s totally cool. 

So we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email from me with the recording and the slides and an invite to next week session. And hopefully we’ll see you there. So have a good rest of your Thursday, have a safe weekend, stay healthy. And we’ll talk again soon. Bye now.

Chad: Bye, everyone.

Steven: See you.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.