What Is Your Appeal?

Some nonprofits feel like their fundraising is limited because of who or what they serve. Perhaps that is not the problem.

Keeping and growing relationships with the donor (creating a sustainable funding stream) is hard work. With some groups of clients (kittens and small children for instance) it is easier to grab the donor’s emotions. The emotional connection makes it easier for the donor to make a small gift.

The instant emotional connect is a short-lived advantage. Though it makes it easy to start the relationship, sustainability of the relationship depends on the same things regardless of the cause, group being served, location, or economic conditions.

Without an easy or emotional appeal, your nonprofit must be more creative or intentional if it wants to start a relationship with a new donor. Your passionate donors can help. One of the indicators of a donor’s passion is how often they encourage others to investigate what your nonprofit has to offer.

It is important to remember that your clients are the starting point for catching the donor’s eye and heart. What your nonprofit accomplishes with your clients determines how well you are able to hang onto the donor’s heart (sustain the relationship).

Anecdotes establish or sustain the donor’s emotional connection to the mission and clients. Data provides the long-term appeal. Data provides the evidence necessary to convince the donor that sustaining the relationship makes sense.

Your anecdotes and data combined determine the donor’s generosity. Emotionally compelling anecdotes and highly effective programming (strong data) create a sustainable funding stream, which ensures the future of your mission.

Each donor must be carefully cultivated. During the cultivation process, you will be able to tell which anecdotes will be most appropriate and which statistics will be most compelling. The cultivation process will also tell you what to measure and why it is meaningful to the donors.

In the end, your donors will tell you what change in the client’s life is important. As you enhance your programming to lengthen the durability of the change, you will be adding another layer of sustainability to your funding stream.

Next Step:

Talk with your donors and determine the meaningful and durable change they care about making in your clients’ lives

Determine how to measure the desired change

Use your thank you process to report the changes your mission makes in the lives of your clients (anecdotal and data reporting)

Recheck with your donors at least annually to see what changes are taking place in their perceptions of success

The fundraising capacity of your nonprofit is limited only by the effectiveness of your donor cultivation and the measuring and reporting of your programming success. Two simple measures of your effectiveness of your cultivation efforts are:

Number of new donors referred by current donors

Annual percentage increase in donations from existing donors


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