Everyone wants to hit the lottery. The promise of easy and fast cash for little effort is appealing to every person, and to every organization.
If you have ever attended fundraising conferences, you’ll know that the fullest breakout rooms are those talking about major gifts, moves management, and “how to land that transformational gift.” All well and good, because every organization needs cornerstone giving. But let us not forget that most houses are built brick by brick, and that most nonprofit organizations can boast significantly more $50 donors than $5,000 donors. They are the “bread and butter” donors who, collectively, keep things going. This is particularly true for The Salvation Army, whose networks of Corps and Service Units are largely located in working-class communities made up of those women and men whose faithful support has kept things going for a hundred years or more.
The Bread: Communication and Gratitude
The very basic act of fundraising is this two-pronged work: ask, then thank. When you communicate the need of your organization to your donors — through events, direct mail, digital and social communications, or in person — you are telling the story of your work. Every day you are making an impact on families in the community you serve. People want to know that. They want to know because they want to help. And it is comforting to us all as individuals and a community to know that our neighbors are receiving care. We saw this during the height of the pandemic, as more donors than ever came forward.
But our communication can’t end with an ask. When you say “thank you — we really needed this help” to someone, it strengthens the bond we need to create. Stewardship closes the loop, but opens a relationship. There was an emotional transaction that took place, and that in itself is currency to your organization.
The Butter: Consistency and Extra Effort
Donors who support you with gifts of $10, $25, or $50 are telling you that you matter, and that you are a priority in their giving regimen. Are they capable of more if you ask? Maybe. Data analytics can tell you which donors are capable and likely to give more. But at this moment, they are giving what they choose, and that means something. So please, communicate back with consistency: letters, newsletters, updates, and invitations to giving options like a recurring sustainer gift. Our ongoing quests for efficiencies are well-intended and necessary, but often result in cutting out communication to what we deem as “unprofitable” people in your donor file. But we also must remember that our letters and stories can serve the purpose of reminding donors that the ministry work continues, even when they’re not able to support it at that moment.
The extra efforts, however, will always make the difference. While fundraising systems are largely predictable and automated, there is no substitute for human touch. Phone calls, hand-written notes, and visits are the gateway to loyalty in giving. Letters are easy to ignore or forget. Emails are even easier to eradicate. But a call or a visit — and the refreshing, life-giving impact it can have — are what will make donors your partners.
And likely, these donors will no longer be just “bread and butter” — but a full and satisfying part of your work.
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