The Super-Awesome Strategic Fundraising Model: a modestly named guide to developing a successful online fundraising campaign.posted on 08/30/2008 by Ethan Austin
If you read “The Three Ps to Successful Fundraising“, you probably already know that spreading the word to friends and family about your fundraising effort is critical to reaching your fundraising goal. But what you might not know is that there is a right way and a wrong way to spread the word to your peeps. You have to promote strategically if you plan on raising lots of money for your cause. This blog post explains how.
The Wrong Way. I guess it makes sense to first start off by telling you what not to do. What you don’t want to do is set up your fundraising page and then IMMEDIATELY send a mass email to everyone you know asking them to donate. Sending a mass email to start off your campaign sounds intuitive, but in fact, this is a bad idea. No bueno amigo.
It’s not that mass emails are necessarily bad. In fact, mass emails are a great tool and SHOULD be used. It’s just that sending the mass email should be the LAST step you take, not the first.
First, mass emails are impersonal. People don’t feel as compelled to donate when they receive a mass email. People respond much much much more positively when they receive a phone call or a personalized email that is directed towards them.
Second, if you send out a single mass email to everyone you know, you have no control over who donates first. Why does it matter who donates first? Well, it has to do with the law of monkey see, monkey do.
When people come to your fundraising page, they check out the donor list to see the average donation size. Then they donate a similar amount. If they see that most people are donating between $50-$100, then they will likely donate between $50-$100. On the other hand, if they check out your donor list and see that most people are donating between $5-$10, then they’ll probably donate $5-$10 too.
By contacting all your friends, family, co-workers and schoolmates at the same time with a single mass email, you’re leaving your fundraising campaign entirely up to chance, as you’ll have no control over who donates first. For all you know, your first few donations might be from people who give you $5 or $10 prompting subsequent donors to donate equally small amounts and making it hard for you to ever reach your fundraising goal.
To summarize, mass emails can be a very useful tool to reach out to lots of people. However, the mass email should always be the last step, not the first!
The Right Way. The right way to promote your fundraising page, is to use what I oh-so-modestly call “Ethan’s Super-Awesome Strategic Fundraising Model”. In short, what you’re going to want to do is to categorize your potential donors into different groups and then contact them over a period of weeks starting with your Big Guns (i.e. those likely to donate the largest amounts) first.
STEP ONE: Subdividing Your Contact List
The first step in creating a strategic fundraising campaign is to break down your potential donors into three different groups.
Group One: Your Base
The first group is your base. Your base consists of parents, grandparents, spouses, aunts and uncles, godparents and siblings. These are your BIG GUNS — the people you know will donate to your campaign and are likely to be the most generous with their contributions.
Group Two: Your Semi-Awesomes (more awesome than 99% of the rest of the world, but a little less awesome than your base)
This second group consists of friends, extended family, family friends, and co-workers. A good number of these people will donate to your campaign as well, but they might not be quite as generous as your base and it might take a few requests before they all donate.
Group Three: Your Stretch Group
Your third group of potential donors is your “stretch” group. This group consists of facebook friends, friends of friends and other acquaintances. These people probably won’t donate the first or even second time you ask them, but with a little persistence you can probably win over a good number of these fine folks as well.
STEP TWO: Contacting Your Subgroups
After you’ve broken down potential donors into three groups, the next step is to begin contacting your base. Since you probably speak to most of these people on a regular basis, it’s best to call them first and ask them to contribute to your fundraising effort before you send them an email. By calling them first, they’ll be quicker to donate once they actually get your email request.
What’s nice about handpicking your first few donors is if they all give you nice big fatty $100 or $200 donations, subsequent donors will follow their lead and donate similar amounts, or at least amounts somewhat close to that range.
Once you’ve raised a good bit of money from your base (which could take anywhere from a few days to about a week) you should begin contacting your Semi-Awesomes. You can call these people on the phone if you are close with them and have the time. If you don’t have time to call, sending them personal emails requesting that they donate should be sufficient.
Continue emailing individuals and/or sub-groups of people (e.g. college buddies, high school buddies, co-workers) on your list. After about half of your semi-awesomes have donated. You can begin to email your “stretch group” of Facebook friends and acquaintances. Again, keep going down the list and don’t stop until you’ve contacted everyone you know.
STEP THREE: Rinse and Repeat
Once you’ve contacted everyone once, it’s time to rinse and repeat. Even close friends and family “forget” to donate right away so you’ll have to keep reminding them, often three, four, five or even six times before they donate. But don’t get too frustrated. Persistence always pays off and if your friends and family like you even a little bit, they’ll almost certainly come through for you in the clutch!