One of my favorite days of the year is “Fall Back” day, when we all get to sleep an extra hour as a result of the end of Daylight Saving Time. One of my least favorite days – you guessed it – is “Spring Forward” day which marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time and a loss of an hour. This year I’ve decided to have a better attitude toward “Spring Forward,” which is March 11. After all, it marks a time of the year when the days are getting longer, and, at least here in California, we are surrounded by color and fragrance as everything starts to bloom—daffodils, ceanothus, Scotch broom (apologies to those with allergies and the Native Plant people), camellia, azalea, jasmine, and the list goes on. Also, we can’t really complain about losing an hour when we gained a whole day from Leap Year!
How can we use the energy of “Spring Forward” to get a jumpstart on fundraising? Here are three tips:
1. Do a “fundraising inspection” of your organization.
Is it clear that donations are sought and welcomed? When I walk into your organization, would I know that I am invited to become a donor? That other people before me have donated? That you have a goal?
Here is a case in point: I just did a training for a community center in which are located dozens of classes ranging from basket weaving to Spanish, basketball to Scrabble, plus an auditorium for lectures, movies, and plays. This wonderful organization is badly in need of money. But nowhere was there any sign of how I could make a donation. Nor does this center ever ask any of its students for a donation over and above their very low tuition, nor does it ever use the auditorium for a fundraising event just for the organization. Its website also does not have a “donate now” button. I see many organizations like this one. They need money but it would take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
2. Send a spring appeal in March.
Most people send their spring appeals in early May. March is a better month for appeals than May because people are not quite yet planning their summer vacations, cramming for their final exams, getting ready for graduation, preparing for the next fiscal year, or any number of concerns and distractions that characterize April, May, and June. Your appeal can use all kinds of March metaphors—rain showers, planting seeds, getting ready for summer. . . Be sure some version of this appeal is on your website, your Facebook page, and in your enewsletter.
3. Identify five people who like your organization who can or have given $500 or more.
These could be current donors, prospects, or people that used to help you. Go to see them and ask each to host a small party at their home to help you raise $2,500. Fundraisers often ask people to host a house party, but to the donor that sounds like a lot of work. “Where would I find enough people? Where would they sit? What would I feed them?” Thinking about it makes them tired. But what if they only had to find four or five other people who could give what they can give? That many would fit around most kitchen tables and everyone could have a wonderful conversation about the work of the organization. And at $2,500 an evening, with almost no cost, it is definitely profitable.
I find that many nonprofit staff make fundraising too complicated and then they don’t do it because it is too complicated. Fundraising is hard work, but it is not complicated. What makes fundraising particularly hard now is that there is not enough money available from foundations, corporations, and individuals to fund all the nonprofits that need funding, and to fund organizations that used to be primarily or entirely funded by taxes.
So the final tip I have for actually springing forward when it is time to “Spring Forward” is to keep reminding people, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” Or the words of Adam Smith, “The purpose of taxes is to remedy inequality as much as possible.” Every day between now and April 15, make a commitment to say something positive about taxes, and to remind people that revenue has to be one of the options the government looks at when trying to balance the budget. This may be the most important fundraising tip of all.
By Kim Klein
Kim Klein is an internationally known speaker and author of Reliable Fundraising in Unreliable Times, Fundraising for Social Change, Fundraising for the Long Haul, Ask and You Shall Receive, and Fundraising in Times of Crisis. She is the series editor of the Kim Klein Fundraising Series at Jossey-Bass Publishers and a member of the Building Movement Project where she works on the Nonprofits Talking Taxes project. You can read her blog at www.kimkleinandthecommons.blogspot.com.
Photo credit: Money tree image courtesy of AaronPatterson via Flickr Creative Commons