How do relatively young nonprofits like Charity: Water catch fire and thrive? What can we learn from them? James Read has a great article in the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration (SOFII) that offers five answers. Here are his principles with my own commentary. What I like is they aren’t so secret at all. What’s magic about this every common-sense approaches is the way these nonprofits apply them, every day, in every way.
1. Focus on a powerful idea. New charities have the luxury of being temporally close to the original big idea that led to their formation. Charity: Water focuses on clean water for one person. It’s a quickly understandable idea because it’s simple and specific. Maybe your organization has morphed over time in its mission -- or grown more complex. You may need to step back and focus on one big, tangible idea. Without that, it’s hard to build excitement -- or momentum.
2. Recruit advocates, not just donors. In an era where most people -- including donors -- are heavily influenced by their peers, it’s critical that you are not the sole voice promoting your cause. Make it easy for people to spread the word about you - and fundraise for you.
3. Be a storyteller. As we’ve said countless times, this is the single best way to frame your message. There are even neurological reasons for casting your work in story. Charity: Water rocks at this.
4. Invest in the brand experience. What I love about some younger organizations is they start from scratch in thinking about the experience of supporters, and they wow them with each interaction. Keep in mind it doesn’t take much to wow someone -- a heartfelt thank-you call from a beneficiary, an amazing regular report on the impact of the donor’s gift, a very easy and gratifying online giving experience. If you want to raise more money this year, focus on giving your existing supporters a better experience with you!
5. Prove your impact. Donors want to know they are truly changing the world for one person. Make that clear in your ask -- and your thank-you letters. The more concrete you are, the more you reinforce your donor’s decision to support your cause and continue the relationship with you.