Anyone who works for a nonprofit knows that fundraising can feel like a herculean task. Finding potential donors, engaging them with your mission, convincing them to donate, and then retaining their support is an overwhelming process. And yet, individual giving campaigns are the engines that keep nonprofits operating.
So how can you take on such a huge challenge without letting the stress overwhelm you?
This comprehensive article will provide you with a step by step guide for individual giving campaigns in hopes of making this journey just a little less intimidating.
What is an Individual Giving Campaign?
Before we can discuss the step by step guide for starting individual giving campaigns, we must first understand how an individual giving campaign differs from other fundraising efforts.
Most nonprofits receive funds from three different sources: grants, other foundations or corporations, and individuals. The last of these three is usually referred to as “Individual Giving.”
If you, as an individual person, support any nonprofit causes outside of the one you work for, then you would probably fall into that category.
These are people who generally donate smaller amounts of money at a time, sometimes consistently throughout multiple years. An individual giving campaign, then, can be described as fundraising efforts that target a large number of individuals that contribute in smaller quantities rather than government grants or big organizations that give out large sums of money.
Normally, individual giving campaigns begin with a goal that relates to the nonprofit’s stated mission. They seek to raise the money to achieve said goal within an established timeframe.
An example of an individual giving campaign could be raising funds to help a hospital buy new equipment or even raising money to help clean up the plastic litter at a local beach.
Why Are Individual Giving Campaigns Important?
One of the most obvious reasons why individual giving campaigns are so important is because they help support a myriad of different actionable efforts related to a nonprofit’s mission.
Say, for example, that you work for a nonprofit that aims to support underfunded animal shelters. A successful individual giving campaign might help improve the infrastructure of the shelter, it might help purchase blankets and coats that will keep the animals warm during winter, or it might help purchase more food to feed the animals.
While one single $20 donation by an individual may not seem like much at first, when combined with other similar gifts, these individual donations can be crucial to furthering your cause.
Another less obvious reason why individual giving campaigns are important relates to the relationship between a donor and the nonprofit they are giving to.
Your ability to understand what motivates your donors and to maintain that relationship requires tons of effort. This is at the heart of every successful individual campaign. So if you manage to cultivate and maintain that relationship, not only can you secure consistent donations for a long time to come, but you can also establish your nonprofit’s reputation, which in turn can help you acquire new donors.
7 Steps to Starting an Individual Giving Campaign
Now that you know what an individual giving campaign is and why they are so important, it’s time to talk about how you can plan your own individual giving campaign to help your nonprofit.
1. Start by Setting a Goal
The best place to start planning an individual giving campaign is by setting a goal related to your nonprofit’s mission.
Do you support cancer researchers across the globe? Do you invest your efforts in helping art organizations? Are you trying to preserve the local natural environment and wildlife?
After considering your mission, think of any problems that need immediate addressing. Examples of goals for individual giving campaigns could include raising funds to buy new computers for a library, paying for the travel expenses of a research group, or getting young people registered to vote in the next election.
In order to know how to plan your individual giving campaign, you must first understand your objective.
Remember, you need to be as specific as possible—that means having a tangible goal that allows you and your donors to easily measure your progress as the campaign goes on. Using the SMART Objective Formula will help you create goals that are both specific and attainable.
2. Assemble Your Team
Now that you have a goal, it’s time to assemble your team.
Do not limit yourself to staffers, but seek to also include board members. Make sure you have all of your bases covered and that everyone has a task to complete and is invested in your campaign. Copywriting, marketing and social media, graphic design, finances, logistics…You’ll have to find the right people who can handle all of these different tasks.
Also make sure your team is invested in the campaign. Let them make suggestions on how to move forward, or see if they know anyone else you can recruit.
By getting them involved early, you can better ensure they will care about the outcome of the campaign. In turn, if the donors see that your team’s care is authentic, then they will be more likely to also become invested in helping you achieve your goal.
3. Create a Strategy
Perhaps the most complex part of this step by step guide for individual giving campaigns is developing a strategy. Strategies will depend largely on your campaign’s goal, your team, and your nonprofit’s mission.
Again, we must emphasize the need to be specific. Ask yourself:
- What would constitute success in this scenario?
- What about failure?
- What are the skillsets your team has?
- What are you still missing?
- What does your current data say about your current donors?
- How can you get your current donors engaged in this specific campaign?
- What are some ways to reach a new audience?
Your individual campaign strategy will take all of these things into account so you can have a roadmap moving forward. Consider the story you need to tell to get your donors to care, who needs to hear this story, and how you can make them listen to you.
By knowing the answer to these questions, you can plan what needs to be done, when, and by whom. Slowly, different pieces will come together to form a big picture, and you’ll be able to see and plan for possible problems.
Remember to be flexible, especially when it comes to dealing with your donors. Though we like to divide people into groups for ease of data analysis, reality is far more complex than numbers on a spreadsheet.
Different donors will not only have different ways through which they would prefer to donate, but they will also be motivated by different types of messaging. Their financial situations will also vary; some people can only spare $10 from their monthly budget, while others are able to part with $150 without trouble.
Giving your donors the ability to donate as little or as much as they can, in whatever method works best for them, is the key to maximizing your campaign.
4. Create a Communications Calendar
There’s a fine balance to messaging. You want to keep your donors informed about your campaign, and if you don’t remind them of it, they might forget about it—which means you’ll be losing out on possible funds.
However, if you’re constantly sending out emails and texts, you might end up overwhelming your donors, which in turn might result in you losing their support not just for this campaign, but for future ones as well.
Having a comprehensive communications calendar will ensure you strike that perfect balance. It also has the added bonus of keeping your team informed of what is happening at all times.
5. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need Before Launch
Before you can officially start your individual giving campaign, make sure you have everything you need. Check with your team, double check your calendar, and ensure you have everything organized.
In today’s digital world, there are plenty of softwares and apps that can help you keep track of different parts of your campaign to ensure everything goes smoothly. While this might seem like an unimportant step at first, ensuring you have everything you need, all of your plans made, and everyone ready is key so that you don’t run into big logistical problems in the middle of the campaign.
6. Advertise on Social Media
While messaging your regular donors is crucial for any individual giving campaign, do not underestimate the power of social media. Advertise your campaign not just on your nonprofit’s main social media profiles, but create relevant hashtags and use your own personal social media to talk about the work you’re doing—all of this helps spread the word regarding your cause.
This tweet from the ASPCA is a good example of how you can spread your message while also providing people with a direct link to your campaign’s donation page.
Another tip: Do not be shy about reaching out to influencers, both big and small. Many Youtubers and Twitch streamers, for example, will regularly host charity streams that allow their viewers to donate to specific nonprofits.
A simple retweet from a micro celebrity in a niche community can make thousands of people aware of your cause, and out of those thousands, hundreds may be motivated to give a one time donation. If your messaging is strong enough, some might even become regular donors.
7. Thank Your Donors
This is perhaps one of the most important yet the most neglected steps in running a successful individual giving campaign.
After the campaign is over, make sure to reach out to every person who contributed to this journey and thank them for their efforts and generosity. While this may seem like a mere formality, many nonprofits will lose supporters if those donors feel like their donation is not making a difference.
A simple acknowledgement will go a long way to not only making them feel appreciated, but to get them feeling personally invested in your mission. This also increases their likelihood of contributing to future campaigns.
If you’re feeling bold, ask them for their opinion on how the campaign was run and what your team can do to improve moving forward. Learning how the campaign was perceived from the donor’s side may shed light on problems that you might have been unaware of, and you might learn of some simple solutions to help you better manage your resources.
Wrapping Up: How to Create an Individual Giving Campaign
Individual giving campaigns are at the heart of every successful nonprofit. Not only can they help your organization further its goals, they are also a good way to reach new potential donors.
To create a successful individual giving campaign, you must first identify your goal, make a plan, assemble your team, make a communications calendar, and ensure you have all the tools you need at your disposal. Once the campaign is launched, spread the word through social media. Don’t forget to thank your donors after the campaign is done and see if they have any suggestions on how to make future ones more successful.