Who believes in what you’re trying to achieve?

If you think everybody will give to you ‘because we’re a good cause’ - think again!!!  Many new fundraisers will assume that they will target the big companies, get a hefty sum and then sit back.  Not so.  For a start, research suggests that society’s givers are individuals.  Consistent fundraising trends in Australia and other countries show the vast majority of the money contributed to causes comes from individuals.  Corporations chip in a bit and foundations the rest (see section 15-215 for more details on foundations). 

What you are seeking are the true believers - people who identify with your cause for one reason or another - people with a linkage to your mission.  These people are your markets, or your ‘constituencies’.

Identifying constituencies

So if you were trying to raise funds for preserving a historic building, you would not tackle the population at large.  Not everybody would care.  Maybe, though, local architectural, building and engineering firms might be interested.  People who have used the building through the years might care about it.  Descendants of the original owners and craftsmen may want to know about your efforts.  Groups who could use the building in the future might have some interest, as might local residents and businesses.  A company formed in the same year might support the effort in celebration of its own anniversary and to underline its long track record in the community.  If the restoration is likely to generate tourism, this opens a whole range of possibilities from the firms or government areas who could benefit long term from your initiative.  Linkages are the key.

People who have been battered children are likely to identify with causes to protect children when they are older.  People who have attended a particular school or university may cherish some special feeling for the start it gave them in life.  If a prominent business person was a star player in your soccer team as a youth, he may care about its new club house.  Your local car dealership will probably draw most of its trade from the Mums and Dads who live in your area, so sponsoring your football carnival in exchange for presenting the trophies may be something they are interested in.  In other words, no matter what your cause, find the believers, someone with a linkage.  Do not waste time and effort on people who do not have a link with your cause in some way.  Tailor your messages to those with an interest.

Appealing to your constituencies

What do these markets want to hear from you?  Contrary to what many organisations think, your needs as an organisation will not appeal to them.  They are interested in the community needs you will fill, the good you will create.  How will the new clubhouse make a difference to the youngsters and families in the area?  What difference will their donation to the old school make to today’s and tomorrow’s students?  Will their input help another family before they get to the stage of hurting a child?  Focus on the end benefits when talking to your donor markets, not your immediate needs for new equipment, buildings or money.  Inspire your givers to feel the same urgency and zeal for the cause that you do.  Think about what is going on in your potential giver’s mind.

Why do people give?

Research suggests people give for a host of reasons, usually at least two of the following:

  • Religious beliefs;
  • Because a friend/peer asked them to;
  • Fear of contracting a disease;
  • Understanding of the cause through personal experience;
  • Respect for what your organisation is doing;
  • Recognition (which may be in the form of having their name on a plaque, gaining some publicity or sitting at a special table with major supporters);
  • Tax benefits;
  • ‘Giving something back’;
  • Desire to make a better world;
  • Self-fulfilment and so on.

Clearly, you need to tap into the needs that motivate the various people in your constituencies so you can best appeal to them.  Watch what brings a shine to people’s eyes when they speak.  We are all motivated by different things.  It is interesting to note that tax relief hardly ever figures as a major reason for giving.  Tax benefits, if you qualify for them, are not unique to your organisation.  Many nonprofits will offer the same advantage.  It is better to establish the unique nature of your cause rather than jump onto a bandwagon and compete with others as just another tax deduction.  Tax is an important to open the conversation and get people thinking about giving, however and it may be critical to corporate and foundation supporters.

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