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Section 5. Marketing the Initiative to Secure Financial Support

Tool #1: What your donors want from you

What follows is a list of desires that are typical of many groups of donors, such as government agencies, foundations, and individual donors. By knowing what members want, you will be able to target your marketing to their desires.

All of these suggestions should be taken as a starting point. Just as different nonprofit organizations want very different things, different donors will have their individual desires as well. It's your job to figure out what they are, and how your organization can best fulfill them.

Government agencies (federal, state, city, or county) want:

  • A carefully defined set of services, provided by a carefully defined set of people , in a set period, often in a set manner, with no audit exceptions and with all paperwork in on time.
  • Generally, government representatives want you to know regulations cold.
  • You should meet all of their regulatory and bureaucratic requirements.
  • You might also design materials (such as reports or brochures) targeted specifically toward government donors. They should emphasize outcomes, quality, and certification levels.

Members want:

  • Clear, tangible benefits that they actually receive.
  • Updates on what the organization is doing.

Foundations want:

  • Innovative projects that meet their criteria.
  • A demonstration of strong community support
  • Self-sustainability within approximately three years.
  • Usually, they want general information, such as your mission, history and goals.
  • Letters of endorsement from community leaders or collaborators can be helpful

We should note here that foundations are a slightly different case than other potential donors. Many times, they are located across the country, and each may be unique in its desires and goals. Talk to program officers of foundations if you can, and ask what they like to see most and least in applications. Read the foundation press and consider getting help from an experienced, successful grant writer.

United Ways are an excellent source of funding for many small community organizations. They want:

  •  Guidelines for funding met precisely.

If your United Way does needs assessments, make sure that you participate so that your service area needs are included.

Donors, both individual and corporate, have wants that vary widely. Some want:

  • To support a program.
  • To support an endowment.
  • Some want to be visibly thanked for your contribution; many others don't. Ask.

Organizations should learn who is most likely to donate, and focus energies on these potential donors.

Users who pay fees want;

  •  High quality and value for their money. Note that we say value, not low prices. Many people who pay fees won't balk at a high price tag if they feel they are getting a lot out of it. For example, a group of tourist may willingly pay ten or twenty dollars to tour a historical site if they have heard that it is particularly beautiful, or that the guide is exceptionally charming.

While this list gives many of the more common ways for a nonprofit organization to raise money, it isn't meant to be a complete list. Does your group have other potential means of funding? What are they?

Information from Peter Brinckerhoff's Mission-based marketing. Reprinted by permission.

Tool #2: Fundraising Effectiveness Chart

Ways/places for asking for support  Definition 

Effectiveness tips

Prospect ratio  Cost per dollar raised 
Direct Mail Money raised through the mail by sending a solicitation package to a broad base of potential supporters. Most effective way to achieve these NEW donors: Repeated solicitations 100:1


Telemarking Money raised through the telephone by calling with a solicitation script to a broad base of potential supporters. Most effective way to achieve these NEW donors:Repeated solicitations  10:1

$ .10-$ .20

Fundrasing Event Money raised from individuals who are new to the universe of your organization or upgrading to a higher level through the sale of tickets and other event collateral Most effective way to achieve these donors: Multiple solicitation tactics Direct mail sales 100:1; Face to face sales 4:1 $.50
Corporate Sponsorship Money raised from corporations who support the work of your organization and/or are seeking recognition opportunities Most effective way to achieve these donors: Face to face solicitations 4:1 Widely variable; approxi-mately 

$ .10-$ .

Grants Money raised from private and public foundations and/or various branches of the government Most common way to achieve this money: Grant applications 11:1 For program grants $1; For operating grants <$.15
Individual Donors Money raised from individuals who support the work of your organization at a philanthropic level Most effective way to achieve these donors: Face to face solicitation 4:1

<$ .10