Many causes face the challenge of imbalanced funding – whether it’s receiving funding for programs but not operations, having support to maintain your organization but not grow it, or just not enough funds. After all, without resources in the right places, there can be no program growth, no service delivery, no community advancement. But how do you attract unrestricted contributions for your nonprofit?
There are just two things to keep in mind that will put your cause on the path to receiving unrestricted contributions. Yep, that’s it. Just two. Take these into account and you’ll be on your way to receiving unrestricted contributions for your cause in no time.
Create Context for Unrestricted Contributions
What is the message that you are sharing with your supporters? Are you talking about a program your cause provides? Sharing stories about the people who benefit from your organization’s programs? Sharing victories and progress that tie directly back to your programs? Showcasing the impact you programs have? These are terrific message to share, but they only provide the smallest view of your organization. Without context, your cause is just a collection of programs.
To paint the larger picture of your cause and its impact without droning on and on causing your potential supporter to tune out, run away, or expire from boredom, try this short and sweet tactic. It works in writing and in person.
Start broad – Introduce your organization and include a paraphrase of the mission. State your cause is addressing this mission through a range of programs. Mention a couple. Share the overall impact of cause across all of your activities. Let them know that it costs your total operating budget to have this level of impact.
Now that you have set the context for your organization’s activities, you can expand upon the areas where your supporter shows interest. Yes, share details about the programs that resonate, yes, share details of the budget. Be as transparent and engaging as possible. As you wrap up tie it all back to the big picture.
Keep an eye on all of your communications channels to be sure that you are sharing big picture information as well as your program-only information. Make sure you are setting your “small pictures” information into context by tying them back to your big picture.
It does take some practice to re-phrase how you present your cause. Maybe your organization grew from a pilot program and now that you’re bigger you are having difficulty moving from program language to organization language.
The difference at first may seem awkward, but hang in there. Soon, creating the right context will be second nature. As your supporters become familiar with the scope of your cause, they will be well-prepared to make unrestricted contributions to support the whole of the organization.
It’s All in the Ask
Are you unintentionally steering your donors to restrict their gifts? Many times it is the way we ask that creates the limitations in donations. Here’s how you can open the doors and make it easy for your supporters to make unrestricted contributions.
Review your solicitation phrasing.
When it comes to the ask keep it short. Focus your request and ask for help on behalf of the organization. Keep an ear out for unnecessary phrase endings that narrow your request to one program or one area of your cause.
Check out your response materials.
Are you presenting a menu of options to your donor? Do your response vehicles (your pledge cards, tear-off forms, campaign landing pages etc.) look like a sushi order form with lots of options and check boxes? It’s easy to get in the habit of listing your programs like a menu item on your response mechanisms. As helpful as it is to know what about your cause is inspiring support, your pledge card is not the place to segment your supporters.
Keep your list of options to gift levels.
If you have several established funds for which you are raising, keep your solicitations to one fund at a time. That means no optional check box to send your contributions to the special xyz fund on your general solicitations. You want your response forms to be as easy and clear as possible. A form that reads “Yes! I will support your Fantastic Organization with a monthly gift of (check boxes here)” is perfect for events, letters and even landing pages.
Next time you find your organization needs to increase its unrestricted contributions, polish up these two fundraising phrasing techniques. Make sure you include the big vision beyond the project. Create the context. Review your asking language. When you think big picture, your supporters will too. Unrestricted contributions will be the natural result.