Give them a reason to give
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Throughout we keep emphasizing the fact that you are not the only one(s) competing for the same pool of people and funding. How is it, other than that they have the means to retain a volunteer coordinator and a fundraising director, that some organizations seem so successful at this game? Where do they find their donors? Where do you even start?
You have different points of contact with different people throughout your day. Maybe they write you a message through your website. Maybe they hand you a card or call you. Always try and get at least a full name (first/last), email address and phone number.
… And Give Them a Way Out
If you are collecting information through your website, for example through a newsletter sign-up, people typically consent to you sending them emails because they specifically signed up for this. If you collected their information some other way, it is considered good form to get their consent somehow, either by posting a notice on your website or have them click a check box etc. To prevent their wrath at receiving unsolicited email (in cases where this is not possible), always include an unsubscribe link in newsletters.
Of note: not all emails fall under the CAN-SPAM rules in the US, and we’re not getting into the thick of this here. If in doubt, include an unsubscribe link. And your physical mailing address. If you use a service like MailChimp, you are forced to include both, always.
Interact Creatively With Potential Donors
Let’s assume for a moment you have an Open House at your community garden. Let’s also assume you are including a raffle of sorts for, say, a pair of donated stylish rubber boots with matching garden gloves. If people sign up for this, force them to include a first and last name, email address and phone number for their ticket to be considered. Nobody obliges you to consider a ticket with just a first name as the winner.
This is a great way to collect names and contact information, both for potential donors and volunteers. And remember, the two groups are intertwined. Another such initiative would be to create a petition, requiring the same information. Just get creative!
Ask Existing Supporters
No person is an island, so your group’s/organization’s members all likely have the digital equivalent of a Rolodex. They are already on board, so the question becomes, is there anybody in their network they could possibly bring into the fold? If the answer is “yes”, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging them to do so.
It is probably unlikely, but if you have a closely-aligned “sister” organization, you can consider trading names/lists with them. While it makes no sense to purchase such lists and cold-calling/cold-emailing them, trading with somebody can be a win-win for everybody involved.
Host a (Joint) Event
Events are a great opportunity to collect names and other information. If you don’t have the bandwidth, maybe you can team up with another group/organization. That event can be something educational or whatever you want. Be creative.
Come up With Easy Ways to Give
While 80% of your donations may come from 20% of your donors, whatever and however you go about it, make giving as easy as you can. Have pre-determined levels, easy channels etc. It can be easier for some donors to just initiate a monthly donation than to remember to give each quarter, for example.
In other words, come up with an easy way to donate to you on a regular basis without having to do extra work. Make the people who give you sustaining gifts feel special somehow, either by mentioning them specifically in a newsletter or by highlighting them on your social media, for example.
Never Refuse a Donation
Unless what you are offered is gross, violates a law, or puts you into a situation where you have to take care of somebody else’s problems, never refuse a donation. Your donors rarely attempt to dump things on you, and if they do, let them know politely why you cannot accept their donation, and possibly suggest where else to take it.
You are always going to walk a fine line. If you accept everything without scrutiny, you risk becoming a junk yard or dumping ground for things you then have to get rid of. If you don’t accept enough donations, potential donors may take them some place else.