Fundraising from Individual Donors – Top Tips

Cause4 supports charities, philanthropists and social enterprises to grow through creating innovative programmes, entrepreneurial business models and ensuring effective fundraising. This blog is written by guest blogger Alice Ravenscroft, Project Coordinator at Cause4.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to individual fundraising. Cause4 has worked with a wide range of organisations, from the English National Opera to The Reading Agency, and the optimum strategy is very different in each case. We do however have a number of top tips for achieving more through individual fundraising that we believe many different organisations can learn from. Here are our top five tips:

1. Allocate resources strategically
A difficult but crucial part of fundraising is deciding how to prioritise the many different options available. Generally, it is best to draw funding from a diverse range of sources, as this increases financial stability in the long term. For organisations with a wide existing network of supporters (or audiences with potential to become supporters), individual fundraising is particularly promising. When deciding how to prioritise different types of individual fundraising, including high net worth, low level giving, alumni schemes and crowdfunding, key factors include:

  • Existing database- how big is this, and what kind of people is it made up of?
  • What can your organisation offer to major and lower level donors?
  • Location and type of organisation – for example a London-based organisation is likely to have more local high net worth individuals to approach than an organisation based in the north, whilst alumni schemes are a particularly promising option for organisations delivering educational work.
  • What are you fundraising for? Something tangible such as a capital campaign is especially appealing to individual donors and allows you to offer major donors the chance to make a transformational gift.

2. Engage existing networks
The most obvious and fruitful starting point for any individual giving campaign is your organisation’s existing networks, including current and previous supporters, audience members, alumni and personal connections. For example, Cause4 worked with London-based arts education organisation WAC Arts, to develop a tiered individual giving scheme targeted at its network of highly successful alumni, which raised over £75,000 in 2014. Getting the whole organisation involved in fundraising is a great way of opening up networks, and your Board of Trustees might have connections with high net worth individuals who could be enlisted for support.

3. Think beyond money
What could individuals offer beyond money? This could be access to further contacts, advice, access to a venue or some other type of in-kind support. Engaging people in this way can bring enormous value to your organisation, whilst making the individual supporter feel needed. For example, Cause4 is working with education charity Debate Mate to put on a series of fundraising breakfasts for high net worths, which have been very successful to date thanks to the organisation’s access to the Wolseley, a grand restaurant in Piccadilly, generously provided by a donor. In this case, in-kind support has enabled Debate Mate to leverage further support.

 4. Know and use your assets
Think creatively about what you could offer supporters of various levels in exchange for their support, particularly things that money can’t buy. For example, WAC Arts offers Gold members of its giving scheme behind the scenes access to events and the chance to mentor a student. Other assets might include priority access to concert tickets, interesting speakers or performers at exclusive events, access to a venue or the chance to be part of a community of other alumni or supporters.

WAC Arts provides Gold level Backers with a pass to all events and classes, as well as behind the scenes access and the chance to mentor an individual

 5. Make a tangible ask
Donors respond well to a tangible ask. Don’t just ask for money, ask for money to achieve a specific outcome and to pay for a specific cost. It is also a good idea to provide potential donors with a shopping list of different items or costs they could provide support for, to increase the chances of something catching their imagination.