“Our support has ‘dried up’ … we have no one to contact, and it seems no one will support us anymore. What do we do?”
Over the past few years, we’ve received a lot of messages like this from well-meaning fundraisers.
It’s important to consider the different “calibers” of donors. As yucky as that may sound, it’s necessary.
Don’t confuse influence with money (or vice-versa).
Too many fundraisers confuse the two, and end up with an imbalance between both. The reality is that you need donors with money and influence to adequately support your cause.
- Money: how much that particular donor will (or is able) to give.
- Influence: how much exposure that donor can give you (but not actual donations).
The simplest way I can explain this is with a diagram:
Zone #1: High Money, High Influence
Several years ago, I worked at a generous and influential church. One particular organization struck up a relationship with us, and their representatives were asked to speak. The donations poured in, to the tune of over $20,000 that one day. We also decided to support them monthly and recommended them to other churches in our network.
They may well have raised $100,000 in three years from our organization alone, directly or indirectly. It’s likely we supplied one of the largest percentages of donations (from one source) during those years. Some fundraisers call these folks “anchor donors.”
What percentage of your income is coming from singular sources? And can they leverage their influence to open even more opportunities for you?
These are important questions to consider.
Zone #2: Low Money, High Influence
Remember: influence does not equal donations. A prime example might be the leader of another non-profit, or the head of a government board. She may have influence (she can open speaking opportunities to you, or connect you with other donors) but she will not personally give a significant amount of money to you.
Let’s consider another case…
Say you get invited to speak at a conference, where 1,000 other fundraisers from all over the world gather to talk about fundraising. Huge exposure! Tons of pictures of you speaking to masses of people! Awesome, right?
Maybe, maybe not. Why?
Because that particular audience, while influential, will not directly donate to you. You may get an honorarium for speaking, but this kind of situation equates to you being paid by exposure, not actual money.
Still, you should seek these kind of donors because they can open doors to more connections or opportunities. Just keep in mind: they are not the silver bullet they appear to be, nor will they really take care of your immediate financial needs.
Zone #3: High Money, Low Influence
This is your wealthy relative / friend / colleague / co-worker that gives you a healthy donation — but does not carry the influence to connect you with other audiences.
You may have folks in this quadrant that give to you regularly. Awesome! But remember that you can’t depend on only these folks. They are important, but they won’t do much in terms of getting “word out” about what you’re doing. You still need folks from zones #1 and #2 — their influence is important for you.
Zone #4: Low Money, Low Influence
The best example I can think of for this quadrant: your neighborhood kids. They love you and will hold bake sales to raise money for your cause — it just won’t be a lot.
Let’s be practical. They might raise a few hundred bucks but for ongoing, sustainable support they simply don’t have the cash flow. Neither do they have the access or connections to get you in front of new audiences or donors.
This is the type of donor that you should avoid spending significant amounts of time on. Please don’t take this the wrong way — every bit counts. But you should spend the bulk of your fundraising efforts elsewhere.
What percentage of my support should come from each quadrant?
There is no easy answer. I could spout off the 80/20 rule (that 80% of your support will come from the top 20% of donors) but that would just be an unfair generalization. Every situation is different, including yours.
My hope is that you will at least consider where your support is coming from, and how you can more effectively target each type of donor shown here.
My advice: target the folks in quadrant #1, because that will trickle down into the other quadrants.
“How do people that have significant influence and finances operate? What do they base their decisions on, especially when it comes to finances?”
A few thoughts:
- provide a detailed financial report (wealthy people read these)
- cast vision — show what you’ve been doing with your money, and what you plan to do with more
- exhibit professionalism so that influential leaders find it easy to recommend you to others
- show all of this in your support letter and fundraising efforts
Effectively reaching the folks in quadrant #1 will require the most thought and diligence — which is exactly why you should try to reach them. They will create a domino effect into the other quadrants that will sustain you long-term.
- Look at your current donor base, and consider which quadrant they fall into.
- Ask yourself, “What does each donor like to hear about in regards to our work?”
- Grab a calendar and plan when you will update your donors.
- Craft the updates, making sure they communicate well enough to quadrant #1 people.
- Grab your calendar, and schedule the next time you will repeat steps 1-4.
Finally, A Step-by-Step Roadmap to Raising More Financial Support
Many missionaries struggle to raise support in today’s world. This Missionary Support Raising Checklist gives you a step-by-step roadmap on how to focus your vision, enlist a team, ask for donations, and more.
This framework has been used to raise millions for missionaries and non-profits like The American Cancer Society and Special Olympics. There’s no need to “wing it” in your fundraising efforts anymore. Get this guide today.