Fundraising? Start in Your Own “Backyard”

After 11 months of the pandemic, I have learned to cultivate a deep appreciation of beauty around me, which wasn’t always apparent when I was rarely at home. In March, my husband and I mapped out two 3.5 to 4 mile walking routes through our neighborhood, and I walk one of them every morning.


The more I walked, the more I saw. One morning a hawk swooped to hunt a slow-moving squirrel a few feet away from me.  About half a mile down the road, a heron flew from one creek bank to another less than 10 feet in front of me. For several weeks last summer, a kind soul would leave a box of mixed produce in the unofficial community gathering spot, free to anyone. I once carried a cabbage in the crook of my arm for the last half-mile home.


These walking routes trace a hilly neighborhood first developed in the 1950s with block after block of brick ranch houses and a former elementary school that is now a center for recently immigrated students. No fancy parks, no exquisitely manicured estates, just simple lots and smallish houses located less than a mile from a major highway and the county jail.


It’s by returning day after day that I have grown to appreciate the beauty and generosity of my community. The same consistent outreach to your donors and grantors can also provide moments of unexpected generosity and deep meaningful connections.


During the pandemic, I’ve coached clients to steer clear of either scattershot donor outreach or its opposite—complete shut down in communication.  Instead, I advise reaching out regularly to those who already “live” in your community to see how they are doing and to share how the pandemic has affected those people and places you serve. You know they support your mission because they’ve already shown you. So, take another walk around your donor neighborhood, and consider starting a monthly donor program if you haven’t already.


Monthly donor guru Erica Waasdorp has some great suggestions for starting an online-based giving program AND maintaining clear, engaging and frequent communication with these regular donors. In Season 4, Episode 2 of the Fundraising HayDay Podcast, Erica said that establishing or growing monthly donors provides a reliable stream of revenue and/or increases the amounts people can contribute to your nonprofit. She offered more of her expertise as a long-time consultant and author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.


I can personally vouch for the power of monthly giving. Setting a regular donation spread over an entire year allows me to give more than if I made a one-time gift every December. For example, if someone regularly gave $100 each year to your organization, they may be able to give at least $10 a month through your monthly giving program.  That’s a 20% increase that could be your organization’s for the asking.


The Fundraising Effectiveness Project, founded by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the AFP Foundation and the Urban Institute, reported that individual donations of up to $250 rose by more than 17% from January through September 2020 compared to 2019. (3rd quarter report released December 21, 2020). Just like the unexpected beauty of birds of prey hunting in an ordinary city neighborhood, the pandemic has called forth an incredible bout of generosity from people wanting to do what they can.


I urge you to take the time to get to know those individuals and families who are stepping up to make a difference by giving to your organization. Invite them to become monthly donors. As these times of social distancing drag on, you may not be able to literally walk a mile in their shoes, or even alongside them, but encouraging deeper connections to the communities you serve is a great first step.


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 4 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on seasons 1 – 3 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.

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