Independent musicians are often technological trailblazers. From their embrace of social media, to their march toward different ways of engaging fans and selling their music, a lot of indie bands have been on the cutting edge of the intersection of technology and commerce. So I like to keep an eye on what they're doing. This post caught my attention last week, and although it's written specifically for indie bands, I think it has a lot of great lessons for nonprofits as they try to navigate high-tech waters and engage their donors -- particularly the next generation of donors.
So here are my suggestions for nonprofits who want to make the leap to nonprofit rock star:
Rethink the Way You Build Your Donor Base
This isn't going to happen overnight, but a lot of organizations are already starting to look at how they're acquiring donors and how they can do it better. Direct mail is still a viable way to go, and the Web is certainly upping its numbers ever year. But what else could you do?
- Deliver quality content. Too many organizations send out email blasts because they're on the schedule, not because they have something important, interesting and actionable to say. Send emails your recipients want to open. Try surveys or petitions to get them involved. Link to articles you found interesting. Send a video greeting from your ED or a celebrity supporter. And please, resist the urge to bombard them with asks for money.
- Be social on your social media. Engage with your followers. Start conversations, send good wishes, share cool information or funny videos. Don't be so scripted and regulated that you sound like an institution -- let your organization's unique charm and personality shine through.
- Give your donors the Thing they want. Why do people give to your organization? What do they hope to accomplish? Why YOU? Deliver that. Tell stories, stream video, thank them. Make them feel like a vital part of your work.
Find New Revenue Streams
This isn't just for indie bands. Nonprofits need to get creative with their fundraising if they want to raise more money. And today, there are as many ways to do that as there are organizations.
Of course, there are the tried and true ways to expand your revenue stream. If you're not already maintaining a Sustainer program, encouraging Planned Giving, and working on upgrading current members to higher giving levels, well…get on that!
But consider these other ideas, too.
- Crowdfunding for specific campaigns, or for events like birthdays, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and anniversaries.
- A "store" that sells itemized portions of your work. $25 to feed a puppy for a month. $100 to save five acres of rainforest. You get the idea.
- If your ED or board members travel, consider asking them to host members-only house parties or other events in the cities they visit. It's a great opportunity for some face-to-face fundraising, and it makes your donors feel valued.
Stop Believing in the Magic Bullet
There is no magic bullet. There is no one fundraising solution that will work for now and for always. You're going to have to continually reinvent your fundraising as new tools become available and as donors become more sophisticated. That doesn't mean throwing out the tools that got you where you are today, though.
You need to have a whole catalog of songs, oldies and new releases, to play for your donors if you want to be a nonprofit rock star.