By Annie Rhodes
CF Insights, a project of the Foundation Center, recently released the results of its 2015 Columbus Survey. The Columbus Survey provides a yearly snapshot of community foundation growth and other related operational activity over the past fiscal year. As part of the Columbus Survey, CF Insights puts together a list recognizing the Top 100 Community Foundations by Assets.
In my role as director of foundation strategy, I work with many of the community foundations on that list, many of which ranked within the top 20 and collectively generated over $63 billion worth of assets. Even among the top ranked foundations, an ongoing challenge all foundations face is how to become a donor’s choice — after all, donors have a plethora of options to choose from in the U.S. alone, including donating directly to nonprofits. So for community foundations looking to generate more donations, we’ve put together a three-step roadmap on how to do just that.
Step 1: Provide information — and lots of it
It’s often overwhelming for people to wrap their heads around the number of causes that exist to which they can donate. This is only exacerbated with the rise of individual and crowd-funding platforms that allow anyone to create a cause and collect donations. We know that people want to support organizations and causes that make the most difference, and the way to demonstrate this is by showing specific and measurable impact of dollars.
Community foundations must educate those in their local areas of the needs that exist right in their backyards. People are often not aware of these needs and as a result, not aware of the nonprofits that exist locally to address these needs. Donors need to know both needs and clear steps on how they can meet them. Use the communication channels at your disposal to reach your audience. This can include community newsletters, email lists, social media groups, your website, and even the local paper to drive awareness, interest and engagement.
Step 2: Be transparent and authentic
People need to know their donations are going to a credible cause. After all, information delivered without credibility or authenticity is as ineffective as delivering no information at all. A community foundation can deliver information and advice with an invaluable advantage: the element of face-to- face human interaction.
Invite community members and potential donors to come down to the local animal shelter to see where their donations are going, for example. At a high level, community foundations should serve to bridge the gap between organizations and donors. Information sharing and demonstrable results are the quickest ways to establish trust with your donor base.
Step 3: Make it easy
Convenience is critical. If it’s not easy for donors to choose your foundation, they won’t. In practice, this means implementing the appropriate technology to reduce complexity and make the giving process as convenient and seamless as possible for donors. Offer donors an online portal that serves as an extension of your foundation. Here, they should be able to access their personal information with the click of a button or swipe of a finger—after all, mobile is the most widely used consumer channel.
By following the three-step road map laid out above, community foundations can greatly increase their chances of being chosen by donors amid an endless plethora of options.
Image credit: Pixabay
Commentary by Annie Rhodes, Director of Foundation Strategy, MicroEdge + Blackbaud. MicroEdge + Blackbaud is the leading provider of software and services that help the giving community effectively collaborate around their efforts to raise funds for, manage and communicate the impact of their philanthropic investments. Follow MicroEdge + Blackbaud on Twitter @MicroEdgeLLC.