Personal touch fundraising

“Unfold to see Kate’s name and mini-bio. All best, Elaine Davenport, Co-Chair, BWS Fund”

The handwritten card fell out onto my lap from a very colorful brochure celebrating the 20th Anniversary Party back on October 1 for the Bess Whitehead Scott Scholarship Fund. The event had been held in Austin, Texas, exactly 1500 miles away from where we are now, and 16 years after our daughter received the honor of the scholarship at Texas A&M. Yet Ms Davenport remembered and took the time to be sure we had a copy, along with a bookmark, and information on the website and the latest fundraising efforts. It took me about 10 minutes to get to my computer, and with a couple of clicks I sent a contribution. I appreciated the effort and thought, and the fact that the scholarship made a difference. I appreciated those personal words, as if Ms Davenport was sitting next to me knowing just how much I love to see our daughter’s name on slick paper.

Fundraising can be an agonizing chore. Non-profits and Churches count on fundraising for annual budgets, and for designated spending. The sad truth is, despite Malachi 3:10, in these economic times, giving is down, and the discipline of giving is becoming last on the budget list. Staff is being laid off, routine and basic maintenance is being delayed simply because the funds are not available. Mission statements of outreach and service tighten and groups find themselves struggling to do their work.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10

There has been much written about raising funds. Malachi 3:10 is a directive and a promise. In my experience it makes people squeamish and so does heavy-handed fundraising tactics. Blanket and impersonal methods also fail. You can’t count on people to just do the right thing, not when they very often are struggling. Ms Davenport had it exactly right, personal and low-key worked for me at this moment in 2011. Why? Because she didn’t appeal to my intellect, or bang me over the head with facts and figures, she appealed to my heart. In one simple handwritten sentence.

So what are some personal touches for fundraising?
1. Put a face on the project. Recognize the people involved, tell their stories, show their pictures.
2. Use print, web, and personal messages, video and music too if you can.
3. Remember your history, use your database, keep your database updated.
4. Don’t forget to use your fundraising event and materials, even after it’s long over and far away! As long as you have brochures and a database, keep sending them out. Repeat if needed. (I could use more copies for the grandparents!)

Look at and adapt ideas and concepts from your own mail. Right now most organizations are sending out materials. I confess I rip most of them up. They are FAR from personal. The handwritten address caught my eye, along with the personal return address label. And personal worked!

Reminder: It’s the last week in December. Get your 2011 contributions in to your favorite church or charity by Friday. And, in case you are wondering, The Bess Whitehead Scott Scholarship Fund is administered by the Austin Community Foundation – www.austincf.org/bwsfund

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About Robin Arnold

Reader, writer, gardener, geek, maker of homes in several states, now settled in Virginia with husband Bob, and Hazel and Wilson the tabby cats.
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