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Donor Cultivation and Engagement

Updated: Nov 25, 2021

Apparatus, turnout gear, tools, and equipment are becoming more expensive. Quarter auctions and spaghetti dinners won't pay for a new engine anymore. We mean no disrespect towards those companies who still host these events, as every dollar raised is important; however, when was the last time your department evaluated its fundraising plan?

Rather than a shotgun approach to fundraising, what if your department took a more strategic and personal approach to raising money?

It is easy to get into the trap of "little time, let's keep doing what has worked-even though we know it needs improvement". Improving donor cultivation doesn't have to be a scary thought process that gets moved to the bottom of the priority list. Imagine being able to improve the amount of money you raise and giving you the financial flexibility to improve your overall operation.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Don't forget to thank your donors! This may seem like a simple and common concept, but your donors should receive a thank you in a timely fashion. Donors who feel appreciated and valued continue to donate. A thank you doesn't include a bunch of special gifts or swag. They donated to you in order to support your cause, not for the gift that they expect in return. Providing gifts only takes away from your bottom line. Consider having a personalized letter signed by the Chief or President for anyone who donates above a certain threshold.

  2. Their name is important. Whether it is a business, individual, or family make sure you have their name correct. Nothing is more frustrating than recognizing the wrong person.

  3. Be cautious with % based fundraising events. Everyone knows of the "spirit night concept" but be careful with utilizing this strategy. A donor may feel like they have met their obligation of supporting your department by going to the local restaurant where 10% of their tab will benefit you. If you had the opportunity to directly solicit from that person, they very well may have donated the same amount of money they spent on dinner (rather than the % you received).

  4. Share your story. People donate to causes that are important to them. It is important to share your story of how you benefit the community. This does not include a bunch of technical jargon! It would be great if you could reach out to a citizen that you recently provided services to, and ask them if you can use their story. People donate towards emotional causes. Yes in our service it can be very difficult to tap into emotion, but it is important to find a way.

  5. Don't over-saturate. Do you send out a direct mail campaign asking for money, but also include an ad for address signs or other products/events? You have to know your audience and understand each demographic will support you in different ways. Rather than promoting a bunch of upcoming events on your direct mail campaign, have them follow you on social media, sign up for an e-newsletter, or direct them to your website. You always want to have your donors and supporters engaged with you through multiple avenues. Simply providing them everything they need to know in their mailbox is not an effective strategy for keeping them engaged.

  6. Get with the times. Don't make it difficult for people to give you money. You should have the capability to receive donations in person, through the mail, online, via social media, and even Venmo! If it is too difficult to donate to your organization, you will lose that donation.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. Looking to improve your fundraising strategy? Contact us!

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