If you want to recruit more volunteers, donors, good board members, motivated staff, and advocates for your cause, you need the community to get excited about supporting your nonprofit. Even though it’s counterintuitive, you will improve your community’s response to your appeals, and spend less money, by targeting smaller donor groups rather than everyone. My book The Sustainable High ROI Fundraising System tells you how to accomplish that.
Define Your Target Markets
A target market is a set of people who have something in common with one another. They share similar needs or characteristics, usually demographic characteristics, values, preferences, or behaviors. The more defined your target group, the easier it is to speak directly to them and allocate resources to have the biggest effect. With donors, you target people interested in your cause, connection to your nonprofit, and means to give financially.
Why target smaller, distinct groups instead of going after everyone? Say you want to fish for flounder. You could go out with a boat, cast a wide net, and get a lot of fish, a few of which are flounder. Or, you could go where flounders tend to congregate, cast a small net, get fewer fish but a lot of which are flounder. In the first scenario, you expend a lot of resources to get a few of what you want. In the second, you don’t end up with as many individual fish, but you get a whole lot more of what you want.
Clients, board members, donors, staff, volunteers, advocates, and community leaders are the most critical constituencies for your nonprofit to reach. Each of these groups plays a vital role in advancing your agency’s mission. Yet, each of these groups has its own set of demographic characteristics, likes, dislikes, values, places they hang out, and preferred methods of communication. Which means that each constituency needs its own outreach strategy. And its own value proposition.
Research Your Target Groups
To find out about your potential individual donors, research them. To learn their group values, beliefs, likes, and preferences, you might visit the Center for Generational Kinetics and analyze its research. Or you might start a conversation and interact with the people you want to reach, then write down your observations. Or you might conduct a survey or convene a focus group.
To learn about prospective foundation donors, study their IRS Form 990s and giving trends. Visit their websites. Study their application guidelines. Read their reports, white papers, and press releases. It’s all public information.
You can study potential corporate donors by reviewing information on their website and in their corporate reports and company press releases. You might also want to become more proficient in understanding their issues and speaking their language by reading business journals and economic reports.
If you are researching potential government funders, visit their websites, see what they do, and look at what they fund. Read the results of any community studies they have conducted. You also have legislation, rules, and regulations ad nauseam you can read.
When you get information about your donor groups, hear what they say, not what you want them to say. Listen to them. Find a way to loop back with them and confirm your perceptions. Take the evidence you end up with and use it to fashion your approach and subsequent communications to them. To get those communications just right, base your efforts on the objective data they have provided.
Define the Benefits to Your Target Groups
A value proposition is a statement of the benefits a supporter will receive by being involved with your agency. A value proposition helps potential supporters see how the implementation of your nonprofit’s mission is of value to them and why your nonprofit is worth getting involved within their sea of options.
A well-written value proposition will explain how your agency solves community problems and improves the lives of not only your program’s clients but the donor as well. It will be specific. And it will tell your supporters why your nonprofit is worthy of their backing among the alternatives they have.
All the value propositions will be related yet different. You will want to use the language from each constituency group for best results. Your goal is to get your target groups to notice your nonprofit, learn what your agency is doing, and give them opportunities to interact with and spread the word about your organization. And they will—if they can identify with your cause, understand what your agency is about, and see how their goals can best be met by supporting your nonprofit.
Once you have value propositions for each constituency group you want to reach, you can use them for fundraising, outreach, staff recruitment and retention, volunteer recruitment and retention, board member recruitment and retention, and garnering community support. An organizational value proposition can be placed on your website and used for press releases, social media posts, and other general communications. Specific value propositions to get more clients, employees, volunteers, and board members can be used on your individual web pages and in your outreach, recruitment, and retention materials. Value propositions aimed at donors can be included in your case for support and the materials you create from it—for example, brochures, donation pages, annual appeals, corporate giving campaigns, grant narratives, and other fundraising items.
The Results You Achieve
People who are passionate for your cause will likely give you more than money. Like a good word when talking to their friends and family. Or volunteer time to help you run your programs or recruit other donors and volunteers. Or in-kind donations so that your costs are reduced. I know it’s counterintuitive, but you will improve your visibility in the community and the support you receive from it by targeting smaller donor groups. It’s all about your target groups’ needs, values, and preferences.
Define the specific groups you want to reach. Research them. Design your fundraising campaigns around what you’ve learned. And watch the money roll in.