Use Your Network to Build Your Donor Base

In 2002, I was in the middle of my six year service as a Board member for a social service agency in Northwest Portland.  I was also job seeking after the company I worked for eliminated the department I started in a massive budget cut.  It was a bad time for the local economy during the post 911 recession, so jobs were hard to come by, so I turned to my Alma mater to build my network of local connections.

I was surprised to find that the university had no alumni group in my state, so with the assistance of another graduate, I started one.  The university sent me a list of names, addresses and email information, of the graduates in the state, most of them in the Portland area, and since we had no financial assistance from the university, I sent out email invitations, and a small group of volunteers called those we had telephone numbers for, and invited them to our initial event.  We had a pretty good turnout, about ten percent of the total number of alumni in the local area.  I met a lot of interesting people in a lot of fields of business, but unfortunately, it didn’t help me find a job.

However, the connections I made really benefited the organization I served.  Many of those people I talked to showed great interest in my service as a Board member and the nonprofit I served.  I told them about the organization’s long history in Portland and the good work it did for the people we served.  I invited them to learn more about the organization and consider supporting it after they learned more.

A few weeks later, I emailed and called a number of the alumni that showed up for our initial event and expressed interest in my nonprofit.  The organization was preparing for its annual gala fundraising dinner and auction and asked them for their support.  Some individuals bought tickets to the event, and others offered donations to auction.  I got people to donate vacation homes on the Oregon Coast and on Mt. Hood, gift certificates for restaurants and stores, and a variety of other things that brought in a great deal of money.  I thanked them all, let them know how much money their gifts made for the organization, and kept in touch with them throughout the year.  The following year, many of those people attended the event and the donations grew bigger and brought in more income for the organization.

If you belong to an alumni group, professional society, or any other kind of networking group, consider talking to those people about the organization that you serve.  Pay attention to those who show interest in your cause and keep track of who they are and what they do.  Those connections can help you out, and they are often willing, if you ask them.  I also suggest that you invite those interested individuals to visit the organization and spend time on your nonprofit’s website.  Keep them informed with occasional emails and phone calls.  Contact them on Facebook and other social media sites, if they use them.   Show them appreciation when they do support them.  It’s basic stewardship that you should do with every supporter or potential supporter.

As long as you are not pushy or obnoxious, there is nothing wrong with introducing your contacts to your organization and its mission.  It can help your organization grow its support financially and, perhaps, even bring in more support through their network of connections.  Consider giving this method a try.


About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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2 Responses to Use Your Network to Build Your Donor Base

  1. Richard, as you’ve said many times before, it all comes down to relationships. That’s the difference between professional development v. begging.

  2. Pingback: Fundraisingwoche vom 02.02.-08.02.2015 | - wir lieben Fundraising

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