Birthday Fundraising

March.  My birthday month. I confess I’ve never understood the ballyhoo about birthdays. After my daughter’s first child—which took 22 hours of labor before they decided that maybe a caesarean was called for—on her son’s birthday, I would give her a “birthing day” gift. But to celebrate something for which I—the birthday celebrant—had nothing to do with didn’t make sense to me.

Then, I started advising my clients to get their boards to join a Birthday Club, where each year on their birthday, they would ask their contacts to join them in celebrating their birthday by making a donation to the organization.  It turned out to be a terrific way to raise some money and—with follow up—to get a few more loyal donors.

Social media has made birthday clubs even easier—though I think that having a robust plan in place helps you to both raise money because it is someone’s birthday and then to move a subset of those people into becoming donors to your organization in their own right.

Celebrating individual’s birthdays is only one way of using a special date to raise funds.  Organizations have long used their anniversaries as fundraising efforts. We’ve all gotten appeals that start off by saying, “Twenty (or 30, 50, 100) years ago…..” and while these dates can feel compelling, unless you are showing your donors the impact that you’ve had over the past N years, at best you will get a one-time gift to celebrate this benchmark.

In my online grantwriting class  we spend a lot of time talking about need statements.  These show how your proposal will take a situation that is and help to change it to the situation you would like to see.  An impact statement is next logical step.  It talks about what you have done that has made a change (for the positive) for your clients, your community, your cause.

Having an impact means that your work has made a verifiable difference.  Showing the impact of your work is what actually compels people and those who make decisions at corporations and foundations to support your work.

While a need statement starts with a short description of what is happening now that needs to change, your impact statement starts by showing what you have changed and what that change was.

Note that this is an impact statement, not an activities statement.  In other words, tell us what happened, not how it happened.  Too often, nonprofits focus on how they do what they do. That’s important, but it is not compelling to most supporters.  In fact, if you’ve ever been at a networking event and started telling a new acquaintance about all the programs your nonprofit offers—and watched their eyes start seeking out someone else to talk with—you understand exactly what I mean!

The two most important questions to ask yourself as you develop your impact statement are the same two questions you should ask before tackling a need statement for a grant:
Who cares?

So what?

The answer you get from who cares tells you who your audience is.  The answer to so what tells you what you need to tell them.

Impact statements turn an ordinary thank you into a reason a donor will continue his or her support.  And in a sector where 60% of our first time donors never, ever make a second gift, this is important stuff.

Show your donors why their gifts matter and how they effected serious change.  And every day will be just like your birthday!


Interested in what a more robust “Birthday Club” would look like?  Email me and I’ll send you the template I wrote long before Facebook offered a way to raise funds on your birthday.  And, while you are at it, make a donation to your favorite nonprofit in honor of my natal day.

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