“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalms 126:5)

We’re smack in the middle of playoffs season in baseball, so no better time to discuss singles and homers. And what they have to do with fundraising.

It All Adds Up

Many nonprofits work hard on finding the millionaires– donors who can hand over an extremely large check. What I like to call a homerun.

Here’s the problem: How many of those guys are out there? And how many layers of people do you have to go through before you get to the donor? And how many other organizations are competing for that same big check?

Some of you may adhere to the Earl Weaver school of thought: “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals and three run homers.” Earl was a big believer in homeruns being the best way to score runs. And yes, he did manage the Orioles to a World Series title in 1970. However…

Sitting back and waiting for the homerun in fundraising is going to kill you. No one will just hand it to you and it’s very hard to find. So maybe it’s time to consider “scoring” via small donations, what I call singles.

A few singles and you have a run. More singles = more runs.

In fundraising, when a lot of small donations start piling up, you have enough for a run. The more that come in, the more runs you’ll score.

Additionally, smaller donations can increase year by year. Donor gave $10 last year? This year maybe they’ll give $25. And so on… Concentrate on smaller donors and you’ll have a solid fundraising base for your organization.

Fenway Park

When The Going Gets Tough

The amount donated annually is up. Hooray! But the number of individual donors is shrinking.

What’s going on? More mega-donations. Although the total amount is going up, most nonprofits are feeling a money crunch. This means more pressure on fundraisers and staff to find that Oprah-type donation. Ya know, needle in a haystack.

All this baffles me. It’s as if our sector has decided to forego small donations because hey, $10 doesn’t really matter.

But what if you looked at all donations- including a $10 donation- as the BEGINNING of a relationship which can grow over the years into a much larger annual donation? Would that $10 look different then?

This is why I advise treating a $10 donation like a $10,000 donation. Show the same amount of gratitude and donor love. Let the donor know how their donation, no matter how big or small, is impacting people in their community.

Your fundraising pyramid is what matters. If your organization largely depends on a few wealthy donors, what happens when one of those donors stops donating? The pyramid crumbles. (See Madoff, Bernard) However, if you’re relying on a mix of donations, including a very decent amount of small donations, the pyramid will not collapse even in harsh economic times. People will continue to give small amounts and this means your organization will have a steady revenue stream.

Recurring Giving

Giving up on small donors is not an option. This is why it’s critical for your nonprofit to have an active monthly/recurring giving program.

For many people, a one-time gift of $120 is tough. But if your organization offers it as a stretch gift, $10 each month for 12 months, people can afford that.

Your boss may be saying, “but we need the full amount now!” After you roll your eyes, tell the boss the following: Recurring givers…

  • Have higher retention rates
  • Have higher lifetime value than one-time donors
  • Help your organization plan its budget because you have a steady, dependable revenue stream.

Can’t beat that!

You should be marketing your monthly giving program on your website, online donation form, direct mail pieces, fundraising and marketing materials and anywhere your donors might see it.

Think of all the people out there who can’t drop a 5, 6 or 7 figure check in your mailbox. Start them off with a small donation. Build the relationship. Strengthen the connection and slowly encourage them to increase their gift year over year.

You never know when a $10 donor will one day turn into a $10,000 donor.

money in a jar

Go For Singles

Back in 1999, Nike ran a “chicks dig the longball” campaign. Homers were very much in style.

I know that homeruns are sexy. But I’m a big fan of small-ball. As I whatsapped my son during a game last week: “All we need is a single and another and another single and… wash, rinse, repeat.”

That’s how you should be looking at potential donors to your organization. Think about bringing in 100 new monthly donors at $10/month. That’s $1,000 per month. Steward them properly and in year two you can potentially bump up the monthly amount.

The individual amount sounds small. The overall amount? A win.

So yes, the homerun gets all the glory, but singles are nice too. Just ask Ty Cobb, one of the greatest hitters of all-time: only 117 homeruns out of 4,189 career hits, almost 3/4 of which were singles.

So how many of your donations this past year were singles?

P.S. Let me return to the opening, the verse in Psalms. I understand that our sector isn’t great at long-term planning. But that is EXACTLY how you should be looking at your mission, your cause and your impact.

Plant the seeds now. Start with small, easy-to-give donations. Down the road, your service recipients will reap the benefits. And that’s why you exist.

Giving Tuesday and year-end fundraising are coming up fast. Your organization will be prompting people to donate online. But is your online donation form user friendly? Does it help or hurt your fundraising? Sign up today for my Online Donation Form Boost so you can raise more money from more people.