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Starting Your Development Effort - Knowing Your Fans


Any organization has its supporters. There are those individuals that volunteer, attend events, and even serve on the board. Knowing more about your fan base is important to the start of a good development effort.


Any development effort should begin with those individuals that are supporters of the organization and believe in its mission. That is typically the board of directors. If it is not, it should be. The board is helping set the strategic direction of the organization and if they are not supporting the organization, who else would take the time and give money to support your cause? Utilizing the board to expand on a possible donor base can be great as you can request each board member to give 10-15 names of individuals that they think would support the organization. Have forms for the board to fill out or meet with each board member to obtain the names and contact information of their friends. Other potential donors are those that have benefited from the programs of your organization. Many hospitals, for instance, create grateful patient programs to solicit those that have benefited from the hospital services.


Many festival and event organizations have additional sources of possible donors that traditional nonprofits might have trouble building. Their fans from social media, festival attendees, and merchandise customers are all additional sources for possible donors. But, the organization has to obtain more information than just the name. The organization should work to get email addresses, phone numbers, and mailing addresses. The more information you have for potential donors, the better your organization can set up various communications to ask for support. Every organization should have a button on their website for individuals to sign up for a mailing list and contact list. This contact form should include name, phone number, phone type, email address, and mailing address. For individuals that are a part of your merchandise or ticket sales, an organization can offer coupons or sales for completing the information or even offer a chance for tickets for a festival perk like parking or vip passes.


One of the most important aspects of building the fan base is not just the data, but how the data is organized. Even if an organization is just starting out, it could seem to keep it very simple with just having excel files or tracking information on how you push information out by email marketing. However, as the organization begins to build and gather information on the individuals, it makes sense that an organization should look at a good fundraising database. There are a wide variety of options and prices. An organization needs to determine what is most important and decide what database should be reviewed and tested. There are some companies that offer free databases, but then costs start to increase when you need to make changes and a consultant has to be hired. There are fundraising databases that can manage the contact information, how contacts are made, what gifts are received, what communications are made to the individual, and tracking notes from donor meetings. This can even be expanded to track corporate gifts and sponsorship dollars. Determine what you want the database to do and then search for good options that match your criteria and budget. The database is an important investment for your organization and forms a solid platform for your development effort.


Gathering names and creating a possible donor list is important for the development effort. Knowing who you want to reach and utilizing current networks and fans can create a solid base of support. Having information organized and in a proper fundraising database can assist in tracking constituents and their information so that eventually, you can personalize your asks. The database is important as a tool to help build a rapport with your donors through data collected and knowing your supporters. This is a key to beginning the development effort – know the people who you want to ask for a gift.


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