A fundraiser who wishes to remain anonymous seeks ways to improve donations to her campus ministry.
We desperately need help in revitalizing our campus ministry, the mission of which is to facilitate interfaith dialogue and collaborate with students, faculty, and staff to cultivate religious and cultural diversity.
We have a staff of two and a board of nine people, with nearly 100 percent financial support from our board. Our main staff member is a retired minister who leads student activities and helps with fundraising efforts.
The other staff member is me. I’m a part-time secretary to the minister and oversee the online database and some other projects.
How do we best use our online software to expand our financial support without spending too much time trying to do so? How do we know what types of fundraising events will generate a good return? Do you have any suggestions for ways to include students in fundraising that will really entice them to participate? Should we spend money to hire someone to update our Web site? (Past efforts to get students to help us with this have not worked because of their busy schedules.)
To get the most out of your fundraising software, it is important to keep clear, detailed records and promptly acknowledge all gifts.
Start with your best supporters and let them know you need their help; they’ll be glad you’re trying to expand your support. Then with their help, concentrate on asking as many people as possible to join your campus ministry, preferably with a monthly gift or a three- to five-year pledge.
Add students to your database; try to get contact information for their parents and ask for their support. We started our monthly giving program in 1999, and last month it generated $60,000. This is the foundation of our support.
You can set up a class gift program to benefit your campus ministry. We hold a challenge weekend once each semester, in which our leaders promise to match all gifts. And for any new donors who become monthly supporters that weekend, we offer to double their gift over the next 12 months. We have found it helpful to recruit a separate leadership advisory board, in addition to our regular board, to help with fundraising.
As for events, they build good will but take an enormous amount of time and energy. We have not had much luck with event fundraising.
I advise you to stay focused on building your database. Send your donors three appeals each year during the fall, Christmas, and Lent.
Keep adding monthly supporters. You might try a raffle and ask for complete contact information on the raffle entry form. That’s a great way to build your database.
As for getting students involved in fundraising, that can be difficult.
We have a group of student “ambassadors” who help us thank donors. They are our connection between the development office and the student body. If your college has a good football or basketball program, see if you can get the coach to encourage students to sell tickets to the game, with a portion of the ticket price going back to your campus ministry, or tickets to a raffle that supports your ministry. Students who sell a minimum number of tickets worth $250 or more, for example, can be invited to a private party at the coach’s house. We have found that iPads also work well as prizes.
Your last question was about whether to hire someone to update your Web site. Check out our Web site. I highly recommend the company we use, WebPro Productions, which specializes in Web sites for churches. It offers a nice format at a reasonable monthly cost, and it’s easy for staff members to update our site.
What other advice would you offer? Use the comment link below to join the discussion. And if you need advice on a thorny fundraising problem or issue, send an e-mail to email@example.com.