Expanding the Geographic Reach of Your Fundraising Efforts
For many nonprofits with a national reach, a major challenge is expanding beyond their localized donor base. Whether during a campaign or for traditional fundraising efforts, building and maintaining relationships with your national constituents is key to the organization’s growth.
For the last year, I have had the privilege of partnering with RENEW International to expand their donor pool. RENEW’s mission is to foster spiritual renewal in the Catholic tradition by empowering individuals and communities to encounter God in everyday life, deepen and share faith, and connect faith with action. Founded 40 years ago, RENEW brings programs of revitalization to Catholic parishes and has successfully motivated Catholics throughout the world to connect faith and life.
Based in Plainfield, NJ, the majority of support RENEW receives comes from Northern New Jersey. The reasons are simple: it’s easy to reach donors that are closer to home, and RENEW’s founder, Fr. Tom Kleissler, led very successful parishes in Northern New Jersey when he began RENEW and sought support to get if off the ground. However, considering RENEW’s wide-ranging international presence, there exists significant opportunity to expand the donor base beyond New Jersey.
One strategy universities employ to engage different regions in the context of a campaign is the “mini” regional campaign. Building off of this model, TAG partnered with RENEW to tackle a similar challenge. Below, our tips for successfully broadening your donor base:
- Identify where you already have support. Launching a mini-campaign in a region where you have no history of support will probably not yield a strong return on investment. It is important to know where you can be most successful. At RENEW, we used BatchGeo, an interactive mapping tool, to map RENEW’s donor addresses and identify where the strongest pockets of support exist. We identified Texas, Florida, and California as top areas of interest.
- Recruit volunteer leadership. Like any campaign, volunteer leadership is critical. It is important to identify who in the region can serve as unabashed advocates and ambassadors for RENEW and who can introduce prospective donors to the organization. At the end of the day, people give to people, so the importance of strong volunteer leadership is critical. Find someone to “chair” the regional campaign as you would any other campaign.
- Identify who the donors are in this area and where new donors may come from. Identify who you’re already receiving support from in this area and what potential gift requests might look like. It is important to get an idea of what level of support you can expect for the next step, which is…
- Set a dollar goal and time-frame. In the same way you would in a broader fundraising campaign, create a gift table specific to the regional campaign. It is helpful to look at the gift table and know you need a specific number of gifts at each level. Once you have a gift table and a tangible goal, it is important to begin filling in the gift table (with the help of your regional volunteers) with the names of people in the region who you can ask at specific levels.
- Host a campaign event in the region. A campaign gathering or cocktail party in the region is a great way to bring people together, get in front of your prospects, and make your case for support. Invite your existing donors and look to volunteer leadership for new individuals to engage who might be interested in your mission. In most cases, it probably doesn’t make sense to “make an ask” at these events, but they provide a great opportunity to follow up with attendees after.
A regional campaign gives the region ownership over the goal and a sense of inclusion in the broader campaign – and the organization. Many of the steps taken mirror those of the broader campaign. The same things are important in both: volunteer leadership, a case for support, an identifiable pool of prospects that fits your gift table, and a highly coordinated plan and timetable.
The challenges faced by RENEW in expanding the donor base geographically are shared by many organizations and institutions with a national reach. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work because each organization has its own unique challenges, but the steps outlined above can serve as a foundation to getting your organization started in this process.