It may sound counterintuitive. After all, if you’re in search of funding, it makes little sense to give away your product, services, or productions for free. But that’s just what many non-profits do in order to raise awareness of their offerings and encourage community members become a part of their “family.” The outcome: positive community response, a great reputation for doing good, and a whole new collection of potential funders.
How does good will hunting work? The approach will vary with every type of non-profit, but the process and the outcomes will be the same. Let’s look at a few examples.
Community Service Provider
Your nonprofit provides low-cost healthcare services for people who are too wealthy for Medicaid, but too poor to purchase health insurance. You do a terrific job, providing everything from wellness screenings to pre-natal care and pediatrics to geriatrics and home health visits. Unfortunately, while people withOUT disposable income know you very well, potential donors have never heard of you.
In order to raise awareness, you could do a massive mailing… but perhaps a better approach would be to set up shop in a public place where your potential donors (or their family members and friends) are likely to see you. For example, at the mall or in the local park. You set up a screening center under a tent, offering blood pressure,
blood sugar, and other wellness screenings for no cost at all. At the same time, you involve volunteers in distributing information and donor cards to curious passersby, who now have a chance to see what you do, and even to take advantage of your services. You might even ask interested individuals to leave their contact information, so you
can provide them with further information about your service and programs (and slip a fundraising envelope into the packet!).
Your museum or historical site offers low-cost access to people with disabilities and to groups from underserved communities. But the vast majority of your visitors know nothing about these programs – and, as a result, they are unlikely to consider making a donation to support them.
Some cultural venues, in order to raise awareness of – and interest in – their special offerings, run free “open house” events. During these happenings, they create programs and events of great interest to the community. As a result, two things happen. First, brand new audiences walk in the door – people who might not have even thought of stepping foot in a museum or historic site if their first visit weren’t free. Second, and perhaps more important, prospective donors are, perhaps for the first time, made aware of services you provide to visitors who can’t afford the cost of entry.
Your non-profit raises thousands of dollars a year to support research into a cure for a serious disease. Your work is much appreciated by researchers, but almost invisible to everyone else.
To raise awareness and attract donors, you create a public “open house” event where you offer refreshments, presentations, and information about your cause. The event raises awareness of your
cause, and may provide local residents with critical health-related information. Even more importantly, it brings potential donors in the door – to have a little nosh, and to learn a great deal about your important work.
Of course, none of these programs would be particularly helpful without careful planning and follow through. So, before opening your doors or providing services for nothing, be sure to follow these important steps:
- Know your goals. What are your purposes in running this event or program? Be sure you have clear goals for both mission-driven and fundraising outcomes.
- Have a data dissemination plan. It’s all very nice to have people walk in the door, but are they really getting your message? You’ll need brochures, and at least one person with the ability to chat with potential donors about your mission and your work.
- Have a data collection plan. How will you collect visitors’ contact information and special areas of interest? Without a way to contact potential donors, you’ll have no financial outcome at all.
- Have a follow-up plan. What will you do with your new contacts? Will you send them information? Invite them to events? Follow-up is the key to successful donor cultivation.