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How to Handle a Sudden Surge of New Donors: 3 Tips

Most nonprofits have a standard process in place for building a relationship with a new donor. It’s likely that your organization does too. The flow is probably relatively standard: someone donates, they receive a thank you, they’re added to your email stream, they might receive an event invite, etc., etc. However, many nonprofits are not as well-equipped to handle when they have a sudden surge of new donors. Whether you have a campaign go viral or there’s an event that causes a peak in interest in your cause, your nonprofit should be prepared to properly steward all new donors, even if they come in bulk. For example, consider the current situations in Houston, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and the Caribbean. Four separate hurricanes have tragically taken many lives and destroyed entire regions and communities. First, Harvey hit Houston and brought with it severe winds, rain, and flooding. Then, Hurricane Irma made its way through the Caribbean with record-breaking intensity. Everywhere Irma made landfall, from Barbuda to Haiti to Florida, felt the storm’s power and experienced immense devastation. Next, Hurricane Maria built steam as it moved along a course very similar to Irma. Maria hit Dominica and neighboring islands, and then absolutely pummeled Puerto Rico, ravaging the U.S. territory. Most recently, Hurricane Nate hit regions in Central America, including Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and caused at least 28 deaths before moving north toward the Gulf Coast of the United States. Hurricane Nate has officially made landfall in the U.S., largely affecting Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, causing flooding and mass power loss. It is absolutely devastating. And many folks who have not historically been charitable donors are admirably stepping up to help the relief effort (learn more here and here). As a result, many of the nonprofits serving those communities are experiencing a spike in donations and new donors. Those nonprofits now have an opportunity to bring great assistance to the areas affected by the hurricanes, and if they are strategic about how they steward their new donors, they’ll be able to continue providing vital services to the region for years to come. Recovering from Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate is going to take years, and the nonprofits in the impacted cities need every donation possible to aid in their regions’ rehabilitation. It’s a very real and very sad example of exactly why nonprofits need to be ready to make the most of their new influx of donors, with a proper plan. To help you put that plan in place, we’ve compiled 3 effective strategies:
  1. Perform prospect research.
  2. Check on their matching gift eligibility.
  3. Incorporate them into your communications.

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By chris

Prospect Research & Matching Gifts: A Great Match

What’s better than a $3,000 donation? A $6,000 donation. Prospect research identifies prospective donors, and matching gifts allow you to double their charitable gifts. When you use prospect research and matching gifts hand-in-hand, you bring in multitudes of new donors who give twice the money.

What Is a Matching Gift?

Many corporations run charitable giving programs that match employee donations to eligible nonprofits. The check that the corporation writes is called a matching gift. For example, Amy from American Eagle Outfitters donates $300 to her daughter’s university. American Eagle matches the gift 1:1 (other companies will match 2:1 or even 3:1), and writes the university a check for $300. This doubles Amy’s gift into a $600 donation. The $300 check from American Eagle is the matching gift.

How Do Matching Gifts Improve Prospect Research?

Over 65% of Fortune 500 companies offer employee matching gift programs, so there are a lot of gifts out there, big and small, that can go twice as far. Major donations take on increased meaning when they can be matched. For example, Amy’s husband, Xavier, works for Bank of America, which matches gifts 1:1. Xavier donates $5,000 to his son’s K-12 school, and Bank of America matches, which doubles the donation to $10,000. $5,000 is a lot of money to leave on the table. For smaller donations, such as $50 gifts, those $50 matching checks add up fast. Prospect research reveals not just where a donor works, but where spouses work. For example, the university’s prospect screening reveals that Amy’s husband gave $5,000 to a K-12 school, so they recognize Xavier as a potential major donor. They also know that he works for Bank of America, which matches gifts, and thus the harmony of prospect research and matching gifts strikes again. Prospect research unearths the donors, and matching gifts get the most out of every eligible donation.

Why Is This Marriage Vital for Fundraising Success?

Annually, some $6-$10 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed. That’s a lot of cash! Companies experience low participation rates in their matching gift programs, which leads to all this unclaimed money. Remind your donors about matching gifts in order to claim your fair share. If you mention matching gifts in fundraising appeals before a donation is made then response rates go up by an average of 71% and the average donation amount increases by 51%. Just mentioning matching gifts makes people more likely to give and willing to give more, which is likely due to the fact that they know that their money will go further. Not only do matching gifts double donations, but they increase the number of donations and the dollar amounts of those gifts. Finding and informing matching-gift-eligible prospects is crucial to maximizing fundraising, so employ proper prospect research techniques. It’s one thing to find prospects and one thing to know about matching gifts, but it’s fundraising bliss when the two conjoin.