Meg Falat
Marketing Intern

Maximize Your Fundraising Communications

With this Proven 4-Step Process

Co-authored by Robin Melton.

Fundraising exists everywhere—on small and large scales. From your local community’s little league baseball team raising money to buy new baseball hats, to national political campaigns raising money for their presidential candidates. Unfortunately many nonprofits have seen a steady decline in funding support; coupled with increased restrictions by funders on how their donations can be used, this has created a universal ripple effect – a decrease in higher education advancements and community support programs throughout the U.S., and a decline in quantity and quality of vital social services provided nationally and globally.

The Juilliard School was facing these issues in their institution, and came to us for help. The challenges needed an immediate solution – a significant rethinking in the approach to donation-driven marketing. In response, our philanthropic strategists revamped our technique for developing fundraising communications that drive the success of our clients’ campaigns. The 4-STEP PROCESS creates a robust, highly effective communications strategy, one that identifies and profiles prospective donors; captures the essence of the initiative and impetus for its support; and delivers compelling, call-to-action content with dynamic visuals positioned in the most effective venues and with well-timed placement.

How well does the 4-Step Process Work?

As mission-driven organizations are our specialty, we eagerly partnered with The Juilliard School recently to launch a major fundraising campaign. The goals were simple:

  • Increase revenue for support of the school and its students
  • Establish long-term sustainability of new and expanded revenue streams

And the results, although still in progress, are impressive:

  • 40% increase in overall fundraising
  • More than doubled their average gift size
  • Return of many lapsed donors

Instead of just describing each phase of the process, here’s a demonstration of how the steps worked for our Juilliard client.

STEP 1: Becoming knowledge experts on all things about your institution

At Lipman Hearne, we put ourselves in your shoes, immersing ourselves into your organization’s culture. As with Juilliard, we gained a deep appreciation and understanding for the school’s mission, vision, and character. By conducting informal research via online and in-person interviews, we began forming an authentic story from the way donors/trustees and alumni describe and relate to Juilliard. It gave us insights into the unique characteristics of Juilliard; uncovered stories, pride points, and emotional connections that we could amplify and leverage for message development; and identified gaps, opportunities, and needs for communications planning.

STEP 2: Articulating your campaign concepts

We felt the connections that people shared with Juilliard and understood their passion and commitment to wanting to better the school, which formed the basis of our messaging. We worked with Juilliard to create a set of key messages/bold themes that accurately reflected the Juilliard culture. These valued characteristics were translated into language that inspired support from current and prospective donors, previous supporters, affiliates, and alumni who deepened their engagement and became champions for the institution.

STEP 3: Bringing your campaign promise to life

Our next step was to put all the insights into work—work you can see come to life. We devised a communications plan aimed at deepening relationships with donors, supporters, alumni, and ticket buyers. Tactics included segmenting and profiling audience groups based upon needs and interests; translating key messages into language for each target audience group that addressed their needs and interests and resonated with them on an emotional level; designing powerful images that visually told the stories and commanded immediate action; identifying the most effective and practical touch-points to deliver the stories; and creating easy to use communications toolkits for internal constituents such as volunteers, leadership, staff, and others to become campaign ambassadors.

 STEP 4: Communications execution

Through compelling messaging and strategic communications planning, we helped The Juilliard School build greater connection and engagement with Trustees and supporters; create Board communication opportunities; and establish digital engagement with past, current and prospective donors. Juilliard’s constituents—internally and externally—have tremendous good will toward the school, and welcomed new and more effective ways to think about, understand, and talk with others about what the Juilliard experience is, the needs it addresses in our communities, and the reasons why Juilliard matters.

Granted, this 4-step technique will likely need tweaking for your institution’s fundraising communications efforts; but based upon our success with executing the plan with Juilliard and other clients, we are confident that if you follow these basic steps, you will optimize your philanthropic marketing efforts – and more importantly, have a significant impact on your fundraising goals.