Fundraising Funnels and Flasks

Fundraising Funnels and Flasks

Hello Usha, I have just sold my stake in an Indonesian company. I plan to retire from business and spend time with my grandchildren.  I want to give the entire amount of US$3.0 Million to a good charity. But you have to promise me that they will not follow me after that; because all I have to give, I have decided to give as one lump-sum”.

This phone-call with a Singaporean businesswoman got me thinking of the Fundraising Funnel.

In mature fundraising markets, where direct mail is the main methodology for donor acquisition, the assumption is that the donor engagement process begins with large number of donors giving small amounts of donations.  Thereafter, we begin to nurture and steward the donor to give regular and larger gifts.

Even if this assumption is valid, this model could be possible only in small pockets of Asia (mostly where the investments needed for donor acquisition efforts through direct mail, direct response or direct dialogue fundraising is bankrolled by the headquarters of INGOs). Most non-profits do not have the infrastructure or the investment needed to start at the bottom of the fundraising pyramid nor the ability to get enough donors at the top of the fundraising funnel through direct marketing.

The most common method of local fundraising by NGOs in Asia is special events. Within event- fundraising there is:

  • Mass events (e.g. A-thons, charity shows, fun-fairs, among others) where the appeal for support is made through mass distribution of information through mainstream and social media, with a basic and general outreach strategy.
  • Niche events (e.g. Gala dinners, charity golf, movie premiers, and art exhibitions) where the appeal is made to a ‘by invitation only’ group gathered using a more customized outreach strategy.

This is where the linear ‘find, engage, and nurture’ process relevant to the fundraising funnel model still has possibilities– through mass events, wherein the event becomes the entry point for engagement.  Non-profits that strategically focus on mass events as an acquisition tool, have seen success. Many of the participants love the event in-itself and continue as regular supporters of the event. Others branch-out in their donor journey and are nurtured to enhance their support through engagements beyond the event.

Mass_Fundraising Funnel and Niche_Fundraising Flask

For niche events its best to invert the fundraising funnel or as I like to call it -a fundraising flask model. Here a committed donor reaches out to his or her network to raise initial support through niche events. These niche events become the platform for introducing a cause and identifying a number of high net-worth individuals with a willingness to embark on a deeper engagement beyond the event.  The long neck of the flask is significant in managing expectations in terms of time investment as it takes time before the donor journeys to be both highly involved and exert influence in support of a cause. However the time-lag is lesser than what it would take to get to that point using the fundraising funnel model.

The fundraising-flask model is ideal too for resource mobilization using dynamic social media platforms which cuts-across mass and niche efforts and multiple levels of engagement. More and more donors and volunteers from mass and niche events are creating conversations online through social networking site like Facebook; posting cause/ event logos on social profiles. Tweeting and sharing photos of causes.   Social media engagements has increased the ways in which people can influence others and providing a diverse range of meaningful calls to action, including fundraising.

What is your experience with the fundraising flask model?  Would like to hear your thoughts on this.

PS: As for how the phone-call and related follow-through panned out…. well, the donor apportioned the lump-sum as follows- a million as out-right donation to a cause she had strong affinity to. Another million to seed the implementation of a 5-year niche-donor acquisition strategy of a well-run non-profit to help them scale-up their programs, with the donor volunteering to be the pioneering influencer. The last million was set up as a trust fund to provide bursaries for tertiary education, with her family members involved as the trustees.

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