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4 Fundraising Strategies to Grow Individual Giving

Leaning on various channels in your fundraising strategies promotes your nonprofit organization’s long-term health and sustainability. This ensures that if one particular channel sees a decline, you can make up the difference in your other fundraising initiatives.

Unless you’re a nonprofit that relies primarily on government grants for funding, individual giving should take precedence over other channels, as it’s the largest funding opportunity. In fact, the most recent Giving USA report indicates that individual giving makes up 64% of the nonprofit sector’s total giving at $319 billion.

As we head into the new year, you’re likely huddling with key stakeholders to evaluate what worked this past year and what to improve on moving forward. With our ever-evolving giving landscape, finding ways to inspire the generosity of individual donors will require a more personalized approach.

How Responsive Fundraising Strategies Are Amplifying Individual Giving

After two strong years, annual charitable donations in the United States decreased by 3.4% in 2022 in current dollar terms. When considering the impact of inflation, the decline was more significant at 10.5%. This situation leads to increased pressure on organizations as they strategize to tailor their messaging to match the interests and motivations of their donors.

It’s time to break free from the one-size-fits-all mold that fundraisers have traditionally relied on. Companies like Amazon and Netflix have pioneered personalized consumer experiences, offering content tailored to individual interests and past activities. This trend has raised expectations among donors, who, even in the nonprofit sector, seek a similar level of personalization and recognition in their donation experience, which they currently feel is lacking.

For obvious reasons, nonprofits have long operated under the major-donor-first model, prioritizing major donors over one-time donors and everyday supporters.

But by modeling the responsive fundraising framework, nonprofits like Zoweh can now center their fundraising around individual supporters. They are personalizing experiences at scale to earn donor trust, loyalty, and long-term support.

Read more: Discover how Zoweh increased its recurring donors by 5-10% by switching to Virtuous.

While major gift programs will always be essential, the truth is that a single major gift can take months to secure due to the nature of the cultivation process. Through a responsive fundraising approach, nonprofits can give every donor the “major donor treatment” by communicating with them in the manner they prefer. This leads to individual donor growth at all levels.

Responsive Fundraising Framework

4 Responsive Nonprofit Fundraising Strategies to Grow Individual Giving

Responsive fundraising is more than just a guideline—it’s a deep partnership between your team and a reliable nonprofit CRM. This results in better donor retention, higher average gift size, heightened volunteerism, and greater overall engagement. In fact, nonprofits that use Virtuous have seen a 12% increase in donor retention and a 10% increase in average gift size.

Let’s explore four effective responsive fundraising strategies to help your nonprofit increase individual giving.

Are you ready to become a more responsive organization? The Responsive Maturity Model will help you lay out a step-by-step roadmap that helps your team identify opportunities, set realistic fundraising goals, and improve decision-making.

1. Foster Deeper Donor Relationships With Full Visibility Into Donor Data

As fundraisers, you understand the value of prioritizing the growth and maintenance of donor relationships as a core part of your fundraising strategies. The deeper the connection between your organization and its donors, the better you can retain the support of individual givers over time.

While deepening donor relationships sounds great, how can charitable organizations effectively accomplish this with their current fundraising strategies?

Successful relationships with donors are formed through trust, effective communication, authenticity, and shared interests. To build authentic connections, it’s important to ensure the relationship doesn’t feel one-sided. While donors are interested in your updates, they also appreciate having their voices and opinions heard.

To effectively engage with donors, it’s crucial to make deliberate efforts to listen to them. This can be achieved through two main approaches:

  1. Including donors in the conversation:
    While your organization uses compelling messages and stories to motivate donors to take action, it’s also vital to show donors that their opinions are valued and important. Send out donor surveys, have one-on-one phone or in-person check-ins, or do a combination of both! This kind of effort not only shows donors that you are listening and value their input, but it also ensures you’re focusing on the types of mission-critical work that donors want to be a part of.
  2. Using your nonprofit CRM data effectively:
    Your donor management system centralizes all essential information about your donors. Utilizing this data allows you to create personalized communications tailored to their specific needs, motivations, and interests. Additionally, you can categorize donors into different segments based on their supporter type, interest in particular causes, and geographic location—which helps in scaling your outreach efforts efficiently.

With Virtuous, nonprofits can customize responsive dashboards to display relevant metrics like giving by campaign, year-over-year giving, average donor retention rate, and more. Virtuous can seamlessly integrate with other tech platforms, meaning nonprofits no longer have to work from disparate spreadsheets manually.

Virtuous CRM screenshot of responsive dashboard.
The Responsive Dashboard inside of Virtuous CRM

Responsive CRM That Consolidates Nonprofit Needs Into One Platform

For nonprofits like One for Israel, an out-of-the-box solution like Virtuous made sense. Rather than spending time, resources, and money customizing a solution like Salesforce, One for Israel could access the tools and features they needed to strengthen personal connections with their individual donors.

With a tight deadline to migrate their existing data into Virtuous, One for Israel sought support from an agency to help streamline the data migration process. Not only was AmPhil able to help One for Israel with a significant data clean-up, but the two organizations were able to successfully migrate and implement Virtuous more than two weeks before their year-end deadline.

Thanks to the consolidation of fundraising and marketing solutions that came with Virtuous, One for Israel has eliminated the need for third-party platforms, reducing the risk of data-related issues. The team has also prioritized data cleanliness, improving their ability to listen and connect with donors.

Virtuous empowers nonprofits to listen to their donors effectively with the ability to keep track of donor signals, like giving behavior, donor feedback, and data append. Collecting donor signals enables your team to deepen engagement opportunities, offer relevant suggestions, and personalize donor journeys at scale.

2. Create Responsive Donor Journeys

Responsive donor journeys are the lifecycle of individual givers. These journeys are created to guide current and potential donors through a series of touchpoints and interactions, ultimately furthering their support and commitment to your cause. Donor Journeys should be a high priority for your fundraising strategies.

While traditional donor journeys might have a linear path from the initial online donation to the second appeal, responsive donor journeys are unique to each donor. The actions they take with your organization determine what communication they will receive next. This is where using donor journey maps makes all the difference.

responsive fundraising with dynamic campaigns

Utilize Donor Segmentation

To ensure your donor journey maps are responsive, you must prioritize segmentation. Segmentation enables you to create stronger connections with donors by categorizing them into specific groups. This creates an opportunity for your team to send donors relevant communications tailored to their interests and preferences.

For instance, here are a few examples of segments you might use in your next fundraising campaign:

  • First-time donors: These individuals have recently donated to your nonprofit for the first time.
  • Lapsed donors: This group has previously contributed to your nonprofit but has not made any donations within a certain period—typically at least a year.
  • Major donors: These high-value donors contribute substantially to the organization.
  • Recurring donors: These donors commit to giving a fixed amount on a regular basis.
  • In-person or virtual event participants: People who primarily engage with the organization through fundraising events.
  • Volunteers: Individuals who may not have given money, but have instead offered their time and effort to help in various capacities.

After determining your specific donor segments, the next step is to develop donor journey maps. To ensure these journeys effectively engage donors, plan key points of engagement. Remember, healthy relationships are built on trust, communication, authenticity, and shared interests. Therefore, not every communication should involve a financial ask. Otherwise, donors will feel like every touchpoint from you is a transaction—and that sets donors up to lapse.

For example, a responsive donor journey for a first-time donor could be:

  1. Immediate thank you
  2. Personal thank you
  3. Welcome to our community
  4. Here’s the impact of your gift
  5. Suggest more ways to support

Then, if a donor shows interest in a different form of support, like volunteering at an upcoming event, you can include them in a volunteer-focused donor journey.

Scale Donor Journeys With Marketing Automation

By using a marketing automation tool, nonprofits can further streamline and optimize their fundraising strategies by implementing donor journeys at scale.

Virtuous fully integrates the data in your responsive nonprofit CRM to its marketing automation capabilities. This data provides insights into donor behavior, preferences, and engagement history. With this information, organizations can easily segment their donor base into various groups and create custom workflows that trigger based on specified donor signals.

This ensures that your donors receive timely and relevant interactions and personalized suggestions from real-time information collected in your donor management system.

New Donor Automation Workflow in Virtuous CRM.

Nonprofits like North Central University are using automation tools to streamline fundraising, deepen relationships with supporters, and grow giving. In fact, North Central University has seen a 12% uptick in giving year over year since partnering with Virtuous.

“I think that’s a testament to the element of personalization and segmented marketing, along with using Virtuous. Yes, it’s a CRM, it’s a tool, but the philosophy of responsive fundraising really bled into our own efforts and what I’m doing, too.”

David Duxbury, Associate Director of Advancement

Before switching to Virtuous, North Central University’s email communications were impersonal and unsegmented. The team is now segmenting its target audiences and creating more personalized communications for those unique segments. The organization raised 2.5 times more in funding at its annual fundraising gala than the previous year.

North Central University is also making more of an effort to listen to donors by holding focus groups with supporters to gather feedback. Then, adopting a more responsive approach, the team adapts their fundraising strategies according to the input from supporters, establishing more meaningful connections with their donor base.

3. Streamline and Optimize Fundraising Strategies for Your Team

A nonprofit CRM is a centralized donor, volunteer, and supporter data repository. This allows team members to quickly access the information they need to learn from multiple types of fundraising campaign performance and make adjustments if necessary.

By employing a responsive donor management system like Virtuous, your team can monitor important behavioral trends, like how donors engage with your fundraising efforts and whether these efforts are helping to reach your fundraising goals. You can then effectively identify at-risk donors and find opportunities to reactivate their support.

The ease of accessing intuitive contact profiles, segmented donor portfolios, and major gift pipelines empowers your team to reach prospects that fit your donor personas and those who are eager to offer their charitable support. Nonprofits using Virtuous, like Lahai Health, have seen significant boosts in fundraising performance.

Using Virtuous, the Lahai Health team has significantly improved its fundraising effectiveness, resulting in a 38% increase in annual revenue. Much of this growth is attributable to support from foundations, but they are also achieving a steady 10% yearly growth in contributions from individual donors.

“People feel much more connected to us, and that’s where we’ve gone from four major donors to a dozen by building relationships.”

David Eller, Executive Director 

Before using Virtuous, Lahai Health’s process for handling major gifts was time-consuming, involving manual note-taking and setting reminders for follow-ups with potential donors. Now, the Major Gifts Officer (MGO) utilizes Virtuous to enter data into the nonprofit CRM. This system automatically sends reminders for tasks, assisting the MGO in establishing and maintaining relationships with major gift prospects.

Virtuous CRM suggests the best calls to make every day.
Virtuous CRM suggests the best calls to make every day

A dynamic nonprofit CRM is key to verifying the effectiveness of your fundraising strategies. You can analyze and report on your fundraising performance using a responsive donor management system.

For example, by running queries and examining data dashboards, you can identify which strategies are working well, spot areas where improvements can be made, and then fine-tune your approach based on these valuable insights.

4. Increase Team Productivity Prioritizing One-on-One Interactions With Donors

Using a responsive nonprofit CRM like Virtuous, you can not only enhance donor engagement and strengthen relationships, but also improve the productivity of your fundraising team. A key aspect of your fundraising strategies should involve streamlining processes for your team. The integration of your donor management system with versatile marketing tools and automation features enables your team to send timely, personalized communications to the appropriate individuals. This approach will likely enhance response rates and return on investment (ROI).

Marketing automation in Virtuous CRM.
Virtuous CRM automates personalized engagement for all your donors

Automating routine communications like acknowledgment emails and event reminders frees up your staff’s time, allowing them to concentrate on more personalized relationship-building activities. These can include directly calling individual donors or hosting them for in-person tours of your facility.

Additionally, the simplicity of using intuitive contact profiles, segmented donor portfolios, and major gift pipelines in Virtuous reduces the complexity of conducting detailed prospect research. Nonprofits utilizing this system, such as Adult and Teen Challenge, have experienced notable increases in staff productivity.

Virtuous checked all the boxes for what Jaime Trussell, Chief Development Officer of Adult and Teen Challenge, needed as a professional fundraiser:

  • A donor portal that enables individual donors to manage their giving. An indispensable feature for the team, it has saved the staff time while simultaneously creating a better donor experience.
  • Powerful automation streamlines previously manual processes, such as keeping up with data hygiene, sending emails and fundraising letters, adding donors to groups, etc.
  • A nonprofit CRM that is designed for fundraisers that is incredibly easy to understand and learn.

These essential fundraising tools streamlined the administrative back-end process for staff members, enabling the organization to increase giving by 50% to 70%.

“The more we can automate our processes here, the more we can communicate with our donors, the more money we can raise, and the more money we have to help people.”

Jaime Trussell, Chief Development Officer

Your Responsive Roadmap to Individual Giving

Individual giving is a priority-level fundraising channel to help your organization unlock more impact for its mission. To meet the evolving needs of individual donors, especially in a growing and competitive landscape, your nonprofit needs to adopt a responsive approach to its fundraising strategies.

By actively listening to and learning from your donors, you can tailor your outreach more personally, offer support suggestions that resonate with them, and strengthen your connections. Employing a responsive fundraising model, coupled with a comprehensive donor management system, allows your team to refine fundraising strategies, boost staff efficiency, craft individualized donor experiences, and enhance relationships with donors at scale.

If you’re ready to learn how your nonprofit can shift its fundraising strategies to a responsive fundraising model, schedule a demo with one of our team members.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

Schedule a discovery call with us, where we can show you around, answer your questions, and help you see if Virtuous is right for you. 

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

If you know another nonprofit pro who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via Email, Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook.

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