3 Ways to Bake Success into Your Nonprofit Fundraising Strategy

Fundraising Ideas

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Somewhere between Zoom meetings in your pajama bottoms and virtual holiday celebrations, a certain quarantine hobby may have snuck its way into your kitchen this past year. It involved finding the perfect mix of flour, yeast, water, and maybe a few other secret ingredients. When combined and baked just right, they rose together to make a warm, tasty loaf of bread that the entire family could enjoy.

What if I told you that this process—the process of gathering, combining, growing, and enjoying—doesn’t just belong in your kitchen? These same rhythms that you would follow in baking the perfect loaf of sourdough can be brought into your fundraising skillset and leveraged to grow your best nonprofit fundraising strategy.

Time and time again, this past year has proven that the right mix of vision, strategy, technology, and creativity can have a transformational impact on a community. In partnership with other experts who want to see your organization thrive, the important work you do will be elevated even further to reach even more people in need. Case in point: Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

When the pandemic hit last March, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank became a lifeline for local families in crisis. By the end of the year, they had provided nearly 37 million pounds of food to 70 thousand households. Along the way, their number of website visitors more than doubled and their online revenue grew by an unprecedented 876%.

Faced with a steep rise in demand for their services, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank was uniquely positioned to meet the moment. Here are a few of the key ingredients in their approach which contributed to their overwhelming success.

Investing Proactively 

Before Covid-19 became headline news, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank had already identified optimal web performance as a critical organizational need. The acknowledgement of that need created a willingness to invest in a technological platform that would transform their online supporter experience. In partnership with our team at One & All, they made the decision to migrate their website to Qgiv—a transition that was officially finalized in February 2020. The timing could not have been better.

Control and test versions of the online donation forms from Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Let’s return to our baking metaphor for a second. If you’re going to bake a loaf of bread, what’s the very first step? Make sure your oven is working. Even if you mix all the ingredients just right and your dough rises to perfection, you can’t do much with that lump of raw dough if your oven is broken.

Similarly, when you identify a core organizational need, make it a priority to invest in the tools—technological and otherwise—that will help address that need. Don’t wait for a crisis to emerge. Don’t put it off until next quarter. Take tangible steps today to identify key needs and invest accordingly.

“If you’re proactively investing in and refining that supporter experience, it will be an ongoing process,” says Shawn Lyon, Director of Digital Strategy at One & All. “The proactive investments never stop.”

Partnering Wisely 

In the same way that this client was committed to investing in the right tools, their formation of valuable partnerships has played a key role in their stunning success this past year. Beyond optimizing their online supporter experience, collaboration with experts across industries has allowed them to grow their impact and help exponentially more neighbors in need.

 “We’ve just been constantly growing together,” explains Megan Myer, Supervisor of Client Strategy and Success at One & All. “Even though we live on the other side of the country, their neighbors are our neighbors.”

At its very core, a strategic partnership is built on trust. When you are partnered with experts who are truly committed to the success of your organization and the well-being of your community, you can be confident that they are making recommendations with your best interest in mind. They’ll always shoot straight with you. They’ll tell you the honest truth, even when you don’t want to hear it. They’ll listen and collaborate—and they’ll care more than you ever thought they could.

“When you lean into trusting partnerships, you don’t have to know all of the answers,” says Megan Bailey, Director of Individual Giving at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Lyon echoes this sentiment, sharing that “There’s this great exchange of information and collaboration across the board.”

Wisely investing in the right partnerships is just as important as investing in the right technology. Surround yourself with experts who want to grow your impact. That collaboration will transform your organization.

Staying Curious 

“Collective curiosity is really what prepared us all for the success we saw this year,” said Lyon.

Girl baking with her mother.

For the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, that collective curiosity took the form of testing. Lots of it.

From donation form optimization testing to sustainer callout testing, our teams were—and are—constantly identifying potential opportunities to engage donors and expand the food bank’s impact. The words “we should test that” were never far from our lips, which led to actionable insights that fueled growth.

“Curiosity is always the starting point for testing, and testing is what drives informed decisions” says Bailey. “That curiosity is the catalyst to learning more about our donors.”

Along with testing comes asking the right questions. Within these strategic partnerships you form, each player at the table will have a unique perspective. That means that each of you will be uniquely positioned to pose certain questions. Creating a shared space for collaborative brainstorming will make it possible for those many voices to be heard and critical insights to arise.

And remember: this process is ongoing. The curiosity doesn’t stop. Not even when online revenue grows by 876%. It’s an ongoing posture that will continue to propel you forward into innovation, discovery, and ultimately, greater impact.

On Your Marks, Get Set, Bake! 

There may not be a perfect recipe for success that applies to all social good organizations, but these are a few of the common ingredients that will always make the list for a strong nonprofit fundraising strategy. With the right mix of proactive investments, wise partnerships, and relentless curiosity, your organization will be well-positioned to grow its impact and meet the moment when challenges arise.

You may still feel the heat as the temperature rises in those moments of crisis. Hard times will always push us all out of our comfort zones. But you’ll also expand your reach in ways that you may never have thought were possible. You’ll become even more effective at what you do best. Ultimately, you’ll bring a sweet aroma to your community when they need it the most, and that will make all the difference.

About Us: One & All is a performance agency for social good. We create compelling work through strategy, creativity and technology that moves people to act. We help important social organizations activate their customer relationships and create impact in their communities by combining data and human insights. We tap into meaningful giving experiences and the power of sharing to help make the world better. We are successful when our clients are. And we know that our work is never done. Visit One & All.

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