7 steps to build retail donor community for your NGO.


Many NGOs that I have interacted with mention that they do not have any retail donor database. It looks much easier to put in efforts on a few HNIs or CSR funds. The problem is most of the CSR and HNI funds are focused on a few large NGOs and many Organisations have their own foundations which are directly supporting communities. A large number of small but good NGOs thus get starved of funds. The other problem is if there is too much dependency on a few large donors if anyone suddenly shuts the tap for any reason the NGO program is left in lurch and this has adverse impact on beneficiaries.

Unlike in the US where a large percentage of donations for NGOs comes from retail donors in India it is the reverse. This needs to change. The question is, how does one go about this? This looks like a lot of effort and there is no dedicated person for retail fundraising / marketing communications in many NGOs. Investing in fundraising is viewed as like an unnecessary expense rather than an investment as this is not backed by the large donors.

Yet with some very simple steps every NGO can build a community of retail donor base (I would like to call them friends of the NGO)

1. Build a community

Retail donor base is essential as a community connect, even if a few large donors can take care of most of the funding requirements it is essential for every NGO to build a community of like-minded supporters for their cause. Every problem that exist in a community whether it is slums, education, poverty or environmental issue is a community problem. The community needs to own the problem. The attitude to building a donor base is to involve and build friends and supporters community around your cause and the NGO.

2. Start with the founders, board members , staff and trustees

When an NGO tells me that they do not have any donor database I am surprised. If you open the contacts on anyone’s phone today, there will be at least 100 close acquaintances in the list. One can start there, start by telling them what you do. Every staff member, trustee, board member is a first connect for building the friends / supporter donor base.

3. Structure your donor base for engagement

Everyone who has ever donated to your NGO is a potential life-long donor. How do you stay in touch? do you know the birthdays, special days of your donors? Do you reach out to the donors at regular intervals? Think of every donor as a lifelong community member and supporter for your NGO. Then structure an engagement program around that.

4. Use platforms and technology

There is no way you can build a donor engagement program without the use of technology. Start with Excel sheets if you cannot afford a CRM, today there are many open source CRMs available for free, you could use anyone of them. You can use free tools like mail chimp for emails.

5. Integrate fundraising campaigns and website donate button

It is important that all databases get centrally stored for better and systematic engagement in the future. GivNow was built to integrate fundraiser campaigns and website donations with ease on a single platform.

6. Invest in social media marketing

One can reach potential donors through social media marketing, this is a powerful tool that needs to be leveraged. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp each one of them offers a way to reach out to potential donors. You need to have a plan backed by investment ,this is where retail donations help as they are not tied to specific projects.

7. Leverage volunteers

Building a strong volunteers network helps to build community connect. Provide platforms and tools to volunteers to champion for the NGO and raise funds. GivNow is investing in building online platforms for NGOs to leverage their volunteer network to do fundraising for NGOs.

Building a donor database needs effort and focus, if one has a long-term approach to building a community of friends that supports the NGO this is not an impossible task. It is important to start with investing in a dedicated resource if one needs to succeed in building a retail community of friends network.

Fundraising for your NGO ? Think Story !

You stay in a remote part of India, it monsoon time , it rains for a couple of hours and you are cut off from the world and you need to reach the only doctor who is miles away but there is no transport. This is reality in Melghat, a tribal area at the northern extreme of the Amravati district of Maharashtra, on the border of Madhya Pradesh. Dr Ashish Satav and his wife Dr Kavita Satav  have dedicated their life to work full time for the heathcare of tribals in Melghat.

I experienced the difficult conditions in which the doctors operate, a few years back when I planned a visit to Melghat I had to return back as the area got cut off during the monsoons. On the way back I decided to do a fundraiser for an ambulance for Mahan Trust the NGO run by Dr Satav.

When I returned back to Mumbai I shared the story of how I was unable to reach Mahan trust at Melghat with Mastek employees , I shared the pictures and I shared the extreme sacrifice of the doctor couple to serve poor tribals , I asked them to join in contributing to help Dr Satav in his work by raising funds for an ambulance . It took only 3 days and over 500 employees contributed Rs 7.5 lacs ! All I did was share the story as it was with pictures of water flowing over the only connecting road.

1.Connect to the heart 

Over the years I have learnt that when it comes to giving we need to move from connecting to the head to connecting to the heart . And I have also learnt the most powerful stories that move come from the field , from close to the ground, from beneficiaries. Every beneficiary has a story to tell.

2. Connect with Visual Storytelling

We also know that one picture is more powerful than a thousand words , in a busy world people have short attention spans. In the digital world video is the most powerful medium of telling your story , over 80% of the online traffic today is videos. Real pictures/ videos ,not stock shots that tell the story are powerful tools to cut through the clutter on social media.The above picture of river overflowing was all that I needed to share my story . No fancy camera just clicked on my mobile phone.

3. Hire a good Communications Specialist

Visual storytellings is critical for retail fundraising for NGOs, unfortunately many NGOs lack resources with this skill. In case an NGO cannot employ a full time communication specialist It would be advisable to seek external freelance professional help for the same. Story sharing is important not just for fundraising but to build communities of supporters.

4. Have a clear defined ask

A fundraiser story needs to close with an ask , unless you ask you will not let the reader know what is expected of him/her. Make the ask specific , like I did with the ambulance . Make it easy so most donors can contribute, so we had defined amounts like Rs 500 , Rs 1000 or any amount of choice.If the ask is too big it will miss out on most of the donors. At the same time do not give too many options as this confuses the donors.

5. Share your stories 

Beyond just fundraising stories need to be told and stories need to be shared to build a network of connected individuals who relate to the cause of the NGO. This is the first step to building champions for the cause.Champions can support future fundraisers.

6. Work to build a connected community 

I have heard many small and even some large NGOs share that they do not have a retail donor database .”We are very small ” , “Can you get us donors?” is the question I face many times from Non Profits. What needs to be understood is that unless individuals do not relate they will not connect and they will not contribute to the cause. And there are no short cuts, one needs to put in sustained efforts to build a connected community of supporters for the cause.

7. Have a plan, stick to the plan

Even if there is no database one can start sharing stories that connect within personal networks of family , friends , trustees , board members and volunteers and ask them to share within their networks. Prepare a plan and work to the plan, should this be done weekly, monthly , build a schedule.

8. Leverage Social Media 

Technology must be leveraged to build a connected community for the cause , this is not sustainable as a manual process. An NGO must have a Facebook page and promote it to build online community. This takes time and effort which is well worth investing , you want to engage a community , build your Tribe.

Internet and Social media has made it possible to reach out globally to Your Tribes , those who believe in your Why every non profit must make use of this opportunity.

For any cause it is important to build a network of good, those who can relate will join the network . It all starts with sharing your story.