Featured Expert   
Susan Love
August 2000

What are some good techniques libraries can put into practice to learn more about their constituencies?

"There is a major rule in fundraising: your best donors are your past donors. It is absolutely true! People often say: 'So-in-so has already given us a lot of money, so therefore we are embarrassed and don't want to go back and ask them again.' But actually, if they have already given your organization money it is because they believe in what you are doing. So you shouldn't be embarrassed to go back and ask them to help you with what you are doing now. You are giving them the opportunity to participate in a project that they care about.

You are asking them to buy into an organization that you already know they like. As a matter of fact, this is valid for all your donors. If you've done the proper research and laid the groundwork for the campaign you won't be going out cold and asking people for money. You'll know what percentage of the community believes in what you are doing. Be very sure that you have done the research on people before you go out and ask them to give. A feasibility study will help you achieve this.

You want to make sure that you have everybody in the community represented in a campaign, it is really important. In Millbrook, we had over 500 people who donated. When we initially went to some of the major donors we were not sure if they were going to donate, so, we went back towards the end of the campaign, and said: 'We have over 500 donors.' They were impressed. One person actually said: 'Well, if you had only raised all this money through 2 or 3 people, I probably wouldn't have given you anything. But this is obviously something that everyone in the community is giving to, your numbers are impressive, so I'm going to give you $xx,xxx.'

There's a rhythm to a campaign, and it is a rhythm that you have to establish by studying your own community. By bringing in an outside consultant you are going to get the help you need to figure out what kind of rhythm you should build."


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