Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the Bloomerang blog.
When I tell people I’m a fundraiser, they don’t often realize that working in the field of nonprofits is a thing you can do.
And what’s more — there are many different flavors of nonprofit professional. Even fundraising itself has a myriad of sub-specialties.
Conjure the image of a fundraiser and most likely you picture someone running an event. Or a very professional-looking person in a suit sitting with someone to chat about their major or planned gift. You might even have envisioned someone writing a grant.
When I started fundraising, I didn’t know what course my professional life would take. And I certainly wouldn’t have told you that I wanted to raise tens of millions of dollars in $25, $50 or $100 donations. That sounds like way too much work!
Small, but so mighty
But today, I sing the praises of the small donor. The little ones. Those generous folks that give when they can to a mailing, or online, or even to your very specific appeal on social media.
I adore them — monthly donors especially. Why? Because they’re the ones doing the heavy lifting in nonprofitland.
Foundation grants are largely restricted to one purpose, even though the Overhead Myth is a thing that’s out there now. Major gifts, too.
Corporate gifts can come with less restrictions, but they are also tied to how well the corporation is doing and can come and go.
My business partner and I recently gave a presentation at the ASU Lodestar Center about how individual income is far more prevalent and less risky on average than its counterparts.
Individuals keep causes alive
Even when pulling together that workshop information, I didn’t do a good enough job of screaming this from the rooftops:
Without individual donors, I would never have been paid, nor would hundreds of people that I have worked with during my time at nonprofit organizations. And it’s hard-working human beings who save lives, feed the hungry and improve our communities.
It isn’t fair or just, but here’s the truth: my favorite donors (MFDs) quietly pay for the guts of nonprofit operating costs while larger donors tend to restrict their gifts.
Office supplies? MFDs. Staff training? MFDs. Utility bills? Absolutely. Not to mention health insurance, office space, postage, and yes, even for the fundraising activities that promote giving that they themselves receive (mailings, emails, etc.).
They also pay for the enormous amount of time nonprofits must invest in jumping through the hoops of restricted dollar donors, like foundations.
Individuals grow with you
MFDs are my heroes. They get inspired by messaging and respond. And with the simplest of thank yous, they will return and be your donors year after year.
What’s more, MFDs often graduate to become major donors, involve their workplaces in giving, or volunteer. Indeed, some of them, unasked and unstewarded, will become planned giving donors.
It’s time that MFDs and the fundraisers who connect with them garner more esteem, the kind they deserve. Without these donors and the professionals dedicated to them, nonprofits nationwide would be forced to shut their doors because no one would fund the keys to unlock them.
Thank you, MFDs. This fundraiser will never, ever, question the amount you give, or how often, or your commitment to our shared cause.
You’re my heroes, $25 (or even less!) at a time.
Terri Shoemaker is co-founder of Abeja Solutions, a fundraising marketing firm in Phoenix, Arizona. A professional fundraiser, Terri has raised millions of dollars for nonprofit and higher education institutions. Read more from Terri.