Three Ways Stone Soup Can Guide Your Fundraising

By Ajay Rajan

Three Ways Stone Soup Can Guide Your Fundraising

Setting a fundraising strategy can feel like navigating a jungle. It can seem like a free-for-all. You have major donors, mid-level donors, and entry-level donors, each requiring a separate course of action to help them feel a part of your mission. And as for prospects… how do they fit into the larger plan? Without a calendar in place and a strategy to guide you, it’s nothing but chaos out there.

But there is a way to organize the madness. There is a way to make each donor understand his or her unique value to your cause. You can venture in the wild…. And come out having conquered the jungle.

You can create stone stoup.

The allegory

Weary travelers arrive to a village with nothing more than an empty cooking pot. The villagers are unwilling to feed the hungry travelers.

So the travelers go to a stream, fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire.

One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers answer that they are making delicious “stone soup,” but that it still needs a little garnish which they are missing. The villager readily shares a few carrots, eager to taste the soup when it is done. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot. The travelers again mention their stone soup which has not reached its full potential. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning and meat to help. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient.

Finally, the stone (being inedible) is removed from the pot, and a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all. The travelers have successfully transformed it into a tasty and nutritious meal which they share with the villagers.

What’s Stone Soup got to do with fundraising?

Nonprofits find it difficult to fundraise from small donors and mid- to upper-tier donors alike. On the side of the small donor, he feels like his donation makes a minimal impact. He asks himself, “What’s $25 going to do for such a large institution?” In turn, the larger donors feel concerned that the nonprofit does not have wider community support. Furthermore, since she is a businesswoman, she is very careful to make sure her gift is going to make the most strategic impact possible.

The result is that all stakeholders are reserved to donate. Just like the villagers who refused to feed the hungry travelers, people don’t want to support a cause unless it’s already on the way to being something great. Further, the more that people chip-in, the more “social proof” snowballs and the more people feel like they are joining a movement, or a community. Success begets success but it needs to start somewhere.

For the travelers, it was a stone and the promise of something delicious. For fundraising, it is the message of strategic involvement and donor empowerment.

By creating a strategy for what types of donors need to donate and why/when, you create a framework in which people can play a special role. And by playing a special role, a donor derives a sense of purpose and empowerment.

The more that you create a strategic framework in which diverse stakeholders can play a pivotal role in realizing the wider mission, the more you create the opportunity for people to become leaders and meaningfully engage your campaign. The strategy which creates a sense of purpose and empowerment for each donor is a fundraiser’s stone soup.

Here are three ways you can make stone soup for your next fundraising campaign:

1. Matching donors:

The proposition of becoming a matching donor is a great way to motivate people to become leaders. Here are the key messages:

Part A: I can leverage your gift to motivate other philanthropists to join the matching donors fund. You coming on-board as the first matching donor will kickstart the whole process and provide the traction for me to approach others.

Part B: People are 20% more likely to donate if matching funds are mentioned (Yale University). I plan to use these matching funds as leverage for a crowdfunding campaign. As such, your gift will mobilize the wider community and inspire hundreds of people to donate who otherwise would not have.

You can read the full CauseMatch Strategy for Acquiring Matching Donors here

2. Early bird donors:

Before your crowdfunding campaign goes public, reach-out to a limited number of individuals who you know are particularly passionate about your work. Explain to them that they’ve been hand-selected to receive an invitation to donate before the fundraiser goes public. By donating now, you can explain that they have the unique opportunity to provide the social proof and campaign momentum needed for hundreds of others to feel excited about the campaign when they see it live. The more donors and momentum to the campaign, the more people will be likely to contribute.

3. Cross the finish line donors:

Once your campaign passes the 70% mark it is all downhill from there. Your message to prospective donors is that they can help you cross the finish line and bring something incredible to fruition. The message of “your gift will help us cross the finish line” is an incredibly meaningful — even historic — opportunity that you can convey in juicy terms.

These are just three examples of how you can make “stone soup” in your fundraising campaigns. We recommend using this strategy as frequently as possible.Ideally your annual fundraising strategy should be a series of layered asks framed as strategic propositions (targeted at specific segments). Each fundraising campaign should be part of a wider narrative that empowers the donor to make history with you.

Whether it’s doing a capital campaign to build a school and then doing a recurring gift campaign to sustain the operations, or whether you produce a film and then need budget to globally launch it, each step in your fundraising needs to be a choreographed “move” that the donor will be excited to be part of. To guide your presentation of “stone soup” just try to think how each “ask” is part of a bigger strategy and thus part of a specific role and purpose.

By Joseph Bornstein | CEO and Founder of Joseph is a social entrepreneur working to leverage the power of technology and creativity to create the next generation of fundraising and charitable giving.