“Biomimicry for Fundraisers” is a blog series that uses inspiration from Mother Nature to help causes raise more money. In each installment, we’ll feature a new plant, animal, or ecological phenomenon, then derive a handful of lessons for effective fundraising. We hope you’ll have as much fun reading these posts as we have had writing them!
This month, in the holiday spirit, we’ll be looking at mistletoe. Turns out that mistletoe isn’t only a good excuse to smooch in public. It also has a few clever tricks that fundraisers can learn from.
Mistletoe trees store their pollen in a chamber on the top of each flower. When a bird lands on the flower, it triggers the chamber to burst open and shower the bird with pollen. The bird then flies off, carrying the pollen on its wings and body to other trees, and ensuring the survival of the species. (Learn more about it at AskNature.)
So what can we fundraisers learn from mistletoe? When someone “lands” on your cause this holiday season, take advantage of the interaction and turn your donors into pollinators. As they sip eggnog at cocktail parties, stroll with fellow carolers, send holiday e-cards, or play dreidel with their family, your donors can be spreading the word and recruiting new supporters.
Here are three ways to mimic mistletoe this season:
1. Give supporters cheery stories, photos, or videos to share with friends.
Do you run an animal shelter? Email donors a thank-you photo of a puppy romping among holiday ribbons and wrapping paper. Or are you working in international development? Tell a story about holiday traditions in the countries where you focus.
Remember, the best way to get someone to share a photo, video, or story is to ask them! Simple, straightforward requests work well, for example: “Please pass this photo on to your friends, with holiday wishes from all of us at ______.”
2. Ask supporters to donate their holiday wish list.
Most Americans don’t need more stuff this holiday season. How about asking your top donors to donate their Christmas wish list to you? Instead of asking for an iPhone or a blender, they can ask their friends and family to make a donation to your cause. (And, by the way, Rally’s “Fan Fundraising” features make this easy-as-pie.)
3. Create a new tradition around giving to your cause.
This tip is less about biology, and more about the holiday ritual of pinning mistletoe under the doorway. How can your cause become a holiday conversation starter each year?
Could you partner with a local chef each year to offer a new holiday cookie recipe to your donors? When they bring the cookies to a holiday party, people will inevitably ask: “Where did you get the recipe? Could you email it to me?” Or could you thank donors each year with a new roll of lovely holiday ribbon? Each time they give a gift, someone new will learn about your cause.
Ultimately, mistletoe reminds us that our donors are our best advocates. Rather than buying mailing lists or purchasing online advertising, how can we turn our existing supporters into powerful promoters?