1. Plan your fundraising. What do you want to achieve? Why? How does this fit with your organisational strategy or goals? What, specifically, do you need money for – staff/core, project, capital? Where do you think the money will come from – current or previous donors, new funding routes and opportunities? Trusts, individuals, the Lottery? What resources do you have to invest in fundraising? Do you have staff, a database, robust administration systems, effective communications? Sit down with your team and brainstorm ideas because if you can’t answer these questions, you’re not ready to start fundraising.
So, you’ve thought long and hard about what, why and how you’re going to fundraise, what next?
2. Put systems in place. Without systems you will find it difficult to sustain your fundraising. Get a database and use it – this doesn’t have to be expensive, you could use MailChimp or Constant Contact (which would help you to plan mailings too) or adapt Access or any number of other databases before you even think of splashing out on a fundraising specific system. Decide who you will target for funding – trusts, individuals, Lottery, business or a mixture? Establish systems that will help you to look after your donors by determining how and when you will communicate with them. You don’t have to recreate the wheel – this could sit within a communications programme that you already use, taking into account the specific audience(s) you are communicating with and always ensuring that your donors receive appropriate communications.
3. Review the market. Look at your competitors – who supports them? Are there programmes like yours that have failed or succeeded? Why? Is there an organisation in your area doing similar work? How are you different? Fundraising is competitive so it’s vital that you stand out from the crowd. Knowing who you’re up against will help you to position yourself effectively. But as well as looking at competitors, also think out the box too. What has motivated you to give to a charity – why was it effective? What advertising campaigns have really stood out for you and why? And remember, you are not your donors – so get the views of others too.
4. Get everyone on board. You should set out the reasons why you are fundraising and what your objectives are (see point 1) so that everyone in your organisation knows why you’re fundraising, what for, how much and in what timescale and what you are hoping to achieve. You can’t under estimate the power of internal support for your fundraising so make sure your trustees, staff and volunteers know why you are fundraising.
5. Research your donors. You need to identify who is likely to support your organisation – and being wealthy is not enough. If I had £1 for every time I’ve been told to ask a certain businessman for money, I’d be rich! Look at your projects, your beneficiaries and your organisational vision. Who supports the type of work you are doing? There are numerous resources out there to help with your research – too many to mention here – but start by reading local and national press; keeping up to date with sector developments; and using your networks.
6. Network. Spread the word about your organisation. Be known as leaders in your field. Use networks available to you – through trustees, volunteers, professional groups and your donors. Consider online networking – ask your Trustees and CEO if they’ll introduce your organisation to their Linked In contacts or send out occasional tweets on your behalf.
Tip 7. Stay ‘on message’. Fundraising is another way of communicating to your audience and, while the methods of delivery may be different, they should still reflect your core messages. If you’re fundraising for a programme that doesn’t fit with your overall vision, you need to ask yourself why. If you don’t, potential donors will.
8. Fundraise within resources. Regardless of how many fundraisers you have (or don’t have) you need to be realistic about what you can deliver. How much time can you allocate to fundraising? What tasks need to be delivered e.g. research, applications, meetings, planning? Who will deliver these tasks? Often fundraising focuses solely on target but if it’s unrealistic within current resources, you need to either reduce the target or devote more resources to fundraising.
9. Use trustees effectively. Who has the best networks? Who is happy to ask for money (because not all will be)? Who is most knowledgeable or passionate about your organisation (hopefully, all of them!). It is vital that trustees lend their support to fundraising. They may not all be comfortable asking for money but they don’t all have to be – as long as they will introduce your organisation to their networks and be an ambassador for your work (which they should be anyway).
10. Say Thank You. It may be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often donors aren’t thanked. You can’t say thank you enough. Provide the personal touch – a scanned signature is unlikely to make anyone feel their gift meant much. £20 may be a small donation to you but it could mean a lot to the donor. And you never know how much could follow on from the smallest gift. If you don’t thank people you are closing the doors to future support and wasting all the effort put into getting that initial donation.
I hope that these tips have given you some food for thought over the past few days and that you implement some or all of them in the next few months. And if you’d like some help with your fundraising, please get in touch.