Are there enough hours in your day?

I can’t think of a time when anyone has ever complained to me of having too many hours in their working day.  Everyone seems to be time poor these days.  Of course, not having enough time is a common complaint for many people and the organisations they work for, particularly smaller non-profits who have a lack of staff available to them.  Many are run by one or two people having to fulfill a number of roles – and fundraising is often just one of many aspects that needs to be considered.  As a result, fundraising often slips down the agenda as it’s viewed as difficult or complicated, time intensive, non-urgent, or just a right pain in the neck.  Only for it to rapidly swing to the top of the list of tasks when there’s a need for funds or when someone (usually a Chief Executive or Board member) decides that it should become a priority.  And you just can’t fundraise like that – read Christiana Stergiou’s excellent piece on dabbling in fundraising if you don’t believe me.

What every organisation needs is a clear plan that will enable them to set their fundraising (or any other business) goals – and this is true whether you have an entire team of fundraisers or just one person in your organisation who deals with fundraising as one of a number of their tasks.  If you need to find more time to fundraise, read Marc Pitman’s inspiring post on how to create an extra month each year!

But before even getting to that point you need to consider whether or not you should fundraise in the first place.  Too often organisations decide they’re going to fundraise but have neither the resources, commitment, projects or indeed, need for philanthropic income and sponsorship.  So ask yourself whether or not your income needs could be met more easily by other sources first.  Should you decide that philanthropy is the way forward the first thing you need is to plan your fundraising.  So read through your business plan again and decide how fundraising will help you to set your objectives.  My last post dealt with developing a fundraising strategy so I won’t go into too much detail here but your planning should include:

  • Your Fundraising Goals
  • Potential Cost of Fundraising
  • Time Available for Fundraising
  • Income Sources – trusts, individuals, sponsorship, public funding, earned income etc.
  • Review Your Fundraising Regularly

So, you have your fundraising plan and now you need to put the systems in place that will help you to manage and deliver the tasks needed to realise your plan.  My top recommendations are:

Get at database and use it – it doesn’t need to be an expensive fundraising system but at least if you are recording your activity with donors you have a dynamic record of your donor approaches.  (An Excel spreadsheet isn’t a dynamic record and is out of date almost as soon as it’s saved).

Research, research, research – I know the three ‘R’s usually stand for something else but without research your fundraising programme is a pretty flimsy affair.  Make research part of your daily activities.  Even 30 minutes a day to read the press; check out the internet; review specialised fundraising websites, such as Trustfunding or Grants Online; read subscriptions to relevant funding newsletters; and subscribing to relevant topics in a Google Reader feed.  Regularly researching at least one or two of these areas will help to provide you with relevant, up to date information on your prospective donors.

Write – make time to write to donors – whether that’s developing grant proposals; tailored sponsorship approaches; mass donor communications or crafting major donor appeals to individuals.  Read all you can about developing creative fundraising approaches and tailor them to your audience rather than sending generic approaches.

If you haven’t been involved in fundraising before or if you have limited resources (or both) you might want to start small, focusing on one particularly project or you may decide to fundraise initially from one particular source, such as trusts, depending on whether your appeal lends itself particularly well to one particular type of funding – for an event, this may be sponsorship for example.

With good planning you can streamline your fundraising – so fundraising communications become part of your overall communications strategy albeit with tailored messages to reach different audiences; events that you’re running could include an aspect of donor development or engagement e.g. is it appropriate to invite potential donors along to introduce them to your work or could you invite current donors along as a thank you – and to encourage the next gift?; use your social media to build awareness about your fundraising or use it to fundraise – the hugely successful Soi Dog Facebook appeal is nothing if not inspiring!

It might seem like a huge mountain to climb but I’ve worked with small organisations with no history of fundraising or fundraiser on the team only to see them turn around their fortunes through effective planning and management of fundraising.  Fundraising isn’t short-term, there are no quick wins and you will need to be consistent in your approach but with good planning you can use your resources affectively with great results.

Now, where is that to do list…?

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