Most, if not all, of the organisations I have worked with since setting up Activate Fundraising have had little or no resources to fundraise.
They’ve been small organisations with few staff, let alone someone dedicated full-time to fundraising and the thought of having to put together a fundraising programme that is focused, strategic AND successful is daunting to say the least. Sound familiar?
And so, they’ve brought me in to help them determine what they have that might appeal to donors; how to plan their fundraising programme; what resources they need to put into place; and who those donors might be. All very well, I hear you say, but what about actually bringing in the money? Bringing in a consultant can help to clear the fog, get some clear action plans in place and determine who you’re going to go to for funding but what about when the consultant has gone? How do you make the time to establish a successful fundraising programme?
Well, I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, because it isn’t. And the reality is that fundraising is about relationship building. I’m not going to get into the what you can get away with on a first date analogy here but you get the picture. You can’t just rush a relationship anymore than you can rush asking a potential donor for money. You’ve got to get the right pitch, plan your approach and make sure the right people are asking for the money.
So what are the key ingredients for a successful, low resourced fundraising campaign to be successful?
1. Write a Plan – I know everyone looks at me disdainfully when I say this yet again but the old adage ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ is just as true of fundraising as anything else. Especially if you don’t have enough resources to throw at a full scale development operation – or even a full-time member of staff to bear the brunt of the workload! Consider your activity over the next 3 years, which of those projects you have funding for and which you don’t, what you do that might appeal to a donor and where those donors might come from. I’ll go into more detail on planning in my next post but it is essential to have a plan that can help you to allocate time; monitor your fundraising and measure the results. Have a look at Gail Perry’s blog for some advice on fundraising planning. And, of course, it doesn’t have to be you who sits down and drafts it all up. What about getting your board together over a bottle of wine and pizza and throw some ideas around?
2. Be realistic. If you need to raise £1m but don’t have a fundraiser and can only dedicate a few hours a week to fundraising, ask yourself if you are really likely to be successful. What can you realistically achieve within the timescales that you have available. And of course, you may need £1m but that doesn’t mean that it can all come from fundraising. You may have areas that won’t appeal to trusts, individuals or sponsors – or you may have projects and programmes that are better suited to statutory funding or earned income. Look at your entire programme and determine where the income could come from across the board before allocating everything to ‘fundraising’.
3. Use Your Networks – think about how existing partners or funders can help introduce you to other potential funders. What about your Board, who do they know? (And if the answer is ‘no-one’ you need to think about signing up some new board members too!) Think of everyone you work with, suppliers, partners and potential partners, even competitors – you name it. And consider broadenening your networks through the use of social media.
4. Leverage what you already have. If you send out a newsletter, is it the sort of information you could send out to donors and potential donors to raise awareness of your organisation? And if not, can it be tweaked? What about events? Are there any you are running that you could invite potential donors to? If you already use social media to push out promotional messages or connect with your membership, could you use the same channels to connect with donors and potential donors? And if you’re stuck, you can always use them to ask for advice or help, such as the groups on LinkedIn which I’ve used myself to get some answers to questions about fundraising.
5. Don’t just react. This doesn’t mean ‘never react to an opportunity’ but just that you should try to be 80% proactive and 20% reactive with your fundraising. And, while this might seem unachievable with three million other things hitting your desk at any one time, if you’ve put together a proper plan outlining your objectives, a strategy that says how you’re going to achieve those objectives and an activity calendar that maps out what you need to do and when, you should at least have a structure in place to take away that feeling of being completely overwhelmed.
6. Break fundraising tasks down into manageable chunks. If you have to do other things too, assign specific times for fundraising and try to stick to them. Give yourself key objectives to achieve within these times – rather than just ‘fundraising time’ think about what specifically needs doing and when. Where possible, assign these chunks to other people, such as your board members. Can they make thank you calls to donors (which results in more gifts in the future incidentally) or are they willing to meet with potential donors to either ask for money or to open the doors by introducing your organisation and asking for advice (whichever they feel most comfortable with).
Fundraising with few resources is difficult but it is achievable with a bit of time and effort to plan your activity in the beginning. That investment of your time will be worth it in the long run.
How much time does your organisation spend on fundraising?
And do you feel it’s enough or that you’re swimming to stand still?
What is the hardest part about fundraising?
Staying abreast of new developments, finding potential donors, or knowing where to start? Let us know in the comments below.