How to Blitz your Fundraising Fatigue
What I love most about fundraising is variety. Different projects, different donors and, as a consultant, different clients. But what do you do when you’ve got a bad case of fundraising burnout?
Before I go into some of the solutions for dealing with fundraising fatigue, first of all, let’s look at some of the causes – why are you fatigued in the first place?
Same Old, Same Old…
If your charity needs you to raise money for the same thing all the time you might be starting to run out of ideas. However, this situation really isn’t any different from a business that sells the same thing all the time. A coffee shop sells coffee (and buns), a widget factory sells widgets and a travel agent sells holidays.
But if you’re feeling tired trudging out the same projects and programmes, or approaching your fundraising in the same way, perhaps it’s time for a rethink. So, how do businesses keep their promotions fresh?
- They run special promotions to encourage customers to keep coming – free refill when you buy a muffin or free scone if you come on a Tuesday morning
- They target specific audiences – romantic weekend trips to Paris for couples, or using the coffee shop, free kids babychino for parents having coffee & a scone before 11am (ie before the lunchtime rush)
- They run loyalty schemes or package up what they have differently – get your 6th coffee free, visit London for a theatre break, buy a vacuum flask, get a free pair of gloves
Often these promotions are used to sell lines that aren’t popular or to fill up the store/shop at times when it isn’t usually busy – but think about what you can learn from this approach and whether you can apply it to your fundraising.
- Shake up your events – perhaps you know there’s an audience that you’re missing and that your usual black tie dinner isn’t as popular as it used to be, so what about holding it in a venue that’s more exclusive (and that you can get donated) or incorporating a wine tasting with an expert as part of the experience instead of just a formal dinner with speakers?
- Target different types of donor – perhaps most of your funding come from trusts, so how about taking some time to consider how to engage with companies to get donations or sponsorship. What do you have to offer and how could you position your charity and its programmes to reach this audience?
- Change your timings – Always run an ask event in March that’s stopped being effective? Change the time of year, think about autumn or pre-Christmas for a change or change it completely perhaps to a family picnic at the weekend during the summer specifically for your corporate donors and their employees.
Or is the cause of your fatigue the fact that you’re overworked?
There are really only a few solutions to this: take a holiday, talk to your manager/board or share the workload out.
If you think that it’s just a question of needing to get away to help you to refocus and recharge your batteries then the obvious answer is to take a holiday – even a long weekend or a day off during the working week can make a huge difference. But, if you’re overworked because you have an unrealistic fundraising target that means you’re working all hours trying to create more opportunities and approach more prospects than your charity has within its existing networks, then you need to speak with your board/chief executive about either getting a more realistic target based on your charity’s resources, networks and capacity – rather than it’s funding black hole – or about involving more people in fundraising.
The latter should be a given anyway. Fundraising is never the responsibility of one person – or at least, it shouldn’t be. And certainly, within a small charity, the more that responsibility is shared, the more likely you are to be successful.
And this leads me nicely onto the third point.
No Support from the Top
This is the most difficult cause of fatigue to deal with: when you are fundraising in a vacuum with no support from senior management.
The reality is that EVERY successful fundraising programme needs to have a board and senior management who are ACTIVELY supporting fundraising (by which I mean bringing contacts to the table, making the ask, thanking and looking after donors at events, introducing their networks to your charity). Without this you are unlikely to achieve any real fundraising success. Even in large charities with many fundraising staff – such as a university – the fundraising is still the responsibility of others with the Principal, Chancellor and University Court all involved in the fundraising process from networking to asking.
Without a strategic approach to fundraising where your board is responsible for the overall fundraising target, philanthropic income and sponsorship is unlikely to reach the levels that you are perhaps expected to raise.
So, how do you get them involved?
- Do they have a clear understanding of your fundraising goals – or do they need to be presented at a board meeting?
- Can they introduce their networks to your charity?
- If they don’t want to make the ask or have no contacts (they do, they just think they don’t) can they make thank you calls or write thank you notes to donors or can they come with you to meet potential prospects?
If you have no support from above, then it’s unlikely that you can change this mindset overnight but, by making a few suggestions about how senior management can get involved, you can create a supportive environment for fundraising – which takes some of the burden off you.
Three Quick Fixes for Dealing with Fundraising Fatigue:
When in doubt, steal!
What are other charities doing that you wish you’d thought of first? I’m not suggesting blatantly swiping ideas and just changing the logo but what has worked well for another charity that you think you can adapt?
You don’t have to be sneaky about this either. Go and visit another charity or group of charities with fundraising campaigns that you admire and ask how they ‘did it’. Of course, they’re unlikely to share any sensitive information but the vast majority of charities are more than happy to share best practice and ideas – you may even get some suggestions as to what not to do because they tried it and it didn’t work.
You can meet other charities through networking at charity specific events or have a one to one meeting with a colleague in another charity – it really doesn’t matter. What is most important is that you are getting away from your desk (you know, the one you’ve been banging your head on for the last few weeks?) and going to hear about different approaches to fundraising. Not all will be relevant but even if they’re not, just getting out and chatting with other fundraisers in other organisations can help to spark your own ideas.
Get out of the office
As well as getting away from your desk to visit other charities – you should make a point of regularly keeping in touch with your programme team, your clients or other employees in your charity who are at the point of delivery. This can help you to reignite your enthusiasm for your cause as you can reconnect with your charity’s work and see how fundraising (and, more importantly, donors) can make a real difference.
Speak to donors
There’s nothing like visiting a donor to get a fresh perspective about your charity – but I’d suggest going after you’ve been to visit your delivery team. It might be time to catch up with a particular donor or maybe you have a new project or idea that you’d like to ask them about. Or maybe you just want to say thank you and touch base. Obviously, there will be different ways of approaching different donors. With some of your major donors, you might want to go visit them or chat on the phone. With others, you might want to send out a survey to ask their opinions – only you can decide as this decision will be based around the relationship you already have – and that you would like to have – with a particular donor or donor group.
However you decide to approach them, you want to talk to them about their involvement with your charity and why they chose to donate to you. Ask what being involved means to them and what they’d like to see your charity doing. You may be surprised by some of the responses and again, it might help you to see your charity from a different perspective, helping to reinvigorate your fundraising.