How to Run Successful Fundraising Appeals on a Shoestring

successful fundraising appeals

Fundraising on a Shoestring

Recently, I’ve been helping a couple of clients to launch successful fundraising appeals and there are two golden rules to remember:


1. use your special appeal to engage and inspire potential donors – for example, if you’re 10 years old, what has changed (that’s relevant to your charity) in the past ten years – this can be funny or political, emotional or thought-provoking depending on your charity and what would resonate with the people you are trying to reach

2. use your special appeal as a launch pad for ongoing regular giving and NOT a one-off event – this  is particularly important for small charities.  If you have ploughed a great deal of your limited resources into creating successful fundraising appeals for your charity in the past, you know that it’s important that your charity continues to benefit in the future. You can achieve ongoing success by using a special appeal to launch a regular giving programme or to engage with high net worth individuals that you perhaps wouldn’t normally reach.


So how can a small charity launch and run successful fundraising appeals when they have limited resources?



Tip Number 1 – Start with a plan

Like all fundraising, you need a strategy if you want to be successful. What is the core aim of your appeal? How much money do you want it to raise? How many new donors do you want to reach? How many regular donors do you want to get on board? How many major gifts do you hope to receive? What’s your communication programme throughout the year? When are you sending mailings, posting on Facebook, what are your weekly online/social media messages around the appeal? And so on… Start with the over-arching goals, then break these down into actions, which then break down into specific tasks. And assign each task a deadline, working back from your goals and actions.


A goal without a plan is just a wish

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Tip Number 2 – Think through every stage of your appeal

It’s easy at the outset to start off by concentrating too much on your launch and the materials around the launch but completely forgetting about what happens when people donate. Think about the entire process – from your initial launch to the end of the appeal. What are the messages that you are giving out? How are you communicating with donors (and those yet to give)? What will someone receive when they donate?  Test the system before you launch by making a donation yourself – for example, through your website – and asking board members/other staff to do the same and test the process.


Tip Number 3 – Segment your database

Even if the donors you gained through the appeal continue to give in the longer term through regular gifts (which I would advise should be your aim, particularly for a public fundraising appeal) make sure that you have noted on the database how they got involved with your charity in the first place. You may be small and these may be your first donors but you will not remember how they got involved in the first place and this could be key to keeping them involved in the future.


Tip Number 4 – You don’t need to spend a lot of money on fundraising materials

Yes, it’s a special appeal and you want to inspire people to give to your charity in this important year but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a small fortune on brochures, expensive photography and quality weight card. Depending on what your appeal is for and who you are targeting, a simple, clear message that will inspire donors to want to support you is far more important than embossed card and expensive postage.


Tip Number 5 – Think about using different platforms

Whatever your appeal message, think about how you can adapt it to work on different platforms. Is there a direct mail campaign that could send people to a specific web page, for example? Is there an opportunity for you to promote your appeal and the work of your charity using video via YouTube? Will your appeal translate onto different social media platforms?


Running successful fundraising appeals is possible, even if you are working in a small charity or if you have a limited number of staff.  By starting out with a clear plan, determining the actions that you need to take to achieve your goals and assigning tasks can help to ensure that you will enjoy greater success.


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