Developing a Fundraising Strategy

I wrote this post for Arts Professional and thought it would be a good one to share with those of you that might not work in the arts.  After all, if you’re fundraising, you should consider developing a fundraising strategy, regardless of which sector you’re in.

Developing your Fundraising Strategy
The recent cuts have meant that many organisations have either recognised they need to fundraise or to increase their reliance on fundraising in light and with this comes the need to develop a strategic approach to fundraising – rather than just a panic, scatter gun, ‘fill the gap left by public funding’ approach.  However, if you’re already fundraising you may question the need for a strategy in the first place.

Obviously, I am an advocate for developing a fundraising strategy that complements your organisation’s vision and creates income sources that will allow you to achieve those objectives in your business plan, as a properly developed strategy will:

  • increase the chances of success for your fundraising;
  • enable you to assess the options available to you for funding;
  • allow you to plan your fundraising – which projects will appeal to which donors and when do you need to start to think about fundraising for them;
  • clarify your fundraising goals and objectives – when a few months down the line you’re asked why you’re pursuing a particular course of action, you’ll have the background to make your case.

Every fundraising strategy has different aims.  Some organisations want to continue to deliver the same services they always have but now need a strategy because the economy has changed or other funding sources have ceased to exist.  Other organisations want to develop and expand their work and need to assess where additional funds may come from; how they fit with your current plans and, of course, how this expansion will impact on your organisational fundraising resources.
In the current climate, more organisations want to diversify income streams so they’re not overly reliant on one or two sources of income in the future, while others want to increase their long term income to get on a more secure footing and plan better in the future.

I recently wrote about the top 5 areas to take into account but there are more aspects to consider:

  • Background – has previous fundraising been successful?  How much income comes from
  • Vision/Mission – where is your organisation headed and how can fundraising help you to achieve this?  Your vision might also help you to identify potential funding sources interested in investing in this type of work.
  • SWOT Analysis – love them or loathe them, it’s a good idea to write down your Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats, specifically as they relate to fundraising, as this can help you to identify gaps and help you see where the strengths in your organisation may lie.
  • Resources – what resources do you have?  Are these likely to change?  Many organisations discover they don’t have additional resources and that doesn’t fit with their need to increase fundraising income.  You don’t need to spend huge amounts on brochures or expensive databases, but good fundraising takes time – that of staff, board and volunteers.  Often though it’s just a question of adapting resources to suit your needs.
  • Potential Funding Sources – once you’ve identified your aims and objectives, along with income targets, it’s possible to begin the process of identifying potential sources of income.
  • Monitoring – all good strategies should be a living document and you should have opportunities for monitoring and reviewing your strategy, ideally quarterly with the Board, if possible.  This gives you the chance to review what you might need to change or what needs more resources dedicated to it.

Developing a fundraising strategy takes time but without one, you’re setting your fundraising up to fail as you won’t have a clear idea of the fundraising landscape – both internally and externally.  A strategy greatly improves your  chances of success; enables you to plan long-term and gives you the tools to adapt to opportunities and challenges as they arise.

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