Fundraising – why bother?

by James Cridland under Creative Commons Licence

The other day, a friend told me that her organisation wasn’t going to bother fundraising.  They are a small organisation, which has had some success with trusts in the past but they don’t see the point in investing more time and resources into building their fundraising programme as they receive enough income from other sources. 

Often organisations are put off fundraising because they don’t have a fundraiser, they can get by with the other funding they have, they have a board that doesn’t want to invest in fundraising, or they simply don’t know where to start and feel it will be too much effort.

Of course, if you are in the fortunate position of having enough funding to cover your core activity through public funds and earned income, you may consider that fundraising is an additional activity that you don’t have the time or resources to invest in.  But what if your funding situation changes?  What if you need more income this year for a special project that you want to deliver?  If you have no relationships with other potential supporters – be they trusts, individuals or sponsors – it will make the task of finding additional funding infinitely more difficult.

Fundraising does require investment – time, resources and money – and it requires planning to establish how your organisation should manage and target fundraising to best suit your particular needs.  But organisations spend so much time trying to get their message out to new people all the time – be they audiences, volunteers or service users – why would they not want to use that message differently to reach people and organisations that could inevitably invest in them?

The very act of communicating with and to potential supporters will also help you to use more and different channels to get your message out.  Can this necessarily be a bad thing?  It may not only introduce you to potential donors but could result in more volunteers, more customers, service users or audiences, depending on your type of organisation – all helping you to meet your aims and objectives and potentially grow your earned income, as well as your philanthropic and sponsorship income.

Fundraising, particularly when you have no dedicated resources in terms of staff or time, may seem like an impossible task but with careful planning – planning and systems are key to ensuring fundraising sustainability – it can be achieved and ultimately, worth more to your organisation that it costs.  Of course, there will be some initial effort required – there always is with any new activity – but surely, it is worth it, particularly in current times when no funding is assured?  Look at your resources and consider using them effectively to deliver some key fundraising goals. 

  • Put systems in place to allow you to have a rolling programme of fundraising – a database, donor communications programme, applications cycle, research activity – all carefully planned
  • Start off small – no one expects you to deliver £1m in your first year with no history of fundraising. 
  • Network – expand and broaden the groups of people aware of your organisation, the projects you deliver and your vision for the future.  Encourage your board to help you network. 

Ultimately, introducing philanthropic income and sponsorship will enable you to diversify your income and, more importantly, increase the sustainability of your organisation in the future. 

Perhaps you don’t agree?  Or maybe you have other suggestions as to why an organisation should consider fundraising?

4 Responses to “Fundraising – why bother?

  • I found this quite interesting. When someone talks about fundraising I think of charity, I forget about all the other institutions that might require funding.

    • Hi Erica,
      Most people do tend to think of ‘traditional’ charities when they think about fundraising but of course, many organisations are also registered charities – from small arts organisations, to national museums, universities and private schools. Obviously, they all have different budgets and staffing levels and some have more experience of fundraising but the basic principles of fundraising tend to be the same regardless. Heather

  • Good tips Heather … I’ve completed grant applications in my past and it can be a really downheartening job!

    • Hi Antonia,
      Thanks for your comment. It can be downheartening to receive negative responses but organisations can improve their chances – especially in a competitive market – if they research potential donors well, target their applications accordingly and determine which aspects they are more likely to raise income for i.e. what they do that is likely to appeal most to donors. Have a look at my Top 10 Fundraising Tips for more information – and of course, get in touch if you need a hand with any future grant applications! Thanks, Heather