Many organizations I’ve talked with recently share a problem.
They’re either new and need to build a fundraising program…
Or they’re not new at all but have never focused on building a fundraising program.
In both situations, the answer is a fundraising plan.
Some organizations have gotten by for years with only government or foundation funding.
But they haven’t been able to grow. And it’s hard to plan their programs. All because they’re always one grant rejection away from disaster.
To me, the solution is a diversified fundraising program. One that includes not just institutional support, but gifts from individuals.
When you have a wider base of support, you can absorb the ups and downs more easily.
But how do you get there?
Make a plan, Stan
Your first step is planning to invest. Any plan will only be as good as your commitment to act on it. You’ll need to invest both time and money. It’s necessary for the long-term health of your organization.
The decision to invest is often the hardest part of the process.
What we need is money, and you want us to spend it?
But think about this: you ask funders to invest in programs before you set them in motion. In the same way, you’ll need to spend time and money now in order to be stronger tomorrow.
Every organization is unique, and there’s no one-size-fits-all fundraising plan. But I do see some trends. Maybe some of this sounds like you?
- Communication – especially about how donors can join the cause – is sporadic and not strategic. It’s often seen as a “nice to”, not a “have to” in the daily struggle to meet your mission.
- Fundraising is seen as a necessary, but distasteful or scary activity. Or one that strips resources from the important things you do, like programming.
- Your staff is stretched. And there’s no one focused on fundraising. Or the board is a working board and functions as staff. They’re willing, but not trained. And more than a little nervous.
The situation leaves everyone feeling strung out. Survival is day-to-day.
And you’re less effective because you’re spending so much psychic energy avoiding the problem.
But don’t fret. This is all pretty normal. And it can be overcome. A good planning process can be the first step your organization takes to a new level of maturity and effectiveness.
Here’s some of what you’ll probably need to do:
Produce a case statement
What’s a case statement? In short, your best argument. Or better yet, your best emotional plea – the answer to the question “Why should I give you money? What will happen if I do?”
Yes, this can be a fancy brochure you take on big campaign solicitations. But often, it’s an internal document that feeds your fundraising messaging. It’s your fundraising master text.
The process of creating one helps the entire organization understand fundraising.
Create internal systems
You need processes for taking gifts in, thanking people, and tracking relationships.
Chances are you need to invest in a good fundraising database system. But you’ll also need to create workflows so everyone understands what needs to be done, when and by whom. Build accountability into your structure.
Communicate more often and in a way that invites donors in
Most of the time, serendipitous gifts don’t just arrive on your desk.
You know it’s true: you have to ask if you want support. To raise money you need to talk to people!
So offer compelling appeals, newsletters and more. Design them to spark interest in your cause and a desire to be more involved.
And listen well, too. Think conversation rather than broadcast.
Focus on relationship building
It’s true you’ll do better focusing on donors rather than dollars.
Make a plan for reaching out to people who might be interested. Treat them as human beings, not checkbooks. Ask for their input. Thank them for their attention and their gifts. Invite them to become more involved and to help you widen your circles.
Don’t forget to involve staff and volunteers – they can be your best bridges to wider support.
Create a culture where mistakes are a way to improve. Try something new. Be ready to examine everything you do and change what can be done better.
If you’re really focused on this, even a small or new organization can make great progress.
Ask for help. Many community foundations now have departments that concentrate on helping nonprofits work better. Take advantage of the courses or seminars they offer.
Read a lot, speak to colleagues at successful organizations. Look for every chance to find something new that might work for you.
Once you have a program in place and you’re starting to see some traction, remember to keep feeding it. The better you fundraise, the stronger your organization will be. And the more good you can do in the world.
Isn’t that worth your investment?
Small shop, just getting started, or plain-old winging it?
I can help you put together a fundraising plan. Get in touch and we’ll find a time to chat. Your first 30-minute consultation is free!
Photo by Ryan McGuire