Friday, 13 April 2012

Top Tips for Fundraising in Our Times

Top Tips for Fundraising in Our Times

Recent years have seen the world experience unprecedented financial turmoil but it is proven that philanthropy is playing an evermore significant role, diversifying income across higher education.

Last week, new data from the Ross-CASE survey of philanthropic giving to UK universities showed that higher education collectively raised £560m in cash income in 2010-11, which is the third consecutive year that it has exceeded £0.5bn.

As we are well aware, the government is planning to introduce a new cap on tax relief, which could have a major negative impact on our major donors – watch this space!

This is, and will continue to be, a difficult time for all of us in the sector - so what should we do and how should we be reacting?

The key is to be flexible and adapt to different circumstances.

There are currently over 185,000 registered charities in the UK - we have competition.  Long time supporters need to hear from us, new audiences need to be cultivated, and new sources of revenue identified.

We need to analyse our mission, communications, supporters and audiences.

Four Fundamental Things to do Now:
1. Develop a strategy.
2. Go back to basics - remember the fundraising facts of life.
3. Lead your board, and mine your database.
4. Ask. Ask. Ask.

1. Develop a Strategy

Strategic planning is a tool for transforming and revitalising your organisation.

Set realistic goals, define action steps and responsibilities explicitly, and get the views of many. A strategy can identify your organisation's strengths and weaknesses, spot new opportunities and ways to do things differently. It will provide an invaluable blueprint for growth and revitalisation enabling an organisation to take stock of where it is, determine where it wants to go and chart a course to get there.

The cliché is 'if you want money ask for advice'. We all have great resources of talent on our boards and among our supporters. Meet them, call them and ask them “If you were me what would you do?” People are always flattered when asked for advice.

2. Go back to basics - remember the fundraising facts of life

It is critical that everyone involved understands the following:
1.    Asking is your greatest fundraising tool.
2.    People need to be inspired by a vision.
3.    Money is not given – it has to be raised.
4.    Money is not raised at your desks – it has to be gone after.
5.    Money is attracted by strength, not weakness.
6.    If you’re not asking your donors for money, somebody else is!

3. Lead your board, and mine your database

No matter how talented your board members are in their respective fields - as Rachel mentioned last week - they probably are not familiar with fundraising.  Accordingly, the board's effectiveness and engagement is directly related to your input and guidance i.e. we get the boards we deserve. Our challenge is to offer them a way to find their passion and pursue it to improve the lives of others. We have to lead this process. It won't happen without us. We are the professionals at work on this full-time. They are part-time volunteers with limited time, understanding and energy. We have to educate. It is a case of 'the board as your boss - you as their leader'. They think fundraising is the same as asking (which most don't want to do) and thus take no part in the other 95% of the fundraising process. We have to show them that fundraising is a much more complicated process than just soliciting and show them easy ways to support fundraising that doesn't involve soliciting.  They have to be convinced that the conversation is not about the money - it's about the mission.

As with all sales the most likely person to give is somebody who has given before. Strangers don't give. Analyse your database and build your prospect pool. Track and collect data on your supporters. Develop visit and call reports. Include follow-up steps in call report summaries. Track 'moves' with prospects. Create individual strategies for individual donors. Design an individual plan for each of your top 50/100 donors. They may not want to give now but that is not to say they won't be in a position to do so in the future. Work out what you do every three months with each prospect.

4. Ask. Ask. Ask.
The number one rule in fundraising - if you want to get, you have to ask. Nobody is going to ring you or call into your office to give you a cheque. Life just doesn't work like that. Before asking for money there are lots of things you can ask your supporters for, such as:

  • advice
  • feedback
  • to sit on a committee
  • to host an outreach event 
  • to proofread a document
  • to make an introduction
  • to meet a grantee
  • to meet a specialist 
  • to talk to the media
  • to take people on tours of projects
  • to thank others

Niamh, @niamhini

Related posts:

Learning to be a Strategy Superhero
Fundraising isn't just Fundraising. Fact.
Important Stuff every Organisation Should Think About.
Development Operations: Getting started

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