Friday, 31 May 2013

Is the problem fundraising - or planning?

Fundraising: the missing partner in your planning process
Recently, I wrote about private funding as a strategic lever for public funding. This is highly relevant for the higher education sector, but not so relevant to the voluntary sector.  Right?


Far too often voluntary sector organisations think about private philanthropy as money that fills in the gaps and keeps the lights switched on. Unrestricted is the name of the game.

The consequence of this is that private money - philanthropic money - is seen as a poor cousin and its true power as a strategic force is underplayed. There is a chronic fear of being donor-led when what is needed is
money to deliver core work.

But did you know, you can be donor-led AND deliver core work? Really you can.  And what’s more, just in the same way as in the higher education sector, that private money can be used as a lever for public money. 

It’s not unrestricted, but it can be cost relieving.

The problem with our obsession with unrestricted income isn’t being donor-led. It’s planning

Far too often organisations budget a bit like this:

  • Campaigning – same as last year plus 10%.
  • Activism – same as last year minus 5%.

Director:  “Fundraising, you need to raise £200,000 this year.”

(I’m simplifying, okay).

But let’s imagine a different scenario, one in which fundraisers and campaigners, service delivery staff, activists - or whatever your organisation does – sit down together to plan. Let’s say they look ahead at everything the organisation will be doing and conceive of each work stream as a project.

They do this well in advance (more than twelve months) of when the project needs to come on stream.

Fundraisers then assess the available projects against potential funding sources, shaping these core work streams into a portfolio of fundable projects entirely suitable for attracting significant support.  They then work with major donors to discover their interests and help them to anchor themselves in projects that they care about.

You can be donor-led AND mission-driven.

Fundraisers and delivery staff need think together, plan together.  Fundraisers need to be involved in this process from the ideas stage every step of the way to delivery.

This will lead to better fundraising and more income. It also means that the messages coming from your organisation are integrated.

Most importantly, in an economic environment where public funding is becoming tighter and tighter your future will be de-risked - AND you will be better placed to secure public funds. 

Don’t undervalue the importance of fundraising. Get your strategic planning sorted instead.


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