Last updated March 2, 2017
Every week I get asked to give my ‘one piece of advice’ for raising more funds. More than anything I wish there was a simple answer to this question, but sadly, there isn’t. There is no silver bullet when it comes to fundraising, instead it is lots of things weaved together consistently, persistently and patiently over time. So instead of my ‘one piece of advice’, here are my five good ideas for raising more funds.
1. Know Your Why
If you want people to buy into your cause, you need to give them a compelling reason to do so, (and listing all your programmes and services is not going to cut it). Too often organisations get focussed on what they do, and they fail to explain the difference those activities make. Donors want to know about the end result, so you need to get clear about why your programmes and services matter.
One way to get clear about your organisations ‘why’ is to answer this question: “If your organisation was doing everything 100% right, what would your community look like as a result?” Try to frame your answer in one simple sentence so that people can easily picture the community you are working towards. When they truly understand your ‘why’, it is much easier to generate support.
2. Think Long Term
When you are desperately scrambling to find money for day-to-day operations, it’s easy to get caught up in a series of quick fix fundraising initiatives that will raise you a lump of cash…fast. But while this kind of fundraising is often necessary in the beginning, ultimately you want to focus your energy on building long-term sustainable income streams.
Regardless of how busy you are, set aside 30 minutes every week to work on a long-term fundraising strategy. Perhaps you want to build a strong database of regular givers, maybe you want to explore an idea for Social Enterprise, or perhaps it’s time to start a Bequest Programme. Whatever it is, if you don’t consciously take the time to develop a plan, you will always be chasing your tail and forever relying on the quick fix.
3. Build Relationships
The person with the most relationships wins. End of story. And when I say relationships, I don’t mean a list of contacts. I mean a list of people who you genuinely know, like and trust – and who know, like and trust you and your organisation in return. If you are serious about raising more funds, take time to build real relationships with the people around you.
It’s no secret that when it comes to raising funds, the most successful organisations have a person (or people) dedicated to the role. If you want to join the ranks of financially sustainable organisations, you need to invest time and money into the fundraising process.
If you’re a small organisation, employing a fundraiser might seem like a massive leap of faith, but if you recruit carefully, it is one of the best investments you can make for your organisation’s growth. Start small and get them to focus on one key area of fundraising at a time. As the funds start to roll in, you can afford to have them do more work, and develop further fundraising strategies.
5. Record, Review, Revise
There are literally hundreds of ways you can raise funds, but not every activity is suited to every organisation. There are key fundraising principles that remain constant throughout time (like building relationships, telling your stories, acting with integrity), but individual ideas, events and activities all have a shelf-life. It is important that you are constantly reviewing their success and refining what works.
Ask yourself: Did this idea work as well as you thought it would? What worked well and what didn’t work so well? How can you adapt the idea to make it more relevant to your cause or changing times? Being successful once is good, but if you want to consistently raise more funds, you need to keep looking for ways to do things better.
Kerri is a Facilitator / Trainer with Exult and has over 20 years experience working in and for the community sector.
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