Last updated April 7, 2016
You and I both know that fundraising is a full-time job, whether you’re paid for it or not. Even if you’re not actively phoning donors, negotiating with event suppliers, or writing a sponsorship letter, your brain is always on the job and you are constantly talking to people about your cause. It would be nice, from time to time, to switch off after hours and let an opportunity walk on by – but fundraisers just aren’t wired that way.
The same is true if you are the manager of a small, largely volunteer based, non-profit. Chances are that fundraising is just one of your many responsibilities, and try as you may, it doesn’t all fit into a 30 hour week. Overflow is inevitable.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that people in small non-profits often feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the need to raise funds. It can feel like you’re doing so much work, for so little return, and with lack of momentum it’s easy to become frustrated and resentful. As a result, you lose focus and what you are doing becomes even more ineffective.
So if you are a volunteer or part-time fundraiser, how can you set boundaries, avoid overwhelm and really make the most of your fundraising efforts? Check out our top tips for the part-time fundraiser.
1. Set boundaries.
I’m all for being passionate and 100% committed to a cause, but if you don’t set boundaries you will end up exhausted and be of no use to anyone. For boundaries to be truly effective, it’s best to set just one or two rules and stick to them religiously. This ensures you make time to look after yourself and stay effective in your role.
One of my personal boundaries is ‘No out-of-town meetings during the school holidays’. This means that every 10 weeks I get some extended time to rest, review where I’m at, and make plans for the following months. By the time the holidays are over, I’m ready to travel again.
2. Have a plan.
If you only have a limited number of hours to get the job done, it’s important that you have a plan so you don’t waste time chasing the wrong opportunities. Talk to your manager or trustees about developing a Fundraising Plan, so you know where to put your focus in the hours you have.
Remember a plan is not just about setting targets, it’s about creating action steps for achieving those results. How will you increase your number of active donors? How will you increase event revenue? How will you secure a major sponsor? And is this all possible in the hours you have available? Keep your plan somewhere visible so that you stay focussed on the actions that matter.
3. Work with what you’ve got.
While recruiting new supporters is essential for growth, it is equally important to retain the support you already receive. So before you go hunting elsewhere for new donors, new sponsors and new volunteers, look at how you can better nurture your existing relationships.
Developing relationships should be a priority, and as such, it is useful to set aside specific chunks of time for this purpose. Make a non-negotiable appointment in your diary for ‘relationship development’ and work towards taking existing support to a new level.
4. Create systems.
Put simply systems save you time, so if you’re time-poor it makes sense to be systems driven. Thanks to technology, you can set-up reminders, templates, and automated actions with relative ease, and developing a system for accurate record keeping can save you hours of unnecessary work further down the track. The trick is making time to establish the systems in the first place.
Over the next few weeks, consider how you can make each of your tasks easier or less time consuming. Take the extra time required to set-up a template or auto-action so that the process is short-cutted next time around. It may slow down your work flow in the short term, but the long term benefits will be worth it.
To be truly effective in your fundraising efforts, you need your whole team telling a consistent story and sharing the same key messages with potential supporters. Make sure you communicate your fundraising plan with everybody in your organisation so that you are all working from the same page. It’s important that your team sees the big picture and understands that while they may not be directly involved with fundraising, they still have a part to play.
Delegation is incredibly powerful, but it can be a difficult skill to learn, and even harder to implement. While we often voice our desire for more help, when it comes to the crunch, many people are reluctant to hand things over. ‘Just delegate’ appears much easier said than done.
If you find it hard to delegate tasks, and are living the lies of ‘it’s easier to do it myself’ or ‘no-one else will do it’ – stop right there! The reason nobody is helping out, is because there is no opportunity to do so.
If you are trying to fundraise on less than full-time hours, it is essential that you take time to build a volunteer team and learn how to delegate. You simply won’t make it without support.
7. Celebrate small milestones.
Fundraising is quite literally a never-ending job. You will never have enough money and there will always be another project or programme to raise funds for. If you are waiting until the end to celebrate, you’ll never get the chance.
Make it a habit to celebrate small milestones along the way, so that you get a sense of achievement and stay motivated for the journey ahead. Celebrations don’t have to be grandiose affairs, but they should involve some outside acknowledgement. It’s nice to pat yourself on the back, but it’s much better if someone else does it for you. Make sure you share regular milestones with your manager or trustees, so that you can receive the recognition you deserve.
8. Remind yourself why you’re doing this.
Staying passionate about your cause is critical for raising funds. If you don’t ooze enthusiasm for the work your organisation does in the community, it’s hard to instil enthusiasm in anyone else. It is essential that you regularly remind yourself why you took on the role.
If you are feeling frazzled and frustrated, take time out to visit one of your programmes in action, talk to clients or service users about the impact your organisation has had in their life, and read through success stories from past participants. Keep your eye on the difference your organisation is making, and remind yourself that it wouldn’t be possible without the funds you raise.
With any job, it’s important to remember that you don’t know what you don’t know – and fundraising is no exception. Make life easy for yourself and commit to attending regular training on specific aspects of your job. Yes it requires an investment of time, and often money, but if you choose the right workshops, it is definitely worth it.
When choosing training sessions to attend, consider what you would need to get out of it to make the investment worthwhile. Check out testimonials from past participants, and if necessary, phone the training provider for more information.
10. Share your ups and downs with others.
Fundraising can be a lonely job, especially if you are working away from the office. Make the effort to attend events where you can network with other fundraisers, and if possible, establish some peer mentoring with another fundraiser in your region. Sharing your ups and downs with others helps lighten the load for everyone concerned.
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