With over two decades of experience in strategic fundraising leadership and a decade of consulting for organizations worldwide, I often hear requests like, "We need to raise money quickly; give us some tips for getting a lot of money fast." If it were that simple, fundraising consultants wouldn't be a thing :)
While quick, small campaigns can work with minimal prep, long-term, sustainable fundraising needs some planning.
A fundraising mindset
What are your thoughts on fundraising and donors? Is fundraising a must-have or a nice-to-have? Do you feel pressure to start even if you're not sure? How do you picture donors? How do you feel about fundraising?
Many organizations I've worked with initially present themselves as lacking fundraising experience and feeling short of knowledge and skills in this area. As we began working together, they often discovered they already had valuable skills and experiences; they only needed a fundraising mindset and specific fundraising know-how.
Most organizations have already tested a bit of fundraising. Many have tried to make a crowdfunding campaign or applied for funds for projects at different institutes. Despite engaging in some fundraising activities, many organizations consider these experiences insignificant, labeling them failures. Rather than giving up, organizations should view every initial fundraising activity as a test or pilot.
I believe in reframing. Replace "bad experiences" with "pilots from which we learned a lot."
List your lessons learned.
Consider that every method is working! Maybe you didn't use it properly, at the proper time or place.
Be careful with your goals and consider your goal setting as a learning process. Organizations often perceive their first fundraising activities as unsuccessful but usually don't set realistic goals.
Be patient with yourself. If you set a goal for the very first activity in fundraising without any experience setting a fundraising goal, most likely, you will give yourself an unrealistic goal.
Often, only one or two staff members in an organization are committed to fundraising. However, successful fundraising requires a committed leadership team. The commitment of the management team or board is inevitable to success.
Successful, long-term, sustainable fundraising is strategic fundraising. So, it would help if you had committed staff in the leadership team to develop a fundraising strategy aligned with your organizational strategy.
Conduct a fundraising mindset discussion/workshop with the leadership team and the board, facilitated by an external expert.
Start a fundraising strategy development process with a professional fundraising consultant. The fundraising strategy must align with the organizational, communication, growth, and development strategies.
Set concrete tasks and responsibilities for the board members or leadership team related to your fundraising strategy.
The main obstacle in starting fundraising is often fear - the fear of failure, the fear of appearing weak or unprofessional, and the discomfort when it comes to asking for money. It's crucial to address these fears head-on.
Confront your fears! Seek professional support to work through these fears and cultivate a fundraising mindset, like a workshop aimed at transforming the mindset and attitudes of staff. Engage in internal, facilitated discussions about your perceptions of fundraising and donors.
The best way to reshape your view of fundraising is by discussing your emotions, experiences, and thoughts as a donor. Relive your experience when you donated as a donor yourself.
The most important step is to start. When you feel ready, take the plunge! Don't spend too much time preparing before initiating a test or pilot. Taking that first step is the most effective way to overcome the fear of failure.
Believe me, it will work!
For successful and sustainable fundraising, your organization needs to be prepared. Ensure you have a clear organizational strategy, vision, direction, and goals that align with your fundraising strategy. Ensure you've integrated relevant roles for donors and supporters into your organizational strategy.
Transparency is crucial for donor retention. Develop a clear plan for reporting back to donors about their contributions. Establish internal guidelines for how, through which channels, and how frequently you will communicate about your income and spending. Remember, donor transparency needs differ significantly from the requirements of your accountant or legal regulations.
Want more info on compiling reports? Read: Reimagining Your Annual Report: A Comprehensive Guide for Progressive NGOs by Gergő Hajdu.
Take into account legal readiness. Check communication, fundraising, and data management regulations and roles in your country. If there are no specific fundraising regulations, consider sales and marketing laws. If fundraising for a political party, understand the particular regulations.
Prepare or update your GDPR and data management processes to align with your planned fundraising activities.
Need to know the basics of GDPR? Check out this ECDA webinar by Giulio Di Blasi.
We can delve into specific fundraising preparedness when your organization and staff are ready.
Let's continue reading in Part 2 on this link.
Check out our illustrated playbooks in the Digital Organizer's Toolbox for political fundraising resources.
For tailor-made fundraising consultancy, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the author:
Liza has dedicated over 20 years to providing fundraising and organizational development consultancy support to global, international, and national organizations and movements in Europe and Asia. Her main areas are fundraising and engagement strategy development, organizational development, growth management, market entries in emerging markets, and training and coaching for fundraisers and teams.