I thought that this could be a useful blog post for my fellow fundraisers, considering it’s usually around this time of the year that the CEO’s of most organisations are asking about the fundraising plans for their programmes or departments. They can usually be found worrying about where and how they are going raise the funds needed for the big organisational plans, with the programme and financial managers also in the cathedral. The spotlight firmly fixed on the lone fundraiser who has just entered the organisation and whom is felt to hold the key to the future of the organisation and its ability to implement its “dreams”. Fellow fundraiser don’t worry (Ok you should a little), this is the rite of passage into the complex, challenging, exciting and hair pulling career path of fundraising. You will get used to it over time, but its best you get the basics right up front to ensure that your fundraising journey is an easier one.
At this point I would like to add a caveat – I don’t really like the term fundraising, for me it seems like a cupcake sale on a Friday afternoon, or some raffle tickets being sold to raise funds to buy a new school bus. Sure, it still holds some relevance, however, I believe that we have evolved significantly to view fundraising as a more strategic process, as much an art as it is a science.
Organisations have adapted the titles of their resource builders to include business development officers, stakeholder management, resource mobilization officers and advancement specialists. I personally like partnerships and engagements, simply because I’m a partnership practitioner and I see the benefits everyday of positioning oneself to not just wanting a transactional relationship, but someone who is prepared to look for shared value opportunities. I’m certain it does something to the mind of a prospective partner reading your email, finding comfort in knowing that both parties can express their needs and wants equally in a possible engagement.
Anyway, back to the purpose of the blog, getting the basics right in your fundraising strategy or whatever you may choose to call it – the important document that guides the organisation to where and how organisational funding will be raised in the short and long term. Here are some useful tips to help you start putting your fundraising strategy together:
- Pause and research: Before you even begin putting ink to your paper in pulling your strategy together, pause and research is my number one tip! Simply what this means is you need to collect as much information as possible regarding your organisation and its financial position. Usually, organisations have strategy sessions where a lot of rich fundraising information can be gathered – however some organisations don’t have these sessions and just hit the ground running. Either way, information is gold. What is this information that is needed and why is it important? Such information gathering should include: What is the organisational budget for the year? This will help you determine a fundraising target. Where are the shortfalls in funding for the current year? Does it lie within a specific programme or general costs? What is the operational costs vs programme costs? How many of your current donors will be retained, how many of your donor’s contracts end? Single year vs multiple year grants? Are there any special events or campaigns being planned? Will you be adding a new programme and have these been accounted for in the budget? Be curious. Gather as much information as possible.
- Analyse: With all the information at your fingertips now, it’s time to make sense of everything in relation to fundraising. Let’s say for example your organisational budget is R50 million, R30 million is raised through existing donors, leaving a shortfall of R20 million to be raised for the financial year. This is useful information as it allows you to go deeper in understanding the shortfall, where should focus be placed, and guides you in determining a fundraising target. In this example, the senior fundraiser, with the guidance of the director could say that they would be happy with a R25 million fundraising target, R20 million to cover our shortfall budget of R50 million and R5 million surplus for reserves, this could be further broken down to specific targets like the number of multiple year grants. This analysis will also support your thinking around your cultivation strategy ensuring that you are managing existing partners and donors. Remember, it costs an organisation almost 6 times more to get a new donor than to keep an existing one. This analysis should feature in your fundraising strategy as a precursor to your actual plan.
- Plan: With all the relevant information gathered and analysed, and targets determined; it’s time to draft your plan. Your plan is asking the following questions, where will we raise our funds from and how will we raise these funds? Your sources of income should be diversified as there is danger in having only one funding source or partner. I always recommend having a few funding sources. These may the include corporate social investments, trusts and foundations, high net worth individuals (HNWIs), international grants, individual giving, events, and campaigns and earned income. Depending on your fundraising resources and time – think carefully about how you want to spend your time raising funds to meet your targets. Do more research on the sources you decided on, and what are the trends and what possibilities exist within each. Once you have done that, you can determine the weighting behind each source e.g., CSI 20%, HNWIs 25%, International 50% and individuals 5%. The next step is to look at your tactics. what are some of the methods you will decide to deploy to reach these % targets, e.g., a high net worth chairpersons’ dinner or mapping out key corporates that match your focus area. These are the main elements to your plan, but don’t forget your cultivation plan and roles and responsibilities of the team who are supporting in fundraising – this way everyone is clear on how they play a role, after all fundraising is everyone’s responsibility.
The feeling for a fundraiser when a meeting with a prospect ends positively, a proposal for a major multi-year grant is accepted, an online campaign reaches millions and a donor approaching you to support your work is indescribable – one that is filled with elation, victory, and belief. I remember my first success in fundraising, it was a fridge and freezer donated by a global appliance store that went towards supporting a national disability organisation and its student college – I celebrated this little victory for days, knowing the impact it would have for the college. This was the first of many successes and many rejections, however what I learnt is that we as fundraisers hold power to move our organisations forward, help our nation grow collectively and impact lives! In many respects fundraisers are the heartbeat of the organisation that makes things possible.
Goodluck in putting together your fundraising strategy. Reach out to us if you need any help!