I have been fundraising for  charitable organizations and political campaigns for almost 20 years. But no matter how my clients try to get around it, there is no fundraising tool more successful, than asking people for money, or direct solicitation, for my fellow fundraising professionals.  It cost virtually nothing and it has the largest return, in some cases as high as 80%. It is a fact!!

Unfortunately, it is also a fact that most people HATE asking others for money. And many will do ANYTHING to avoid the simple act of asking their friends and family for a check.  The irony is that most people are waiting to be asked. They want an opportunity to support a good cause and help out a friend.   If you are like most of my clients, you are pulling at your hair, wondering if I am going to share a “magic” way to make raising money easier.  Good news…that is exactly what I am going to do (well, not really magic, but good advice nonetheless)!!!   So with out any additional fanfare,  here are my “5 Tips  For Creating A Successful Fundraising Plan”.

  1. MATCH THE FUNDRAISING STRATEGY TO THE ORGANIZATION OR CAUSE. If you are part of an established organization, then this may be second nature to you. Although, if the organization has experienced multiple cycles of decline, it may be time to introduce some new ideas.  If you are just starting out, this decision is crucial.  The strategy employed must connect with the mission of the organization.  For example, many health related charities have “walks” because it combines health awareness with a healthy activity.  It would be ridiculous for the American Heart Association to have a “hot dog” eating contest. If you are searching for ideas, engage your supporters, board members and friends in a brainstorming exercise.  Since this group will likely be your major fundraisers, it is good to get them on board early.  Also, do some research on line  to bolster ideas.
  2. GET ORGANIZED. Choose a leader and have a plan,  a written plan.  Ultimately, someone has to play the role of the final decision maker to ensure that the fundraising strategy is executed according to plan and keeping with the organizational values. The plan should include a  goals, timeline, key responsibilities, communication/marketing and budget. I recommend HIGHLY that you utilize a customer relationship management software (CRM) or a donor management software.  This will feel cumbersome at first as some set up is required, but will be a lifesaver in the end.  There are several FREE  CRM web-based services, like ZOHO, FreeCRM or Highrise, or for small amount of records eTapestry or Salesforce can be used. If these seems too much to tackle, then try a simple excel spreadsheet to start.  This way when you get ready to upgrade to a CRM, the data can simply be imported.
  3. KNOW YOUR DONORS. This does not mean that you must have a “personal” relationship with each of your donors, but you should know stuff about them.  Follow tip # 2 and get organized.  If you don’t have one already, put together a list of donors and potential donors.  Start with your friends and family and the friends and family of your fundraising team (see tip # 4), and expand out from this point. For each name on the list, assign an estimate of how much they might give. This is why you need to know your list. The more you know, the more accurate your estimates will be.  Utilizing a CRM will help to organize all the pieces of information you should be gathering, from personal interests, donor history, connections and occupation, to name a few.   If you don’t know them personally, try Google.  The larger their donor history, the more likely it is you will find stuff about them on the internet. Knowing these details about your donors, will help you to understand what the ask them for, who should ask and when they should be asked.  Employing this tip, will help to increase the return on your list.
  4. EVERYONE IS A FUNDRAISER. As a former non-profit Executive, fostering this culture was crucial to the success of the organization. It meant having open dialogue with staff, supporters and board members about the fundraising plan.  Fundraising is a team effort.  It is never just one person’s job to raise money, everyone connected with the organization should understand that part of their role (even if it is a small part) is to raise money.  Everybody knows somebody who can write a check and they should be encouraged to ask those people to support the cause.  Make sure  everyone has a fundraising goal as part of the written plan; board members, staff, volunteers and supporters.   This goal should include a specific dollar amount and a strategy to accomplish the goal.  Obviously, the level of resources expended should be proportional to the donation expected.
  5. FOLLOW UP ON EVERY CONTACT.  Several years ago, my church launched a capital campaign to build a new sanctuary.  The theme for the campaign was “Not Equal Giving, But Equal Sacrifice”.  This communicated to every congregation member that no matter how big or small there contribution, it was an important part of meeting the fundraising goal.  Every donor is important.   This is a lesson that I now share with  my clients (and you)…respect all donors and offer multiple channels for giving.  People give differently based on all sort of reasons, so having lots of opportunities to give is crucial to maximizing your fundraising efforts.  As you learn more about your donors, you will be able to strategically target which channels are most appropriate for their giving and  those who might be able to increase their giving.

Bouns tip: SAY THANK YOU ALWAYS AND OFTEN. Like most of you, I learned early the importance of thank you.  While we always have the best intentions to appreciate the thoughtfulness of others, sometimes it does not get done.  As an midwestern girl, we are taught to be polite in every situation.  People who have donated before are most likely to donate again and to donate more, especially when they feel appreciated and worthwhile.   Make sure that all fundraising efforts involves thanking your donors, all your donors, always and often.

This process can feel overwhelming, so if you feel that additional help is needed.  Call a professional.  Holliday Advisors, LLC would be happy to help.