Is your organization feeling the squeeze in its funding? Are you having to focus more on cutting expenses than on developing your programs and services?
You are not alone. Here are some tips from professional fundraisers that can help…
Fundraising professionals agree that success unpredictable economic times involves intentional planning and attending to foundational philanthropic practices. The following is a list of core elements for your organization to have in place to build resiliency and help manage the challenges as they arise:
- Compelling Mission Statement—a clearly articulated, dynamic and impactful mission appeals to people’s interests, creating value for the organization and its mission in their minds and hearts.
Most people want to make a positive difference through their actions and their charitable giving. They want to know their contributions will make a difference because your organization is making a difference in people’s lives and communities. Leaders must be prepared–individually and collectively–to articulate the organization’s mission, purposes and vision in appealing and compelling ways to elicit heightened levels of engagement and generosity among your supporters.
- Assess and acknowledge your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (threats), building on your strengths and opportunities while strategically managing your weaknesses and challenges.
Self-awareness is key. Conduct a thorough and candid analysis of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats/challenges (SWOT). Translate the results into an action plan that will maximize your strengths and opportunities–these are your organizational assets. As leaders you can use this self-awareness and knowledge to plan realistically and work effectively to navigate the challenges and overcome the barriers to success.
- Avoid dramatic shifts in fundraising methods and staffing.
Most organizations rely on their professional and support staff to maintain week-to-week functions, particularly record-keeping and finance. Some organizations have a smaller infrastructure and leaner staffing. At times of heightened financial anxiety, the needs seem to increase and feel more urgent, sometime prompting desperate actions. Staff and Board leaders must work with intention to employ effective fundraising methods and stewardship practice that will sustain the organization over time.
- Keep public relations and marketing strong.
Work to increase your visibility through a well designed website, public witness, media coverage, and partnering with other organizations with common values. Experiment with social media venues, crowd-funding, and other innovative and lower-cost technology. Pay close attention to what modes of communication people elicit the best response–do more of what works best with your constituents and donors.
- Build support by spreading the enthusiasm about what the organization is doing.
As leaders, it is essential to talk in positive ways about your organization: what you are excited about, how the organization is supported financially, and what you are doing to make good things happen. Avoid the vortex of negativity or doom and gloom about your financial limitations. You are the public face and voice of the organization and its mission. Your enthusiasm for your mission and the positive difference your organization is making will catch peoples’ interest and inspire their generous support.
- Inspire trust in the leadership of your organization. Practice accountability and authentic communication.
Share information about how contributions are used to fulfill the organization’s mission and purpose. Educate donors and volunteers about the importance supporting your mission and the causes you stand for over time. Don’t gloss over the rough spots, but don’t over-focus on your limitations. This information should be readily available upon request or in general ways on your website.
- Meet and communication with donors regularly, informing them of the organization’s needs. Invite questions, feedback, and ideas for improvement.
A relational approach to fundraising is essential to sustain the highest levels of generosity and giving to the organization. Regular personal contacts throughout the year via phone, email, and postal mail are critical to promoting strong relational ties to the organization, the wider faith, and partner organizations. Individual volunteers and donors need to know they are valued and important to the organization beyond any financial contributions they make. Saying “Thank You” in as many ways possible is a priority.
Remember that fundraising requires a highly relational approach that demonstrates your organization’s commitment to its mission and to those whose lives are touched by its mission.
DEFINING YOUR FUNDING PRIORITIES–Identify up to 6 fundraising priorities, with 3 action steps for each priority area:
Once you have identified your funding priorities, put your annual development and stewardship plan in writing using the following format and information:
- Generate your compelling case for funding support
- Write up a concise one-page description of each priority area/program for sharing with donors and funders
- Estimate the costs of funding your programs and operations
- Identify your funding sources–individual, groups, businesses, grants, foundations/corporate giving programs–estimating the revenue goal for each
- Create materials or presentations about your funding priorities with the interests of each donor or group in mind
- Develop a timeline for your plan
- Know what you will track and measure for successful outcomes
- Evaluation of the plan at regular intervals
- Adjustments that could be made if necessary
- Celebrate any and all successes!
Wishing you great prosperity and success,
Laurel Amabile, Giving Speaks
Other Helpful Planning Resources:
Fundraising When Money is Tight, by Mal Warwick. 2009. Jossey-Bass.
Raising More with Less, by Amy Eisenstein, CFRE. 2012. Charity Channel Press–“In the Trenches” series.