Back to the Top 10 Basics of Fundraising

Posted by on Dec 6, 2011 | 0 comments

It’s not even the end of 2011 and if you’re like me you’re already drafting content for your 2012 Appeal. Such is the life of a fundraiser.

And since we seem to cycle through the same development efforts year after year (granted, we are gaining and adding new expertise through personal effort, fundraising blogs, industry websites, networking, and such…), it seems like this is a good time to stop, breathe, and take a minute to remember the basics of fundraising.

In this fast-paced world of social media, sound bytes, instant messages, and a zillion tweets, those all-important basics can get lost along the way [in the cloud?]. Let’s start 2012 with a quick refresher on what’s important in fundraising, long before you add the snazzy subject lines, creative eBlasts and 140 characters:

Top 10 Fundraising Basics

  1. Develop a Plan – you can’t raise money without planning to do so. Set aside time and resources to create a comprehensive development plan and then follow it. Dedicate time every single day to this plan, and work it.
  2. Research Philanthropic Giving – figure out why people give: what motivates them, how they prefer to be contacted, what makes them write a check, why they increase their giving (or stop giving). Understand the motivation behind the people you will be approaching.
  3. Identify YOUR audience – determine who will care enough about your organization’s mission, accomplishments and goals to become a supporter. Not every member of your audience will become a donor, so it’s important to find the common denominators between your organization and your potential donors. Identify those with a common passion and develop a list of strong potential donors.
  4. Introductions  – fundraising is about relationships. You can’t just schedule a first meeting, hand the potential donor a one-page overview of your organization’s highlights, and ask for a check. Well, you can, but it’s rarely successful in the long-term, let alone during that first visit. Take time to introduce you and your organization through events, email, phone conversations, and written correspondence (including personal thank you’s for their interest, time, etc.). Take the time to get to know your donors. Build strong relationships.
  5. Tell Your Story – there is nothing more compelling to a potential donor (or existing donor for that matter) than a compelling story that illustrates the efforts and success of your organization. Take the time to create a succinct, passionate, true message about what your organization is doing, then share it using all the various methods of communication available today.
  6. Calendar Your Outreach – remember the development plan you created (step 1)? Follow it! Calendar your letters, emails, calls and visits accordingly, for both individual outreach and mass produced efforts. Make sure to build on the previous effort every time you “touch” a donor.
  7. Don’t Procrastinate – this is something we all struggle with as we juggle multiple contracts, names, databases and events. But as busy as we are, being prompt in our actions is a critical key to successful fundraising. Don’t delay making the phone call. Don’t put off sending the email. Don’t be late to the personal visit. Don’t wait until the last day to submit a grant proposal Simply put – get on it, don’t delay. You can lose a potential donor if you don’t follow up promptly.
  8. Say Thank You – so often overlooked, saying thank you is the single most important thing you can do once a donation is received from a donor. Prompt, sincere thank you letters are lifelines to your donors. Don’t delay them, don’t forget them. Send them promptly and include a quick 1 paragraph update on what your organization is currently involved in, or a sneak peak into an upcoming event. It takes very little effort to make the donor feel special and included, as well as appreciated in your thank you letter.
  9. Be Professional – When donors arrive at the office doors of an organization, there are typically two people they want to see – the CEO and the Development officer. Dress the part, and be prepared for these surprise visits. Remember, you’ve worked to make the donor feel a part of your organization, so impromptu visits should be welcomed and expected (although most donors will call ahead, we should always be prepared for when they don’t!).
  10. Watch Your Costs – It’s easy to forget the importance of ROI (return on investment) when you’re simply working down a checklist of approved fundraising actions within a development plan. Be careful of this. Time and time again organizations forget to work the numbers on direct mail campaigns, annual report publications, etc. There’s a fine line between appropriate and expected communication with your donors and over-the-top glossy outreach efforts that don’t quite pencil out at the end of the day.
I used the words “take the time” over and over in this blog post, but that’s what fundraising is really about, taking the time to do it right. Every dollar we raise for the worthy causes we represent is worth the effort.  Let’s get it right and work smarter next year, beginning with a strong foundation of fundraising basics.

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