I will start with a bold claim, but one that I have seen proven many times. Every charitable organisation has a market and a fundraising potential. If you pursue the tried and tested strategies outlined in this article and elsewhere, you will build financial resilience and community support.
In fundraising, you are offering as many people as possible the opportunity to participate in your mission, to share in your success. Doing this with confidence and consistency will build and maintain community support. That support will be reflected in funding from a variety of sources. Think of an ecosystem. A resilient ecosystem is a diverse platform that can survive shocks. You need diversity and resilience in your funding sources, starting with a good supporter management database. A resilient programme may possibly contain elements of;
|General Donors||Trusts & Foundations||Corporate Gifts|
|Regular Giving||Bequests||Major Gifts|
Events & Annual Appeals
If you think this scale of the programme is beyond you, I disagree. It takes planning and it takes commitment, but mostly it takes a way of thinking. Think of fundraising as an outcome of involvement and engagement. Think of fundraising as a very good measure of how your community is engaged with you. A gift is the best-known indicator of how engaged someone is with you and the issues you address. Give people multiple clear and confident opportunities to support you and watch the ripples flow across your whole programme.
This scale of the programme will be supported by a Fundraising Plan, a Recruitment/Retention Plan and a Media/Communications Plan. All plans have three-year planning cycles, with 1-year implementation cycles. If you are starting any fundraising programme from scratch, allow three years before it reaches maturity.
The Building Blocks of Resilience
If you have a database of even 1,000 people, ideally who have given you money in the last three years or so, then over time you should be able to generate up to $100,000 a year in reliable income from that database. That is, expect an average of 2 gifts of perhaps $50 from each of the 1,000 people if you manage your fundraising programme well.
Of course, this reflects averages and not everyone will give 2 gifts of $50 but nevertheless, you should be able to generate that level of reliable income from that size of donor base at maturity. How close you get to that depends on your programme. Keeping the database fresh with new people coming in is important. Without refresh, the database will naturally decline over about 10 years.
Think of your database as an asset like a building that has tenants (donors) and will return rent (gifts), if you look after it and keep it habitable. But this money is untied, you can spend it as you need to. Your donors trust you if you keep them informed and involved.
Even the smallest one-person group can create and maintain a community of support that will sustain their efforts until they succeed. With intelligent technology, this is becoming easier every day. If you follow the principles I outline here, you will free yourself and your group from the constant need to find new money.
Think about every name you can collect and then make sure you collect them. How many names have you ever collected and how many have you let slip by? Every name is gold to you, every name is an opportunity to share your success and enrich your group in so many possible ways.
Figure 1: A representative Appeal to a database
Because a diverse funding stream is important, this article will also outline some of the other funding sources available to charities. It will show how you can get the best result from all your fundraising efforts, by using common techniques and sharing resources.
The article is aimed to help you order your thinking and plan your fundraising campaigns or “engagement programme” to achieve “sustainable” success, which will, in turn, make it possible for you to achieve your mission.
What does sustainable success mean? It means you can set up a fundraising programme that is;
- Repeatable year after year
- Self-regulating or self-supporting.
Don’t be daunted. All fundraising is about relationships. This article will show you how to focus on the ones that return the most for your cause right now. Firstly, leave all judgements at the door and don’t prejudge anything, particularly “what people like”. You must embrace fundraising and fundraising oriented communications and treat fundraising as “you are offering people the opportunity to share in your success and your mission”. The offer you are making to people is a wonderful thing, so do it proudly, confidently and regularly. Many people hate asking for money even for good causes, we need to get past that and ask respectfully but clearly for the support, we need to deliver our mission.
Your mindset or approach to fundraising
You need to approach your fundraising directed communications with all the professionalism and dedication that you now bring to your mission fulfilment. You are embarking on or sustaining a relationship with possibly thousands of people. For this, you need commitment and professional respect, and you need infrastructure like a database.
If you believe you are offering people a chance to share in your mission and success, then that makes it easier to be confident in your “ask”? You are not asking for money for the sake of it, you are asking people to be involved and most people will choose to give you money, and money is usually what you need. Ask confidently and be bold, you are giving people a great opportunity and many people will value that opportunity and take it.
You need someone on your committee or in your team to take control of all or parts of your fundraising programme. You may have a specialist role perhaps in successfully getting grants from Charitable Trusts and Foundations (Include Corporates, Wealthy People and Government in this role). Then there is maybe a specialist role in the “database-driven” or public fundraising which will include email and direct mail (if you do that) and may also include events. Someone else may have a newsletter role and someone else may have a social media role and finally, someone will have a role keeping traditional media (print and broadcast) involved in what you are doing.
The theme of this article focusses on an integrated fundraising programme with multiple different strategies in use all the time. You will learn that perhaps you don’t need all the elements, but you will only find that out for sure if you try them. A well-managed database programme may be enough for your needs or a well-managed Trusts & Foundations programme may give you all the resources you need. That is great. I recommend that you don’t rely on a government contract and that you always have alternatives to any dominant funding stream.
We have talked enough about general donors. The same principles apply in other Fundraising. All fundraising is essentially a numbers game. Ask enough people in the right way for the right gift and you will build and retain support.
The number of people who will self-enrol in regular giving is small but worthwhile. At a minimum, you should have a regular giving offer through your website. Ideally, you have a persona for the programme that signifies its importance.
Regular giving recruitment through direct contact at events, on the phone and in the street, all deliver better results. But these programmes, particularly phone and street recruitment, are expensive.
There are recognised cycles in regular giving. Resignation rates spike at certain predictable points in the life of the donation. Knowing how to manage, retain and re-engage regular donors is a vital part of managing a successful programme. Your software can help with this.
The quality of the donor, by that I mean the motivation, age, ability to pay and other factors also influence the success of your programme.
If you are a subscriber to Fundraising New Zealand Magazine, we at Vega will send you a full guide to setting up and maintaining a Regular Giving Programme. Email RegularGiving@Vega.works and supply your subscription number and we will email the guide to you.
Events & Annual Appeals
Annual Appeals used to be the mainstay of charity fundraising. Although they have declined in importance, they still work if managed and resourced well. You will need technology to recruit, roster and manage collectors. Having a team, volunteer or otherwise, that manages your annual appeal is also vital. Recruiting collection locations, rostering collectors, training collectors and supplying materials like IDs, vests and buckets (EFTPOS machines?) are part of your organisation challenges.
Events, particularly participatory events or challenges have been very successful in recent years. The conversion rates from event participants to long-term donors are often low. To address this conversion challenge, it is necessary to get the event participants or sponsors, quickly into your database and on an induction journey into your organisation. Many people will support a friend in an event but have little knowledge of the beneficial organisation. It is important you start an induction programme quickly.
The flagship events are well known. Red Nose Day, 40 Hour Famine, Daffodil Day and more recently Blue September, Dry July, Movember, Oxfam Trail Walk and others, have worked well for organisations.
Other easy events to organise are In-Memoriam events, encouraging people to give a gift in lieu of or in addition to flowers.
A complete guide to events for Fundraising New Zealand Magazine subscribers can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Bequests and Major Gifts
The reason I am putting these two programmes together is that they have similar structures. The best such programmes work by having credible patrons that can recruit like-minded people into the programme.
If you have a database, getting it matched against a database of high-nett worth individuals is a worthwhile exercise. If you can identify a group of prospects for a Major Gift programme, then expect that maybe 2-3% of them will ever end up leaving a bequest or giving a major gift. But the programme can still be worthwhile.
The cycle for Major Gift runs from Identification, Research, Meeting, Proposal Development and Presentation and hopefully proposal acceptance. Bequest cultivation cycles can be different, in that bequestors are very often long-term donors to the organisation.
A comprehensive guide to Bequests and Major Gift programmes for Fundraising New Zealand Subscribers can be obtained by emailing email@example.com.
I have outlined a mindset and approach to a general donor programme, and I have introduced Regular Giving, Events and Major Gifts/Bequests. There is much more material available and we at Vega will happily help or introduce you to experts in each of the areas. The commonality between programmes is good communications, transparency, accountability, thanks and recognition. It really is all about relationships.
All these programmes can return good reliable income to charities. Some are better aligned with particular charity sectors than others. But having a diverse and therefore resilient programme is vital to your security. Draw on the resources of this magazine, the Fundraising Institute, Vega and other places where good fundraising advice can be found. It will be very worthwhile, sometimes scary, but really worthwhile. Having a rich, diverse and resilient fundraising programme is key to achieving your mission. Having a rich diverse and resilient social sector is vital to a healthy society.
Author Tony Lindsay | CEO & Founder | www.vega.works