Ten tips for fundraising success

Linda Lysakowski
Linda Lysakowski

Linda Lysakowski

The economy continues to be a major concern for everyone; global warming and the energy crisis threaten life as we know it.

And yet there is an air of optimism as we begin to recover from the worst economic crisis most of us can remember. So, how will all this affect your organization’s fundraising program?

It depends.

Some organizations will struggle in the coming year; others will have successful fundraising programs.

Organizations that can show a positive impact on their community will be more successful than those who haven’t built a strong case for support.

Those whose leadership (staff, board and volunteer leadership) is strong will fare better than those whose leadership is ineffective or unstable. Organizations that continue to rely on past methods rather than embracing new technology and new methods will suffer. Those who move ahead with a solid development program will outlast those who wring their hands in despair.

Don’t let the threat of a poor economy become a self-fulfilling prophecy for your organization. If you think you can’t raise money, guess what – you won’t raise money.

Talk to your donors. Let them be the ones to say, “No,” if they can’t give. Don’t make the assumption that they won’t give and don’t stop asking.

Talk with your donors about how they might still be able to support your organization, even if they are struggling financially.

Maybe they can extend their pledge period, set up a monthly giving program to make it easier to budget their charitable dollars, give a gift in kind instead of cash.

Here are 10 tips to help you succeed in fundraising:

1. Make sure you have a strong case for support. Every organization needs to have compelling reason for people to support it. Your case must be both emotional and rational. Remember that people do not give to your organization because you have needs, but rather because you are filling a need in the community.

2. Make sure your website is up to date and interactive. You’ve probably heard a lot about Web 2.0, the new direction for websites. Your website must be dynamic and interactive. Be sure there is place for people to easily click to “Donate Now.”

3. Do an honest evaluation of your leadership – staff, board and volunteers. It may be time for a board assessment. Do you have the right people on board, are they fulfilling their fiduciary obligation to give to your organization and to help you raise money? Are they a diverse group? Do they have the skills and talents needed by the board? Are they “roaring advocates” for your organization?

4. Look into at least one new fundraising method-giving circles, Internet fundraising and social networking are all good places to start. You may want to set up a FaceBook website and join social-networking sites. Develop an Internet fundraising strategy.

5. Have a diversified development plan. Events are the one area that is likely to suffer the effects of a poor economy. Be sure you aren’t counting on event fundraising as your primary, or only, source of income. Diversify into direct mail, telephone funding, Internet, major gifts, planned giving, etc.

6. Make certain your organization is transparent. Attend a class on the new 990 Form or its equivalent in other countries. The IRS or its equivalent may be offering classes in your city; local accounting firms and attorneys may also be offering classes. Check your local Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter to see if they are running any classes on this topic.

7. Invest in a good donor software package that will allow you to monitor all your development programs. Donor software is essential not just to track donations and assure accurate reporting, but to help you build relationships with your donors.

8. Conduct a planning study if you are contemplating a capital campaign. Don’t assume your donors have no money to give right now. Ask them. You may be surprised.

9. Recruit a top-notch development committee. Volunteers can be the difference between a successful fundraising program and one that flounders. Be sure to recruit people from your community, not just your board, to serve on the development committee. (Hint: Entrepreneurs make great development committee members – they are good at marketing, planning, understanding finances and building networks.)

10. Conduct a board motivational program to help your board develop their networks. Every board member has a sphere of influence into which they can bring your organization.

For a more detailed discussion of this topic, purchase the webinar recording presented by this author.

Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, is President and CEO of Capital Venture, a full-service consulting firm with offices throughout the U.S. 

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