5 Strategies for Building a Strong Fundraising Organization

by Joe Garecht

Strong non-profits require strong fundraising.  If you’re going to change the world (or your corner of it), you’re going to need the resources to carry out your mission.  Don’t skimp on your development operation… too many schools, churches, and charities think of fundraising as a “sideline” activity, rather than a core operation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Fundraising is crucial – here are five strategies for making sure your fundraising organization is as strong as possible:

1. Everyone is a Frontline Fundraiser

Everyone at your non-profit is a frontline fundraiser.  Everyone.  Every single member of your staff and every one of your volunteers should be on the lookout for fundraising opportunities and potential donors.  This includes staff on the program side.

Likewise, every person at your non-profit who comes into contact with other people during the day (whether they are clients, vendors, donors, volunteers, or the general public) needs to put on a positive face and interact with that person as if the health of the organization depended on a favorable outcome.  Because non-profits rely on the generosity of others to stay in business, they need to make sure that the vast majority of people who come into contact with them have a positive experience.  This requires training and motivation for your entire staff.

2. Have a Plan

Fundraising efforts that aren’t guided by a plan are fundraising efforts that are doomed to failure.  Have a master fundraising plan for your organization.  Follow it.  Tweak it when necessary.  Use it to set goals, define responsibilities, and guide your overall strategy.

3. Diversify Your Fundraising Efforts

Good fundraising organizations work on establishing a diversified stream of income.  If you are raising 90% of your funds from one type of fundraising (i.e. you are almost entirely event, grant, or program fee driven) then you are putting yourself in a precarious position should that funding stream dry up. All non-profits should be diversified.  There are an almost endless stream of revenue sources you can tap: government funding, individuals, corporations, foundations, large events, small events, direct mail, online…  Make an effort to diversify.

Likewise, if any of your funding streams rely almost solely on one or two big donors, now is the time to branch out.  If, for example, your corporate giving strategy relies on the same two big companies year in, year out, it’s time to build a farm team of companies that donate at lower levels, and which you can step up to larger gifts over time.

4. Track Your Progress

There’s no point having fundraising goals if you are not tracking progress.  Similarly, there’s no point having a diversified funding stream if you don’t know what works, and what doesn’t.  Too many charitable organizations “think” they are doing ok, but in reality have no idea what (or who) is working.  Set goals and then track progress.  If things aren’t going well in one or more areas…

5. Pivot When Necessary

Good businesses pivot when necessary.  If they see, through tracking and analysis, that their business model, sales methods, or core product aren’t working, they make changes before it is too late (they “pivot.”) Good non-profits should do the same.

If one of your fundraising methods isn’t working the way you had hoped, and you can’t figure out how to correct it, don’t wallow in despair.  Pivot!  Figure out a new strategy.  Work on a new plan.  Bring in some new talent.  Do what it takes to hit your goals, and make the changes required to carry out your mission.  Of course, if you don’t set goals and don’t track your progress, you won’t even know that you need to pivot.

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