Fundraising in uncertain times
Over the years we’ve heard a thousand good excuses for not fundraising, but none more often or more powerfully put than the possible negative impact of the EU referendum.
Surprising then, that since the financial crisis of 2008 during a period of unparalleled uncertainty, our team have managed some of the UK’s most successful fundraising campaigns by focusing on these seven, simple ‘home truths’:
- Do it now!
The level of urgency in Third Sector organisations is usually too low to properly address their far reaching, financial needs. Members, paid staff, and even Trustees are often prepared to settle for the status quo, satisfied with small gains, rather than transformational change. It’s remarkable how stable and complacent some charities can be, despite an accepted need to ‘bring in the money’.
To change this way of thinking – concentrate first on creating a genuine sense of urgency – focus your core supporters on the limited time available to achieve meaningful goals, rather than token, incremental advances in fundraising performance.
- Respect your volunteers
The two words guaranteed to turn off time-poor, over committed people, are ‘fundraising’ and ‘committee’. Not-for profit’s that nurture, rather than ‘exhaust’ volunteer leadership can achieve remarkable fundraising results.
Be brave, make a promise to stand down your volunteers when the job is done.
Create momentum by setting a defined period over which the money will be raised. Busy people can then agree to get involved, safe in the knowledge of when this commitment of their precious time will actually end. The old adage that the job will expand to fill the time given, holds true in fundraising too.
- Givers have the power
Overcome a fascination with getting the widest possible participation in the fundraising process and rather become inspired by how new investments in your charity will actually be used.
The enthusiasm of your team for a ‘transformational’ vision is essential, so fuel that interest, build a commitment to the future and demonstrate that they have the power to make it all happen. By giving as generously as they can, they will be able to inspire others to join them in making your shared vision a reality.
- Deal with facts
Engage your volunteer askers with timely and succinct reports, composed of relevant statistics.
Your fundraising team need to know from week to week how many approaches for gifts have been made, just how many are still to be made and most importantly, exactly what needs to be done to achieve the next target. Facts presented in a positive way, will concentrate effort on the most important steps that need to be taken to get to target.
- Create short-term ‘wins’.
Major fundraising campaigns take time to win. To build confidence and maintain interest, agree intermediate goals to be achieved, such as enlisting the required number of fundraising team members or securing the attendees needed at your information events. These ‘way-markers’ provide helpful points from which to chart the campaign’s performance, highlighting much more than simply the amount of money that has been banked to date.
As the ‘way-markers’ are achieved, confidence will build that the ultimate target will be reached. “Success brings success” and these short-term wins will certainly help you keep the ‘naysayers’ from claiming that nothing is happening!
- Handle ‘wins’ effectively
Premature celebration after a major gift or other achievement can encourage your team to become complacent and sit back hoping that someone else will raise the rest of what is needed. So be prepared and use your ‘wins’ to highlight just how much more still needs to be done to reach your target.
- Communicate with energy
Your transformational vision needs to be presented, reinforced and represented, so that there can be no doubt about what is being proposed.
In our experience it is simply not possible to over-communicate with a community of supporters about how important funding is to your organisation’s future. But please, take care with when and how often they are asked to give …
It is not difficult to argue that now is not the right time to fundraise. If it is not the EU referendum or a financial crisis, then some other powerful excuse can usually be found.
In the end regardless of the prevailing economic climate, the decision to meet a financial challenge through a concerted fundraising effort should be based on an urgent and compelling vision of what your not-for-profit organisation can do to serve its community. By putting these ‘home truths’ into action, you can go on to achieve your funding goals now, while others watch and wait for more certain times to come.