Set your nonprofit goals and strategies, then get staff on board
Does your nonprofit have a fundraising plan? Many small nonprofits don't. This oversight can lead to stressful, poorly organized fundraising efforts and, not surprisingly, unsuccessful financial results. Instead, use a fundraising plan to focus your fundraising efforts and choose the best fundraising strategies.
Typically a nonprofit's development staff works with leadership and the board to write a fundraising plan. If you don't have development staff, leadership may work with the board to write the plan or you might seek help from a development consultant.
The first step in creating a fundraising plan is to go over your organization's mission and vision for the future and consider how fundraising supports them. What are your needs? How much money does your nonprofit need to carry out its mission or supporting activities? What will you do with the money you raise? Answering these questions — in specific, measurable, achievable and timely terms — can help you come up with an overall fundraising goal for the year or perhaps the next few years.
Ensure that your goal is realistic by basing it in part on your fundraising outcomes from previous years and any current trends in fundraising. Take into account your chances of being awarded any grants you're applying for, and use supporting data to estimate any across the board increases.
Choosing fundraising activities
With a fundraising goal in hand, you can determine what fundraising activities will best suit your mission and needs — as well as your internal resources and budget. The options abound, ranging from asking major donors for gifts to hosting events or making marketing calls.
To assess your internal resources, think about your staff, board members and volunteers and their skills, strengths, weaknesses, commitment levels, attitudes and connections. Who will handle the bulk of the responsibility for each activity? Do you have the staff and volunteers to support these activities? Invite your staff to participate in the exercise.
To get a handle on your budget, determine what money and staff time has been earmarked for fundraising and any fundraising training. Look at the mix of where your nonprofit's income is currently coming from, such as foundations, businesses, individuals or government grants, and which fundraising strategies were most successfully used to draw those donations. Aim to have a mix of income from many different places and fundraising strategies so you're not too dependent on any one source, just in case disaster strikes and the source disappears.
Ultimately, you'll need to consider whether a fundraising activity will meet your target audience, what investment will be required in terms of staff and money, the potential financial payoff, and how the activity can help you build new donor relationships.
To determine possible payoff, calculate the return on investment:
- Determine the activity's costs. This is the sum of both the direct cost, including materials and staff time, and the indirect cost, including volunteer hours and overhead staff time.
- Estimate the activity's net revenue. This is the total of all money brought in by the fundraiser (gross revenue) minus the activity's costs.
- Divide the activity's costs by the net revenue. This is the cost to raise $1 or £1. The lower the cost per dollar or pound raised, the better your return on investment.
Taking advantage of technology
Research suggests that the most effective nonprofit fundraisers use more software, communication channels and payment options than their peers. No matter what fundraising strategies you choose, technology can likely help you make the most of them. For example, cloud-based donor management software — which can be accessed from any computer, anywhere, by multiple fundraisers in an organization — can help you track donor interactions and pledges in a centrally accessible database. This can be particularly helpful with managing recurring giving.
If you primarily fundraise through your website, have the donation process occur on one page and embed the donation process within your website with your branding. Make sure the site is optimized for mobile use, too. If you're using an email campaign, consider including testimonials to show the impact of your work — with an easy-to-find donation link in the first paragraph. To make transactions faster and easier for donors, incorporate a digital wallet system into your emails, website, blog or social media page. These systems save and protect donor's private information all in one place.
Getting your staff on board
Organizational support is crucial to the success of your fundraising efforts. If your staff or volunteers aren't on board with your fundraising plan, the negativity can be infectious and destructive. To keep your staff excited and supportive, ask for their help and feedback. Make sure they know that they're important members of your fundraising team, whether they're directly involved in planning fundraising activities or working in the background to keep the donor database up to date. Give staff the ability to tell leadership when fundraising goals or budgets aren't realistic, which can have a major impact on their workload and outlook.
If active participation is a challenge, your organization might need to professionalize the process of fund development. Put in place the systems, policies and procedures necessary to support a fund development program. Provide training and coaching for staff and set up a board-level strategic fund development committee. When interviewing board candidates, communicate the importance of fund development and any related performance expectations. Also, make sure the staff enables board members to take part in fund development.
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Nonprofit Quarterly: What should your fund development plan include? by Simone Joyaux (2012)
RBP Methods: How new technology and nonprofit fundraising software are changing fundraising (2014)
The Community Foundation: Tech tips: 12 online fundraising best practices by Heather Mansfield (2015)
EveryAction: The nonprofit fundraising strategic plan guide by Marcella Vitulli (2016)
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