Fundraising Basics – Building a Successful Fundraising Program

Whether you’re intending to embark on a capital campaign or you’re implementing a brand new annual campaign, there are at least 5 basic fundamentals that are essential to success. These include:

  1. Vision –While your mission is a statement of who you are and why you exist, a vision is a statement of what you want to be or what you want to become over the next 3-5 years. It is a planned path to the future and it must be strong, compelling and well conceived. Major donors want to know that you not only have a vision but that it’s also something you have developed through due your diligence.
  2. A Plan – A solid, compelling vision typically comes from a planning process. Your vision is a statement of what you want to be or what you want to become over the next 3-5 years. However, an effective planning process helps you decide that, but what you need for fundraising doesn’t stop there. Within the strategic plan you also have to create a comprehensive fundraising plan that is tied to achieving the vision. That plan should encompass all aspects of fundraising (Annual giving, planned giving, major gifts, direct mail, etc.) as well as PR and marketing.
  3. Prospects – In most organizations fundraising success is related to the size and quality of your prospect pool. If you don’t have enough prospects, there are certainly ways to expand your prospect pool. However, that’s not your only concern. Beyond having a sizable prospect pool, you also need in depth information on individuals in that pool and connections with volunteers. That comes usually through a review of donor histories, sharing of anecdotal information and conducting a wealth screening of your database.
  4. Leadership – That starts with the CEO. He or she must be committed and passionate about what the organization is doing. If it’s just a job to the CEO, then he or she will be nowhere near as effective as someone who is passionate about the cause. That goes for the staff as well. I’ve seen many a board member get inspired by the work and commitment of staff.

Finally, this also applies to the board. I’ve said before that if the board, those closest to the organization aren’t willing to get involved passionately with the organization, then it’s difficult to expect others to do the same. Of course that may require a bit of orientation, training and coaching, but if you don’t have good leadership to help raise the organizational visibility, open doors and make calls, you’re not likely to have great success.

In fact, as fundraising consultants, our company does quite a bit of board training. We cover board responsibilities and governance issues, but the largest number of training requests we receive is in the area of fundraising.

5. Action – You can have a compelling vision, a well-conceived plan, a rich prospect pool, and a committed leadership group. However, all of that is for naught if you don’t have action. What I mean by action is setting appointments, telling the story and making the asks. If you don’t have that you aren’t likely to achieve your goals.

You Must Make the Ask

You simply cannot raise money unless someone asks someone else to give. What I have found interesting is that most campaigns slow down or stall not because of a lack of prospects. They slow down or stall because of a lack of staff and volunteers setting appointments, telling the story and making asks.

If you build your program with all of the above elements, I have no doubt that you’ll be successful regardless of the kind of fundraising you initiate.