When it comes to raising money for a non-profit organization or institution the emphasis is often “this is how much money we need; who can we get it from?” That may be all well and good, but in most cases our response is “let’s take a moment to see if your fundamentals are in place.” By this we mean taking the time to make sure the important work of education, awareness, and involvement has preceded the launch of your fundraising. These are important because an educated, aware and involved donor is more likely to make – and continue to make – a gift to your organization.
Here’s what we mean.
Education. This refers to internal and external education. Does everyone within your organization or institution know what you are raising money for and why? Do they understand your strategic plan, what it will take to implement the plan, what it will cost, and what the impact will be? Externally this refers to educating your donors and community about the needs your institution addresses, how your programs or advocacy make an impact, and what will be different as a result of your work.
Awareness. The process of increasing awareness for your organization or institution builds on – and often coincides with – the work of educating your internal and external constituencies. Awareness activities draw attention to your organization or institution, and let people know about specific programs, achievements or advocacy campaigns. They can include inviting people to visit your offices, or to tour your campus. If you are committed to making sure young men make choices that keep them out of prison, then awareness may take the form of inviting people to visit your local juvenile detention facility so they can see what happens to young men if they enter the juvenile justice system.
Involvement. Studies have shown that people who are involved with an organization tend to be more consistent donors. That goes for young donors, older donors, large donors, and those giving smaller gifts. A donor’s attachment to your organization is based on experience. The more meaningful that experience is, the better. The days of asking volunteers to mail out newsletters are over. Today involvement can mean “would you help us create content for our monthly e-newsletter” or “would you be willing to be a mentor, giving an afternoon a week to a young brother?”
Fundraising. This is the fourth step in the process we call “fundraising.” Asking for money without having first engaged in education, awareness and involvement makes the ask more challenging. People don’t know you. They don’t know what you do. They don’t know why they should support your organization when they are already supporting another. Many times they don’t “feel” you. When you put in place mechanisms for the above three activities the process of asking for money should be easier.
© Mel and Pearl Shaw 2010.
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