Prerequisites for Fundraising Success

It’s money that makes the world round. While not everyone would want it put so bluntly, the truth is that for many organizations and institutions money is one of the most-needed resources. Ideas and programs abound, but it can be hard to find the money needed to bring these to life. The process of attracting money – and the leadership that will sustain giving over the years – is what fundraising is all about. Successful fundraising can be characterized by the following Prerequisites for Fundraising Success.

  1. Full commitment from executive director, board of directors and staff. Without this commitment it is next-to-impossible to raise the money your organization or institution needs.  People who are committed attend meetings, participate, share ideas and generate an enthusiasm for the project. They believe that the funds can be raised, and they demonstrate that belief by making a personal gift, soliciting gifts from others, and helping secure in-kind resources. While it may take time to cultivate and secure the full commitment of an organization’s key stakeholders, this step cannot be pushed aside. Fundraising is a responsibility that must be fulfilled by leadership across the organization. It cannot rest on any one person’s shoulders.
  2. Completion of a fundraising assessment and feasibility study. This study will provide necessary pre-campaign “market research” and is used to:
    1. Assess how your institution is perceived by the marketplace
    2. Identify prospective donors and volunteers
    3. Determine initial levels of financial and in-kind support available
    4. Secure buy-in from key stakeholders
    5. Create early awareness of intent to launch a campaign
    6. Assess level of internal fundraising capacity
  3. A time-phased fundraising plan. This plan should include a detailed schedule of activities; a coordinated strategic solicitation plan; and roles and responsibilities for all who will be involved. It should identify sources of projected revenue such as government/foundation grants, gifts from individuals, sponsorship by corporations, or funds from local civic and social organizations and the steps needed to secure these. Remember to include some fun in your FUNdraising plan – people should enjoy working with your organization.
  4. A compelling case for financial support. The case for support is at the heart of all fundraising. It needs to be clear, concise and compelling. It should make the case for why an individual, corporation or foundation should support your organization. Fundraising is a competitive endeavor, so you need to communicate how your project is unique. The “case” is the basis for verbal and written introductions, and solicitations. It should communicate:
    1. Why your organization is a good investment.
    2. What the money the money will be used for. How much is needed?
    3. What will happen as a result of a donor’s or funder’s gift?
    4. What is your organization’s track record? Your successes? Your goals for the future?
    5. What will donors receive in return that is meaningful to them?

  5. Top caliber leadership. Fundraising must be volunteer-driven with strong, experienced leadership. This is critical to your success as it is the people associated with your organization that will attract others to your work. When evaluating who should lead your fundraising effort, think about who your organization already has a relationship with. Consider long-term donors and current major donors. They are already giving to your organization – a sign of interest and commitment.Those who provide leadership need to be well-respected and known throughout the constituency you will be raising money from. Each needs to make a significant financial gift to your organization, and be willing to ask others to do the same. They need to attend meetings, be publicly identified with your organization and its fundraising efforts, and able to concisely and passionately make the case for why your organization deserves funding and what the money will be used for.
  6. Active Participation by the fund development committee. As you attract outside volunteers you need to also engage your current leadership. If your board of directors does not already have a fund development committee, one should be established with goals and financial objectives.
  7. A team of properly trained and informed volunteers. It is volunteers, not staff, who are the best fundraisers. People who are giving their time and money to your organization are the strongest advocates to encourage others to do the same. Recruit volunteers to fill defined roles and let them know their responsibilities and the time frame of their commitment. Before they begin soliciting, train them in how to encourage involvement and solicit gifts. All volunteers need to be able to talk with authority about the impact your organization makes and how funds raised will be used. Each volunteer solicitor needs to make their own gift before asking others to do so.
  8. A strong public relations/communication plan. Create a plan for how to let people know the impact your organization is making. Include every method you can think of such as op-ed pieces, a newsletter, speaking before faith-based and other organizations. Do everything you can so that when a donor is asked for money they already know what great work you do.
  9. Donor Recognition and Acknowledgement. You can’t say thank you enough. When a gift is made it needs to be acknowledged right away. Send a personal letter. Have a board member call the donor. You can never be too busy to thank and acknowledge donors. Include their names in your annual report, mention them when speaking in public, create a wall where the names of those who support your work are publicly displayed. Encourage all to have a FUNdraising good time.

To request your own Prerequisites for Success Fundraising Checklist send an email to Mel and Pearl  

© Copyright Mel and Pearl Shaw. Working together as Saad & Shaw we help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. We are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit us at or call (901) 522-8727

2 responses to “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success

  1. Pingback: Tips For Fundraising Success: Engaging Your President, Board and Others | FUNdraising Good Times

  2. Pingback: Meharry Medical College – Doing It Right! | FUNdraising Good Times

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