Preparing for Fundraising Success

Leadership Forum Sept 2012

Why are some nonprofits successful with fundraising when others face challenges? What can be done to change a nonprofit’s fundraising “fate?”

Some of the things that impact fundraising are outside a nonprofit’s control. These include a downturn in the local or national economy, or increased – and unexpected – competition from national disaster relief efforts. But other factors can be addressed proactively.

Here’s what we know. Sustained, successful fundraising requires consistent attention, action, funding, and leadership. It is proactive and volunteer-driven. The success of an organization’s or institution’s fundraising depends upon the involvement of board members — specifically, their ability and willingness to cultivate and solicit major donors. This is where it all begins. If the leadership of an organization is not behind a fundraising initiative, it will be very difficult for volunteers or staff to experience success.

Good intentions, desire, and commitment abound amongst board members, staff, and volunteers. While these traits are a mandatory prerequisite for fundraising success, they are not enough.

Your organization will also need develop relationships with individuals and institutions that can provide the financial and other resources you need. You will need strong project management skills and the ability to ensure that your fundraising goals remain a priority in spite of other emerging and/or unpredicted priorities. Volunteer recruitment and management will be key to your success. So will creativity, strategic thinking, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Always keep in mind that successful fundraising is donor focused. While it may sound counterintuitive, fundraising is not necessarily about you and your organization or institution. Success comes when you understand why your current and potential donors want to support your organization and when you value those motivations. When donor motivations are valued, the nature of the relationship between a donor and an institution can transform from one where donors are viewed primarily as a revenue source to one where donors and institutions partner to achieve a common goal.

But before you even begin the work of fundraising you need to look closely at your organization or institution and its leadership. Are the director or president and the board in full agreement regarding the organization’s mission and vision and how these will be brought to life? As simple as it sounds, this is where it all starts. Take the time to talk amongst yourselves. Do all members share a common understanding of the mission and vision, or do they operate from their personal or historical understanding of these? Have you taken the time to create an easy-to-use strategic plan that will guide the work of your board, staff and volunteers? Do you know how much money the organization really needs to raise? Can you communicate how the funds will impact the people you serve or advocate for?

Over the next few weeks we will address these topics in more detail. Our hope is that these columns will stimulate conversation and appropriate action within your organization. We want your 2013 fundraising to be successful.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at Follow on Twitter @saadshaw.


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