Category Archives: Classics

Church Giving Supports HBCUs

The United Methodist Church and HBCUs – behind the scenes at the Black College Fund…

The power of your church giving may be stronger than you know. For example, did you know that when you give to the United Methodist Church you are supporting eleven historically black colleges or universities in addition to supporting your congregation? That’s right. You are part of a long tradition that is now managed by the church’s Black College Fund under the leadership of Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson.

As you may be aware, black colleges and universities have been transforming the lives of individuals, communities and our country since before the Civil War. Eleven of these 105 institutions are private-church related colleges founded by the United Methodist Church. In order to learn more about the relationship between these colleges and the church, we talked with Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson and share our conversation with you.

Saad & Shaw:   Why did the church establish these colleges and why has it continued to support them?

Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson:   The Methodist Church has always had a passion, tradition and belief in the power of knowledge and as the Civil War ended, it was painfully clear that the education that had long been denied to slaves would severely hamper their self sufficiency if not addressed. The people called Methodists (through the Freedmen’s Aid Society, founded during the 1860s) saw an urgent need and addressed it. This ministry to the educationally underserved remains and we see it as essential to empowerment and self determination. According to a history of the Black College Fund written by Dillard University President Emeritus Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, “Without question, the UMC has no peer or competitor, either quantitatively or qualitatively, in terms of church support for its HBCU. No other mainline communion approaches the United Methodist level of generous and sustained financial support.” We believe in higher education and generously invest in it.

Saad & Shaw:   How does the church support these colleges? (Do you provide funding, conferences, technical assistance…)

Dr. Hopson:   All the above, but mainly the financial piece; our (mostly unrestricted) funding goes directly to the institutions to help keep their tuition and fees low, to enhance the infrastructure, to create new programming—whatever it takes to stay competitive. There is a capital projects designation and we also offer/share the United Methodist Connection of people, information and resources.

Saad & Shaw:   Why do you feel HBCUs are important today?

Dr. Hopson:  They are uniquely suited historically and otherwise to nurture, challenge and mentor their graduates to be instruments of change whether they’re running a school board, multi-national corporation or a university. These institutions attract the best and brightest in addition to those who have the potential to be great and they inspire them to “find a way or make one” as the Clark Atlanta University motto says. The small class sizes and low teacher/student ratios allow the faculty, staff and administration an opportunity to provide personalized attention and a family-like environment. Students can’t help but flourish and soar.

Saad & Shaw:   What role do these colleges play in the life of the church?

Dr. Hopson:    We get some of our most effective, committed, talented and innovative leaders from these institutions. Supporting leadership for life is not just a motto for us— we invest in it. The choirs tour and perform in local churches and our Project Athletic Ambassador program links congregations with the BCF basketball teams when they’re on the road for games. Also, in the Southeast, our institutions host the Youth Harambee, an annual gathering of youth groups from around the jurisdiction. Many of the schools were founded in local churches and that historic bond is a tremendous source of pride.

Saad & Shaw:   How do these church-related institutions work together? Do they engage in joint programming or joint fundraising?

Dr. Hopson:   The Council of Presidents (active presidents and retirees who have served more than ten years) help plan programming and promotion. Further, my office hosts a biennial continuing education event for public relations and advancement directors.

Saad & Shaw:   Is giving to these colleges a “black thing” or do all church members give?

Dr. Hopson:  Every United Methodist Church in the United States is assessed an amount to pay and many local churches and annual conferences (a group of geographically grouped churches) take enormous pride in paying their 100 percent share. We love those! We also receive memorial and estate gifts from supporters occasionally.

Saad & Shaw:   Has giving by churches to the Black College Fund increased or decreased during this economic downturn? (Whether increase or decrease, how has giving affected the fund and its work?)

Dr. Hopson:   I am delighted that our funding has held steady, and if anything, it has increased percentage wise. This year we received about 87 percent of $11 million, but our students’ needs continue to outpace the funding so we are constantly striving to reach potential new students and donors.”

Saad & Shaw:   Does the support of these church-related colleges and universities perpetuate segregated institutions?

Dr. Hopson:   Absolutely not! These schools are and have always been open to anybody with a hope and a dream, regardless of race, class, gender, ethnicity or national origin. They are our most diverse campuses with students and faculty from around the world.

Saad & Shaw:   What else would you like to share with our readers about the Black College Fund in specific or HBCUs in general?

Dr. Hopson:  Our 11 institutions come in all shapes and sizes and there’s bound to be one that fits your needs or interests. If you haven’t visited one of them, stop by and be impressed by the critical research, innovative programming and some of the best and brightest students anywhere on the planet! And, if you want to invest in excellence, the Black College Fund is a great choice. Our administrative costs are less than four percent and your contributions are tax deductible. We support leadership for life.

Saad & Shaw:   Any last words on the power of collective giving such as giving through one’s church?

Dr. Hopson:  Our schools are a great investment and together we can do so much more than any one of us individually could do. I continue to be amazed at what happens when everyone gives their best gifts—together we are a force to be reckoned with!

Saad & Shaw:   Thank you for your time!

To learn more about the UMC Black College Fund visit or call (615) 340-7378.


National Fundraising — The Power and Impact of Local Volunteers

From time to time we seek to share what we have learned from Mel’s 25 years with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and his work developing and producing the Lou Rawls UNCF Telethon. In this column we focus on the impact that local volunteers – and local campaigns – have on the fundraising of national organizations.

Back in the day the Lou Rawls UNCF Telethon was the largest African American fundraising special event held on a single day anywhere in the world. Over the years, the telethon raised over $500 million dollars. Lou Rawls was certainly the star of the show, but the real stars were the thousands of volunteers who raised money in communities across the country during the six-to-nine months leading up to the telethon.

Mel Shaw, Lou Rawls & Jim Alston

While people continuously called into the show to pledge their gifts, 60 – 70% of the money was raised in advance from local communities. These local UNCF campaigns were led by volunteers who were respected at the grass roots level – and at the highest levels – in the communities where they lived and worked. UNCF volunteers raised funds from churches, civic organizations, local businesses, families and individuals. All gifts were recognized publicly during the telethon. Local TV and radio stations invited leaders and every-day folk to make their gifts on air. Some local gifts were announced on the national show. The anticipation of being publicly recognized and acknowledged in front friends, neighbors and co-workers helped stimulate giving and ongoing involvement.

The one-day telethon was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning, preparation, training and follow up. The fundraising was non-stop – and there was never be enough staff. We learned how to depend on and trust volunteers in local communities. We focused our efforts on training and preparing these volunteers, and made it a high priority to recognize and acknowledge their work.

Finding the right volunteers was at the heart of all our local campaigns. Cities such as San Antonio, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Phoenix, Portland (OR), and Omaha operated volunteer-led campaigns without the day-to-day support of local staff. All were successful in creating a buzz for UNCF and the telethon. San Antonio in particular extended that buzz beyond the black community and engaged large numbers of Hispanic volunteers and donors. Cities with a UNCF office such as New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Miami had local and regional responsibilities. Staff were charged with managing the local production of the telethon as well as implementing the volunteer-led fundraising plan.

The number one thing that made a difference in the telethon’s success was the power and impact of qualified, committed and trained local volunteers – including those from Memphis. UNCF’s commitment to localized fundraising kept people giving, year-after-year.

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

THE ROLE OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: Benefits of Using a Business Plan

Part three of three

Dr. Jan Young

Dr. Jan Young

In our last two posts, we’ve shared with you the wisdom of Dr. Jan Young, executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, about the development of business plans for non-profits. Here, we asked her to provide examples of how a business plan can impact an organization’s success.

Jan told us the story of an organization that “was limited in spite of successful outcomes serving individuals with significant needs in a challenging environment. Although they have a charismatic leader, diligent board and a clear focus on their mission, it was difficult to inspire donors to make the substantial investments necessary for growth.”

Seed MoneySo, the group decided to create a business plan. “After completing their plan and being able to explain their various programs and services with greater clarity, they were able to get some seed funds for an ambitious effort to expand their services,” she said. “After demonstrating their ability to implement the initial phases of their business plan, they have successfully attracted other funders and have been able to leverage investments made in their collaborative partnerships.”

Jan also shared how the absence of a business plan contributed to the demise of another organization, which had “lost sight of its mission, started chasing money even when grant conditions conflicted and created costs beyond what the grants and fundraising would cover. Funds were inappropriately allocated, they lost credibility with funders, deceived board members, and they no longer exist,” she said.

“Although there were obviously things other than the absence of a business plan that led to this outcome, a review of the plan with the budget may have alerted board members earlier about the obvious discrepancies between what they were being told and what was actually happening at the organization,” she said.

Jan, who received a doctorate of nursing science from the University of Tennessee, has enjoyed a distinguished career in education, health care, the military and philanthropy, and she offers a unique perspective on some of the challenges facing non-profits. “One of the nuns I worked with in the past used to say, ‘No margin, no mission,’” she said.

In other words, “Passion and sheer force of will is rarely sustainable over time. Finite resources are a reality. Sometimes we must make tough choices about a priority. If something has value only to one person or a small group but is not perceived to have equivalent value by others or even the people being served, that becomes a situation of service to self rather than service to others,” she said.

Jan recommends several resources, including the Alliance for NonProfit Excellence, the National Council of Nonprofits,  the Free Management Library, and BridgeSpan.

To learn more about the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, visit

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


Part two of three

Dr. Jan Young

Dr. Jan Young

Previously, Dr. Jan Young explained how creating a business plan can help non-profit organizations assess their capacity, strategy and potential funding sources. Here she discusses the basics of creating a plan.

In her role as executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Jan oversees philanthropic activities, management, community relations, and strategic direction, and has reviewed countless grant applications. She revealed that one component of a successful application is a budget that matches with an organization’s objectives and capacity. A well-developed business plan can help organizations achieve such cohesion.

According to Jan, a business plan should be the work of an organization’s executive team and board. It should include input from internal stakeholders across the organization. The plan may cover any period of time the organization chooses, but “it should be reviewed on an ongoing basis and revised as necessary. Most cover three to five years. The plan should be a dynamic tool that informs and guides their work and progress,” she said.

We know that the process of creating a business plan can feel overwhelming in light of all the responsibilities an organization faces each day. The amount of time it takes for a non-profit to create a plan depends on how long it takes to complete an assessment of the organization’s ability to deliver services and raise funds, its current and future role in the community, and its overall goals.

“The number of pages depends on the scope and complexity of the organization’s mission,” said Jan. “Keep it simple. One size does not fit all. There are actually one-page templates that some have found helpful, and a book written on one-page business plans for non-profits. The length is less important than the quality. And the quality is sometimes less important than the conscious, deliberate use of the plan.”

We also wanted to learn Jan’s thoughts on the role of the board when it comes to implementation. For example, does the board take on a different role when an organization is working from a business plan?

“The board is accountable for governance, counsel, and has a key fundraising role. When operating from a business plan (properly written), they can more easily help the executive director and staff revise strategies and make the decisions necessary to assure the mission can be supported,” said Jan. “Sometimes the discussions can become more objective in nature. While passion for the work is important, emotional support alone cannot sustain the organization’s staff to effectively accomplish the mission.”

Next, Dr. Jan Young discusses the benefits of using a business plan.

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

THE ROLE OF THE BUSINESS PLAN: An Interview with Dr. Jan Young

Part one of three

Dr. Jan Young

One of the prerequisites for fundraising success is a fund development or fundraising plan that is tied to an organization’s strategic plan. While strategic planning has a long history within the non-profit sector, some organizations are now choosing to work from a business plan. Wanting to learn more, we reached out to Dr. Jan Young, executive director of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, a health care legacy foundation that has awarded more than $150 million in grants.

A strong advocate of working from a business plan, Jan believes that “strategy without resources is a wish.” When reviewing grant applications, she has found many budgets incongruent with the goals, objectives or capacity of the organizations. “In basic terms, the math doesn’t work,” she said.

Working from a business plan can help an organization focus its resources, build toward sustainability and support successful fundraising. A business plan requires an organization to engage in the important task of assessing its capacity to deliver services (and raise funds!), as well as assessing the environment in which it works and the extent to which the services (or advocacy) it offers are needed.

But, we tend to hear more about strategic planning in the non-profit sector, and business planning for the private sector. Asked about the difference between the two, Jan explained, “Here’s what we typically see: Strategic plans have a greater focus on direction and tactics, and business plans have a greater focus on specific necessary resources, primarily sources and uses of funds, and sustainability.”

Over the years we have noticed that many strategic plans do not take into consideration where the money for the work will come from. Often we are brought in to help secure funds for priorities that have not been vetted by the appropriate individuals, foundations or granting agencies.

Jan recommended a correctly done assessment as one way to evaluate potential funding. Ask questions such as: What is the need? Who else is providing the same or similar services? What are the opportunities and challenges? To whom does it matter? (What is your value proposition?) If the non-profit ceased to exist tomorrow, would anyone notice?

Jan also suggested taking the time to address basic organizational questions. “In the simplest terms: Can the organization clearly state what it wants to do?” she asked. “What strategies does it wish to implement to achieve what it wants to do? Does it have the resources and assets such as people, time, facilities or equipment, partnerships and funding to implement the strategies? Can the organization define how it will know if it is making progress toward its goals? What will success look like?”

Next, Dr. Jan Young discusses how to create a business plan.

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

Marketing Your Organization: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Creating Your Case for Support

If fundraising is about asking people to financially support your organization, how do you respond when you are asked what the money will be used for? Can you succinctly communicate the quantitative impact your organization makes, how many people it serves, and how the organization’s programs relate to its mission? What if you are asked “What’s in it for me?” The answers to all these questions – and more! – should be contained within your “case for support.”

When asking others to financially support your organization or institution you need to be able to clearly communicate why someone should give and what impact their gift will make. This is called making your “case for support.” You need to be able to proactively answer questions a donor, funder, or sponsor may have in a clear and concise manner. You should be consistent whether you “make the case” verbally or in writing. Inconsistency is a red flag that signals you have not clearly defined your goals, costs, and projected outcomes.

Some organizations believe their “cause” is worthy in and of itself. No one questions that money is needed for scholarships, healthcare, providing services that break the cycles of homelessness, poverty or violence. But how do you answer when someone asks “what specifically does your organization do with my money?” For example, if funds go to scholarships, do you know how many were awarded last year, what the average size was, and selection criteria used? Do you know if scholarship recipients remain in contact with your organization, or if you provide support other than scholarships to help ensure students’ success? If your organization provides social services, do you know how many people are served? What types of services they receive and for what period of time? Can you, for example, state what it costs to provide healthcare access to one individual or one family, or how many families are currently served and how many could be served with increased funds?

If these sound like questions no one will ask, don’t worry – they will be asked. It’s just a matter of when. If you are not asked at first you will be eventually – perhaps at the time and place you most don’t want to be put on the spot. Don’t be caught unprepared!

Your case for support should contain the following four components:

  1. A short history of your organization
  2. The current status of your organization and its accomplishments
  3. Your vision for the future
  4. What will it cost to implement your vision

This should be done in a short and concise document. The emphasis should be on your vision for the future and what it will cost to bring that vision to life.

Answering questions about your organization

Raising money requires a clear, concise and compelling statement that communicates where your organization wants to be in three-to-five years and what it will cost to get there. It should resonate with your prospective donors; create excitement, a desire to be affiliated with the organization; and most importantly, it needs to stimulate giving. Because there are so many worthy causes for people to give their time, money and resources to, your case needs to show how your organization or institution is unique, how the need you address is critical, and how a donor’s involvement will make a difference.

The case for support is not a literary piece – it is a sales and marketing document that clearly and concisely communicates what you are selling, why someone should give and what the impact of their gift will be. It is rooted in the organization’s mission, reflects its values and place in the market, and is based on financial projections.

Depending on the size and complexity of your organization this document should be from one-to-two pages. It should be written using easy-to-understand language, and should not include any abbreviations that are not spelled out. It should answer the following questions:

  1. What are you raising money for?
  2. Why are these funds needed?
  3. How will the money be used?
  4. What is your organization’s mission?
  5. What need does your organization address?
  6. How does it address it?
  7. Who do you serve or advocate for?
  8. What is your history?
  9. Why should an individual, foundation or business provide financial support?
  10. What is unique about your organization?
  11. What are you seeking to accomplish? This year? Over three years? Five years?
  12. What are your quantifiable successes?
  13. How is the organization qualified to deliver on its mission?
  14. What makes the organization competent and fiscally sound?
  15. What are the staff’s qualifications?
  16. Who are your board members?
  17. How does giving to your organization provide a donor, funder, or sponsor with “value?”
    1. What are the benefits of providing financial support?
    2. How are donors recognized for their financial and in-kind support?
    3. What are the “intangible” benefits? For example, being part of a community of like-minded individuals; alignment with spiritual or political values?

While the above is a long list of questions the document should be short – no more than one-to-two pages.

Once prepared, the case for support should serve as the primary set of talking points so that your message is communicated consistently by everyone who represents your organization. It is important that people hear and read the same case from diverse sources. Use your case for support when preparing proposals, talking with donors, creating direct mail appeals, updating your website, writing press releases, or making a speech.

© 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.

To Hire or to Plan? Which Comes First?

Organizations often face a dilemma about fundraising: which should we do first – hire development staff or create a fund development plan? We believe that creating a development plan should come before hiring development staff. The high demand for experienced fund development professionals requires you to be strategic in recruiting and retaining staff. Competition for the philanthropic dollar requires you to be proactive in developing and implementing fundraising strategies. A well-prepared fund development plan supports both strategic recruitment and proactive fundraising.

Let’s talk about recruitment first. Successful recruitment within a competitive market requires that you define your expectations regarding the position you are hiring for. Larger institutions typically have well-defined job descriptions based on industry standards, but recruiting based on these doesn’t necessarily ensure you will make the right hire. You need to know what your organization seeks to accomplish and what fund development skills will be required. Your fund development plan should contain this information as well as roles and responsibilities to use when creating job descriptions, recruiting, interviewing and hiring.

When recruiting development staff you want to interview professionals with the skills and experience required to implement your plan. Recruiting and hiring using your fund development plan allows you – or the recruiter you are using – to create a more qualified applicant pool because you have explicitly defined the skill set and experience you need. Doing so also allows you to reduce the learning curve of a new hire as the plan provides a roadmap that clearly communicates the organization’s fundraising goals, methods, timelines, and processes for engaging volunteers.

Recruiting development staff with the expectation that they will create and implement a development plan limits the pool of qualified applicants because not every fundraiser knows how to create a fund development plan. In fact, if you hire someone with the skills to create a strong plan you may not be hiring someone with the skills required to implement the plan. Most importantly asking a new hire to create a plan may mean that the plan is based on the skill set of your hire instead of the method of fundraising that is best for your organization.

Fund development plans – like strategic plans – are typically developed by consultants who specialize in planning. These plans are rooted in market research – called assessment and feasibility studies – and are specifically designed to take advantage of an institution’s strengths and help overcome challenges that impede giving. The skills and experience required to create a detailed fund development plan are different from those required to implement specific aspects of the plan. Hiring an individual with a strong background in major gifts or special events should increase giving from those areas. Such individuals however do not necessarily have the skill set to create a comprehensive fund development plan that guides all aspects of an organization’s fund development and fundraising.

That’s why we recommend creating a fund development plan before recruiting new or additional staff.

Searching for the right hire

When you need to increase your fundraising you may be tempted to hire new or additional personnel as quickly as possible. If your organization is working from a fundraising plan you have a tool to help you evaluate what type of hire you will need to make to achieve your goals. If you are not yet working from a fundraising plan, we always recommend creating a fundraising plan before you make another hire. Our experience has shown that organizations are best served when recruitment and hiring decisions are based on a strategic fund development plan. It is hard to evaluate whether or not an individual can do the job if you don’t know exactly what it is that you want to accomplish! A fund development plan clarifies your goals to you and your potential hire, thereby reducing possible misunderstandings and mistakes in the hiring process.

But creating a fund development plan requires a specific skill set. Because of this many organizations contract with consultants to create a customized plan that employs fundraising methods that best fit the culture, mission, region and relationships of your organization. Once created your plan should serve as a multi-year roadmap that guides the work of board members, staff, and volunteers. It should include detailed roles and responsibilities for all individuals engaged in fundraising. This helps ensure that all parties know what is required of them. Your plan should also include criteria for evaluating staff so that expectations about their time and use of resources are clear.

Using your fund development plan in the hiring process also gives candidates an opportunity to determine whether or not they are the right person for a position. As you are looking to hire staff, development professionals out there are doing their own search for a good fit with an organization. A development professional needs to know that the organization that she or he is joining has the ability and commitment to use their skills and experience. They also need to know that you have allocated the resources required to implement your plan.

Once hired a professional can quickly become productive because the plan serves as a roadmap to guide fundraising activities. She knows what needs to be accomplished and can get to work using her skills and experience. Because a well-crafted fund development plan contains roles, responsibilities and timelines the work of staff can be evaluated throughout the year. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to measure success based solely on financial results. Adjustments can be made mid-course if needed.

But a development plan it should not stifle a professional’s creativity. Staff should add their input and make adjustments based on experience and insight – so long as they don’t compromise the plan’s integrity. Remember – you have made an investment in the plan and it should not be reinvented with each new hire.

These are a few reasons why we recommend creating a fund development plan before recruiting new or additional staff.

© 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.

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