Whether you are an NGO seeking funding for your programs, or a social entrepreneur exploring ways to scale your latest concept, fundraising can seem daunting. Even the most experienced fundraisers question their approaches from time to time. Certainly the donor landscape is evolving, and with resources and priorities shifting, opportunities for funding can seem limited. With the right focus, preparation and foresight, fundraising need not be overwhelming. I often whittle down the process in 4 simple steps for my clients. Try these yourself and you can be well on your way to scaling your programs and impacting your stakeholders in the most positive ways.
First and foremost, identify your aims. Make your goals clear and concicse. I am not talking about dollar goals or even prospects. I am talking about what you hope to gain from your fundraising effort. Who will benefit? How and why? What does the world look like after you have completed your fundraising? Prioritize 1-3 big picture goals and include 4-5 activities that you plan to undertake within each goal so your donor audience knows exactly what options there are for fund dispensing. This allows you to be proactive and targeted in your prospecting. This process also ensures that you stay focused and not reactive. The worst type of fundraising is that in which you accept unallocated dollars and try to ‘make something happen.’ In every one of my experiences this is where fundraising fails.
Second, build your prospect list based entirely on your 1-3 big goals. Which donors are apt to fund programs that match your end game? Do not limit yourself to big, government donors, or large well-known foundations. Consider corporate donors that have business interests that match your priorities. Think about crowd-funding or target smaller, family foundations that have specific strategies for managing their donor dollars. Think creatively and don’t box yourself in. Reach out to experts if you need help identifying the donor options for your programmatic needs.
Third, undertake a matching exercise. Connect your 1-3 goal priorities to programmatic priorities of each donor. Do not go outside of your script, unless the opportunity arises. Donors want to see you being focused and specific around what programs and activities that need and want funding. This process includes being clear on geographies, regions, communities, potential partners, opportunities for leverage, opportunities to utilize in-kind donations and understanding what a return looks like for a donor. By doing your homework, donors will be far more apt to fund your program than if you initiate too broad an ask.
Lastly, ask for help. It may seem counterintuitive to spend money to make money, but often times a fundraising effort cannot initiate itself. Having outside resources working on your behalf will save you time and money in the end. Consider connectors that can have conversations with high-net worth individuals on your behalf, or assign tasks to your Board if appropriate. Do not discount the role existing partners can play in seeking out funding for joint projects you have underway, or simply making introductions. Finding entry points and building relationships is one of the most critical elements of fundraising, and this takes time and the right approach which cannot be managed in a vacuum.
By following these 4 steps, your organization is well poised to be proactive and successful in fundraising and ultimately can deliver greater impact to the communities you serve.