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Going Beyond the Shot Gun Approach; 5 Tips for Optimizing Your Non-Profit’s Fundraising Efforts

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Going Beyond the Shot Gun Approach; 5 Tips for Optimizing Your Non-Profit’s Fundraising Efforts

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 23, 2010 Updated: April 30, 2012

Raising funds to support the philanthropic mission of any non-profit organization can be a time consuming chore often fraught with trial and error.

While splashy one-off fundraisers (otherwise known as 'episodic funding') can generate a large chunk of charitable change they can also consume much needed resources for months on end. At the other end of the spectrum, 'ongoing' fundraising tactics, while easier to execute, oftentimes don't generate the required financial rewards.

To succeed in fundraising, your non-profit must diversify its efforts to strike a balance between episodic and ongoing fundraising activities that ensures multiple streams of income for the medium and long term. This means having a long term plan.

Consider these five tips and tactics for optimizing your non-profit's fundraising activities:

1. Tell Your Story - Create a Case Statement

Much like a business elevator pitch (only longer), a case statement is a brief one or two page document that clearly informs potential donors about who you are and how their donations to your cause can make a positive difference. It is the story of your cause, and the part played by your donors to support that cause.

Your case statement is a useful tool for focusing your message and objective, particularly when communicating with new donors - especially those who have a history of philanthropy and know what they are looking for in terms of a compelling and emotional cause. It can also be plugged into campaign messaging and in-person solicitation efforts.

According to *Enterpreneur.com, your case statement should address why you are in business, what outcomes you anticipate, how your organization is different, how you intend to achieve your goals, and what major accomplishments your non-profit has achieved. It should also include the history, philosophy and financing basis of the organization.

2. Target Your Marketing - Start with your Network and an Understanding of its Motivation

Some very basic marketing planning can help you zoom in on the right donors and avoid a shot gun approach to your fundraising efforts.

Start by building a picture of your current personal network - your sphere of influence. This will likely include early volunteers or board members. Next, determine what it is about your cause (the motivator) that appeals to them and to their demographic. Using this profile data, develop a strategy for reaching other potential donors outside this early 'inner circle'.

The tactics you employ should be repeatable and reusable as your sphere of donors grows. Be sure to assess the success of your approach and re-visit your strategy frequently to ensure you are on track with your goals.

3. Write a Fundraising Campaign Plan

Assuming you have written a business plan for your non-profit, drill down one step further to develop a fundraising campaign plan for the year ahead. This is an invaluable exercise in ensuring your tactics are aligned with your goals as well as your available resources.

Be mindful of your target market as you write your plan - your best bet for securing funds from donors is to restrict your episodic fundraising activities to two to three campaigns per year. More than that and you risk alienating your supporters with too many contribution requests.

Don't forget to plan out your strategy for ongoing initiatives too - this will include everything from cause marketing activities to grant solicitations to maintaining newsletters, attending and exhibiting at events, and other brand-building activities.

(Read my earlier post - Tips for Finding the Right Blend of Funds for your Non-Profit - to get a picture of the role played by episodic funds and ongoing funds in your non-profit business plan).

4. Understand the Role of Social Media

From Facebook and Twitter to blogging, it's hard to ignore the potential of social media as a low cost tool to support the fundraising and outreach activities of non-profits. But take time to understand how it can fit with your goals and the time investment. And, develop a plan for implementation before you start any online dialog with your potential donors.

Read these three articles to get tips on your non-profit social media strategy:

5. Leverage the Resources of Other Non-Profits

Lastly, there are many resources to help non-profits achieve their fundraising and philanthropic goals, not least of which are those provided by other non-profits and government organizations (even those traditionally associated with for-profits such as the Small Business Administration and *SCORE).

*Idealist.org, for example, lets you register your non-profit and provides access to non-profit resources and information. You can even create your own Web page, seek volunteers and interns, advertise on the events page, network in forums, and more. They also offer in-person non-profit career fairs and other events to help organizations network and grow.

Traditional small business support groups such as SCORE are also a great resource to help non-profits start and grow. Find SCORE and other free in-person assistance for your non-profit here.

Additional Resources

Other resources that can help you in your fund-raising efforts, from sourcing funds to writing grant proposals, include the following:

  • Business.gov's Non-Profit Organization Start-up Guide - This site collects links to programs and services to help non-profits find opportunities available to them from the federal government including grants and financial assistance, tax information, government sales and surplus, and more.
  • *The Center for Non-Profit Success - Here you'll find training and resources to help non-profits succeed.
  • *Foundation Center - This is a non-profit that connects non-profits and grant makers. It also provides resources and advice for starting and managing a non-profit.
  • *Writing a Grant Proposal - From Summary to Budget
  • USA.gov for Non-Profits - This site is the online version of what many companies offering CFDA assistance services use to advise their clients. It is available for FREE to all who wish to reference it. It has specific information for non-profits divided into 3 sections: grants/loans, management/operations, and tax information.
  • *About.com Non-profit Portal - Covering everything from starting up, fundraising, and managing volunteers to marketing your non-profit, About.com's Non-Profit Guide is an invaluable and resource-rich Web portal.
  • *Non-profit Guides - This site provides free Web-based grant-writing tools for non-profit organizations, charitable and educational organizations, public organizations, and other community-minded groups.

*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government Web site.

Message Edited by CaronBeesley on 11-10-2009 07:52 AM

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

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While I agree with what Caron says in this article, I have to say that not all groups have the ability (or maybe better stated - the right people) to conduct a 'capital campaign' for donations that would raise them thousands or in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's been my experience that in the majority of school fundraising situations, especially public school fundraisers, that a capital campaign raises less money than a well run cookie dough fundraiser. Private schools and even public schools in upper income areas are exceptions, but by and large your average, everyday public elementarty or middle school will be better served with a product sale. It may be that with better coaching such as what Caron does, that could be turned around. ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.
While I agree with what Caron says in this article, I have to say that not all groups have the ability (or maybe better stated - the right people) to conduct a 'capital campaign' for donations that would raise them thousands or in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's been my experience that in the majority of school fundraising situations, especially public school fundraisers, that a capital campaign raises less money than a well run cookie dough fundraiser. Private schools and even public schools in upper income areas are exceptions, but by and large your average, everyday public elementarty or middle school will be better served with a product sale. It may be that with better coaching such as what Caron does, that could be turned around. ---This post was edited to remove a commercial link. Read our discussion policies for more Community best practices.
There are many resources on the net that can help non-profits better take advantage of Facebook, one example is this one from Tech Soup which has advice on promoting your cause on Facebook. Try to think of Facebook as another tool in your marketing strategy. As with all tactics, it will be more effective when you use it as part of a wider campaign. E.g. if you are hosting a fund rasing drive, be sure to promote it on Facebook. And don't let your content go stale, keep it fresh and relevant. Today it’s essential to be where your donors are; engaging with them in more active ways and nurturing a dialog that informs and builds a two-way relationship. Caron
I work with a couple of different non profits. You mentioned in your article that Facebook is a good place to put in some information and time. I have established a presence on Facebook, but I am not quite certain what else to do with it. Is there a site you can refer me to for helping me ramp up our Facebook page? And thats for all the great ideas!!
Thanks for the information! Diversity in fundraising, expecially in the economic climate we are facing as a nation today, is a key to keeping your activities funded. I have worked with a number of nonprofit organizations and each one seems to have to focus their fundrasing efforts differently. However, having a diverse fundraising plan ensures that they will be successful overall even if a particular part of the plan falls short of expectations.  With that said, be CREATIVE! Creativity will attract those who are interested in your cause, but may not have been intrigued enough by your organization to give. Show them that you are thinking of new and unique ways to effect change in the area that your organization works to influence. Typical fundraisers are just that, typical. In this environment where every dollar must be fought for, value and relevance must be shown. Showing a potential donor that your are innovative in your thinking and are tackling an issue in a way that no one has tried quite like this before, will add value to the work you are doing and create a more irresistable invitation for them to give. As Caron mentioned, social media is a great way to get creative with fundraising. It is also a great way to make your organization (not just your cause) relevant to a younger, more wired, generation. Making your organization relevant to each donor is important. This may be difficult to do with a large potential donor pool, however 'each donor' can be taken to mean 'types' of donors. By creating a profile of your target market, which Caron pointed out above, will allow you to hone in on the donors which in turn helps you to create relevance for them.  This article was very helpful for me and I have seen the principles in it work time and time again to bring innovative ideas into and organization and relevance to the donors. Thanks again for the information!
Thanks for the information! Diversity in fundraising, expecially in the economic climate we are facing as a nation today, is a key to keeping your activities funded. I have worked with a number of nonprofit organizations and each one seems to have to focus their fundrasing efforts differently. However, having a diverse fundraising plan ensures that they will be successful overall even if a particular part of the plan falls short of expectations.  With that said, be CREATIVE! Creativity will attract those who are interested in your cause, but may not have been intrigued enough by your organization to give. Show them that you are thinking of new and unique ways to effect change in the area that your organization works to influence. Typical fundraisers are just that, typical. In this environment where every dollar must be fought for, value and relevance must be shown. Showing a potential donor that your are innovative in your thinking and are tackling an issue in a way that no one has tried quite like this before, will add value to the work you are doing and create a more irresistable invitation for them to give. As Caron mentioned, social media is a great way to get creative with fundraising. It is also a great way to make your organization (not just your cause) relevant to a younger, more wired, generation. Making your organization relevant to each donor is important. This may be difficult to do with a large potential donor pool, however 'each donor' can be taken to mean 'types' of donors. By creating a profile of your target market, which Caron pointed out above, will allow you to hone in on the donors which in turn helps you to create relevance for them.  This article was very helpful for me and I have seen the principles in it work time and time again to bring innovative ideas into and organization and relevance to the donors. Thanks again for the information!

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