20 Things You Can Do Right Now for Better Fundraising in 2017
The next 60 days promise to be hectic. Holiday spirit, tax planning and general procrastination collide at this time of year to create a perfect storm for nonprofit fundraisers. Charities need to embark on an all-out effort toward better fundraising to ensure the maximum amount of dollars flow to their cause. But this should not be at the expense of laying the groundwork to ensure success in the New Year.
Below are 20 suggestions for things you can do right now to help ensure success next year and long into the future. Few, if any, development departments have the bandwidth or need to pursue all 20. My best advice is to focus on the two or three your team can pursue successfully—those that will have the greatest impact on your specific program.
The suggested tips are organized according to the four pillars of fundraising, on which all successful fundraising campaigns are built:
- Case: The compelling rationale for investing in your nonprofit that appeals to both the head (via metrics) and heart (via stories).
- Leadership: The professional and volunteer leaders that set your strategic direction, bring potential donors to the table.
- Prospects/Donors: Your current philanthropic investors and those most likely to join their ranks.
- Systems: The processes and plans that serve as the oil of your fundraising machinery.
The best strategies for your organization will depend on the status of your current fundraising efforts and the resources you have available.
1. Ensure that your case for support is aligned to your strategic plan and is understood and easily articulated by your board and staff. Equip them with “sound bites” to help them become more effective evangelists for your cause.
2. You are not the intended audience for your case. Test it with current and prospective donors.
3. Incorporate both data and stories into your case for support. Define your intended outcomes and how you plan to make these happen, and then quantify your progress. Include stories that illustrate these outcomes in real and relatable instances.
4. Ensure board recruitment is an ongoing and disciplined process. Securing new board members committed to giving and getting funds is a strategy that will deliver a direct return on the investment of time spent.
5. Create an active development committee focused exclusively on partnering with staff to identify prospects and raise funds. Have a respected and engaged member of your board lead the committee. Better a small, nimble committee that gets things done, than a large one paralyzed by bureaucracy and the need for regular formal meetings.
6. Update or create board roles and responsibilities that include a specific target for personal giving and fundraising (give/get).
7. Publicize board members’ personal giving by category, to encourage individuals at the lower giving end to increase their giving to align with their peers.
8. Institute term limits on your board and create an active succession plan for its leadership. This will ensure the ongoing recruitment of new board members necessary to continue to fill the fundraising pipeline.
9. Have dedicated "sphere of influence" conversations with key board members to identify individuals and institutions within their networks that they can introduce to your work.
10. Review the donor lists of organizations comparable in mission and/or geography to you, and identify strategies to reach out to donors invested in their work but not yours.
11. Create a wish list of companies, individuals and foundations you would like to target, and circulate it regularly to your board members to identify potential points of contact.
12. Visit your top donors just to say thank you. Resist the temptation to ask for more money or introductions! Visiting without hat in hand will help to ensure your 2017 solicitation will be well received.
13. Hold an intimate event for your donors to express your gratitude and provide an opportunity to interact and receive updates from your leadership.
14. Hold a leadership briefing event that provides a venue for your board members and other stakeholders to invite their friends, at no cost to them, to learn more about your nonprofit. This will create deeper connections than simply soliciting for a ticketed event and, if done well, can significantly grow your 2017 pipeline. It is also an easy way for board members to access their networks on your behalf. They are inviting their friends to learn more about something important to them, not soliciting them for funds. (Yet.)
15. Invite your direct response donors to see how their dollars are being spent by visiting a program in action.
16. Create a dashboard with key performance indicators for fundraising, and utilize it to manage your team and report progress and activity to the board. Include objectives like total funds raised with comparative prior-year data, as well as leading indicators like pipeline value and donor meetings.
17. Actively use a moves management process for current and prospective major donors.
18. Instill the discipline of creating and circulating meeting reports after donor visits. It is good to have the data from a historic perspective, and sharing it with your team can prompt additional ideas and thoughts for that donor and others.
19. Create a strategy to capture donor email addresses.
20. Create a donor communications plan segmented by audience.
The new year will be here before we know it. Lay the groundwork now to ensure it's your most successful fundraising year yet.
Craig Shelley (@craigshelley) is a managing director at Orr Group, which provides nonprofits with strategy, fundraising, leadership and management solutions and has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Craig brings an entrepreneurial approach to fundraising, nonprofit management and strategy. Prior to joining Orr Group, Craig served in a variety of positions with the Boy Scouts of America, most recently as the national director of development and corporate alliances. He serves on the executive committee of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ New York City Chapter and the editorial advisory board for Nonprofit PRO, and is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE).