You Asked—Fundraising Questions Answered
If you are starting from scratch or rebuilding a decimated donor file, make sure you build your solid foundation first. That's usually something that involves a lot of donors giving smaller amounts more often—in other words, something that will provide a steady cash flow. This is often direct mail and e-appeals, newsletters (that inform and raise money) and hopefully a loyal monthly donor program. Once you have a foundation that is strong enough to allow you to keep going month after month, meeting obligations and having impact, you can start adding the additional stories to your fundraising structure—major gifts, planned giving, social media, etc.
Sound backwards to you? Well, I've found that unless you have that steady flow of income, it's hard to start something new and be able to stick with it long enough to allow it to mature and become a wonderful source of income. And, without that steady source of income, it's hard to expend a lot of resources on things that are nice but aren't bringing in money. Having 10,000 friends on Facebook is great, but unless you have donors as well, you won't be able to thrive, let alone survive.
I'm sure if you asked these same questions to 10 other fundraisers, you'd get 10 different sets of answers. This old dog knows that one of the challenges in fundraising is that it's not formulaic; one size does not fit all. But I also know that you have to spend money to raise money—and that often means focusing on the hard, un-sexy parts of fundraising until you have a solid enough base to add in some of the more exciting, transformational efforts. There really is no shortcut to growing the funding base of a nonprofit; it is hard work and you'll fail from time to time, but the rewards of growing a loyal donor file—and of finding that next great fundraising tool for your nonprofit—can be great.