Fundraising – it’s not ‘what’ you know

Here in Northern Ireland we have a saying

Its not what you know but who you know that counts….

and this is at the heart of a good fundraising strategy but often overlooked.  When talking to charitable boards and volunteers they will say in response that “oh I don’t know anyone I could ask to help” and yet with further gentle prompting I will hear ” my son-in-law works there” or “I went to school with them”.

A voluntary committee in their enthusiasm may first think of holding public fundraising events or sending lots of letters asking for financial support to people they don’t know personally.  While yes this is part of the fundraising mix there are a few vital steps that need to be completed first. Here are our top ten:

  1. Determine how much money do you need and why?  Prepare the why as a succinct but compelling ‘ask’ and test it to see if people quickly understand the need and importantly what will happen if not supported. (don’t be tempted to test this on friends or family – they may well tell you what they think you want to hear).
  2. Write out a full budget and don’t be tempted to be optimistic on income and costs – better to know the full picture than start with lower funding and then be unable to complete and disappoint.
  3. Examine the budget, does it all need to be hard cash or are there services or goods that corporate donors could provide?  For some businesses a gift in kind can be an easier ask.
  4. Be clear about the funding target and divide it into a realistic timeline. You should celebrate every milestone you reach and say a big thank you to your donors. Make them feel appreciated.
  5. Accept that it is very unlikely that all of the money will come from one source. Occasionally charities or community groups find a major donor or trust funder that covers the majority but rarely all costs.  So do your research on the funding criteria or interests and apply only for the appropriate project costs.  For example some will not cover salary costs.
  6. Then map out ‘who’ you know using the committee networks and think of who your supporters and advocates are. Start with passing round a shared wishlist and see who has a connection to anyone on it. With your new compelling ‘ask’ it will be easier to ask them to suggest people you should contact to explore income opportunities.
  7. The who you know includes other organisations where you have links.  Would they be willing to host a fundraising event with their members/supporters such as a pub quiz or family event and raise money for your project? Much easier to piggy back than to host an event from scratch with no guarantee of good attendance but potentially lots of costs regardless.
  8. Think about your volunteers – would they be willing to donate a small amount every month tax effectively?  This is an excellent source as it is unrestricted money, meaning it can be used in the furtherance of your charitable aims rather than being tied to a particular expense. A smaller regular gift aided amount is always preferable to repeatedly asking them for cash donations when they donate their time already.
  9. Don’t rush to fill in online trust applications – read the criteria carefully and pick up the phone.  It is amazing how many groups apply first and then find out they are not eligible to be considered.  It can be a long and time consuming process to apply so seek advice first.
  10. Plan how you will get your message out there and how you will communicate with existing and new donors to keep their interest. Make sure one of your volunteer committee or staff understands and takes responsibility for data compliance and how to make the most of your social media.

This is the tip of the fundraising iceberg but a good solid start, remember people give to people not posters, letters, or websites.  Put yourself in their shoes, what is the motivation for them to get involved and part with their hard earned cash?

So it is always preferable to use your collective network to get a personally endorsed introduction to a person in a company/organisation so you can meet informally, listen to what they are wanting to support and hopefully find that common goal.

Need help with your fundraising planning and who you know?  Get in touch and remember the first two hours are absolutely free.

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