Fundraising doesn’t have to be complicated, but a simple Google search of “fundraising ideas” will yield myriad results that may convince you otherwise. While fundraising execution is different for every school or organization, the things that comprise the foundation of a good campaign will be the same. As a fundraiser your many responsibilities will tend to fall into four buckets: awareness, education, engagement, and stewardship. If each of these buckets is adequately filled, you’re probably seeing the results that you’re after. If there’s an uneven balance, perhaps you need to be following these principles more closely. Let’s take a look:
Bringing awareness to your organization is the first step in being able to start building an audience of interested participants that will eventually become donors. People may be aware of the causes your organization addresses, but you may not have the name recognition to match. Developing a basic marketing strategy to bring awareness to who you are and why you exist will help you start to get your share of the audience. Consider who your ideal constituent is, then target them with relevant messaging across a variety of channels. Most social media networks have an advertising feature that allows you to segment your audience based on geographic location, industry, personal interest, and demographics. Not a bad place to start.
Bonus tip: For some, this step may be making people aware of the ways to get involved or to support your school or organization.
Educating audiences about not just who you are and what you do, but rather why your organization matters, is a crucial step that must not be taken lightly. This element of your fundraising foundation is two fold as you must educated new and relatively unaware audiences about you; but you may also need to re-educate existing audiences if there are misconceptions about your organization to overcome or if there’s been a change in your mission’s trajectory. There must be a consistently communicated and understood perception about your organization among these groups if you want to successfully generate support from them. A great way to educate people about your organization is to host free events (friendraisers) where they can learn about your programs, meet your team or other donors as well as the people who benefit from your work. Putting a face to the work lifts the veil and can help legitimize your organization.
The word “engagement” on its own can be vague, so keep in mind that in this case we are referring to an organization providing a variety of ways for interested people to engage with them. Many nonprofits jump from zero to 60 by possessing a myopic view of their audience that simply expects or equates support with money. Particularly if you’re in the courting phase of relationship building, your goal should be to keep people interested. Try to get people to come to events (where they’ll continue to learn more about you) or to volunteer (where they’ll get a better sense of who you serve and the impact their support has). Creating opportunities for interested members of your constituency to have a positive experience sets them out on the pathway to an eventual donation.
Stewarding supporters is important because it’s the first step in establishing loyalty. Communicating with your donors about how they’re making a difference and about the new things you’re able to do as a result of their support demonstrates that you don’t just want to talk when you need something. Make sure that your supporters are included in the celebration of your success and feel as though they’re an extension of your organization. When donors feel valued, they’re more inclined to share information about your organization or get friends and family involved; thereby expanding your audience and generating the potential for additional support. Do not overlook this step or make it an afterthought. Have an annual stewardship plan in place before you start soliciting so that it feels not just meaningful, but intentional.
The Wrap Up
A good foundation is the start to a great fundraising campaign. Before you begin any fundraising effort, return to the drawing board and cover these four steps. As the giving landscape changes, it’s crucial that organizations remain agile and relevant.
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