ParentClick Santa Barbara

Fundraising tips to ensure success


Keep your eyes on the prize! I live in a town with over two hundred non-profits. The majority of mail in my postbox every day is a request to give financially to some organization or another. Today I went to three back-to-back meetings before my workday started. Two of them involved fundraising with very specific goals. Both are organizations I care about.

While I am by no means an expert, I have been around fundraising enough to have a sense of what works, or, at the very least, what resonates when I am at an event or solicited for support. Many parents find themselves involved in fundraising out of a desire to support their children’s schools. I am biased, but I believe that education is one of the most worthy areas of fundraising and fully support these parents and their efforts! Schools cannot do it alone.

8 tips to ensure success… Here are a few ideas that might be worth keeping in mind when you are tasked with fundraising…

1. Make it personal – When fundraising is about something near and dear to the donor’s heart, it is more effective. Bringing fundraising to a personal level—moving, personal stories, personal art projects for sale, personally reaching out with a handwritten note,  a personal face-to-face ask, or a friendly phone call—makes a huge difference.

If a gift is given, a personal thank you is not an option. It is an absolute necessity. Organizations who give need to be thanked in as many ways as possible: notes, programs, newsletters, etc. Community members should be reminded to express appreciation in person if they visit that organization on their own.

2. Make it specific and measurable – Specific goals get competitive juices flowing. Let people know what the goals are and what the specific rewards will be for achieving those goals will be at a fundraising kick-off event. I was once a part of a campaign that had the unglamorous job of raising money to extend an underground sewage pipeline. We let donors know that $100.00 dollars would buy X feet of pipeline. We made the goal specific and measurable. People liked our realistic goals and responded. We got the pipeline funded foot by foot. The toughest money to raise is for operating expenses, but even these expenses can be broken down into measurable pieces. A hundred dollars keeps lights on and pays for heating. Break it down into terms everyone can understand and relate to.

3. Make it new – Fundraising can quickly become white noise if it is not creative and new. People do not intentionally ignore campaigns; they stop seeing and hearing them. Think of creative ways to reach your donors. I was once a part of a fundraiser that sent a message in a bottle to potential donors (with great success.) I was also a part of a “Phantom Ball” in which the surprise “event” was not going to yet another fundraiser… there was no party! Every penny raised went to the non-profit. Be creative. Know your donor and surprise and delight them.

4. Make it fun – I am sure the terms “funraising” and “friendraising” will get a rolled eye or two. Fair enough. They are overused terms; but if fundraising is not fun, if you are not making new friends, if you are not excited about it, it’s hard to have the positive energy a fundraising campaign needs to be successful. Make it really, really fun… parties, social get-togethers… Fundraising is a fully caffeinated sport.

5. Make it short – Long, drawn out campaigns cause donor fatigue and leave gracious volunteers tapped out and reluctant to volunteer again. Keeping a fundraiser short in duration is good for the organization. Keeping the number of fundraisers to an absolute minimum is also important. If people learn that they are going to be continuously asked for money, they loose sight of what is important and have a harder time setting priorities for giving. They can even think that the money they have given is never enough and become discouraged from giving at all.

And another thought on the “make it short” point. Keep language powerful and minimal. No one will read a heartfelt 3 page letter (unless it is handwritten) so think hard about the language and message of the campaign. This takes more planning and more discipline. The best fundraising events involve a lot of planning and hard work ahead of time that no one will ever see or hear about. The event itself should be short and to the point.

6. Make it strategic – Recruit community influencers to work on the campaign. Focus on a few individual donors who are truly devoted to the cause, willing to talk about it, and willing to get the ball rolling. We all know that a party is not a party… until it’s a party. You need friends you can count on to arrive early and get the party started.

7. Make it matter – Nothing sews seeds for future giving like results. Once the money has been raised, delivery on the promise is crucial. Celebrate fundraising achievements in a big way in your community: ribbon cuttings, principals shaving their heads or kissing pigs… whatever was promised, needs to happen, and it needs to happen in a fun and celebratory way. Fundraisers’ jobs are not finished until this happens.

8. Make it for everyone – Small gifts move mountains. There is no shame in a small gift and every gift should be celebrated. I have been especially moved when children give to a cause. To see a child make a gift from the proceeds of a lemonade stand, or when donations are asked for in lieu of birthday gifts, is a reminder that there are young people out there who have the potential to make the future brighter. There is no gift more meaningful and these young people should be celebrated and honored by adult fundraisers and the organization.

Fundraising is not easy, especially when there is so much competition for dollars, but it is a worthy effort. Good luck and keep your eyes on the prize.

[AUTHOR: Hilary Doubleday]

February 5, 2015

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One comment

  1. Julie London says:

    I have been a local fundraising consultant on the Central Coast for the past 21 years. I work with schools and non-profits, and offer a variety of product sales programs.

    I was wondering if there could be some connnection to my services and an upcoming article? Can you provide information on advertising as well?

    Julie London