I was waiting in line at the car wash when a friend asked for some help with fundraising. I spent five years in the non-profit sector as a fundraiser, so I am happy to share that experience. Over the course of the conversation, I told her to set a dollar goal for fundraising for the year. She commented that she hadn't thought of that. When it comes to fundraising you want all the money in the world, right? You want to have unlimited resources to serve the people in your community. But you need to feel a sense of accomplishment as you're working hard on different projects. The same is true no matter what you're doing. I like to know how many pages are in the book I'm reading so that I feel that I'm making progress. I'm a bit of a math nerd, so I do the math to figure out what percentage of the book I've finished. Nerdy, I know. Here are three easy steps you can take with fundraising (or any project you're tackling) to set yourself up for success:
- Set a Goal. Make it specific. Replace "We want to raise money for our organization," with "We want to raise $10,000 by December 31st." When I was working in public radio, the fundraising team had an ongoing conversation about ending the on-air campaign if we hit the goal. What if we hit the goal early? Some thought that we should stop fundraising, other wanted to ride the wave and exceed the goal. I see both sides, and I tend toward the side of continuing to raise funds but changing the message. Move on to the next goal you set and start communicating that goal.
- Communicate the Vision. People who give to your cause want to know that you're going to be around for a while -- that their investment has a long-term effect. Most donors give less than they are financially able to test the waters with the organization, kind of a "let's see what you do with a little and then I'll decide to give more later." So take care of your first-time donors. Tell them what they're gift is accomplishing toward the current goal and also what it's doing for the long-term vision. When you take care of your donors, they will increase their gifts over time, become volunteers, and tell their friends and family about how great you are...which translates into new givers. Take the $10,000 example above. Let's say you hit the goal a month early, and you now have the entire month of December. Your vision will help you decide what to do next because you can move to the next part of your vision and act in line with your vision.
- Recruit a team. All fundraising projects take many heads, hearts and hands to be successful. You may be the best coordinator your organization has seen, but you can't possibly do everything, especially for events. Find people who are skilled in areas different than you. A lot of visionary people are gifted at seeing the big picture, but struggle with organization and execution. You need extroverts to make phone calls and welcome people to your event. You need go-getters to ask for freebies. Assemble a great team, trust them and empower them to excel.
Fundraising can be a lot of fun if you have these three elements working well together. It can be a headache if these things are out of balance. Goal + Vision + Team = A Great Start. You got this.