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5 Fire Starters for Fundraising

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Whether you are part of a startup nonprofit or an organization celebrating its 25th anniversary, there is no time like the present to ignite your fundraising efforts by knowing these five fire starters.

If you can articulate the first two in three minutes or less, then you are well on your way to on-fire results in your fundraising efforts! This will take some work and may be frustrating at times, but the results will burn hot!

1. Know Your Impact 

Please don’t gloss over this one. Everyone thinks they know their organization’s impact. But can you articulate your mission and how you are changing lives in the community in 60 seconds or less? The average attention span of an adult is as short as nine seconds! The days of long case statements are over!

Here is an example of a concise statement about an organization’s impact:

“Our organization runs after school programs for at risk youth in our city. We serve over 500 kids per year and address their needs holistically with a creative curriculum, mentoring programs, and family engagement nights. We work in seven locations and have over fifty staff people.”

This is part of the classic “elevator speech” but you would be surprised how many leaders in organizations cannot state their impact clearly and concisely.

You are in the business of changing lives! The only way to scale your life changing work is by expanding your reach and raising more money. If you want to raise more money, your impact statement needs to be rock solid.

When you state your impact clearly and concisely, people may choose not to give to your organization. But your impact statement should leave no room for argument about the worthiness of your organization’s mission.

Make sure everyone in your organization can state your impact in 3-4 sentences. Walking through an exercise with ALL of your employees to make sure they understand your impact and can recite it in 60 seconds is well worth the effort.

2. Know Your Future

You don’t have a crystal ball — I get it. But you should know where you are headed. Realizing your goals means seeing your future as you want it to be and then making it happen.  This is true for individuals and for organizations. Once the vision is clear, people have a natural way of figuring out the path to get there.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.  — Alan Kay

These are the questions you should be asking (and answering):

  • Where is your organization going to be in three years?
  • How many people will you be serving and what are the new initiatives you need to implement?
  • What new capital improvements/expansions need to happen over the next three years?
  • How many staff members will we need?

Clearly and concisely summarize your organization’s vision for the future and what is needed to get there. Three years is a reasonable time frame to achieve a few stretch goals.

Donors give to success and vision. They want to know you have a plan to change more lives and make a broader and deeper impact. You should be able to paint a picture of your organization’s future in two minutes or less.

3. Know Your Staff

Once you know your mission and your future, then you need to make sure you know the roles of your staff members. Your fundraising efforts will not catch fire if you don’t have the right people on staff and in the right roles. You may even remove the wood that doesn’t burn if you don’t have the fuel you need.

Then you need to clarify the roles of your fundraising team. Here are some questions to pose:

  • What is your Executive Director/CEO’s role in fundraising?
  • How many prospects/donors should be in each staff member’s portfolio?
  • Who is in charge of annual gifts?
  • Who is in charge of major gifts?
  • Who is in charge of planning giving?
  • Who is nurturing the Board and recruiting new Board members?
  • What things are getting in the way of fundraising? (i.e. meetings, reports, and program delivery)
  • How can we remove these obstacles?
  • Do we have the right database (like Bloomerang) to streamline our fundraising efforts?

Once you answer these questions, you may realize you need to throw away your desk! This will give you more time out of the office and talking with donors.

4. Know Your Donors

Now it’s time to stack rank your donors across all categories — individuals, corporations, foundations, and government entities. Make a list according to their giving history and their potential to give with the highest annual dollar giver at the top.

Starting at the top, examine each relationship separately and decide what the next step is to move the relationship forward (moves management). Where is this donor in the continuum of education, ask, gift, and stewardship? What is the next step to enable this relationship to burn hot? What creative approaches can you take to further engage this donor? What tactics do you have in place to retain donors?

Did you know that the median donor attrition rate in the nonprofit sector is 57%? This means that more than five out of every ten donors are leaving your organization!

According to Tom Ahern, it takes six times as much energy and resources to acquire a new donor as it does to keep an existing donor. Think about how much more work you have to do if 57% of your donors are walking out the door? It’s no wonder fundraisers are tired and stressed!

Make sure each major donor is assigned a relationship manager (staff member) who continues to move each relationship forward. Know your donors and retain as many of these donors as possible.

5. Know Your Fundraising Goals

Finally, it’s time to set goals for the coming year.

  • What is the total dollar amount to be raised?
  • How much do you need to raise from each existing donor and each potential donor?
  • What fresh ideas can fill the gaps to raise more money for your mission?
  • What is each staff person’s goal for in person visits each week?
  • What is each staff person’s individual fundraising goal?

Once each person on your team is clear about individual and organizational fundraising goals, the more likely the goals will be reached and exceeded.

These are the five fundraising fire starters. Put all five together and you will have a raging bonfire of fundraising success!

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