What follows is a slightly
abridged version of chapter 22. For a full listing of chapters in the print
edition, see Contents.
Choosing Your Funding
Mix and the Strategies To Secure It
As a cousin of
mine once said about money, money is always there but the pockets change;
it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to
say about money. — Gertrude Stein
Which of the many sources
and strategies for fundraising are most appropriate for your organization?
Should you put your energies into pursuing government grants and contracts,
for example? Obtaining a grant from the local community foundation? Or both?
How can you best proceed to develop an individual membership base? Which
approaches to individuals will net the greatest return — face-to-face
solicitation, direct mail, special events, a combination of these, or some
other strategy? Does your organization need new donors? Should your current
donors be asked to give more? Should you try to identify donors or funders
beyond your immediate constituency? And what resources do you need for applying
the strategy you pick?
We stress that you are
looking not for one source of revenue but rather for the most likely mix of
sources to ensure maximum long-term organizational viability.
Envision your funding as
a multi-legged stool. Each leg represents a different major source of revenue;
if one is significantly reduced, or even eliminated, your organization may
suffer somewhat but will still be able to function on the income provided
by the other sources. The stool will continue to stand. An organization totally
dependent on government grants and contracts, for example, is extremely vulnerable.
Another group that receives support from foundations, a fundraising federation,
and a pool of individuals in addition to government is clearly stronger and
Which mix will build the
strongest multi-legged financial base for your organization? What should
be the proportions of each source? How can you best develop a fundraising
strategy that will succeed? What is the best way to plan your fundraising
The following will help
you answer these questions. It provides you with a blueprint for planning
and implementing your efforts to secure financial support. The ten phases
of this process are summarized below and then discussed in detail.
Phase 1. Taking Stock
of Your Strengths and Assets. Because fundraising is, in the finest
sense, a collaboration among different parties moved to act on the same
set of concerns, you must consider what can you bring to the tables
of prospective donors and funders. What are your competencies? Phase 1
enables the leaders of both new and mature efforts to inventory their assets
Phase 2. Choosing Funding
Partners. There are numerous potential stakeholders from which to choose.
The task before you is to select the ones most likely to become your committed
Phase 3. Setting Fundraising
Goals. How can you present your financial needs to prospective supporters
most effectively? How much should you ask them for? Phase 3 builds on the
budgeting and program planning work to help you set fundraising goals,
which are an important element in eliciting positive responses from prospective
Phase 4. Developing
a Strategy to Secure Support from Individuals. Individuals represent
the largest source of philanthropic funding. They are also the most consistent
supporters of nonprofit organizations; their dollars are both reliable
and renewable. Phase 4 shows you how to identify the individuals most likely
to provide support, and how to secure it.
Phase 5. Developing
a Strategy to Secure Support from Institutions. The world of institutional
support is vast and often intimidating. Institutions represent the corporate
interests of their boards of directors, members, and constituents. These
interests produce distinct cultures, each with its own rules and regulations.
Phase 5 outlines a procedure for identifying the institutions most likely
to support your work and explains how to successfully elicit their support.
Phase 6. Making the
Case. A script can often aid you in asking others for support; the
writing exercises presented in Phase 6 will help you organize your information.
This work will be easier if you have spent considerable time developing
your vision and mission statements and identifying what you can offer to
funding partners (Phase 1, Taking Stock of Your Strengths and Assets).
By completing Phases 4 and 5, you will also have identified the audiences
for your fully developed materials.
Phase 7. Preparing the
Final Fundraising Plan and Calendar. The research and preparation stages
of your fundraising are now drawing to a close. You will have chosen your
most likely sources of support and developed the materials you need to
approach them. In Phase 7, you create a blueprint for action by organizing
and scheduling the work that lies ahead.
Phase 8. Making the
Approach. The style of your presentation will influence the outcome
of your appeal. Although your program may be worthy and your prospects
well chosen, your fundraising efforts may nonetheless falter if you take
the wrong approach. Phase 6, Making the Case, will have provided solicitors
with the necessary background for representing your organization's work.
Phase 8 guides you through the asking process.
Phase 9. Building the
Relationship with Your Supporters. Securing funding from both individual
and institutional sources can be the first stage of a long-lived collegial
and professional relationship. You can choose to nurture that incipient
relationship, or, unwisely, to ignore it. Phase 9 discusses how to sustain
and strengthen your supporters' interest and involvement in your work.
Phase 10. Monitoring
and Evaluating Your Fundraising Efforts: Laying the Groundwork for Next
Year. Your efforts to secure funds will benefit immensely from ongoing
monitoring and evaluation. After all, your own experiences provide the
best data about what does and does not work. Phase 10 offers guidance on
how to monitor and evaluate your fundraising activities so that you can
achieve — and maintain — the most success.
The planning process outlined
in these ten phases is both cyclical and ongoing. Different events and outcomes
(for example, a rejection letter or unforeseen revenues) may cause you to
return to an earlier phase.
Phase 1: Taking Stock
of Your Strengths and Assets
By taking stock of your
organizational assets and strengths, you put yourself in the best position
to build a strong case for support to prospective funders or donors.
Why should taking such
an inventory be so important? Simply because we are often so busy doing the
work of our organization that we fail to pay sufficient attention to what
makes us unique. Yet it is those very attributes that frequently lead to
new support from the individuals and institutions that were previously unfamiliar
with our work.
Where do you look for your
assets and strengths? Every existing organization has a history and a reputation.
Its past probably reveals successes, accomplishments, and a few false starts
as well. An organization's history is a treasure trove of assets that may
readily be converted into credentials — and credentials are important.
It is not enough simply to state the issues and problems your group is addressing
and describe its plan of action. Such statements may elicit some initial
support, but they are too abstract to attract significant, ongoing support.
You will need to describe in precise terms how your organization is qualified
both to address this problem and to make genuine headway toward solving it.
Don't despair, however,
if your organization is new. The experience and expertise of all the people
involved with your effort testify to your group's ability to create beneficial
change. Your core group members have earned a reputation on their own, by
working for other organizations, or both. It is important, therefore, to
begin by reviewing their professional and personal resumes for the qualifications
that will establish credibility. In this way, you are pinpointing your organization's
capabilities and giving current, new, and prospective funders good reason
to believe in you.
The following questions
are designed to help you collect evidence — past or present — that
illustrates your organization's competency as it relates to the issues and
programs that define the purpose of your work. Don't hesitate to add your
own questions to this list, of course.
What projects or programs
has your organization successfully implemented? What were the results? Explain
why these efforts succeeded. What changes did they effect? What skills and
abilities enabled you to succeed in these efforts, personal or organizational
or both? In what ways can you document the success of your past work (statistics,
letters of appreciation, assessments by outside bodies including funders,
government agencies, professional associations, etc.; awards and honors bestowed
on your organization or people in it), media coverage, or miscellaneous?
What are the qualifications of your past and current board members and staff?
What commendations have your board and staff received in recognition of their
talents and contributions? How would you describe your board and staffs most
unique talents? What percentage of your board members make financial contributions
to your organization? How long has your organization been in existence? What
distinguishes your past work from that of similar organizations? List the
specific ways in which your work differs from theirs, and why you are unique.
What recognition has your organization as a whole received since its inception
(e.g., invitations to speak at conferences, workshops, public rallies, legislative
hearings; certificates of commendation; quotations in scholarly or popular
journals and magazines; letters of appreciation)? What kinds of institutions
have supported your work? Who are they (foundations, corporations or businesses,
religious sources, associations of individuals, labor unions, federations,
government, other)? How many individuals pay dues, make contributions, or
do both to support your work? How diversified is your financial base? For
example, how many different sources extend support to you? What percentage
of your total income does each comprise? What reports do you file annually
with government agencies to satisfy their reporting requirements for nonprofit
All nonprofits should maintain
up-to-date "credibility files," and gather this type of information on a
steady basis. Staff and board members should do the same for their own use,
as well as for the organization. Such files will make it easier when you
need to assemble data for fundraising proposals and also for promotional
materials such as brochures, annual reports, and press releases.
Phase 2. Choosing Funding
Fundraising is a collaboration
between a nonprofit organization and a group of financial backers. Just as
a bank underwrites a business, so do individuals, foundations, government
agencies, corporations, and the other sources underwrite the operations of
a nonprofit. A bank looks for a strict financial return on its investment; your financial
partners want to see that they've helped make the concrete changes suggested
by your group's vision and mission statements, objectives, and program plans.
Selecting these financial partners can be an exhausting pursuit unless you
Use the following method
to create a "best bets" list for use in determining potential funding partners.
First, brainstorm specific names of individuals and institutions from each
of the following funding sources (individuals, foundations, business and
corporations, government, religious institutions, federated fundraising organizations,
associations of individuals, and labor unions). Next, assess the chances
of support for each of the individuals or organizations you have identified
(very good, possible, unlikely, or still unknown). In cases where you can
be more specific in listing your prospects, go ahead and do so. If you know,
for example, that your local community foundation is a solid prospect but
that other foundations are not,m place that particular foundation on the "very
good" list. Be as specific as your information permits.
Historically, many nonprofit
leaders have engaged in "stop-and-go" fundraising in which one particular
type of funding — such as foundation or government — is obtained
and used exclusively until it is exhausted. At that point, the search for
a replacement source begins. A better strategy is to identify your entire
array of partners before you charge off in pursuit of just one on
your prospect list.
As you complete your information-gathering,
remember that research and networking will enable you to move sources from
your unknown list into the very good list. Don't limit your choices at this
stage by the actual amount of funds that a source may be able to provide.
Your objective is to define the mix of funding sources by identifying the
sources that are, in principle, your most likely partners.
You have ranked your prospective
funders through the exercises outlined in this phase. In lieu of stop-and-go
fundraising, you can now take a comprehensive look at your best-bets list
(those in the very good list). You will then need to answer some questions
about these prospects.
What level of potential
support can they provide?
Do you have access to
individuals in a decision-making capacity?
Which sources appear
to have the potential for significant long-term support?
How much time and up-front
expenditure of human and financial capital is needed to tap these particular
Your answers to these questions
will make your forthcoming fundraising activity more targeted and potentially
more successful. As you analyze the information from your earlier exercise,
certain patterns will emerge. For example, neighborhood and grassroots groups
will probably find that individual residents of their own communities are
their easiest targets. Arts organizations will find that their initial universe
is broader, since they have programs that likely extend beyond one single
community. Citywide advocacy and public interest nonprofits may find more
institutional prospects at the top of their list. Be sure to trust your own
experience and knowledge, for each and every nonprofit organization is trailblazing
its own path when its leadership sets out in search of support.
Keeping in mind that your
future is best secured by tapping into a mix of sources, turn your attention
to matching your prospects with your specific fundraising needs.
Phase 3. Setting Fundraising
Your organization's budgeting
and program planning work helps you calculate the goals that will guide your
fundraising activities. Clearly stated financial goals enable you to tell
individual prospects how their contributions would fit into your overall
needs, and show foundations and corporations how you would spend the funds
requested in your grant applications.
Setting fundraising goals
is also important for two others reasons. First, it motivates individuals
to give. Just as program objectives encourage people to work harder, fundraising
goals can inspire your constituents to give — and to keep giving — until
you can finance your programs or special project(s) for a year. Additionally,
comparing your goals to the amount that has actually been raised helps you
to make better program decisions. If you achieve your fundraising goals,
you can undertake the programs you've planned. If you raise less, you may
have to modify — or eliminate — one or more. If, on the other
hand, you exceed your goals, you can expand your programs or use the money
for other purposes.
Your organization can set
fundraising goals in three ways:
Establish the total you
need to raise in a given year to carry out the programs you have
planned, as well as the administrative costs.
Calculate the total sum
of monies you need to implement a particular project, such as constructing
a new building or purchasing a computer.
Ascribe a dollar expense
amount to a service or program — that is, a unit of service — that
your organization performs.
You can draw on one or
all of these methods to assist you in your fundraising. Let's examine each
of these methods to determine how they can best serve your organization.
Setting Annual Fundraising
Completing the budgeting
process enables you to determine the total organizational expenditures for
personnel and non-personnel items for the upcoming year. The total of that
organizational budget is what's needed to underwrite your projected activities.
Once this figure is established, you can launch a community-wide drive to
raise it, or you can design a strategy to raise that total from a mix of
For example, an after-school
care center projects its payroll, rent, utilities, and other ancillary expenses
at $150,000 for the coming year. Since it receives close to $100,000 in day-care
fees (earned income), the organization may decide to set a fundraising (unearned
income) goal of $50,000 for the year.
Setting Program Fundraising
In the same way that you
have budgeted all the expenditures in your organization's entire operating
costs, you can assess the expenses inherent in any particular project or
program. If, for example, a group wishes to create a public information and
referral program on consumer issues, it can cost out the equipment (computer
and accompanying software) as well as the salaries of the personnel needed
to implement the program.
Review your programs to
determine whether you provide any services that can be valued in a way that
might appeal to prospective donors. Likely candidates include direct service
programs and capital expenditures, such as purchase of buildings, vehicles,
and computers. Less attractive are programs that improve an organization's
administrative capacities, such as upgrading filing systems, renovating offices,
increasing salaries, or purchasing a new photocopy machine.
For example, a counselor
at a domestic violence center may report assisting ten individuals every
week to regain a sense of well-being and dignity after a sexual assault.
Since there are five counselors who work full-time and see an average of
ten victims each week, the center can report that it assists 2,600 individuals
each year (5 counselors x 10 clients x 52 weeks = 2,600 cases). By dividing
the organization's entire annual budget by the number of client interventions,
you can ascertain the cost of assistance to one individual. If the organization's
annual operating budget is $200,000, the cost to assist one individual — the
unit-of-service cost — is approximately $77 ($200,000/2,600 clients
= $ 76.92).
This valuation is based
on the assumption that crisis counseling is the center's only program activity.
If, however, there are other programs — such as training hospital emergency
room personnel to work effectively with rape victims, or training police
officials to counsel women immediately on the scene — the formula for
determining the unit-of-service cost changes.
In such instances you would
determine the total direct costs of the counseling program and add a percentage
of the indirect administrative expenses that correspond to the ratio of that
program to the entire programmatic budget of the center. If the counseling
program costs $50,000 and the training program costs $25,000, the percentage
of administrative costs attached to the counseling program would be twice
the costs attached to the training program. If the administrative costs total
$25,000, then two-thirds of that cost can be associated with the counseling
program ($16,666.67) and one-third with the training program ($8,333.33).
Using Your Fundraising
Depending on the audience
and the occasion, a nonprofit may use any or all of the three different fundraising
goals. For example, if you want to establish a goal for a special event,
you might choose a program goal. If you want to determine a goal for your
entire year's fundraising efforts to include in your campaign literature,
you would choose the annual fundraising goal. If you want to set a goal for
a direct mail appeal, you could easily select a unit-of-service fundraising
goal. During the course of a year's fundraising activities, you will no doubt
use all three goals. Your audience of supporters is not homogeneous. It includes
both individuals and institutions, all with varying abilities and inclinations
to support your work. You are responsible for setting their sights on the
amount to give. Putting it bluntly, people usually give when they are asked,
and if they can, they give what they are asked for. No matter which approach
you take — annual goals, program goals, or unit-of-service goals — you
are defining for your potential supporters the levels of assistance that
you need and the total amount required for maintaining your operations for
a given year.
Challenge and Matching
Another variation of "customized" fundraising
involves the challenge, or matching, gift or grant. It is not unusual for
a foundation, corporation, government agency, or even an individual to make
a gift contingent on another funder or funders matching that gift, either
on a one-to-one or two-to-one basis. For example, an initial funder agrees
to contribute $5,000 on the condition that other sources match it one-to-one
($5,000) or two-to-one ($10,000). If the organization is able to satisfy
the funder's condition, it will receive a total of either $10,000 or $15,000
from the initial gift of $5,000. The donors who respond to these challenges
are gratified that their dollars are producing additional dollars of support,
and the initial donor receives that same sense of gratification.
Foundations and corporations
that are concerned about an organization's ability to raise all the funds
needed to implement a program may make a challenge, or matching, grant. In
this way, they protect their resources until the potential recipient organization
has raised the match stipulated by the grant.
Phase 4: Developing
a Strategy To Secure Support from Individuals
Individuals should provide
the core support for practically any kind of nonprofit endeavor. Such support
is important for a number of reasons. Individuals are, beyond a doubt, the
most reliable, consistent source of income for nonprofit organizations throughout
the world. Their investment in your work will rarely waiver as long as you
fulfill your mission adequately and acknowledge the individual supporters
for their aid. Individuals form very personal relationships with the charitable
organizations they support. As long as you encourage, recognize, and nurture
that relationship, you can count on retaining most of your individual donors
year in and out. They serve as your life insurance policy for the future,
for they will be around even if institutional supporters withdraw their support.
Nevertheless, some organizations
scoff at the idea of reaching out to individuals for support, believing that
the public is apathetic to their issues or that their immediate constituency
is too poor or hard-pressed to provide any significant help. Other groups
simply don't know how to petition the public effectively for financial support
and find themselves bewildered by the variety of techniques available for
securing contributions from individuals.
But the nonprofits that
overcome these obstacles will be rewarded in the long run with a growing
base of individual supporters who outlast practically every other form of
support and who may be even more responsive than institutional sources to
pleas for certain types of programs that otherwise would languish. The most
modest start at soliciting gifts from individuals may soon prove worthwhile
and, ultimately, create a substantial level of support.
Encourage Donors To
Membership is the most
common method that groups use to encourage individual support. Membership
sometimes carries certain rights within an organization, such as voting for
officers and board members, but in most cases membership simply gives a donor
a sense of belonging to an organization.
People who make donations
without becoming members do not seem to feel that their gifts establish a
mutually understood commitment, nor do they have any real incentive to repeat
their gifts in the future — unless they are solicited again. However,
people who join an organization tend to recognize that they have made a commitment.
Organizations that encourage
individuals to become members benefit in other ways. A membership is generally
perceived by both donor and institution as something to be renewed. This
allows donors to project their annual membership as a regular part of their
yearly budget while allowing the institution to project a specific amount
of income from membership support (taking into account some attrition, of
Donors can be encouraged
to become members at a level commensurate with their interest and means.
A pattern of graduated perquisites ("perks") can give donors an incentive
to increase their giving, and so be upgraded from one category of membership
Some groups strive to make
their membership invitations more attractive by offering concrete benefits
to individuals who join. Even small groups can offer such perks as T-shirts,
buttons, discounted admissions to special events and educational programs,
and invitations to members' parties. Actually, your imagination and knowledge
of your own constituency can help you design a membership package of benefits
to suit almost any organization.
Don't lose sight of the
fact, however, that while tangible membership benefits serve as an incentive
to give, and to give more, they rarely provide the primary stimulus. Individuals
become members and make contributions for a variety of other, usually intangible,
reasons. You can best decide if you need to sweeten your membership program
with distinct benefits, for you know your constituents best.
If they feel a strong sense
of kinship with your organization, your constituents will inevitably respond
well to requests for funds, whether received through the mail or at their
doorstep. When your donors are already quite loyal, you may not need to sweeten
your membership offer to elicit the desired response. You can, however, still
consider motivating your supporters to increase their level of support by
offering specific benefits tied to different giving levels. For example,
you can offer a silkscreen poster signed by the artist to all contributors
who give, say, $250 or more. If your organization's claim on the conscience
and wallets of your public is less strong, then benefits can serve as a greater
incentive to prompt individuals to respond to your requests.
If you're considering offering
tangible benefits, be sure to stay within the guidelines given by the Federal
Accounting Standards Board (FASB). If your perquisite has market value — that
is, it could be sold outside your organization — then you must deduct
the market value of the product from the donation, and only the remaining
portion may be claimed as a deduction by the member. T-shirts, mugs, and
tote bags bearing your organization's logo are not items that generally could
be sold in a regular store, but art could be. These regulations are not entirely
cut-and-dried; but they must be kept in mind.
Identify Likely Supporters
The first step in tapping
individuals for membership is to identify the particular constituencies most
likely to be committed to your work — your board, volunteers, and even
your staff members. This may seem offensive to some of these individuals,
who already give generously of their time and feel that this sufficiently
demonstrates their commitment. And in part, that's true. Still, there is
nothing like a commitment of money to signal to others the importance donors
ascribe to their organization. Since many of your board members, staff, and
volunteers will, at some point, ask others to give to your organization,
they will be able to say to a prospective member, "I joined because I felt
that what we are doing is critically important. Won't you join, too?"
Now that you are ready
to go beyond your own organization for support, your task becomes one of
identifying and targeting which individuals are most likely to develop an
interest in, and extend support to, your work. Undoubtedly, you will be able
to develop some sense of how to identify these individuals and to decide
what constituencies they might belong to. Brainstorm with other members of
your organizing committee, board of directors, or fundraising committee.
If your organization already
receives support from individuals through a variety of ways, start out by
analyzing those supporters. List them by their common denominators, such
as occupation: Are they teachers, social workers, lawyers, parents, activists,
doctors, or computer programmers? Demographics: What is their age? Gender?
Political affiliation? What distinguishes them? You are not trying to stereotype
your supporters, only to differentiate them so that you know how you can
reach them most effectively.
If you decided to undertake
a direct mail campaign, you'll need to select lists of names to mail to.
The more you know about your current members, the more readily you will be
able to identify other kindred souls. For example, which magazines do most
of your members subscribe to, and which newspapers do they read? This information
will help you target your public relations efforts.
You may be surprised at
who is giving you money and who is not. On the one hand, you may realize
that a certain segment of the population you had thought would contribute
has provided only minimal support; you should reach out to them. The opposite
may also be true. For example, a shelter for battered women used to routinely
delete men's names from direct mail lists they used until they examined their
donor base and learned that 20 percent of their supporters were men. And
the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City was very surprised to discover
how many of their individual donors were lesbians.
Determine Ways To Approach
Individuals for Support
The sharper your sense
of your current and prospective donors, the easier it will be to select the
most productive way of approaching them — which brings us to the second
step: brainstorming a variety of ways to ask individuals for support.
Let's take a hypothetical
example to illustrate how an organization can identify its key individual
supporters. Members of the core group of Art in Schools (AIS) asked themselves
the following question: Which individuals are the most likely supporters
of our work to help ensure that music, drama, and fine arts programs are
included in schools' curricula?
As a result of their brainstorming,
AIS found that they had many constituencies, owing to the community's deep
concern about the quality of education. These included:
Core group members, especially
artists. (including their families and friends)
Other politically aware
or socially concerned artists
Socially concerned members
of the arts-oriented public in their community
Art, music, and drama
those parents who had themselves enjoyed art as part of their education
Liberal arts professors,
particularly those who teach undergraduates, who were dismayed at the lack
of cultural awareness of many of the incoming freshmen
Teachers union members
Members of dinner theaters,
art clubs, book groups, and the like
Clearly, AIS has many potential
constituencies to turn to for support. Let's list the possible ways each
of these groups of prospective supporters can give support, or how to best
ask them for support on a regular basis:
All constituents can be
Make personal contributions
Become members through
the annual fund
Purchase raffle tickets,
buttons, bumper stickers, etc.
Core group members
Attend and sell
tickets to fundraising events
Identify and approach
local business, government, federation, association, religious, and
labor contacts to explore fundraising possibilities
Ask friends and
other artists to donate works of art (or other related or appropriate
items) for an annual auction
Arrange for exhibitions
of student artwork
Other politically aware
or socially concerned artists
Donate works of
art for sale or auction
art postcards as a source of earned income
Attend and sell
tickets to fundraising events
Solicit their dealers
Make personal contributions,
and become AIS members through annual fund
Socially concerned members
of the arts-oriented public
Buy tickets to
special events and purchase postcards
of donated art in their homes to sell to other friends
Arts, music, and drama
Provide names of
parents who might be concerned
to other teachers not in the arts who might give money
Help promote the
political message of AIS to students, school administrators, and
to PTA meetings and mailing lists
Post notices in
Liberal arts professors
to the media
Provide names of
professors and alumni who might be sympathetic
Teachers members union
lists for a direct mail solicitation
Members of dinner theaters,
arts clubs, book groups, etc.
Provide names for
direct mail appeals
at their performances
As this hypothetical case
illustrates, there are many ways individuals can support a particular nonprofit
undertaking. This group, just like your own, can expand its list by sharing
it with others. In many cases, you will observe that the strongest members
of your group will be people who cross several lines. For example, university
professors who were also members of amateur theater groups, who had children
in the public school system, and who were active in the PTA or their own
union, are most likely to become committed AIS members and donors.
Furthermore, anyone who
was identified as someone who could come to an event could also be approached
by mail or phone. People who would donate art can be approached to donate
cash, and people who buy art at auctions should be asked to become members
of the group. If you do a thorough job in analyzing your constituency, you
will soon be overwhelmed by possibilities and realize that you can raise
funds successfully as long as you plan your work and work your plan.
Choose Your Approaches
The third step is to choose
from your lists those approaches or methods your core group wants to pursue.
Ask your planning committee, which is responsible for your fundraising efforts,
to suggest which approaches you should use — perhaps three or so to
start with. Let's put this task before our hypothetical organization.
The core group of Art in
Schools decided to focus on a campaign to sell specially designed art postcards
to the memberships of other sympathetic organizations through direct mail;
asking famous socially concerned artists known to them to donate works of
art for an annual auction; and conducting a phonathon to ask teachers and
professors to join. Note that these approaches include a mix of face-to-face
solicitation, direct mail, special events, telephone solicitation, and earned
AIS chose this particular
mix of approaches to individuals for several reasons. As artists, they realized
that they had access to something of value to others — their work and
the works of other artists. They also knew that their targeted constituencies
were regularly solicited by other more established organizations. As a result,
they decided to raise money by selling art postcards in lieu of simple solicitation
for support. They were also capitalizing on the knowledge and skills of their
core group. Some of their members had personal relationships with famous
artists, and one member had experience in designing and marketing postcards
After discussing their
plans with more resource people outside their immediate circles, including
the local art auction house and several gallery owners, they were able to
make reasonable estimates of projected income from these activities. They
decided to drop the tour of artists' studios, for others did not find the
concept very appealing. They discovered that their friends were not members
of any existing human rights organizations, so they decided to institute
a membership program. Since their friends included both struggling and successful
artists, they developed a two-tiered membership program to enable both groups
to give according to their means.
Estimate Your Proceeds
The final step before the
actual fundraising gets under way is to make some conservative estimates
on how much each of the chosen efforts can net in a year. Art in Schools
came up with the following summary:
AIS decided to list all
the artists who joined as members and patrons, or who contributed their own
work, in a full-page ad in the local arts newspaper each year to thank them
publicly for their support.
Acknowledge Your Supporters
Finally, you want to make
sure that you recognize your supporters both privately and publicly for their
contributions. Private acknowledgment should always begin with a personalized
thank-you note. Further private recognition can take the form of mailing
newsletters, "insiders' memos," annual reports, and other publications to
donors to keep them posted about the work that they have made possible. Let
them know regularly that your flourishing, ongoing work would be impossible
without their help.
Public acknowledgment can
be as simple as listing your new members (if they aren't too numerous) in
a newsletter on an ongoing basis. If you offer different categories of membership,
you can list supporters by the categories they have chosen. You've seen these
lists of benefactors in the playbills of nonprofit theater groups and on
the walls of buildings of nonprofit facilities. Just as a university recognizes
major donors by naming buildings or other facilities after them, smaller
nonprofits can express their appreciation to supporters through some form
of public listing.
In choosing your approaches
to individuals, remember to look for ways in which to ask them for money
regularly and to provide them with opportunities for personal involvement
in your work.
Since membership contributions
do not preclude people from making additional gifts to an organization, you
can solicit support from members more than once a year. If you can make a
good case for needing financial help, you should certainly not hesitate to
make an appeal to your membership. There is no magic rule about how many
times a year you can ask the same people to give, but most groups find that
they net a decent return without alienating donors when they ask three to
four times a year. Some groups are able to ask up to twelve times, but most
find that they lose money if they ask more than twelve times or less than
three. Your membership may forget about you if you solicit less than three
times a year.
The bottom line is, you
can mail out as many appeals as will net consistent positive responses and
cover more than their printing and mailing costs. Again, use your own judgment:
How many solicitations would you be willing to receive? If each appeal had
merit on its own, you would probably feel differently than if each appeal
sounded exactly like the one preceding it. Beware of crying wolf more than
once! You can go to your membership once for funds to meet a crisis or emergency,
but success the second time around is unlikely.
Phase 5: Developing
a Strategy To Secure Support from Institutions
Some nonprofit organizations
have supported their work through individual contributions alone. Undoubtedly,
these are organizations that constantly reach out to new donors and have
a very strong renewal program in place, as well as a consistent major donor
effort. Other groups have used their revenues from individuals to underwrite
the general operating expenses of their group while reaching out to institutional
sources for support of particular programs and projects. Either of these
routes can achieve desirable results for nonprofits.
To reiterate, individual
support remains the most reliable, renewable, and consistent source of funding,
and in the best of worlds, institutional support would only be incidental
to your financial base. However, some would argue that government should
be the main funder of nonprofit activity, since both the public and the nonprofit
sector share responsibility for the public good; in many countries, this
is the case. As we have previously pointed out, many governments around the
world do not assume their rightful responsibility, and leave nonprofits to
figure out other ways to raise money.
Most nonprofit groups are
not totally supported by a single category of funders — individuals,
foundations, or government — but, rather, by a mix of sources. It is
their job to identify, cultivate and pursue aggressively the mix of individual
and institutional prospects deemed most likely to extend support.
Your next set of tasks,
then, is to research and identify your universe of prospective institutional
supporters and select your best bets. You will then be ready to approach
them for funding.
The world of institutional
funding is truly a vast one that includes:
Government: town, county,
village, city, state, region, and federal
private, company-sponsored, community, local and national, grantmaking
Businesses and Corporations:
neighborhood stores, chain stores, bank branches, utility companies, department
stores, specialty shops, restaurants, small companies, local and national
churches, temples, synagogues, and other faith communities; local and regional
religious decision-making bodies; local and national ecumenical structures;
national religious bodies
Labor Unions: individual
unions, central labor councils, state federations
Organizations: United Way, Community Chest, Catholic Charities, United
Jewish Appeal, and the hundreds of other workplace giving campaigns
Associations of Individuals:
service clubs such as Rotarians, Lions, Soroptomists, Junior League, Hadassah,
American Association of University Women; professional, business, and trade
associations, such as the local Bar Association and Chamber of Commerce
Your sources of funds should
comprise a mix of these institutional sources to further strengthen the legs
of your funding base.
We now turn back to the
task before us: identifying those particular institutional sources that are
the most likely to extend support. Remember that you are looking to identify
a manageable number of prospects that can be pursued with some fair measure
of success. It is best to narrow down your list of prospects as much
as possible so that you will be free to give adequate personal attention
to each of them. Successful institutional fundraising requires careful personal
approaches to your prospects. Therefore, the fewer prospects you target,
the more likely you will be able to devote the appropriate time and attention
to making the best approach and subsequent follow-up. Your first prospect
list will be broader and more inclusive than your final one. Now your research,
networking, and other information-gathering pursuits begin.
Research Your Prospects
Research involves reviewing
the printed materials and informed gossip that are publicly available on
foundations, businesses, government, religious sources, fundraising federations,
labor unions, and associations of individuals. There are standard reference
materials available at your local library or the local
regional collection of the Foundation Center. The Internet should be
explored thoroughly. In addition, some institutional sources — a number
of foundations, corporations, most government agencies, most federated campaigns,
and some religious sources — make available free upon request application
guidelines, lists of past grantees, and annual reports. You are looking for:
Funders similar to those
that already support you or have supported you in the past
Funders with an interest
in your work based on your locale
Funders with an interest
in your work based on the subject of your program
Funders able to provide
the level of financial support you are seeking
First, explore funders
similar to those that already support you. If you receive grants from national
foundations because of your groundbreaking work in an area of national import,
research other national foundations to learn if there are others that share
an interest in this area. In the same way, if you have elicited positive
responses from a certain type of corporation in the past, you will want to
explore other corporations in the same industry for support. Success in securing
a grant from a foundation or corporation does not automatically lead to success
with their counterparts. It does, however, suggest a possibility worth exploring.
Most funding sources are influenced in their decision-making by the evidence
of their colleagues' involvement, for that translates into credibility.
Second, you are now ready
to explore other sectors of support apart from the ones you are currently
tapping. In exploring these new sources, start at the most local level. For
instance, approach your local parish before going to the metropolitan religious
body or to its national headquarters. For one thing, you are more likely
to have some personal contacts at this level of organization already; for
another, you face less competition from other similar organizations. Competition
for funding tends to increase as you reach out to sources with a wider geographic
scope. The closer to your locale your sources are, the greater investment
they have in the political success of your effort.
There are, however, exceptions
to this theory. Some national sources, including religious bodies, government,
corporations, and foundations, might well be attracted to your work for a
variety of factors, such as: a high correlation to their particular interests;
unique characteristics of your efforts; the potential for your work to serve
as a model or demonstration project for other communities; or the vanguard
nature of your work.
An example is provided
by the early years of the women's movement in the United States, when a number
of progressive-minded national foundations made grants to local women's organizations
before their local foundation counterparts did. In these cases, national
foundations set an example for local foundations to follow. A similar scenario
took place in the mid-1980s regarding funding for disarmament projects, and
the 90's saw the same pattern for funding HIV/AIDS organizations.
Additionally, it would
not be unusual for a national foundation to fund a local organization perceived
by its local funding community as being too controversial owing to its area
of interest or its form of advocacy. For these reasons, some organizations
should engage in subject-related research as well as geographic-based research
into prospective funding sources.
Another method for gaining
information is networking, a concept that has fortunately gained popular
support. Networking is no more than cooperation among individuals and organizations
with similar needs (and goals) to aid each other. Each and every nonprofit
has counterpart organizations locally and around the country whose experiences
can save them valuable time so that they don't have to reinvent the wheel.
Those counterparts might work in a similar field, involve a similar constituency,
or operate in the same geographic locale.
The first step in networking
is to brainstorm a list of your most likely counterpart organizations. Think
in terms of issues, geography, and constituency. Find out what they have
learned from their own fundraising efforts. Other groups can share with you
valuable information that may not necessarily be printed in any materials,
such as: Which funders are the most likely to give pre-application meetings?
What is of most interest to staff in a funding proposal? How much work is
involved in making an appropriate application?
You can also network with
development (fundraising) professionals at nearby large nonprofit institutions,
such as hospitals, colleges and universities, museums, and the like to elicit
their suggestions. Finally, conferences, seminars, and meetings provide splendid
opportunities to network, not only with other nonprofits but with funders
as well. Network until you feel that you have a comprehensive understanding
of your prospects.
You would best spend your
time by making thorough approaches to a small number of select funders than
by trying to cover the entire waterfront. You will not be able to pursue
all the prospective sources of support that you have discovered with the
same degree of vigor. Reduce your list to a manageable number, and look for
reasons to eliminate prospects rather keep them. In other words, choose the
prospects that really are your best bets. You might aim for a final prospect
list of no more than ten institutional sources as candidates for support.
Estimate Your Proceeds
In the same way that you
projected total support from individuals, you should now make some conservative
estimates of how much you might raise by approaching your institutional prospects.
Conservative estimates are made on the basis of what you can assuredly expect
rather than what you hope to receive. If you have received support from institutions
in the past year, gauge which of them are really likely to renew their grants,
contracts, or contributions in the upcoming year, and project a realistic
financial estimate of their support.
Now turn to all your best
bets lists. Ascribe an average grant size to each of them. Garner this information
either through your research or your networking. Review the list: Are there
sources whose support you are confident of receiving? Who are they? What
level of support can you assuredly predict, if any? Where you are not confident
or are unsure, err on the conservative side; don't count any "questionables" in
your final projections. That way, you will be pleasantly surprised if you
exceed your goal rather than disappointed if you fall below.
Another approach is to
select the three prospects on your best bets list that most closely match
your specific programs and purposes. Use the average grant size they award
to organizations similar to your own as the basis for projecting your total
revenue from institutions. You will, of course, have to decide how many of
those prospects might award funding, if any. Again, it is better to err on
the safe side unless you have strong indications of these prospects' inclination
to fund your organization.
If this is your first foray
into approaching institutions for support, you will probably find it difficult
to estimate your chances for success. Don't panic; most nonprofits just starting
out are in the same position. If you are still in the dark after all your
information-gathering, you can simply decide not to project any support from
institutions. That does not mean, of course, that you won't pursue your best
bets — only that you will not count on their support without strong
Unfounded fundraising projections
can be very dangerous. If the goals are not realized, programs may have to
be eliminated, fundraising volunteers may become discouraged, and your credibility
is likely to suffer. It is far better to build slowly and surely than to
be faced with a shortage of funds due to projections that were based more
on hope than on fact.
Phase 6: Making the
What role does writing
play in nonprofit fundraising? Regardless of which funding sources you target,
you will invariably need written materials: brochures, proposals, direct
mail appeals, newsletters, annual reports, and letters of inquiry, for example.
And even though face-to-face solicitations raise more money than letters,
the written materials you send to a prospect before the solicitation — as
well as those you may leave afterward — are very important. And there's
always the possibility that you won't be able to meet with institutional
funding sources, so your written materials must speak for you.
One way to avoid the perennial
writer's anxiety and to save time as well is to do exactly what most veteran
professional fundraisers and development officers at hospitals, museums,
universities, and other large nonprofit institutions do: write one document
in advance of a fundraising campaign that will satisfy your needs before
they arise. That document has the rather lofty-sounding title of case
A case statement is simply
a written document that states the most important facts about an organization.
It can range in length from a wallet-size card to twenty pages or more. The
most common case statement for the small to medium-size nonprofit probably
ranges between five and ten pages. Preparing such a statement provides you
with the opportunity to amass data that will best illustrate the competence
of your staff and the effectiveness of your work. Your objective is to present
sufficient information to your potential investors to elicit a positive response.
In many ways, the case statement is not unlike the general support proposal
that you might prepare for submission to a foundation; both provide the reader
with answers to the following questions in an organized fashion:
Why does your organization
exist? What are the problems in society that you plan to address? Describe
the magnitude of those problems in a concrete way. Your objective is to
assure the reader that your work is a response to proven and defensible
How do you plan to alleviate
these problems? What can you realistically hope to accomplish? Your objective
here is to state succinctly your organizational purpose or mission and
your specific program objectives.
Why is your staff and
board qualified to tackle these problems with any expectation of success?
Your objective here is to present the skills, qualifications, and experiences
of your staff, board, and volunteers, whose combined efforts will have
impact on the stated problem.
How much in revenues
is needed to enable you to advance your efforts? Your objective here is
to illustrate the costs of your efforts through budgeting.
How do you anticipate
raising all the revenues you will need? Your objective here is to describe
all your fundraising and income-generating plans to show that you can,
with some degree of certainty, raise all the funds you need.
In preparing a case statement,
remember to present the most compelling, rational arguments you have to convince
potential supporters of the worthiness of your organization.
Once you have finished
writing your case statement, you'll need to present it in a clear and tasteful
manner. A crisp, clean-looking document on quality paper will do the job.
Be aware that graphics can enhance the visual appearance and appeal of your
written materials, and pay attention to design, not only of your case statement,
but also of direct mail appeals, newsletters, proposals, and brochures. Your
materials do not have to be fancy, but they should be attractive enough to
enhance the text and send a message to readers that your organization does
things tastefully and appropriately.
Writing a clear and concise
case statement or general support proposal (or whatever you choose to name
this working document) will serve you in a number of important ways. It will
give you a way to engage others early on in the fundraising process. You
can circulate your draft for comments and suggestions to people whose help
you need when the fundraising actually begins. In doing so, you foster their
investment in your efforts and improve the chances that they will devote
time and energy to your fundraising when you need them later on.
You now have a document
from which you will be able to draw sentences, paragraphs, pages, and even
sections for all the written materials you are required to prepare as your
fundraising efforts continue. You will have saved yourself precious time,
since you won't have to compose every new proposal or direct mail appeal
from scratch. You may even choose to use your case statement as your primary
fundraising document with large individual donors and foundations. In addition,
you'll have a versatile set of materials to put in the hands of others associated
with your group for a variety of purposes. The materials will be useful,
for example, to those who make speeches, conduct workshops, or write articles
for publication. The materials will also lend invaluable support to your
face-to-face solicitors by serving as their briefing papers.
Your case statement can
also be used as a tool for recruiting new board members. Since you have put
your best foot forward in the body of this statement, it should serve you
well in correspondence and in meetings with prospective board candidates.
Finally, you might circulate
a draft to some significant donors whom you plan to approach as part of your
campaign. In soliciting their feedback and suggestions, you are recognizing
their importance to your organization and engaging their intellects before
asking them to dip into their wallets. Inevitably, they will be more motivated
to give later, when formally approached.
For all of these reasons,
preparing written materials well in advance will strengthen your fundraising
efforts. Spare yourself anxiety and frustration; start writing now. You will
reap the rewards many times over later on!
Phase 7: Preparing the
Fundraising Plan and Calendar
You've established your
fundraising goal for the year (Phase 3), targeted your potential individual
and institutional backers and set conservative estimates on their potential
level of support (Phases 4 and 5), and prepared the documents necessary to
develop a variety of fundraising materials (Phase 6). This information provides
you with the framework for your own particular fundraising strategy.
After totaling the estimated
support from both individual and institutional supporters, you now have a
realistic sense of the funding you may anticipate in the forthcoming year.
Does this match the fundraising goals you set in Phase 3? If so, you're in
good shape. If not, you need to reduce your operating budget or reasonbly
increase your fundraising projections. Don't initiate programs against revenues
that aren't reasonably assured unless the program can be implemented in phases,
and it is possible to wait between phases to raise money for the next phase.
The next step in implementing your strategy is to make a chart on some poster
paper on a wall, or secure a large yearly calendar, with columns for each
of the coming twelve months. At the top of each column, write the dollar
amount that you need for monthly operating expenses (cash flow sheet). You
are now ready to schedule your efforts.
Mark on the calendar
your "proven traditions" for securing individual support, such as past
membership appeals, special events, raffles, etc., and projected income
from each for the coming year.
Fill in the amounts of
grants and contributions from past institutional supporters that you can
safely anticipate receiving again.
Add to the calendar the
tasks you will need to complete in order for this support to be forthcoming.
For example, under direct mail to membership, place all the tasks that
are involved in a direct mail membership effort, such as: preparing copy
for the letter; printing letter and enclosures; arranging artwork; arranging
for mailing; recording receipts; and sending out thank-you notes. For past
renewable institutional sources, place on your calendar not only writing
proposals and cover letters but also sending final reports and occasional
updates. You should now have on your calendar all the tasks you will need
to complete in order to solicit funds from your past supporters.
Turn to your new prospects
and schedule the tasks needed to solicit their support. You are choosing
here from various approaches (face-to-face, direct mail, special events,
etc.). In scheduling, pay particular attention to two major considerations:
(1) the months when you will need the funds to meet your operating expenses;
and (2) the times of the year most appropriate for the activities you are
planning. Try to be as detailed as possible in listing all the tasks involved
in any particular fundraising activity.
Schedule your approaches
to new prospective institutional supporters. When will your staff, board,
and volunteers be free for additional fundraising? Use the calendar and
your sense of other organizational priorities to pinpoint the time of year
when you can most effectively mount this effort.
Place on the calendar
all the tasks that accompany these approaches to new sources, such as:
a. identifying prospects
through research and networking
b. developing program
and/or general organizational proposals, including budgets and sample
c. identifying personal
contacts as prospects
d. making the initial
approach, either by telephone or by letter of inquiry, depending on
the targeted sources and the nature of the personal relationship
e. submitting a formal
proposal or application, with back-up supporting materials
f. scheduling follow-up
appointments and visits with appropriate parties, at either your office
g. submitting any
requested additional materials.
You can take your planning
process one step further by assigning individuals to all the tasks listed.
This will aid the organization in defining responsibilities for the individuals
involved, as well as ensuring that the timeline and tasks set are realistic.
You are anticipating the people power inherent in each step of the way
and assigning these responsibilities as the plan unfolds.
Next, place conservative
income projections for each source on the calendar and the date when you
might expect to receive the funds. You should continually keep track of
the totals of gross receipts versus gross expenses each month to determine
whether you will have sufficient revenues. Don't forget to carry over any
unspent revenues from one month to the next. Thus, your calendar will help
you project cash flow as well.
In listing tasks, don't
overlook evaluation of each of your fundraising efforts as part of your
list. You can place all your necessary fundraising activities and tasks
on the calendar. Also, note that there is a line for monthly income totals,
so you can keep track of your incoming revenues on a regular basis.
Use this calendar
as an ongoing tool in your work. Review it at least once a month with
all the people who are intimately involved with your organization's
fundraising work. Make whatever changes and modifications are warranted.
This is the blueprint of your fundraising strategy for the upcoming
Phase 8: Making the
Who Should Ask for Financial
Support on Behalf of Your Organization?
The executive director
and the officers of the board of directors are an organization's prime solicitors
and the best choices for approaching a major prospective supporter. Yet each
and every person associated with a nonprofit can ask others for support,
including board members, staff members, volunteers, constituents, former
constituents (i.e., alumni), family members, supporters, friends, civic leaders,
public officials, contacts, and peers. The decision depends on each particular
Remember that you needn't
feel alone in your fundraising work; there are many others to call on for
assistance. You might even mobilize everyone on your list for a fundraising
effort. And there are instances when the automatic constituencies within
an organization can be called on to raise money; the Girl Scouts are unquestionably
the best example. Moreover, certain activities — selling raffle or
benefit tickets, or recruiting sponsors for walkathons — can be done
by anybody and everybody involved with — or simply attracted to, your
Drawing from a list of
potential solicitors, the leadership of a nonprofit must determine the most
appropriate person or persons to make a particular request. Experience shows
that people respond most generously when asked by someone they know or respect.
Thus, peer-to-peer solicitation is usually very effective: alumni to fellow
alumni; students to other students; parents to parents; businesspeople to
their counterparts; youth to youth. As a general rule, ask board members
to ask their peers for support, staff to ask other staff, volunteers to ask
other volunteers, major donors to ask other major donors, and so on. When
approaching a particular constituency for the first time, you would do well
to ask your top prospects to make a contribution and also to join you in
asking others for support. In this way, you will be recruiting those who
are best suited to ask their peers for assistance.
Unfortunately, some fundraisers
most fear asking their own friends and contacts for money — even though
they are likely to be the best prospects. They know the value of a particular
organization's work, since they will have heard first-hand accounts from
their fundraiser friends. You would be overlooking a prime constituency by
giving in to such fears. You are likely to discover that your friend appreciates
being asked and is pleased to join the life of your organization as a contributor
To reiterate, your prime
task is to identify who should make a particular fundraising request on behalf
of your organization and then to brief that individual or those individuals
adequately in preparation for the meeting with your candidate. As the executive
director or member of the board, you may be a member of the team of two or
three who might participate in the visit.
What Should You Ask
Again, you are matching
up your prospective donor's interests with those activities of your organization
that the donor would be most interested in supporting. Some people will be
willing to give you money simply on the basis of your stated purpose, or
to attend a special event you are sponsoring just to have a good time. More
often than not, however, they will be more moved to be charitable when they
hear or read about the specifics of your work.
Your task, then, is to
anticipate which of your projected programs and efforts will have the greatest
appeal to your prospects. Phase 3 provided some examples of the ways an organization
can present its different needs. In other instances, your research, networking,
and other information-gathering activities will provide you with some clues
to your prospects' interests.
You may be tempted to present
a foundation prospect with a number of choices. This strategy can be useful
under certain circumstances, but you would be advised instead to gauge what
aspect of your work would most interest a particular prospect and to present
only that aspect. This demonstrates not only that you have done your homework
but that you are reserving the right to set your own program priorities.
How Much Should You
Your various prospective
supporters can afford to make contributions of varying amounts to support
your work. It is your responsibility to give them that opportunity. Some
groups choose to suggest an amount in a direct mail solicitation or a proposal.
Certain fundraising approaches,
such as direct mail and special events, do lend themselves to a range of
gift sizes. A special event, whether a banquet or dinner, is a perfect occasion
to offer your contributors a range of options. People can decide to be sponsors,
patrons, or benefactors, to mention just some of the traditional terms. You
can ascribe a different dollar amount to distinguish each level of support.
That range should reflect the amounts of money you believe your supporters
are capable of giving. This approach is also helpful when you lack basic
information about your prospective donors' giving habits.
In deciding how much you
can ask prospective contributors to give, your information-gathering and
networking can once more be valuable aids. If you are approaching past donors,
the simplest method would be to determine the amount you request based on
their highest previous gift to your organization. You can ask them either
to repeat their past gift or to consider making a larger gift. There are
always a number of arguments you can use to provide a rationale to your contributors
for increasing their giving, such as increased costs, inflation, greater
demand for services, or new threats and challenges to your constituencies.
More often than not, you will have a sound rationale for such a request.
What if you are writing
a donor who has never given before to your organization? How can you gauge
in advance what amount to request? You can turn to other organizations for
advice. While some groups may be reluctant to share data on their donors,
others will quickly see that it is to their advantage. After all, you may
be able to do the same for them. Development officers at large nonprofits
such as hospitals, universities, and museums rely also on a variety of standard
reference materials to garner vital facts about prospective major donors.
These include Who's Who in America, The Social Register, Standard
and Poor's Register of Corporations, and Directors and Executives.
All of these books are
standard reference materials, so you are certainly not invading anyone's
privacy by using them. Building a profile of your prospects will bring you
closer to gaining a sense of how much financial support they are capable
of providing to your organization. You also will be surprised about the information
that is available to you from your local newspapers, which regularly report
on philanthropic individuals in your community. Since it is usually desirable
for nonprofits to provide some form of public recognition of their strongest
supporters, you are also apt to find valuable tidbits about them in an organization's
newsletters, annual reports, special event programs, or other publications.
Remember that your financial
needs are real. They reflect the costs of programs that you and others value
highly. You can assert these needs clearly to your current and prospective
supporters so that they are invited to respond according to their own abilities.
By asking them to make contributions, you are extending an invitation to
A note about approaching
institutional sources: foundations, corporations, governmental agencies,
and religious institutions, as previously indicated, often make information
available about their average grant size in their annual reports, guidelines
for applicants, requests for proposals, and other literature they publish
on their grantmaking programs. It is preferable to approach these sources
with requests for targeted amounts that are gauged on the institution's stated
financial capabilities. You will, of course, state the entire budget of the
project for which you are requesting support, but you want to be clear about
what part of that budget you are asking them to underwrite. If you still
have doubts about the desirable level of support to request, you can ask
the counsel of a sympathetic contact at the institution you are approaching.
To summarize, when approaching
either a prospective individual or institutional donor, you should:
Decide in advance the
specific amount to request.
Target that amount to
the capacity of the prospect you are approaching.
Offer a range of gift
options for large mass appeals.
All of the approaches discussed
have merit depending on the specific situation. You have to decide which
ones you want to use.
When and Where Can a
Request for Financial Support Best Be Made?
Institutions usually make
decisions about when and where to request support easy for the grantseeker,
since they have established procedures that may be printed in their guidelines.
Your goal is always to seek as personal a contact as possible with a member
of the staff who is engaged in the grant review process. This suggests a
visit, to either their office or yours. First, mail an initial letter of
inquiry and request a meeting. Since many sources (such as foundations and
corporations) are deluged with requests for support, some may request a full
proposal prior to meeting. Again, their printed guidelines will usually state
If you do your homework
well and know that your targeted supporters are strong prospects, you might
choose other ways to introduce yourself to them before making a request for
funds. You can extend an invitation to activities, programs, or special events
that you are planning. You can offer to mail them some materials on your
work due to their stated interest in your field of endeavor. All these
ideas will distinguish your approach from those of the legions of grantseekers
who are always knocking on the doors of foundations and corporations. If
your assumptions about a particular institution's priorities are correct,
polite persistence will eventually pay off.
Your choices about when
and where to approach individuals for support are more varied. Again, your
goal is the same: you want to establish face-to-face contact as soon as possible.
You can do that by canvassing door-to-door in your community, by inviting
people to a wine and cheese party, by staffing a booth at an annual street
festival in your town or city, or making an appointment to visit a prospective
donor in his or her home, to mention just a few options.
Phase 9: Building the
Relationship with Your Supporters
On rare occasions, supporters
find that they are rewarded for their contributions with ingratitude. With
gift in hand, the nonprofit's leaders simply rush off on their mission and
ignore their benefactors.
This is foolhardy. When
a contribution is made, it signals the possibility of a long-term relationship
taking root between donor and the recipient. Remember that it always takes
more time and effort to find a new donor than to keep an existing donor committed
to your organization. The lesson is to value your supporters for the lifeline
that they provide to your work.
How can you sustain and
strengthen your supporters' interest and involvement in your work? If you
really perceive your supporters as partners in your undertaking, you will
have to treat them as such. Some nonprofits actually bestow on their members
voting privileges in the governance of their organizations. Their members
elect the board of directors of the nonprofit corporation. Short of this,
nonprofit leaders can do many things to heighten the sense of affiliation
between their constituents and their organizations.
The benefits an organization
derives from an individual's contributions are self-evident, but what may
be less apparent are those the individual has personally derived. They may
include public recognition, social opportunities, leadership experience,
respect from his neighbors and peers, and skill enhancement, to mention a
few. In any case, it is safe to assume that both parties have reaped benefits
from the association.
with institutional supporters need not begin and end with the receipt of
a grant. There are ways to increase the participation of institutional representatives
in the work and life of your organization. A key ingredient in a successful
partnership between an organization and an institutional supporter is continuity.
The nonprofit organization
and its supporters each have something to offer the other. It is the responsibility
of the nonprofit to make the first overture and to nurture the relationship.
Not every supporter will be interested in ongoing collaborations, but those
who are will respond to your initiatives. The reward for both parties will
be found in the fruits of an ongoing partnership.
Phase 10: Monitoring
and Evaluating Your Fundraising Efforts: Laying the Groundwork for Next
As in most aspects of fundraising,
common sense is the rule in monitoring and evaluating your efforts. Whether
a special event succeeds or fails, find out why. Ask all those involved to
participate in an evaluation. Are the mistakes or miscalculations correctable?
Did the event require more staff, member, and volunteer time than was warranted
by the money it generated? What should be done differently the next time
around in order to enhance the event's success? Sometimes burnout or disappointment
after a frustrating event are so rampant within an organization that questions
such as these never get addressed.
Feedback is vital to other
efforts, too. For example, find out why a targeted corporation has sent a
form rejection letter in response to your letter of inquiry. Call or write
the corporation's charitable contributions officer and ask what might make
your organization more attractive to the company for possible future consideration.
Gather feedback wherever you can. Such information helps in redefining and
refocusing the organization's fundraising strategy.
Most people have a tendency
to walk away quickly from both successes and disappointments without reviewing
them critically. As part of your planning process, schedule evaluation meetings
after every special event and campaign. Ask people who were involved questions
such as: What can we learn from this experience for the future? What would
we do the same way again? What would we do differently?
Check with others for their
perceptions. You can even survey your members if you are assessing fundraising
programs aimed at them. Finally, be sure to schedule dates for your evaluation
meetings as part of your planning process for next year's fundraising efforts.
Build on your previous experiences.
Final Thoughts on Securing
Your Organization's Future
Effective fundraising produces
two equally important, simultaneous results: (1) you secure funds to support
your organization in its immediate work; (2) you lay the financial groundwork
for your future endeavors as well, thereby freeing yourself and your organization
from reinventing a new fundraising wheel each year.
Through building a strong
organization, choosing appropriate funding partners, and crafting a well-thought-out
strategy and plan to secure their support, you will be positioned to serve
your constituents and supporters well. All will derive satisfaction from
the knowledge that your nonprofit organization is on the right course.