It’s very easy to understand why many small/ medium sized charities don’t think strategically about fundraising – with time and resources at a premium, it’s often quicker simply to put out new ideas and see what works on a trial and error basis. Very often these instinct based fundraising efforts will generate some success, but for every one that does, there are likely to be several that fall flat and that’s where a more strategic approach to raising cash can help.

What’s a fundraising strategy?

Put simply, it’s an overview of how you intend to generate funds in the short, medium and long term. A fundraising strategy removes some of the risks of guessing and allows you to respond in the right way if things don’t go to plan- it’s less of a ‘shot in the dark’ and more of a calculated risk and has been described as your ‘organisational North star’ – providing a clear outline of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there. Done right, a fundraising strategy helps to improve your organisational stability and boost income from all your fundraising sources- it also moves you in the direction of your wider organisational objectives, vision and mission. Win win.

A good fundraising strategy will give you a clear outline of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to get there

Where to start?

It’s time to take a long hard look at your organisation. Go back to basics and re-familiarise yourself with the bigger picture; your aims and objectives, any overarching strategic targets and your current approach to fundraising. You need to establish where the potential opportunities lie and what might be blocking success.

Do this by sitting down with some colleagues and thrashing out a good old fashioned SWOT analysis- looking at your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Think about what has worked in the past with your fundraising and what’s struggled and see what insights you can take into your strategy.

Get to know your donors- better!

You know your donors right? It’s your organisation after all! However, you might be surprised….stop and think about it and ask yourself if you’re basing your understanding on assumptions or facts.

A really effective fundraising strategy requires a deep understanding of your donors. Spend some time thinking about mapping your typical donor types- start to develop some personas that represent your typical donors. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what motivates them and what they see, think, hear, say & do. These personas can represent the full spectrum of your donors from individual givers/ community fundraisers, all the way through to corporate partners.

A really effective fundraising strategy requires a deep understanding of your donors.

Take it a step further by using your data to strengthen your understanding of your donors. Start to understand typical patterns of donations: size, frequency, cause etc. You can then build these insights into your personas, seeing which donor type is most likely to ‘fit’ within certain patterns of behaviour – one might be very likely to give as a result of an e-newsletter appeal and another might be more inclined to engage after a social media/ Instagram campaign. Understanding these nuances will provide you with a really solid foundation for your strategy.

Clarify your goals

Next up, start to think really carefully about your goals. Are you fundraising for something tangible, for example, building a new research centre, or providing new equipment for a hospital, or are your ambitions broader, for example to expand your service provision to reach new people who might need your help.

Think in terms of specifics: How much do you need to raise? What timeframe are you aiming to raise the money in? Your strategy will be informed by this simple information – are you looking at a longer term, larger donations strategy, fostering and nurturing your medium size/ larger size donors through a series of carefully crafted and persuasive emails, or a larger scale campaign with a smaller financial ask reaching a bigger percentage of your supporter base?

Think about what makes you stand out

There’s a huge amount of noise and competition in the market and you’ve got to make sure that your ask stands out from the rest. Go back to your SWOT and think about how you can play to your strengths- building them into your messaging and communications and creating compelling reasons to get behind your fundraising efforts. Feel confident that you’ve got a really good sense of the competitive environment and where you sit in the midst of it.

Think of it as a collaborative document- it’ll need to grow and evolve with your organisation

So what’s stopping you?

With your renewed sense of your audiences and donor types, a firm grasp of the data, clarity on your goals and confidence in what makes you special you can start to piece together your strategy- breaking it down eventually into a series of assigned tasks, or your ‘action plan’.

Think of it as a collaborative document- it’ll need to grow and evolve with your organisation and will benefit from the insight of plenty of stakeholders- both internal and external.

And once it’s live, keep on evaluating your successes and making evidence based iterations.

Quick checklist

  • Understand your donors
  • Glean insights from your data
  • Clarify your goals/ set your targets
  • Be confident about your uniqueness
  • Develop your strategy and an action plan
  • Check on progress- analyse and iterate!

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