"I’m new to fundraising – where do I start?"

Whether you’re a fundraising newbie, or a seasoned pro struggling to prioritize your overwhelming workload, chances are, this is a question that’s on your mind a lot:

Where do I start?

Some days, it feels like our fundraising options are endless – do we crowdfund? Do monthly giving? How about peer-to-peer?

Mid-level giving! We need more corporate partners!! Let’s start a social media campaign!!!

As the number of potential tools in our fundraising toolbox grows, it becomes even more important to ensure you're making the right strategic choices and spending your limited time and resources where they’re going to have the greatest impact.

Here’s where to start.

Work from the inside, out

The very first thing I recommend when I start working with an organization looking to develop and prioritize effective fundraising strategy is to spend time with those closest to your cause. 

Your board. Your ED/CEO. Key donors, volunteers, and staff.

I want to ask them lots of juicy questions, and really get to the root of their passion for the work. Why is this cause so important to you? What makes this organization so special? What’s the one thing the organization has accomplished that you feel most proud of?

Good fundraising is about so much more than picking the right tactics.

It’s about getting people excited about your work on their own terms. Uncovering the patterns of why and how supporters engage with you. Understanding what motivates those who are already closest to you.

Identify pets and peeves

Working from the inside out can also help you discover any potential sticking points in developing your fundraising strategy.

One common challenge is the leader who has already made their mind up about something – they think special events are the best way to raise money, or they really hate phone fundraising because someone called them during dinner yesterday.

I like to call these “pets and peeves” - and uncovering them early on through one on one conversations can help you manage and address these potential bumps in the road before they throw your fundraising way off track.

Understand your organization’s assets and opportunities

Even if your organization is brand new to fundraising, you already have assets and opportunities you can leverage.

Let’s say you are a community-based organization, and you’ve noticed a recurring pattern of people in your local neighborhood wanting to engage with your cause, spontaneously giving small gifts, and asking how they can help.

Chances are, this is a natural asset for your organization – so how can you design and focus your fundraising to test out and tap into this opportunity? 

Even if the scenario above does not describe you, chances are you have significant assets you can leverage.

It may be a membership base. Alumni and/or champions of your programs. A board or volunteers with influence and connections in a certain sector. A timely cause that’s getting a lot of attention in the world right now.

If you’ve gotten this far as an organization and are thinking about how to build and grow your fundraising, you already have assets and opportunities you can leverage to grow your fundraising. It’s your job to uncover them.

Fundraising is not one size fits all

There are best practices in fundraising – and you should make it your professional development goal to learn the rules before you break them!

Since the vast majority of philanthropic giving comes from individuals, I almost always recommend that organizations look first at building their individual giving program, with a focus on monthly giving, mid-level and major giving, and bequests – plus supporting all of that with fantastic donor care and engagement.

That said, fundraising is not one size fits all, and there are always exceptions to this rule.

If you’ve worked from the inside out, identified your assets and opportunities, and you’ve developed a good grasp of fundraising best practices, you might determine it makes more sense for your organization to prioritize foundation grants, or corporate partnerships.

Are you new to fundraising? How do you focus your attention and prioritize? Are you a seasoned pro? What tips do you have to share to help newbies figure out where to start?

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