4 steps to a failproof fundraising strategy

We all know how important focus and productivity is in this age of distraction.

I could open a library with all the personal development books, articles and blog posts I’ve read on how to hone in, and spend more time on what really matters.

This is a topic close to my heart when it comes to fundraising as well.

Too often, when I work with organizations that are struggling in their fundraising efforts, it comes down to failing to focus on what matters most.

A great strategy can be one of your most useful tools when it comes to improving your fundraising focus and productivity.

But there’s a difference between strategy you can really put to work, and strategy that’s worth little more than the paper it’s printed on.

Here are the four things that matter most when it comes to developing a failproof fundraising strategy.

Build Buy-in

If your board and ED/CEO isn’t behind your fundraising strategy, you're unlikely to get the traction you need to be successful in the long run.

Whether you’re working with a consultant, or going it alone, it’s important to involve key stakeholders from your board and leadership in the process of building your strategy.

Stakeholder interviews with those closest to your organization can uncover crucial insights about fundraising strengths and opportunities you may not be aware of – as well as helping you spot and address possible sticking points before they become big problems.

If you’re newer to your organization, this is a great way to get to know your board and staff leadership, and can help you identify the champions on your board – influencers who can help you advocate for fundraising with their board peers.

Fund Your Foundation

No, I don’t mean that kind of foundation – though foundation grants may (or may not!) be an important part of your strategy. I’m talking about your systems and infrastructure.

Growing your fundraising program is like building a house. You wouldn’t invest all that time, money, and materials into building your house on sand, would you?

No! You’d pour a strong foundation that will support your home for many decades to come.

The same goes for your fundraising program. Do you have or are you working towards implementing a donor database? Do you have proper processes in place to support thanking, caring for and reporting back to your donors?

Perhaps even more importantly, is your organization ready to invest in your people – properly staffing your fundraising program, including budgeting for ongoing professional development?

Systems and infrastructure are often the last things to get attention in a fundraising program – and the first things to cause problems when there are gaps, and underinvestment.

Prioritize Ruthlessly

Saying yes to everything is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in fundraising.

Too many organizations approach this work reactively, instead of proactively – and responding to outside forces ends up totally shaping your fundraising efforts.

We wouldn’t allow this to happen with our programs, or services, or performances – why do we let this happen with our fundraising?

If you're going to be a great fundraiser, you have to start saying no.

While you do want to remain flexible and make an occasional exception when a fantastic opportunity arises, a great strategy can be a really useful screening tool to help you make decisions.

Ask yourself – does this opportunity fit with any of your priority areas? If so, do we have the capacity to pursue this opportunity?

If it doesn’t fit with any of your priority areas, be really rigorous when you are deciding whether to pursue it.

Does the return on investment and impact surpass what you've already committed to? Or is there a risk you may be succumbing to the dreaded shiny object syndrome?

Block Your Work

Even the greatest strategy ever written won’t be successful if you don’t use it!

It’s all too common to see fundraising strategies and plans written up, then shoved on a shelf somewhere (or the digital equivalent!) to gather dust.

Even if you are stretched thin, you’d be surprised by how much you can accomplish by setting aside even a little time every week to work on your fundraising priorities.

And when I say setting aside time, I really mean it – book it into your calendar like it’s an important meeting, and don’t mess with it!

You could even make it recurring, so you know that every Wednesday morning from 10 am to 11:30 am, you're working on your major gifts program by proactively reaching out to major donors to schedule face to face meetings.

I’m an avid time blocker, so here’s a pro-tip I’ve discovered from my own work – schedule blocking like this tends to work best if you book time earlier in the day, rather than later.

Your energy levels will be higher, and the chances of your blocked time being scuttled by other urgent priorities tends to be lower.

Do you currently have a fundraising strategy? Are you using it? If not, what’s the barrier to implementing it? I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a line at [email protected], or leave a comment below.

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