revitalising your fundraising strategy

We achieved some really incredible results for our clients in 2020, both from a capacity-building perspective and the all-important fundraising dollars. But there were many times where we had to reconsider our clients fundraising strategy, given the changing needs of their communities due to COVID-19, and given internal operational challenges many organisations faced during the height of the pandemic.

It was an important year of learning and this year we think it’s going to be crucial that organisations carefully consider their fundraising strategy and look at how it might be better positioned to reap the best results, particularly given that data shows some markets are on the decline when it comes to giving.

So how might your board and senior staff assess your organisations current fundraising strategy to determine if it’s putting the organisation in the best possible position to attract funding? Here are some important questions and tips to consider when reflecting on your strategy.

 Are we targeting the right market segments?

First off, we recommend that you (re)consider who your target market is, based on the developing data coming out from the 2020 pandemic year that was and on the basis of your fundraising assets. When we talk about assets, we are referring to your strengths. Perhaps it’s a huge social media following that can be harnessed for donations when issues arise, or a large community database full of supporters, or an extensive volunteer support base. It’s important to carefully consider what your organisations fundraising assets are to then be able to determine what you should be focussing on (and leaving off the table).

When we talk about market segments, we are referring to the following different target markets:

  • General donors (that give anywhere up to $1k per year)
  • Major donors (that give over $1k per year)
  • Gifts in wills (the average donation is about $50k)
  • Charitable trusts and foundations (they give over $20k and up)
  • Corporate philanthropy (generally give over $25k and up)
  • State Government
  • Federal Government
  • Fee for service work

Recent data indicates that there may be a decline in giving from the general community given the economic impact of the pandemic on individual households (although we note that a number of our clients have experienced very generous public donations). Further, there is some indication that there will be a narrower pool of funds available from the corporate sector. Therefore, we recommend that you review your strategy if you are targeting either of those markets and ensure that if you continue to expend time and energy there that you do so with valid grounds for expending resources. For instance, we recommend that you still proceed with an end of financial year campaign process, along with an end of year campaign, targeting general donors, but you may need to reconsider whether any other specific campaigns are going to garner much support.  In relation to corporate philanthropy, we think any good strategy should focus on existing relationships between the organisation, board members and or key personnel within your organisation. Any partnership should clearly align when it comes to the mission and purpose and ideally you would focus your attention on existing relationships where the corporate partner has indicated an ongoing commitment. Otherwise, we would caution against expending a good deal of resources into this market segment.

How are we approaching each market segment?

 Each market segment needs approaching in very different ways and how we pitch and tell our story to each segment differs. For example, general donors will connect with our cause mostly via their heart whereas major donors will want to see hard facts and figures as well as real life case studies. Major donors will also require a deeper level of engagement with the organisation or people in the organisation.

Key tip: building mid/major donor level support requires relationship building so invest the time and effort in getting to know the individuals or decision-makers, understanding what drives them and what projects are of key interest

Is it worth investing our time and resources into developing a donor circle?

We believe that donor circles are an effective way of engaging with your donors and building more, ongoing support. However, setting up a donor circle takes some time and works best when supported by the Board. We achieved some fantastic results for our clients in 2020 – even when a donor circle was launched virtually it garnered a great response and increased level of support from donors.

How are we communicating our gifts in wills programs to our supporters?

We believe that every organisation should have a gifts in wills program. It also doesn’t require a lot of effort and resourcing but should be a part of your long-term strategy when considering alternative revenue sources. The funds gifted to your organisation are mostly untied income and can therefore be used to support your organisation generally (and not be specifically tied to a project). This can provide a bonus financial boost that can be used for capacity building or funding innovative projects that are yet to be tested. Remember that age old saying; if you don’t ask you don’t get, so make potential donors aware that they can leave a gift in their will to your organisation and communicate how much of an impact their support can make.

Next steps – our two-step approach

  1. Consider your fundraising assets – where are your strengths when it comes to fundraising? Is it that you have a well-connected Board that can help you tap into major donors? Perhaps you have a large database of supporters to be able to pull off a great general donor campaign? Whatever it is, identify where those strengths lie and then consider if you’re properly utilising those assets to maximise your opportunity for future funding. Also consider where your gaps lie and consider if you can fill those gaps. Perhaps you don’t yet have a gifts in wills program but want to invest in this process to sure up future wins.
  2. Prioritise – select the market segments that you will focus on based on your assets, your resources and achievable targets. For each market segment, develop the appropriate strategy and make sure that you can break the goal down into bite-sized, attainable mini goals with a clear timeline about when you’re going to achieve each step towards your bigger end goal. By doing this carefully and properly, you will be able to really test whether you have correctly identified your assets and are prioritising those areas that will give you the best chance for success.

How we can help

We can support you with:

  • Developing funder pitch materials, including a Theory of Change and Case for Support
  • Developing project business plans
  • Preparing best chance funder lists and grant application calendars
  • Advice on donor circle strategy
  • Developing Gifts in Wills programs
  • Developing Donor Stewardship Plans
  • Advice on campaigns and appeals

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