Basics for Successful Fundraising

When organizations need to raise money, there are a few essential questions to ask before starting the process.

First, what are the organizational goals you want to achieve and how can additional funds help you to meet these goals? Organizations should have a strategic fundraising plan that aligns with their specific goals and objectives.

Next, how much funding does your organization need to meet these goals? For example, if your organization is planning a capital campaign, it is crucial to know what your needs are and how much money you will need to raise to meet your goal. If the capital campaign is to build a new facility, it is essential to know the exact budget for architectural plans, fees, construction and other costs associated with the project before starting a fundraising campaign.

Breaking projects down into phases can make planning easier. Prioritize the dollar goal and put together a timeline; from the date, you want to complete your goal and work backward.

  • Planning is key. Create a spreadsheet with details about the organization's needs and then determine the costs for each priority. Budgets may include administrative/staff salaries, special-event expenses (catering, event space rental, flowers, audio-visual needs, security, etc.), printed materials such as invitations or promotional materials, building and construction costs and more. Be thorough and ask a lot of questions. Seek the advice of fundraising professionals. Double-check lists to make certain you don’t leave out any essential or critical steps.

  • Create printed and digital items to communicate and promote your mission, timeline, goals and lists of those involved. Put together a donor packet with key information about your organization and the project to be funded. Include a mission statement, the names of your advisory or executive committee members, details about funding and giving levels as well as your timeline.

  • Create a list of people to ask for donations. You want to keep the list short at first. Build a network—start small. People who have donated before are the best to ask first. Put together a committee (board members, staff members, etc.) and provide them with training to make sure they understand the project, the goal(s), the strategic fundraising plan and essential timelines.

  • Continually expand your donor list—individuals, companies or foundations that align with your goals. Seek out influential people to assist with getting donations to help set up the “ask,” or to seek donations themselves. Be clear about what you want them to accomplish and always thank them for their assistance.

  • Establish specific “giving levels.” Do your homework—research your prospective donors. Do some detective work to find out who has given in the past to other organizations (review their IRS-990 report and funding information from organization websites or here Conduct personal interviews with potential donors to get a feel for their personal philanthropic goals and possible giving level.

Once you have all these things in place—start asking. Understand that people will say no. If they say no, move on. Keep communication lines open and check in with those that are helping you often—to give them encouragement and advice.

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