1. Measure Twice, Cut Once
There’s an old adage among carpenters “measure twice, cut once,” meaning that you should conduct detailed and thoughtful planning and preparation before taking action. Your organization needs more funds, not less. So, our goal as fundraisers is to raise the maximum amount of donations using the minimum amount of our organizations’ resources. To be truly efficient and effective in our fundraising efforts, we must dedicate a significant portion of our time to understanding the organization’s needs and extensive research to identify potential donors.
The first step on this journey is learning your organization in excruciating detail – it’s mission, history, vision and plans for future growth. By committing the organizational strategy to memory and taking it into account when considering potential donors, you can ensure a good fit and improve your chances of getting a substantial donation.
Your next step is research… today, there are many online databases available that enable you to search for and read about foundations, individuals, companies and public institutions. Before approaching, you should first make sure that your organization and project match the priorities, basic eligibility criteria, prerequisites, and requirements of the donor.
Bonus tip: don’t be afraid to call prospective donors – many foundations, federations, and other funding bodies have a phone line for general inquiries. If you have questions, pick up the phone and give them a call! Usually, you end up learning much more useful information that you bargained for…
2. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Does your organization have a fundraising department? Lucky you! This is a valuable opportunity for you and your organization to hone your skills and “divide and conquer.” Each fundraiser brings their own unique expertise to the table. When working in a team, it’s highly recommended to leverage each team member’s individual advantage – for example, you have a gift for budgets and research, while your colleague has a way with words or maybe you are from New York, while your colleague is from London. Whatever the case may be, you should develop a strategy based on individual strengths and establish clear roles, responsibilities and areas for collaboration.
If you don’t work with a fundraising team, this is still an important lesson. When considering approaching a new potential donor, reach out to other colleagues in your organization. You never know who might have connections. Even a seemingly irrelevant connection can help you get a foot in the door. For example, perhaps your colleague in the marketing department is friends with the receptionist at a foundation, who happens to help the grant committee screen applications.
Bonus tip: your organization’s Board of Directors… remember them? Many boards meet quarterly (four times per year) or less frequently, often via teleconferencing. Because they are usually not involved in the day-to-day operations, it can be easy to forget that they volunteered to serve as stakeholders for your organization. One of the duties that are typically expected of them is assistance with fundraising. Board members tend to be well-connected in the nonprofit and philanthropy space and normally don’t mind making introductions.
3. Early Bird Gets the Worm
So, you conducted your research and found the right potential funder, and now it’s time to submit a grant proposal, LOI or application… Whether the application you are submitting has a deadline or not, the earlier you submit your grant application the better. If there is a fixed deadline, even a few minutes’ delay can lead to automatic rejection. If you are reaching out without a tender or open call, timing is still important, as some foundations limit the number of grants they award every year. So, the sooner you approach them, the better the chance that you will receive a positive answer.
Bonus Tip: Before starting the application, you should ensure that you can provide all the required documents on behalf of your organization. Obtaining these can be a lengthy bureaucratic process that should be taken into account with regard to application deadlines.
4. Straight from the Horse’s Mouth
In today’s modern world, technology can be both a blessing and a curse. Especially following the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent social distancing, people all around the world are feeling isolated and in need of human connection.
Fundraising has always and will continue to be a relationship-based field. Meeting and speaking directly to prospective and current donors on a continual basis are essential to making a good impression and establishing effective communications. Meeting potential/ ongoing supporters face-to-face is preferred whenever possible – in fact, many foundations will not even consider a donation until after conducting a site visit.
These days, when in-person meetings are restricted or impossible, you can use phone or video calls as a way of introducing yourself to potential donors or updating your current supporters. Connecting a face or voice with a grant application will help your organization or project stand out among hundreds of other requests.
Bonus tip: many foundations do not accept unsolicited applications, meaning that you should first introduce your organization and be invited to apply. You should consider calling first or, if you decide to send an email, offer to set up a short phone or video call.
5. The Times They Are A-Changin’
The future is now… everything around us is “smart” – watches, robot vacuums, etc. So how do you take your organization’s fundraising out of the 20th century and truly embrace today’s technology? The use of online fundraising tools is a modern-day necessity for every organization. The most basic must-have online tool is a donation page, which most organizations host on their own website.
Fundraising campaigns are another fundamental tool for your online fundraising efforts. You can setup your own fundraising page or use an online giving site or crowdfunding platform. One key feature is the ability to publish your fundraising goal and allow both you and your donors to keep track of your progress.
Other creative new methods of online fundraising include e-commerce (selling merchandise online), social media campaigns or challenges, online auctions and email campaigns.
Bonus tip: campaigns that span multiple platforms (for example, crowdfunding, email and social media) can maximize your ability to reach or even exceed your fundraising goals.
Navigating the world of fundraising can be a challenge, but learning from best practices based on both traditional and modern approaches and working together as a team will leverage your efforts and maximize your donations!
At Minuf, we help build the capacity of nonprofit and civil society organizations, enabling them to be robust and impactful. Our team staff is comprised of native English and Hebrew speakers and is highly skilled in fundraising from foundations, federations, private donors, government bodies, and more. Our expert staff is comprised of professionals with years of experience in the field who will manage the fundraising process from beginning to end. We offer a range of services including not only resource development, but also digital marketing, strategic planning, and more.