How To Develop A Killer Fundraising Strategy
Having a fundraising strategy is not a legal requirement for charities and nonprofits, but they are extremely useful. A good strategy directs your efforts across all channels and campaigns to help you meet your goals. Think of it a little bit like this… Running a charity without a clear fundraising strategy is a bit like playing pin the tail on the donkey. You might get lucky, but then again, you might not. If your circumstances change, it’s incredibly difficult to get back on track. Oh, and you’re blindfolded, so not only can you not foresee any dangers (a sharp table edge, let’s say), but you can’t spot important opportunities.
Unlike pin the tail on the donkey, a fundraising strategy should be more than a stab in the dark. It should outline what you want to achieve, how you’re going to get there, and provide mitigation against potential risks. Your fundraising plan of action should be your organisation’s very own North Star. When done right, it will help you to monitor your progress towards meeting your goals, maximise the potential of each fundraising source and boost income, awareness and stability.
What is a fundraising strategy?
Chances are, you already know what a fundraising strategy is. But just to ensure everyone is on the same page before we dive into the important bits, let’s cover the basics. Put simply, a fundraising strategy dictates how your organisation will generate funds in the short, medium and long term. It should form an integral part of your wider strategic plan and be formed around your organisation’s vision and mission.
Why do you need one?
It’s more than a simple roadmap from A to B. It helps you plan what resources you’ll need, isolate which channels you should use for campaigns, identify funding streams to explore or develop, and what tasks to designate to different teams. It guides every part of your organisation towards one, or a few overarching targets.
Why is this useful? For one, your internal teams gain a clearer understanding of the organisation’s objectives, and the specific part they will play in achieving them. The strategy should be shared more widely with stakeholders, trustees, funders and patrons, subsequently gaining stronger buy-in from these parties. In addition, being clear on your strategy can be helpful in how you communicate your mission to your donors. As an example, it could form a key part of the content brief for your charities website or end of year report.
Through the implementation of a good strategy and the ongoing analysis of your performance against it, you will also be able to provide more transparency about where your resources are being allocated, where you are underperforming and succeeding. This is gold-dust for fundraising applications.
Where to start
Each type of charity is different – their needs, target audience, the donation habits of their supporters, their choice of tea. You’ll already know the key components that should go into your fundraising strategy better than anyone. It’s simply a matter of stepping back to look at the big picture, and there are various ways to do this effectively. You can complete a simple SWOT analysis of your organisation – identifying the current and future strengths (S), weaknesses (W), opportunities (O) and threats (T) of your organisation.
Or you can dive a little deeper with a STEEPLE analysis, looking at the social (S), technological (T), economic (E), environmental (E), political (P), legal (L) and ethical (E) external factors that already affect or may affect your organisation in the long run.
These are, of course, more than two ways of analysing your organisation, with a huge variety of methods available. The crux of these different evaluation systems is taking a step back and identifying your organisation’s strengths, weaknesses and what you can learn from past fundraising experiences. Here are some other factors you should consider when doing this type of analysis.
Know Your Donor
Your donors are the lifeline of your organisation, but how often do you stop to think about what they want? Take your time at this stage of your strategy development to fully delve into the various user personas you are communicating to. Think of a persona as a representation of a typical donor that incorporates their location, age, habits and behaviours.
Most charities will have a wealth of data available to them which will provide a fuller picture of their donor base, but not all will use this information to best effect. Use all data available to you to nurture your understanding of these personas. One persona may be highly engaged on social, whilst another might loathe Instagram videos and prefer direct mail where they can take the time to engage on a deeper level. Unless you dig into your data, you will be making broad assumptions about your donor-base, therefore failing to notice their preferences and losing donations and engagement as a result.
Your ultimate goal
At the core of any fundraising strategy are your objectives. It might be that you want to be able to supply support, equipment or funds to 100 new beneficiaries in the next year. Perhaps you want to expand with a new office or facilitate international expansion. If your objective is monetary, how much do you want to raise and what exactly is it for? Being specific is key to developing a thorough plan on how to reach that goal. Be sure at this stage to set a timeline and assess your resource requirements. Raising money to help 100 low-income families may cost £5 million, but your fundraising efforts will look very different if you want to reach this target within a year compared with a decade.
Adapt and innovate
As much as it might be tempting to be a jack-of-all-trades, it’s unlikely that every channel will be appropriate for your organisation. Assess the pros and cons of each potential funding stream – both current and prospective ones – to evaluate what is working, would work in the future and what won’t.
It is important that rather than sticking solely to methodology you’ve used in the past, you seek to explore the possibilities of diversifying your income through new technologies. As donor behaviours are changing, and the technology revolution continues to thrive, failing to innovate will result in failure. You might need to investigate contactless giving technology for on-the-ground fundraising to replace cash donations. Perhaps you need a new website design to make donating online easier for your supporters.
Oxfam has long proved themselves to be digital leaders – working to streamline their fundraising strategy for a 21st century donor. They replaced their traditional paper-based forms at festivals with WorkMobile’s data capture system to record the details of new supporters. A photo of each supporter was taken to show them getting involved in the campaign, which was texted to them as a way to say thanks. Not only did this make donors feel more valued, but they also often shared their photos on social media afterwards, boosting Oxfam’s reach without any additional resource input. By incorporating more innovative and modern approaches into a wider fundraising strategy, charities are able to engage with more people, generate more funds and overall scale their charitable impact.
Be prepared to regularly appraise this part of your plan, as what might not be appropriate for your organisation now could become critical in the future.
There are a lot of great charities and nonprofits out there doing brilliant, admirable work. Which means that there are likely other organisations vying to gain the attention of your target audience. In the public’s eyes, there may be a scarce difference between you and your nearest competitors. By identifying what it is about your organisation that makes you different and honing in on that message, you’ll appear more purposeful to potential supporters. Therefore, your plan should carefully plot the competitive landscape, and seek to find and communicate what makes you unique.
Sounds like a plan, Stan
Once you’ve covered all of the above, you can begin to piece together an encompassing strategy document. When it’s ready, share it with your management team, your trustees or your lead volunteers and throw the doors open for comment. Your team will be best placed to spot any gaps or holes in the plan, and with their backing and support, you will be able to make it a reality.
Analyse, analyse, analyse
Despite your plan now being in action, your work is not yet done. Constantly monitoring and evaluating how effective your fundraising efforts are in relation to your objectives will help you to detect early signs that your approach needs tweaking. It might be that your email newsletter is not being engaged with as much as you’d like and could benefit from a new approach. Perhaps the average donation per person is lower than you predicted. By constantly optimising your approach using data-led insights, you can ensure you are progressing. Software like our GoodBox Portal allows you to easily track and use data to analyse the performance of your contactless fundraising campaigns, eliminating guesswork and assumptions.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong approach when it comes to creating a fundraising strategy. How you design the framework is entirely up to you and your organisation. But if, in the process, you recognise that a cashless society could have a damaging impact on your charity, we are here to help. At GoodBox, we help charities – both big and small to modernise their fundraising efforts so that they can continue to thrive in an ever-changing digital landscape.
Get in touch with our insightful team today to find out more about what we do, or simply to have a chat. We love a good chinwag.