I wanted to try this as a semi-regular blog post – ask a bunch of my favourite fundraisers the same question and see what answers they come back with…so here’s the first “Ask The Fundraiser”:
“If you joined a brand new charity on their first day of existence – no fundraising programme or staff whatsoever and little or no budget – as the person responsible for fundraising what is the first thing you would do?”
“I would try to get my head around the need – 1. The need for the organisation and 2. the need for fundraising to support us meeting the need. Then I’d go after data…I love data and am not afraid to say it.”
- Refine your story. Communicate with passion and emotion why the charity is needed and make the story as personal as possible about who will be helped. Recruiting (or being) a good copywriter will make a big difference to how people respond to your story. An emotive video to tell your story is probably one of the most effective things you can do.
- Define exactly what a gift to your charity will accomplish. Make it tangible and connected directly to the beneficiary.
- Treasure Mapping – This involves interviewing everyone involved with starting the charity. Ask them who they know that might be interested in helping either with money, in-kind gifts or advice. Ask for introductions and make personal visits to everyone on the list. Continue to ask each person you meet to refer you to 2 or 3 others who might be interested. Keep telling your story and make sure all the staff can tell the story.
- Rent a mailing list of local businesses, professionals and individuals and mail a well written, emotive letter asking for donations. Mail regularly, you have to stay in people’s minds. Be prepared with Thank You letters and a very simple follow-up report on how the gifts were used (this will become your newsletter eventually).
- If you have a programme site invite people down to tour the programme and meet the staff. Focus tours on telling the story and building relationships.
- Set up a Facebook page that tells your story and directs people to a donation website to give to a particular project. (next step is a basic website)
- Research possible foundation grants & submit 2-3 grant applications.
- Don’t expect to do anything but work and sleep for the first year. Start-up is painful.
Denisa Casement, Head of Fundraising, Merchants Quay Ireland
“What I am noticing more and more at the moment is the commentary on the importance of ‘real’ interactions with donors to keep them engaged (and giving!). Assuming this would be a small start-up organisation, part of my strategy would be to use my smallness as an advantage and where possible, thank donors in personal and special ways. I would also try to give my donors opportunities to interact with the beneficiaries face-to-face, so they can see what an amazing difference their money has made. I think technology is great for lots of things but not for real relationships. Ultimately – I’d have a sure-fire fundraising strategy! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!”
Ed Hurrell, Business Development Manager, Fundraising Ireland
“I’d get the list of whatever volunteers, donors or supporters there were (including board members). Pick up the phone and give them all a call to find out why they care about the charity, what the charity does well in their opinion and what it doesn’t do well.”
Kevin Delaney, Founder of Charity Hack and Relay For Life Coordinator, Irish Cancer Society
“I’m assuming that the charity is a small start up with no funding and that you are donating your spare time. In my opinion, everything stems from community fundraising so that’s where I would start. By building your brand locally first, you create a strong base which can then be turned into regular donors, corporate donations, major donors etc.
I’d start by asking friends and family to donate to a specific project, something that can be used as a showpiece as to what you are about. I’d also ask for items of value to be donated which can be sold at car boot sales or online to raise money for the charity. I’d also talk to local businesses and the church about running collections and displaying collection boxes and I would run local fundraising events. It would be important to get contact details from donors so you can report back to each donor to keep them interested in the charity and to show how their donation is being used to drive change.
The other thing I would do on day one is to see if there were any grants available for the organisation. That can be a long process so it is best to start day one.
In summary, I’d go for all the traditional routes that work. Build a strong foundation and work out from there. Don’t waste much time on social media, it rarely works and its not as productive as the traditional routes.”
Mike McGuire, Corporate Partnerships Manager, UNICEF
“I believe the most important part of any fundraising plan is knowing why the charity exists and what you are raising the money for. In order to know that you need to speak to as many people involved in the work of the charity as possible. And this is the first thing I would do. Find out why the charity exists, what it is trying to achieve and its objectives. I would speak to the people who started the charity and ask them how it came to exist. I believe fundraising should be built around the output of the charity and what it is achieving. This should be the foundation of any fundraising department and strategy. When you know why you are fundraising, it will become much clearer as to how to fundraise.”
David Muldoon, Fundraising Manager, Cope Galway
“The first thing I’d do would be to look at the database. I’d want to know how many donors are on there, can we contact them and how, how they give (regular gift, or one off….or both!). If you have donors there that are actively engaged and want to give (or had in the past) you have a group of people to go to with a fundraising ask.”
Aoife Garvey, Direct Marketing Executive, Concern Worldwide
Do you want to be involved in the next one?
Do you have a suggestion for the next question?
Get in touch!