Ten Practical Principles for Raising Funds for Social Ventures

by Rebecca Caspi

images1. Find your focus – turn that big idea into a very specific concept or set of concepts. Think “bite-size” when explaining your passions to others (at least in that first encounter).
Beware of jargon!

2. Figure out who your real prospects are. Time is your most valued resource; spend it in the places you are most likely to succeed.
Forego irrelevant or unlikely donor sources.

3. Know what you need. What exactly is it you need to get funded?
Don’t forget to include your overhead costs (though sometimes it’s OK to sell a loss-leader product).

4. Treat your investors like partners – tell them the truth about how much support you really need.
Don’t ask for too little money.

5. Trite but true, people give to people. In the minds of your funders, you “are” the product. Think about what that means – how do you present yourself? How can your image help/hurt to your cause?
Rehearse key encounters. That seems weird, but in many ways fundraising is a performance art.

6. Ask for the money. Do so with respect and courage.
Don’t confuse friend-raising with fundraising. Remember, you don’t get if you don’t ask!

7. Figure out what your funder wants from you. Fundraising always involves an exchange between the investor and the cause/program being supported.
Sometimes you have to make an educated guess about what your funder seeks from you. Remember to carefully test your assumptions over time.

8. Say thank you, be responsive, and be truthful.
Keep your donors informed – be the first to tell them if there are problems/challenges/successes.

9. Listen to your investors – but stay true to your mission.
Seek to stay donor-interactive, but not donor-driven.

10. Plan for the future. Talk to your funders about how your initiative will thrive after their grant runs out.
Beware donor fatigue!

Rebecca Caspi, is Senior VP Israel & Overseas and Director General of UJC Israel.
10 Practical Principles for Raising Funds for Social Ventures was presented at a
workshop for the PresenTense Fellows, July 20, 2009.