The Secret to Successful Fundraising

no-secrets-480By Shoshanna Jaskoll

Nonprofits have it rough. They need to run excellent programming, create meaningful results, tell everyone about it, keep it transparent, put out great materials, stay in touch with donors, fund everything while constantly proving their worth- and do it all while squeezing each dollar for more than its worth.

This is not news.

In order to do the above, tremendous pressure is put onto fundraisers to bring in money while spending (and costing) as little as possible.

This is also not news.

The climate in which nonprofits have to operate is just getting more and more difficult.

Are you waiting for the news?

Here it is.

There is a successful formula for fundraising. It is not secret and it is not sacred. It is clear and simple and I’m going to lay it out below.

The only part of this that is uncertain, is you.

Are you willing and able to make the commitment and investment necessary to ensure stable and steady income for your organization?

The essential elements of successful fundraising are:

  • Proper materials. Creative, compelling, to the point, and clear on need.
  • Engaging Online Presence with excellent text, images and clear understanding of purpose.
  • A resource development professional who is respected, a valued member of the management team, fairly compensated, with latitude and appropriate authority.
  • Realistic expectations and understanding of the goals and needs.

Proper materials

Materials in this context means all written communications with donors large and small, individual and institutional. LOIs, grant requests, brochure/one pager, articles, etc., must properly reflect your organization’s core purpose and brand, speak in a unified language with a clear message, and include images that tell your story and show how unique your work is. Together these elements let the reader know exactly why he wants to support you.

Online Presence

An excellent website does the same job as written materials in a smaller amount of time. It is replete with personal stories, ways to get involved, links to your (active) social media feeds, full of images of your work and has an easy link to donate. It is the first place people will look when wanting to know more about you and had better give the reader all she wants without boring her to death or making her work too hard. Your social media profiles will depend on what you do and who your audience is. Generally, Facebook is a must. YouTube, Twitter, Instagram can all be used to raise awareness and keep in touch with supporters making them real partners in the work you do.

All of these materials – donor communications, social media presence and website, must be uniformly branded and speak the same message.

A professional resource developer

This is where a lot of organizations get it wrong. I recently had a conversation with the head of an Israeli organization who is smart, dedicated and looking to hire a fundraiser. He was looking to spend about $13,000 a year for a half time position. I was frank and honest and told him it was a waste of money. Aside from the fact that anyone he hired would have to split his or her time, energy and focus on two jobs, there would not be enough time to make the relationships necessary for proper fundraising.

To raise funds for an organization, one needs to be fully involved, engaged and invested. One cannot do this on a salary that one cannot live on. I asked him how much he expected the fundraiser to bring in and of course the answer was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I asked if an investment of $13,000 could be expected to bring in that amount and if perhaps double that might bring in a more capable and dedicated candidate able to give a few more hours for far better results. He agreed and thanked me and I believe he truly has a better understanding of what can be expected. Which brings us to this:

Realistic expectations

Facebook will not bring you millions of dollars. A really awesome Rosh Hashanna letter will not finance a new wing. And a crowdfunding campaign will not raise $50,000 in two days. None of these happen on their own. They come with time, effort, relationship building and after people know and trust your brand. People donate because you touch them, keep in touch with them, AND because they know they can count on you to deliver on your promises.

This happens when your every word to them says the same message and can be shown to be true. It happens when you share your work, the people you help and the unique way you make a difference. It happens when you understand that they need to see and feel what you do.

Invest in your organization and in letting people in, and people will feel confident investing in you.

Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is cofounder of REACH3K, a boutique branding and communications firm.