There’s a wide variety of choices or “tools” you can employ but not all are suited to every project. Remember, fundraising takes time and costs money so utilize your resources wisely. Make sure you have sufficient funds, time and personnel to achieve your objectives and don’t try to employ every tool at your disposal. Always use the right tool for the job and don’t overspend by using too many tools when it would be more efficient to use fewer… and always use tools with the intention of building long-term relationships, not just raising short-term money.
There are numerous ways to raise funds for any given project. Your job is to determine which one will be the most effective.
Know your target audience and how best to reach them
Niche fundraising works well for certain projects under certain circumstances but the overwhelming amount of money raised comes from individual investors so this is where you should focus your attention.
The next largest segment, although much smaller than individual contributions is foundations, followed by corporations. Combined, these three groups generate more than 90% of all funds raised. All other methods combined account for less than 10% of money raised.
But this doesn’t tell the whole story and each campaign is unique and must be judged on it’s own merits. It’s fine to experiment… a little but never “bet the farm” on something that sounds exciting but may require time, money and other limited resources to prove effective and should it not, you have no reserves to go back to a more conventional and proven method.
Oftentimes your audience may be receptive to new ideas, appeals or methods but before you jump “all in” be sure to test first. A guess is one thing… facts are quite another. Make sure you have the facts before making a major commitment.
While it’s possible that with a single face-to-face visit with a major donor you could raise a very substantial amount of money, it is highly unlikely that most organizations have such donors that are able and willing to commit to any project they are not truly passionate about.
Large contributions are usually made by people who have a very strong emotional tie to an organization. Perhaps a successful business person feels he owes his success to the university he attended; a cancer victim feels indebted to the hospital that provided the treatment that prolonged her life; parents may want to honor their only child who died in a drunk driving accident so they contribute to a “don’t drink and drive program;” or, a family makes a large gift to their church because of their strong religious belief.
All these instances sound familiar and they happen quite frequently in number but, as a percentage, the percent is quite small and the circumstances are also affected by timing and location.
The good news is you personally don’t have to know a lot of rich people who could become major donors. Statistically speaking, the most generous people are those who earn around $50,000 per year… and that’s a very large number of people.
Special events may sound exciting, but they should be at the bottom of your list for raising money as they generate the least return while requiring the most effort.
Foundations have lots of money but you know what they also have… lots of people and organizations calling on them to donate some of it. Usually, there is a long, difficult and time-consuming process before a foundation sponsored project is approved.
If you think your project would appeal to a foundation, by all means, apply but don’t delude yourself into thinking that because you believe your project is worthy, the foundation’s board will feel the same way. If you apply for foundation money, make sure you can live with the strings that usually come attached and if you’re fortunate enough to be granted the money, doubly make sure you do all the proper record keeping and reporting.
What is said above for foundations is equally true for grants.
Corporate Giving Program
More than ever, corporations are becoming more generous in their donations but remember, their first obligation is to their shareholders. And make no mistake, their generosity must also serve their business model so they are more inclined to donate money to projects and programs that further their own interests. These could include making a donation to a college to fund research in their area of economic interest or creating an environmental awareness program because it supports their own reputation as an environmentally friendly company.
If your program doesn’t specifically align with their corporate interests, it is highly unlikely you will be successful qualifying for a donation.
There are many other sources and methods for generating donations and undoubtedly, as you read this, numerous innovative individuals are hard at work developing new ones. Learn as much as you can but don’t fall into the trap of believing there is one magical solution to your solving your problem. I’ve stated this several times in this Guide, test, test and test again.
Develop your skills, do the proper research on your project, write a compelling story, deliver it to the most sympathetic audience, keep them informed of the project’s progress, show them the result of their contributions and your organization’s endeavors and never stop building a relationship with your donors that’s based on honesty, integrity, transparency, common goals and good communication.