Anyone who has ever worked with a local group or organization knows that funding is king. Whether a group's budget is used to grant awards, sponsor events, raise awareness, or simply conduct day-to-day operations, raising money is an absolute necessity for the modern group or organization, regardless of its size.
Here, we highlight five fundraising ideas and tips that are designed to help small, resource-constrained groups raise money efficiently:
* Define your supporter set. Before you decide how to go about raising money, sit down and think about whose money you are most likely to be receiving. Whether you end up soliciting donations, selling products, or holding a more creative fundraiser, you will likely raise a lot of your money from a core, loyal supporter base. Ask yourself what your typical supporter does for a living, what they do for fun, and why they care about your cause. Remember, your supporter set probably extends far beyond your group members' friends and family. Once you have developed this "supporter profile," you can do a better job of picking a fundraiser that is appealing to as many potential supporters as possible.
* Know your information channels. How will information about your fundraiser get to your supporters? Does your group have a website? A mailing list? A physical sign somewhere in town? Think about the supporter set that we just defined and consider how your typical supporter learns about new events or activities. Sending information to your group's members is a good start, but how will this information get to new supporters or those who are not yet aware of your group? The dream scenario is to get some attention from the local media. Try contacting reporters at your local newspaper (you can usually find e-mail addresses at the bottom of feature articles) or tip lines of your local news stations. These outlets are often eager to learn more about local events and public interest stories, and your fundraiser might just fit the bill.
* Embrace the internet. These days, it is safe to assume that most of your supporters (and countless potential supporters) spend time online every day. Be sure that you are listed on websites that catalog specific causes, such as Idealist.org. Also, be sure to keep an active list of supporter e-mail addresses. To build your list, add a feature on your group's website for collecting the e-mail addresses of supporters. You can also collect e-mail addresses from everyone who makes a purchase or supports you during your regular fundraisers. With a large e-mail list, you will build a strong channel for getting information out whenever your group has new news (or a new fundraiser).
* Set realistic goals--and accept nothing less. No matter how small your organization is, fundraising is all about numbers. If you know exactly how much money you need to raise, you can determine how much money each group member should be responsible for generating. If your fundraiser is something as simple as a bake sale, simply do the math: how many items at 50 cents each does each person have to bake in order to hit their goal? This kind of logic can be used across any kind of fundraiser. Also, when setting member-specific goals, take a tip from the world of sales and secretly inflate everyone's quota by 10% to 20%. That way, even if 10% to 20% of your members fail to meet their quotas, you will still hit your overall fundraising goal.
* Consider the lifetime value of a supporter. When you ask a supporter to contribute to your group or cause, think about more than the immediate goal. Yes, they may contribute just a few dollars today, but if you add up how much they contribute in their lifetime, the numbers can be staggering. This idea of lifetime value teaches a valuable lesson: losing a supporter is more expensive than you think. When someone decides to stop supporting your cause, you are losing income for every future fundraiser you hold. As a result, you should take special care not to alienate, insult, or otherwise offend anyone in your supporter base. This can happen if your fundraiser sells low-quality products, overcharges for items, or pressures donors too highly. Talk to your supporters and see what kinds of fundraisers appeal to them the most. Usually, a fairly small sample size can be enough to get an idea of what fundraising strategy will be best received by your supporter base.
As these fundraising tips reveal, even a small organization can benefit from a high level of fundraising sophistication. Applying ideas like these across an entire campaign can lead to significantly improved performance. Happy fundraising!