Three Fundraising Questions That Must Be Answered Before Your Next Campaign

| by Bert Armstrong

If you are a board member, executive director, or development director for a nonprofit, chances are you've either asked or been asked a lot of questions related to fundraising over the years.  So have I!  Of course as a 27-year veteran of the profession and the principal of a consulting firm whose practice includes significant annual fundraising and capital campaign work, I'm expected to have some pretty good answers. Most of the time I do!  For those times that I don't, I'm blessed to have some really smart people working with me who know the answers or know how to find them. 

Here are three simple questions that I hope someone is asking in your organization: 

Question 1:  How much money can we raise? 

While it is perhaps the most important and obvious question to ask before any campaign, the answer requires some important due diligence. Of course it all starts with having passionate staff and volunteers leading your fundraising campaign. Without passionate champions who are committed, available and persistent, even the best campaign is likely to fail. Beyond that, the answer requires an analysis of giving history history, the giving capacity of your supporters, the calling power and willingness to ask for support among board members and other key staff and volunteers, and the strength of your donor communications and donor engagement strategies.  Finally, you must make a strong case for why this campaign is important and be willing to solicit input from your most important donors an stakeholders. A well-designed resource development plan, a well-written case for support, and an effective feasibility study are the best strategies for determining realistic and achievable fundraising goals. Armstrong McGuire can guide you through this type planning process.

Question 2:  Who will raise this money?

This question is often asked by board members and volunteers who do not feel equipped themselves to go out and ask others for gifts. As much as you might want to punt this responsibility to others, you can't!  Fundraising consultants like Armstrong McGuire can play an important role in assessing your campaign readiness, designing effective plans, creating compelling messages, training and coaching staff and volunteers, and urging/nudging/pushing campaign leaders out the door to make calls.  But in the end, those who care most about the cause and are excited about its mission and vision are the people who must also be your fundraising champions. These are people who care about the organization's impact on their community  There should be a sense of passion when they speak about your cause.  If they are not already engaged in your planning for a campaign, they should be invited in for conversations and brainstorming at a very early stage. Ideally they are individuals who have have influence with some of your key donors and who can articulate the importance of this campaign to a variety of potential supporters.  Finally, THEY MUST BE WILLING TO ASK OTHERS TO INVEST IN THE CAMPAIGN.  Having their name on invitations or appeal letters just isn't enough in today's competitive fundraising environment.  You need champions who are willing to have meaningful face to face conversations with others who can, if properly motivated, support your cause.  Armstrong McGuire can help identify great potential volunteers who best fit your campaign leadership needs. We can also develop strategies to make sure they are well-equipped to be your champions, advocates, and campaign solicitors. 

Question 3:  Who will give to our campaign?  

The obvious givers are those who are already familiar with your organization.  It's important to explore the depths of this understanding to to find out how much they really care.  We all can sit in a room and rattle of a list of "usual suspects - people who have money and who may give to a variety of causes in our community.  However, if there is little or no awareness of your cause, no understanding of the impact of your work, or no inclination on the part of a particular donor to support your organization, then you will waste a lot of time, money and energy chasing gifts that will never be made. Instead, focus first on making sure that you, your board members and key volunteers are committed to making your own gifts first and that they reflect the campaign's importance within your own philanthropic priorities. Only then are you in any position to ask others to invest in this work. After that, you should focus on developing strong relationships with existing donors and volunteers. As we have seen time and again, these are the relationships that ultimately determine fundraising success.

While existing donors are always your best prospects, it is imperative that you are always working to grow your donor base and move donors along a continuum of giving.  There are many strategies for acquiring new donors - some that are inexpensive and simple and others that are complex and costly. There are also important donor communication, engagement, and stewardship strategies that can help make sure your new donors stick around beyond the first gift.  Armstrong McGuire can help evaluate your donor identification, engagement, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship strategies and identify your best prospects for your next campaign.

Maybe you have other questions about your fundraising, strategic planning, board development, or staff recruitment needs.  Send me an email or give me a call. I'm also a sucker for a cup of coffee - my treat!

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