18 ingredients for successful fundraising

I’m celebrating my 15 year anniversary as a fundraiser!

In a blog post 5 years ago I wrote about the best strategic ingredients for a successful fundraising program. Let’s try that again and see if I want to change my perspective now I’ve grown older…

  1. Fundraisers are gold. Quality fundraising staff makes all the difference. Without the right staff you can forget the rest of this post. And your fundraising results. Hire great professional fundraisers. Now.

  2. Database as foundation. You need a database that can service your needs to segment and communicate with your (potential) donors as personal as possible on a mass scale. Storage of all those contact moments, and the donor’s response to them, is crucial for analysis and refinement of your program.

  3. Going the distance. A long-term view on fundraising is key to grow the Lifetime Value of your donors. Make decisions that have impact on the long-term. Make it your top priority to keep donors with you as long as possible.

  4. The right culture. Your Management Team and Board should embrace Fundraising as an equal goal next to the services your organization provides. Only then you can unlock the true potential of your fundraising.

  5. RAI = Returns After Investment. Like any other business model where we want to earn money, we need to invest first. Unless you have a money-tree in your garden, you need to invest money, to make money.

  6. Nobody knows it all. Don’t stare at your excel sheets all day. You’re never too old to learn, so go out and get that external view on things. Read fundraising blogs and books, and talk to other fundraisers!

  7. Copy, paste & innovate. Copy & paste where appropriate. And keep testing new stuff in your search for new ways of acquisition and retention.

  8. Back to basics. Ask for it! If you don’t ask people to become donors, it’s very likely that they don’t become a donor. If you do ask them, your chances are phenomenally better.

  9. Try FRIENDraising. Fundraising exists because of donors. They are more important than anything else. It’s all about relationships and donor loyalty. Treat your donors as you would treat your friends. And don't forget to thank them. Please thank your donors!

MSF nurse Josie Gilday in South-Sudan. © Brendan Bannon/MSF

MSF nurse Josie Gilday in South-Sudan. © Brendan Bannon/MSF

10. Love thy numbers. Fundraising is about warm relationships, but we express this affection in cold numbers, so crunch those numbers and learn from them.

11. The P for planning. If you don’t plan, you don’t know where to go and you’ll waste money. Create a clear strategy and plan. And then question them from time to time.

12. Image is everything. And everything is image. Professional, transparent and consistent communication wins in the end. Do what you promised.

13. Priorities first. Why have one full time staff member working on social media, while your relationship manager is screaming for help to say thank you to €1,000+ donors?

14. Communication & Fundraising. Comms and Fundraising should be part of one department. Work together. With the common goal to raise funds. Remember: fundraising is also a form of branding.

15. Tell the right story. Fundraisers are storytellers, so tell inspiring stories. The story of one person. Use emotion. And tell the right story to the right audience.

16. What it’s all about. It’s about your nonprofit’s cause. The impact you’re making with your organization is the best thing that could happen to your fundraising. Show that to your donors, as specific as possible.

17. Test, test and test. In fundraising we can test most things. So test them! However, some things are too obvious. Just implement them, and take it from there.

18. Passion and pride. A good fundraiser can become an exceptional fundraiser if there is that spark. For your cause. And for fundraising.

That’s it. Looking back I haven’t changed my opinion much. Although I feel I’m putting more and more emphasis on making decisions that have long-term impact. And because you can only do that with the best fundraisers, I'm also focussing on the skills in a team that are needed to make these choices. If you have the right fundraiser, the rest will follow.

Tweet me if you want to add something to this list, or congratulate me with my 15 year anniversary!