Tuesday, January 12, 2010

4 Fundraising Resolutions for the New Year

By Sarah Fischler, CRC Consultant

As part of the Weathering the Storm project, the Community Resource Center and the Colorado Nonprofit Association sponsored trainings on fundraising, financial management, and collaboration to help nonprofit organizations enhance their sustainability during these challenging economic times. As part of this project over the last nine months, I have taught 15 trainings on fundraising during difficult times for nonprofit organizations of all sizes and types across Colorado and have seen the same opportunities for growth come up again and again.

Because the ability to generate revenue is at the core of nonprofit sustainability, we are suggesting these four fundraising resolutions to improve your organization’s fundraising effectiveness for 2010. Check out CRC’s reading list for more information and some ideas to get started on each of these resolutions.

Commit to Greater Diversification

Unfortunately, 2009 was a difficult year for many nonprofit organizations. A lack of diversified revenue sources has continued to be the source of vulnerability for many organizations. If a major funder pulls out or a type of funding declines across the board, a nonprofit can be forced to make difficult decisions like cutting or reducing programs, or in the most extreme cases, closing the doors.

Help your organization improve its prospects for long-term sustainability by diversifying your fundraising base during 2010, both in terms of number and types of donors. Has your organization been planning to start an individual donor campaign or investigate foundation funding for the last five years, but has never found the time? Make it a priority for 2010, even if it is only starting with a small goal, like recruiting 25 new individual donors or submitting a small grant application to a local funder. Setting some small goals for increased diversification and then achieving them can help put your organization on the path to greater sustainability.

Devote Time to Data Management

I am consistently surprised when I encounter an organization with a mid-sized budget and a spreadsheet full of donor information. With donor management packages now accessible to even the smallest organizations, 2010 is the year to commit to getting your donor information into a database, especially if you rely on individual donors for revenue. Better data management can help you make better fundraising decisions and possibly increase the outcomes of your fundraising activities if used strategically. In a spreadsheet, you only see donors as single lines of information. Donor databases can instead help you see donors in terms of their level of engagement with your organization. This can help your organization in better targeting and customizing your donor solicitation activities, activities that will likely result in better outcomes over time. A good, intuitive, and affordable solution for small nonprofits is GiftWorks. (And, if you need some help in transitioning your information, CRC offers classes and consulting in GiftWorks.)

Learn to Love Strategy

Being more strategic and deliberate in fundraising can almost immediately improve fundraising outcomes for any organization. Scattered fundraising is ineffective, frustrating, and leads to burnout because it feels like an endless treadmill of marginally successful activities. If your organization’s fundraising is scattered, simply outlining a few key fundraising activities, setting measurable goals, and then assessing your organization’s progress can significantly help your organization in being more strategic in its fundraising. Even if it is very simple, creating a written plan of action for your 2010 fundraising can help you move from scattered to strategic, resulting in better fundraising outcomes for your organization.

Being more strategic also includes having a better sense of what works and what doesn’t work. Start 2010 by doing some analysis on your previous fundraising activities to get a sense of what is effective and what is not. For example, how much does it actually cost your organization, including staff and volunteer time, to run an event or raise money through your other fundraising campaigns? Through this kind of simple analysis, you can get a sense of whether or not you could be getting a bigger bang for your buck through other fundraising activities. With this sort of information available, you can make a plan that helps prioritize your organization’s activities and leads to more strategic fundraising.

Embrace and Leverage Technology

One of my favorite nonprofit organizations, Community Shares of Colorado, is building an exciting new program on the idea of incremental giving. Through their My Colorado Project (www.mycoloradoproject.org), Community Shares is enabling donors to quickly and easily donate to their member organizations on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis – all automatic once someone is signed up. Community Shares adds on the concept of giving circles, in which people use online tools to engage their networks to get others involved in supporting their favorite organizations. We should all learn something from this model, as converting people who send a $100 check each year to regular, monthly donors can result in increased revenues and greater engagement without having to dedicate resources to recruiting new donors. This kind of program would be a huge drain on resources for most nonprofits without technology to automate the process. Using a service like Acceptiva, your organization can implement a similar program to transition your occasional donors into incremental donors using technology and possibly reap the benefits of higher donations and engagement in your mission.

Incremental giving is one example of how using technology allows a nonprofit to leverage its resources like never before for increased fundraising effectiveness. Web-based technology, like WordPress, has made it possible for small nonprofits to develop professional informational websites for just the cost of a website domain and web hosting (as little as $10 per month) with very little technological expertise. Constant Contact, the popular e-newsletter service, makes sending out an e-newsletter easy and cost-effective. If your organization is not currently using these tools, we encourage you to learn more about how they could help your organization leverage its resources during 2010 for increased fundraising success.

While all of these solutions are not right for all organizations, we encourage you take at least one of these and implement it within your organization during 2010. Doing so will help, in at least a small way, increase your organization’s sustainability for 2010 and beyond.

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