Horse Drawn Plow

The Garden of Fundraising - Breaking Ground

Great fundraising advice depends on your perspective. Strategies that work brilliantly for a diocese are practically useless to a church food pantry. One-sized-fits-all fundraising advice does not exist. To find the right fundraising approach, you need to understand where you are and where you're going.

Your fundraising programs are like a garden. You might be just starting to garden for the first time. You need to decide on raised beds vs. tilling the soil. You will learn about soil chemistry. Or, have you been doing this a while? You may be more concerned with trying different varieties of plants to see which give you the best yield. Do you have a fully enclosed greenhouse filled with exotic plants from around the world? You'll spend more time focused on controlling the climate and making sure those fancy plants get any micronutrients they need.

The place to start is where you are.

The beginner - The fundraiser who is just starting to garden needs to answer several key questions. Is your ministry brand new? Have you provided services yet? How much time do you have to devote to fundraising? How much money do you need to raise? Do you know people who can help with fundraising?

The new ministry that is just starting out will likely start by reaching out to friends and family for support. A great fundraising program for a new ministry is personal ministry fundraising. This approach gives you a structure for meeting face-to-face and sharing your story with people who might be willing to support your ministry. For you introverts out there, a beginner's direct mail campaign can be effective.

Take a look at the various fundraising options that are available to you in the Fundraiser's Playbook. Find an approach that matches your skills and needs, then develop your fundraising plan. Then work your plan.

Master the basics

No matter what approach you use, it's important to develop good fundraising habits from the get-go.

  1. Know your story - Before you ever start fundraising, you need to know WHY you're fundraising. What need is unmet in the community? How is your ministry going to meet that need? What is their donation going to accomplish? You'll have a hard time fundraising if you can't answer those basic questions.
  2. Proof read your materials - If you're sending out written communications, make sure you hit that grammar/spell check button. Potential donors donors are less likely to support you if your sloppy. (Did you catch what I did there?)
  3. Track your contacts - By contacts, I mean any way that you have communicated with a potential donor. If you're sending out e-mails to donors, you need to track it. Phone calls, letters, meetings – you need to track them all. You can use a spreadsheet if absolutely necessary, but eventually, you're going to want a donor database to help you keep track of your information. This way, you’ll know the history of your relationship with all of your donors.
  4. Say "Thank you" - The simplest and most important thing that you can do is say thank you to your donors. A written thank you note is the most basic kind of thank you, but you can do anything from giving them a call to inviting them to a special tour.
  5. Share successes - The worst thing a fundraiser can do is get a donation and then drop off the face of the earth. You want your donors to know how their gifts are helping to make some good thing happen. Keeping them in the loop, either through email, written notes, phone calls, or meetings, helps prepare them for the fifth fundraising habit.
  6. Ask again - Someone who has already given to support your efforts is far more likely to give than someone who has never given. You just have to ask them again. If you have carefully cultivated the first four fundraising habits, then asking again should be very fruitful.

The beauty of these five fundraising habits is that they work across a broad range of fundraising styles. They might look a little different in a direct mail program than they do in a grant program, but they are same habits that lead to success.

Good fundraising habits are like mastering the basics of tilling the soil, mulching, planting, and watering. It's unlikely you'll ever see a harvest if you don't do these simple things well. If you're consistent, however, your garden will bear fruit year after year.

Need some new ideas on how to fundraise? Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook and find the fundraising strategy that will work best for you!

Image courtesy of Pete Markham, via Creative Commons License, some rights reserved.