Tracks to Success
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fundraising (but were afraid to ask)
by Jay Frost, President & CEO, FundraisingInfo.com
We are just coming out of a very difficult time for fundraising. Many have attributed the drop in private giving almost exclusively to the great recession. But there may be another important reason nonprofits have had such a tough time raising money: The need to pursue new opportunities.
Pursuing new funding opportunities carries the twin risks of taking focus off what has worked historically and the possibility of rejection. Board members, in particular, may need a commanding case for investing personal time and energy in meeting prospective new individual donors when much of an organization’s revenue has come from institutional support in the past.
So how can we inspire our leaders to take the leap?
FundraisingInfo.com has received numerous questions about how to effectively inspire board members to engage in fundraising. Here is one such exchange about that particularly thorny matter of approaching individual donors for the first time:
Question: We are having our annual board retreat in a few weeks. I am on the agenda to give a presentation on why individual donors are so important to our organization. I understand that individual giving is very important, but I'm not sure how to convey to the board why it's so important and how much I'm going to need their assistance without sounding desperate.
Answer: You may want to begin your presentation with statistics from the FY 2011 Giving USA Foundation report (http://www.givingusareports.org/). Focus on the fact that giving by individuals, bequests, and family foundations totals 88% of all charitable funding. Then compare this percentage to the percentage of funding your organization currently receives from individuals. Is there room for improvement? We have found that this one piece of information is usually very "eye opening." Next compare your foundation and corporate giving sources to the Giving USA statistics. If you have one or two grants that make up a large part of your overall philanthropic revenue, you might discuss how this could be a problem in the future if these go away. This can help you make the point that by focusing on individual donors, your organization can create a large base of support and a more diverse base as well. As with every other type of successful fundraising effort, doing your homework first brings big benefits when the time comes to approach potential contributors.
There is no question that all sources of funding are important to our organizations. And we are usually gratified—and sometimes even relieved—when we are successful in attracting and retaining a few sources of significant support. The danger, of course, is that a change in economic conditions or any number of other unforeseeable factors can radically alter any single donor’s ability to continue providing that support. Diversifying our sources of support, and increasing the number of donors of all types, helps us to ensure we have the resources we need to carry out our mission whatever the economic climate.
Jay Frost is President & CEO of FundraisingInfo.com, a pioneering provider of fundraising support services, including the “Ask FRI” series on which these articles are based. Jay is a twenty-seven year veteran of the fundraising field.
This article was edited by Julie Kaufman. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, useful tips, or are interested in writing a series for us, please email our Research team, or call our toll-free number: 877-784-7268.