Fundraising is Simple,
but Not Easy

Susan E Mangels Senior Vice President Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald Author

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

Is fundraising really that simple?

As you look at your nonprofit’s goals for the year and the dollars you must raise to keep the doors open, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed. There are many, many needs and even more details to keep track of.  Where do you even start?

Remember, much of what effective fundraisers do is not nuclear fission. The steps in effective fundraising and “friend-raising” are fairly simple. Yet, ensuring that the simple steps are done at the right time, in an effective order, and by the right person, can make it difficult.

Enumerating specific goals (say, dollars and donors) – and defined steps to achieve them – will help development staff to stay focused and execute a successful plan.

So how do we make doing the simple easier?

  1. Have a development plan. A development plan contains specific goals for dollars and donors within each fund category. It also outlines what steps the organization will take in order to complete the plan, who is going to do it, when each action will take place, and what resources are needed to fulfill each part of the plan.
  1. Be concrete. Think through and define each step required to accomplish the goal. For example: When mapping out a plan to meet with major donor prospects, be intentional about setting up the right meeting time, learning about the prospective donor’s interests, and developing a customized solicitation strategy for this individual. You’ll want to think through the best location at which to meet, such as a restaurant, your office, or the putting green.

The same goes for developing a plan to solicit a large foundation. You’ll need to consider who you know at the organization, whom your board members know, and the best route to request permission to submit an application.

Write down your plan for each prospect, and give each step a deadline.

  1. Use a system that works well for your team. Fancy databases are only as good as the people who use them. Make using your system as simple as possible, and once you make a decision about a system, use it. This will facilitate consistency among your staff and allow for better tracking and measurement toward your goals.
  1. Ask daily: “What are the two things that I need to do today that will best contribute to achieving the goals I have on my plate?” Encourage every team member to ask this question and do these things first.
  1. Define steps to steward your existing donors. It is always harder to get a new donor than to retain those you have. Be sure to set up simple, but strategic steps that you will take to thank, educate, and re-cultivate your existing donors.
  1. Evaluate your plan. Set up a simple way to evaluate the execution of the plan – what worked well, what did not, and what needs to change. Commit to evaluating your plan on a regular basis, and be willing to change direction when the evidence calls for it.

Creating a plan and executing each step takes strategy, creativity, and hard work. Planning on the front end and committing to simple steps will not always be easy to accomplish. But in doing this, you are setting yourself up for success.

At A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates we make doing the simple steps easier.  If you would like to see how we can help your organization, contact us.

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D. serves as Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald. She uses her expertise in fundraising, management, and leadership development to oversee our consulting efforts and deliver exceptional service to clients.

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