I honestly used to think that fundraising was perpetual sophisticated begging. In a sense it is. Hahahaha! But, it is also more than just begging. It is a skill of persuasion and retention of the converts and building loyalty and finding advocates for your work.
Every time I conduct training on communication and strategy, there are quite a several things I notice non-profit organisations don’t realise they need to do to ensure a constant stream of revenue for their operations.
If you want to keep attracting, retaining and engaging your funders, here are a few things to factor in.
Fundraising is a Continuous Process – there is never an off-season for fundraising, most organisations wait for November’s Giving Tuesday. But normally on those dates, the organisations and individuals giving have secured the organisations and projects they intend to support. By this time you should have won over hearts and minds throughout the year to secure funding from individuals and organisations – philanthropies, INGOs, independently wealthy individuals.
Fundraising is a strategy, so make sure you have clear objectives of how much you intend to raise, for what purpose and from whom you want it. That way you don’t waste time and other resources fumbling around trying to figure out what you need. All your needs should be at your fingertips. That brings me to my next point.
Understand the Motivation of your Funders – funders are human, they have motivations to give of their money or time as all humans do. It is not just about solving world hunger and ego, most are seeking legacy projects. And most just want a human connection. When they can connect with your story, they connect with you and buy into what you believe. Authenticity is what wins the hearts and wallets of humankind.
You need clear messaging – the song I sing in every training with organisations is that clear communication comes from a clear organisational strategy. You may know how much money you want, but how will you use it and how will you package it in a way that potential funders and partners can relate, understand and immediately see how to get involved? It all boils down to your strategy.
Let me explain further. Let’s work with an example. One of your core organisational SMART goals is to feed 100,000 children annually for the next five years in Siaya County in your school feeding program. Now that we know the intended goal, let’s make people care about it. How do they care?
- Explain the connection between nutrition, education and child development in layman’s terms – like, with higher levels of nutrition, we ensure more children stay and complete their basic education, and also grow into healthy adults. Healthy and educated adults lead to stronger economies.
- Show the global connection with the work you do – Here Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) help you win the day, this alone locks down your organisation’s contribution to SDGs, 1,2,3 and 4 for starters. People need to see the local action’s global impact to dive in.
- Tell the story of a beneficiary and how your interventions make an impact. What you do as an NGO is vast. But you can demonstrate what you do simply through a compelling visual and written story of beneficiaries.
Layer your messaging – Once you understand the motivations of potential funders you need to understand who to target for what. The message will be the same. Using our example, feed 100,000 children annually for the next five years in Siaya County in your school feeding program– that is an outcome, what you want to sell is the vision. When you feed 500,000 children in 5 years, how does that transform the literacy levels or economics of Siaya county? What does that mean for gender inequality?
If we are to provide a hypothetical vision for this hypothetical organization, let’s say it exists to economically transform Siaya by educating every single child. Now that vision gets a potential funder thinking, first, this is a beautifully ambitious vision.
Now that you have them intrigued, the next question for them you need to explain in your layered response, is how do you intend to do this?
Then you bring in your numbers – Siaya county has a population of close to one million people, 23% of this population are aged below five years old. If every single child receives education to the highest level, providing them with financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills training on top of higher education, the quality of businesses, employment, education in the county and incomes will rise significantly transforming the area.
Now, this messaging makes sense to those funders who are interested in more high-level data to see how your work connects with their global work.
For the smaller donors who want to support the meal of one child a year, you shift the message to – for just USD 100 a year, you can ensure a child stays in school.
You are selling the same thing to funders, but we need to know to which funder you give what information. That is the secret of layering your message.