There’s little in life that causes as much frustration as a squandered opportunity. From the smart child whose grades suffer as a result of playing the class clown, to the sports star who throws his career away living a rockstar lifestyle, we hate to see an opportunity wasted through avoidable mistakes. Unfortunately, there are a huge number of charities who have yet to realise their full fundraising potential, not due to mismanagement or laziness, but rather because of the harsh reality of their situation.
The unfortunate truth is that many smaller charities are barely scraping by. Stretched thin in terms of money, manpower and time, they lack the resources needed to capitalise on all the opportunities that are out there. Close to half of Australia’s 54,000 registered charities employ no staff, but instead rely on volunteers, while two-thirds have annual revenue of less than $250,000. Many smaller, grassroots nonproofs are struggling to keep their head above the water, and don’t have the luxury of focussing their efforts on innovation or trying new things.
So, how can these organisations capitalise on fundraising opportunities when time, money and people are all at a premium? Let’s take a look at some simple ways that tier two and three sized charities can get creative and do less with more
1 . Pro bono work
From marketing and public relations activity to legal or financial advice, there are great advantages that can come from engaging a professional agency. Unfortunately, these services can also be prohibitively expensive – but that doesn’t mean they’re unobtainable. Pro bono work is professional work that’s done for free, generally for the benefit of the public. Many large organisations will have a pro bono component to their CSR program and will volunteer a certain amount of their employees’ time to causes each year.
Even smaller agencies and companies can often lend their expertise to a cause they see as worthwhile. If they’re unable to fully support you (remember, many of these smaller businesses are stretched thin themselves), they might be able to give some handy pointers, supply you with materials to help whatever project you’re working on, or connect you with other businesses in their network. At the end of the day, it never hurts to ask.
2 . Leverage social media
The power of social media cannot be overstated. Its ability to reach a broad audience without any real investment is second-to-none and makes it a powerful tool in the arsenal of a charity looking to do more with less. Focussing on quality over quantity, and ensuring all posts have a call-to-action (a link to donate or purchase tickets to an upcoming event, etc.) will help ensure you get maximum return on your time investment.
3 . Manage your people
I’ve spoken with many volunteers and ambassadors who want to support a cause but find it difficult to engage with the charity. Again, this is often through no fault of the charity – they’re simply too busy managing the day-to-day operations to do so effectively – the result being underutilised human resources. A charity’s people are some of its most significant assets, so it’s essential they’re managed effectively.
Ensure they’re given clear and concise instructions on what’s required of them, maintain lines of communication throughout their engagement, and show your gratitude for their generous donation of their time and energy (this doesn’t have to be an elaborate party or gift – a simple, sincere email can make a world of difference). While engaging your volunteers or ambassadors in a more structured manner can take some planning and time, the output you’ll get from well-managed people makes it well worth your while.
4 . Build a business plan
A business plan essentially outlines your goals and the methods and strategies that you’ll use to achieve them. Not only will a business plan help you stay on track internally but being able to show that there’s a strategy behind your fundraising is also invaluable when seeking donations or pro bono work from large organisations.
There’s plenty of information about how to write a business case online, and even free templates you can use to get started. While it might seem like a waste of time given you’ll already have a good idea of everything in the business case, taking the time to write it down can be useful – and might even help clarify a few things for you.
5 . Brainstorm
Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to help you see what’s right in front of you. A new perspective can help charities think outside the box and come up with creative new ways to fundraise. From leveraging new technology to a cool idea for a peer-to-peer campaign, there’s an almost infinite amount of views that can breathe new life into your fundraising. So, speak to everyone from experts to friends, family and colleagues and see if you can pool your thoughts and avoid getting stuck in a routine.
6 . Invest
The old saying “you need to spend money to make money” is so overused, it’s cliched at this point – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in it. With some small investments in the right areas, you can take your fundraising to the next level and unlock even more avenues for donations. However, when every dollar counts, where should you spend your money?
Perhaps you have a large event coming up and you want to invest in an online auction and event management platform to generate more revenue. Or maybe you want more people to find out about your cause, so spending some money on a Facebook advertising campaign is the way to go. The best use of your money will depend on your specific situation – so think hard, do your research, invest wisely, and you can be rewarded with a significant return on your investment.
It can be hard to shake off old habits or commit to setting aside a few hours a week too – mainly when you already feel like you haven’t got enough time to meet your administration and fundraising goals as it is. But, as with any investment, it can be more than worth it in the long run.
The irony is that it’s often the charities that feel they don’t have the time or funds to do things differently that need to the most. It’s not easy, but who knows how many fundraising opportunities might pass you by if you don’t!