Do more with less: 6 tips to maximise your fundraising

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!

WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR PEER-TO-PEER TOOLBOX

One of the biggest changes to happen to the fundraising landscape in recent years has been the growth of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) fundraising events. Spurred on by the inter-connectedness afforded by technology and social media, P2P is now one of the most popular – and lucrative – methods of raising money for a cause.

Helping your fundraisers be as effective as possible isn’t tricky – nor does it have to be expensive. With some simple planning and preparation, you’ll be able to help your fundraisers, help you.

Your first email

When your supporters sign up to take part in a P2P campaign, they should be given everything they need to get out there and start raising money. This not only includes all relevant information on your cause and the event itself, but also the digital tools and assets they’ll use along the way. Remember, the easier you make it for them, the more successful your campaign is likely to be.

A simple way to do this is by sending an email as soon as someone signs up, that can serve as your campaign toolbox – a one-stop shop for everything your supporters could possibly need.

Some things you can include in your induction email include:

  • Imagery: Including high-resolution logos and any relevant imagery not only makes it easy for your supporters to use them when seeking donations, it also stops them from having to source them online and potentially using incorrect, outdated or low-res logos.
  • Your mission statement: Help your supporters and their network to connect with your cause by telling them what you’re all about, and what the money they’re raising goes towards. Keep it short, sharp and be sure to show the real-world impact that people’s donations will have.
  • Templates: Your supporters will need to solicit donations from their network, so you might want to give them a well-written template they can use when contacting people. This will not only make it super simple for people to engage with their friends, colleagues and family, it also helps you control the messaging used and ensure your cause and the campaign is represented in the best light.
  • Fundraising best practices: Fundraising is your world, so you know it inside and out – but it’s important to remember that most of your supporters don’t know much about the art of fundraising. Including some basic, handy tips that they can use when raising money for your campaign is an excellent way to bring them up to speed and give them the best chance of success.
  • Event day details: If your P2P campaign is built around a specific event, be sure to include all event details in a clear and easy to read format.
  • Hashtags: Hashtags are potent tools when it comes to raising awareness, but they’re only useful if people are aware of them. Be sure to include any hashtags that are relevant to your cause and campaign and actively encourage people to use them in their social media posts.

Remember, this email will be the first real contact that many of your supporters have with your cause, so it’s essential you make a good first impression. Likewise, your supporters are representing you to their network, so you need to ensure they’re representing you to the standard you want.

By providing your supporters with the right tools, you are helping them to raise more in-turn, for your cause – it is a win-win situation.

Tips for the less “socially savvy”

By its very nature, modern P2P fundraising goes hand-in-hand with social networks. After all, it relies on using your network, and in the 21st century, what better network is there than a social network? When we consider that the average Facebook user has 388 friends, the advantage of leveraging the power of social becomes clear. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all your supporters will be comfortable using social networks like Facebook or Twitter, and some may not even know where to begin.

Help your less “social savvy” supporters to utilise social media during the campaign with a simple starter kit that breaks down the basics. Adding a PDF or a website link for a downloadable page in your induction email, explaining how to use hashtags, the ideal length for posts, and some of the other basics of social media can help encourage people to get active on social and get excited about the fundraising possibilities it offers.

Tailoring your messages

Not everyone who signs up to your campaign will have the same approach to fundraising – so you shouldn’t treat them all the same! If you have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, you can see who’s participated in your campaigns before and gauge their level of expertise and dedication by looking at how much they’ve raised previously.

Little touches like thanking them for their continued support or issuing a friendly challenge to beat their previous total can go a long way to getting them engaged. Similarly, if you notice a supporter had participated before but didn’t raise any funds, you might want to give them additional information and tools in your initial email to remove any barriers they faced.

This might all seem like basic things – and they are! But it’s amazing how easy it is to overlook things like thanking your supporters for their participation, including all the background details, and giving them imagery to use. By going back to basics and ensuring your supporters are given the right tools for the job, you can take your Peer-to-Peer campaign to the next level.