No matter if you’re planning on starting a new charity, have recently launched one or are an existing charity keen to revamp your fundraising strategy, you’ll need a high impact plan to generate funds.
Read on for our fundraising for charities step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Define Your Charity Strategy
The first step in developing your fundraising strategy is to consider your specific objectives. This will help you to prioritise activity that will make a difference and efficiently use your charity’s resources.
Objectives should be realistic for the size of your charity, appropriate to its nature and achievable with your existing resources. As well as having organisational goals, you should also set out fundraising targets and know how much money you want to raise and by when.
Your strategy should also include a budget. To raise money, you’ll likely need to allocate funds to spend on activity such as marketing, volunteer expenses, events or equipment (e.g. collection buckets). Fundraising for charities includes an investment, so ensure you plan what you want to spend carefully.
If you’re not sure where to start with setting out objectives, targets, budget and timelines then first assess your current situation.
Analyse the following to build a firm picture of your charity’s position and standing:
- your existing supporter base – are they active and engaged or non-existent?
- what funding channels have worked well / not so well in the past?
- what facilities (e.g. staff/volunteers) do you already have in place?
- any previous marketing activity that has been successful / not successful?
- who are your key competitors and what do they do that works well?
- wider sector assessment – are charities in general struggling or succeeding with fundraising?
- other external factors that might have an impact on your charity e.g. is there an economic downturn that might be preventing people from donating?
- any internal factors that might have an impact on your charity strategy for fundraising?
- current financial status
- are you up to date with all rules and regulations governing charities and fundraising?
Conducting this research will help you build an effective strategy with clear goals and targets.
Step 2: Create a Powerful, Simple Support Message
Prompting people to part with their cash requires a compelling, memorable and simple proposition. Whether you’re a new or existing charity, this simple support message needs to immediately engage a potential donor and is critical to get right.
Explain the following in an easy-to-understand, succinct way:
- what the issue is
- how your charity plans to solve that issue
- what the difference will be if you succeed
- what will happen if you fail
- why your charity is qualified to solve the issue
As well as creating this message, you also need to clearly explain where their money goes e.g. ‘for £20, you could sponsor a dog in need by providing food for a week’. Tiering donation amounts will also help supporters to understand how their cash is helping.
You can also use case studies and testimonials of those you have helped or the successful work you’ve done to date to demonstrate impact.
Step 3: Evaluate All Relevant Funding Sources
There are numerous ways to generate funds from supporters and a successful charity strategy for fundraising should include a range of these sources so that you’re not dependent on any one channel.
The best multichannel fundraising includes offline and online tactics.
Offline sources include:
- Cash collections – volunteers with charity collection buckets who stand outside shops, stations, churches and other public venues collecting loose change from passers-by. Ensure you get permission from the venue and have any relevant collections licenses from the local council in place first.
- Face to face – trained fundraisers go door-to-door to ask for support, which usually takes the form of setting up a Direct Debit. Fundraisers must have the appropriate license.
- Events – organising an event can help to raise money and awareness. Events can include sporting activities (runs, cycling etc.), auctions, dinners, car boot sales or arts and craft stalls.
- Direct mail – posting letters to existing or past supporters in the form of leaflets, brochures or even handwritten thank you notes. Ensure your communication is well-written and has a clear call to action so that people can donate easily.
- Telephone – calling supporters to say thank you, to update on how their donation is being spent or to encourage a donation can work well. However, there are rules as to how telephone numbers can be collected and used, as well as training required for fundraisers.
- Advertising – traditional advertising in offline channels can be wide-reaching, however also expensive. This can include advertising on billboards, posters, print titles (magazines and newspapers) or broadcast (radio and TV).
Online sources include:
- Website – your charity’s website should offer an easy and secure way for people to donate online, either for a one-off donation or to set up Direct Debits for recurring payments. Consider it your ‘online shop window’ where your message and proposition are clearly demonstrated and you have plenty of success case studies or frontline stories from staff to show the impact you’re making.
- Email – email marketing is an effective method to target new and past supporters and to keep them engaged in the work that you’re doing, for example with regular updates on projects.
- Social media – using social media channels, such as Facebook, is a great way to target relevant audiences. It requires a continual effort and up-to-date presence to keep fans engaged and attract new followers.
- Crowdfunding – soliciting funds from the general public online for a specific cause or campaign with a specific target. There are several different platforms and each has its own rules and pricing.
- Other online opportunities – some other online businesses offer the chance to donate to charity while shopping on their website, while gaming, or while consuming content.
You should also consider the different fundraising groups you could target and the different tactics you might use for each. These groups include:
- Trusts and foundations – organisations that give grants to charities
- Corporate – businesses contribute to charity in a variety of ways e.g. donations, offering time and other goods or services
- Individuals – personal contributions, either one-off or recurring
- Local – community organisations that will raise money for you or alongside you
Step 4: Identify Your Donors
A core part of your fundraising strategy should be getting to know your donors. These are the people who have a natural affinity to your charity’s aim and are more likely to contribute funds. This analysis will help you to connect with the right audience via the most appropriate channels for a better return on investment.
Similar to businesses assessing who their target market is, charities should look into the following:
- Demographics (e.g. gender, age, profession/income, education etc.)
- How they like to donate (e.g. online via your website)
- What media they consume (e.g. a younger audience might be avid users of Instagram)
- What they do in their leisure time / where they like to hang out (e.g. if you’re targeting a fitness audience, then they might visit gyms)
- Existing relationships with donors (e.g. their emails on a database)
If your charity helps a local cause and relies heavily on local contributions then you should consider drafting a specific community fundraising strategy.
Researching local events and occasions that you could take part in, recruiting local volunteers who know the area, and including face-to-face fundraising tactics should all form part of a community fundraising strategy.
Step 5: Ensure You’re Set Up to Receive Funds
Eliminate all barriers for your supporters to donate funds to you.
If they want to donate online, ensure your website has a straightforward donation portal. Or if they prefer to donate a set amount each month then you’ll need to offer Direct Debit, the most convenient method to automate collections. Perhaps they prefer to send a cheque in the post or drop spare coins into collection tins on shop counters.
Whatever the method of donation, make sure the process is effortless and safe. Complicated procedures or inconvenient options will put people off donating because they’ll require more effort than most supporters are willing to give.
You should consider all the different ways that a supporter could donate and then make sure you have a good number of these channels in place.
Step 6: Devise a Tactical Action Plan
Once you have clear objectives and goals in place, then the next step is to devise a tactical action plan. This plan of action will set out all the tasks that need to be accomplished in order to reach your targets.
An action plan should include specific tasks, deadlines and ownership (e.g. who is going to do the task). It should be logical so that the tasks are completed in the correct order.
Step 7: Evaluate Your Progress
To check that you’re on track to meet your targets, establish specific measures to see at a glance how you’re doing.
These measures could include how much you’ve raised, percentage breakdown of funds by source, website traffic or community events attended. The measures should be tangible and quantitative and checked on a regular basis e.g. weekly or annually.
Fundraising for Charities – Always Have a Plan
As with any big project or campaign, whether in business or in your personal life, having a thorough strategy with achievable goals and a clear action plan will reap benefits in the long term.