Building a sustainable fundraising program can be a long, slow, tedious process. The traditional model dictates that we bring donors in at a nominal beginning gift and them cultivate and engage them so that they give larger gifts in the future. Relationships take time to build. And many organizations don’t have that kind of time.
Not to mention, we live in an age of data overload. Messages coming at us from every angle: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other web searches, the newspaper, billboards, radio… You get the idea. But in this age of nation-wide ADD, if we don’t get some results quickly, we’ll lose the interest of those people upon whom the success of your fundraising program is dependent.
So that leaves us in a quandary. Building a sustainable fundraising program takes time. But if we take too much time, we no longer have the attention of the people who are mostly likely to make it successful.
Here’s a possible solution. When you’re trying to jump start your fundraising program, look for a quick win – while you are building the structure and base that will keep you successful in the long run.
Where can that quick win come from? Here is one possibility: look for the low-hanging fruit. Not sure what that would be for you? Here are a few questions that might help you identify that:
- Is there someone currently involved with your organization (on the board or as a volunteer) who has the ability to give a large gift?
- Is there someone who was part of the founding group of your organization who drifted on to other things, but still feels connected to your organization?
- Is there someone who has been engaged with your organization at some point in the not-so-distant past (ie within 3-10 years) but who you lost touch with, and who has the potential to give a significant gift (I won’t define significant here, because it is different for every organization, but significant enough that it will take the immediate pressure off)?
- Is there someone in the community who has been vocal about your cause – even if not related to your organization, and who has the potential to give a significant gift?
Now that you (hopefully) have someone (or a few people) in mind. Schedule a time to visit them in person. Provide information to help them catch up with the current state of your organization. Let them know what your plans are for developing a solid base and let them know what your immediate needs are. Next, either ask for the amount you need, or ask for advice on how to raise it (preferably the former, but the latter will do if you can’t bring yourself to ask for a gift).
One cautionary word: don’t go through this exercise UNLESS you have a plan in place to develop a solid base for future funding. Otherwise you’ll end up right back where you started in six months – and you would have lost the support of a key partner.