Get it Done. Do it Right. 10 Fundraising Essentials

A top ten list of fundraising essentials

Whether you like him or not, David Letterman now has the longest late-night hosting career in the United States. To recognize his accomplishment, we thought a Top Ten List was in order.  Here are ten fundraising essentials for the development officer. Our list is not necessarily in order of importance, nor is it particularly funny (sorry Dave) … but they are certainly essential to reaching your organization’s fundraising potential.

• Communicate with your donors.

Simple and timely thank you notes make a real difference to your donors.  Incorporate a personal touch whenever possible to keep their enthusiasm high and to demonstrate your personal interest in them.  Invite a donor to host a lunch and tour for new donors or prospective donors, or ask a donor to serve in an advisory capacity.

• Write down your organization’s goals, including fund-raising goals.

Having an agreed-upon plan of attack with measurable goals helps the team focus on success.  If nothing else this makes it easier to celebrate your successes with the team. And, remember to revisit and update the plan periodically.

• Involve your Board.

Educate your Board on their role in fund raising for the organization and the opportunities which present themselves at every turn.  Keep them involved and interested in the current fund-raising goals of the organization as well as trends in the fund-raising industry.  Enlist them to call donors to thank them for their support – a sure-fire way to enthuse leadership volunteers and engage donors.

• Appreciate your donors’ commitment.

Your organization is not the only one approaching your donors.  Remember that each person who gives to your organization does so after thoughtful evaluation of all of those other requests.

• Remember the individual.

Individuals account for approximately 87 percent of all charitable giving in the United States.  While it is important to approach corporate America, remember individual donors and cultivate them as well.

• Take the opportunity to educate your donors.

Donors to your organization have aligned themselves with you, and your organization.  Help them build a true sense of pride in their affiliation — and continuously provide the information they need to become ambassadors.

• Know your donors.

Keeping up with your donors’ interests, relationships, and reasons for giving helps your organization keep them involved with you and keeps your relationship with them fresh.

• Keep accurate records.

Track your prospect lists and contacts, pledges, and in-kind gifts in a usable, accessible format. There are lots of valuable software packages available for this purpose.  Pick one that fills your needs and commit to making it work.

• Keep your skills current.

Active participation in professional associations and networking with others in your field keeps your skills sharp, your outlook fresh, and your enthusiasm high.

• Call a professional.

Nonprofits often try to cut costs by doing as much as possible on their own and are often blessed with multi-talented go-getters. When needed, hire a professional to design your print materials, advise you on new fund-raising techniques, and develop your capital campaign.  This will free you up to focus on your already demanding job, and will pay off in the long-run for your organization.

As soon as we developed this list of ten essentials, we started thinking of more, but we are confident that if you focus on these ten, there will be plenty of cheer to go around!


(click here to download FRM Issue No. 59)

For more on Ready, Set, Go!, The Essentials of Preparing for a Campaign, access Goettler Series Volume 1