Fundraising and relationship management is both art and science. A number of principles apply, not least of which is the importance of executive leadership, the necessity of a committed, generous, enthusiastic, professional and encouraging Board of Directors and the collegiate support of staff and volunteers. All three tiers of the organisation need to work together to promote the work of an organisation in the community and explain the mutual benefits inherent in an association or partnership.
Individual Members of many Boards often accept a special responsibility to use their expertise and connections to identify – even actively recruit – fresh ‘prospects’, in corporate sponsorship, gifting and bequests – hence the maxim ‘get, give, or get off ‘ Some Boards even set targets for their individual Members, for example: to work with Executive Managers to identify one corporate supporter and one significant benefactor for each year that they sit on their respective Boards or, in fact, to raise or personally donate a set amount of money.
‘People give to people’, not to institutions. While the public face of an organisation must always be the Director, Board Members and indeed staff also have a responsibility to refer potential donors or prospects. In many successful Not-For-Profit organisations, if this level of commitment is not possible, then individual Board Members need to be encouraged to consider their respective positions or make way for those who can.
Other important principles are organisational ‘stability’, ‘unity’ and ‘consistency’. An organisation is a type of brand. Everyone involved in the organisation – from the Chair to the ‘Front of House’ staff or even volunteers – have an obligation to nurture and build ‘the brand’ and to contribute to genuinely worthwhile experiences for both the public and for supporters.
Another important principle is ‘critical mass’. Building a fundraising base takes time and patience. However, once critical mass is reached, then the process of having to seek out supporters reverses – and supporters begin to actively seek out the organisation – often of their own initiative – and often for no other reason than to be associated with existing partners or supporters.
The above approach contrasts sharply with ‘cold calling’. Networks take time to build and commitment to sustain. Current literature on fundraising convincingly demonstrates that cold calling yields less than 1% return on effort. On the other hand, carefully targeted and investigated prospects can yield a 100% strike rate. Caution needs to heeded about the scourge of special events. While seemingly attractive, special events are usually only useful for identifying new prospects – they rarely make money in their own right when measured against outlays.
What Not-For-Profits need are passionate supporters with deep pockets and the right strategies to attract and sustain them.