On this episode we are talking about fundraising, on which Mary has literally written the book. We tend to raise our money by taking whatever we can get, however, there is a strategy behind fundraising. But first, a little background from Mary.
When I first took my position with the American Cancer Society, the town I worked in had a population around 150,000 with the surrounding area numbering near 250,000. Rather than solely focusing on my community, I latched on to what my counterparts were doing in their markets. One of those locations was Chicago. My friends in Chicago raised $1.8 million on a first-year event. No one raises that kind of money without a clear strategy! Another friend in the Tyler, Texas market raised $1 million in their most recent event and I modeled my event after an event in Dallas. I had access to all of my peers where I could call on them and ask for advice or materials. This is part of why we created the Nonprofit Executive Club. We created a community where executives aren’t competing against each other but can be there for one another to bounce ideas off of and find out what is working in other markets.
When I wrote the book, Fundraising Freedom, I was really focused on freedom. I want every nonprofit to have freedom, meaning to act, think, and speak without holding back. I want you to be so bold about your cause that you’re not negotiating or belittling your cause and just taking whatever money you can get because you’re so desperate. The FREEDOM process is a system that works for large-scale organizations as well as those organizations just getting started.
Step 1: Focus Your Vision. The first step I teach is the “F” of the word freedom. Joel will talk to you more about vision as it pertains to your vision statement and I will talk to you about vision as you look at how much money you want to raise. By having a clear mission and vision statement in your strategic plan, by the time you get to me to talk fundraising, you already know what you stand for and how much money it’s going to take to fulfill that vision and mission.
Step 2: Run Your Research. Once you know what you to, it’s time to start researching what your counterparts are doing, or what successes are happening in your community, and figuring out what our people want.
Step 3: Enlist Your Team. This is a process of inviting people in. When it comes to fundraising, you just need one volunteer who is going to be the face of the fundraiser or campaign. Fundraising should not be the sole responsibility of the staff person. There’s an old African proverb that says, “if you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” You can go fast if you want, but you are not going to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars if you go it alone.
Step 4: Enhance Your Brand. This is when you build out your print materials, get your logo and website designed; turn your fundraiser into something visual. The reason you need to enlist your team before building your brand is so your team can take part in the process. If your team has a say in this process, they will be more likely to sell the event because they have skin in the game. Just like Dale Carnegie said, “people support a world they helped create.”
Step 5: Deploy Your Team. Your volunteers and your staff go out and advocate on your behalf by scheduling meetings and getting out in front of people.
Step 6: Organize Your Ask. This is the reason why we fundraise. Go ask for your money. This the number one most difficult thing for boards to do. But this task is made so much easier if you’ve done all the previous work. You’ve already done your research, you have a great team, you feel really empowered, your print materials look great, this is what makes it easy to invite others to be a part of what you’re working toward. Remember, people love giving their money away.
Step 7: Make Your Difference. Let’s go make a difference and celebrate. So often when we raise money we immediately jump into the next act. What I want to see is for you to take a step back and you recognize all the people who made it possible. You’re thanking your donors; you’re acknowledging the impact you’re making on the world. This is where you start telling stories and talking about the success of the event because if you’re going to replicate this again next year, you have to make sure to acknowledge the incredible influence your cause is making.
As we move through the upcoming episodes, we are going to delve deeper into each step individually and answer any questions you may have. To submit a question about fundraising, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission. If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club. The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support. For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.
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