Renata Bernarde says if you would like to obliterate your fundraising efforts you simply need to follow these five steps.



ConexumFundraising for non-profit organisations is not much different from sales, business development and growth strategies in the corporate sector. I find it particularly similar to start-up capital raising, as there are risk factors involved in both activities which makes potential investors scrutinise more deeply your business model. 

Philanthropy, bequest strategy, advancement and major giving campaign are fancy words for fundraising, because most Australians are uncomfortable with the fundraising word and the task itself.

Fundraising, like sales, is stigmatised and often not fully supported by the business strategy in a way that maximises opportunities and enable it to succeed. The turnover of fundraising professionals in the university and non-profit sectors is too high, not only in Australia but also overseas. This is problematic, as successful fundraising is about consistency of message and relationships, and is not the role of the fundraising professional! He or she is there to support the efforts and lead the strategy, not raise all funds themselves. 

It is equivalent to thinking that ‘quality’ control is the sole responsibility of the ‘quality manager’. It is not. Quality control should be embedded in the company’s values, part of the corporate culture and day to day activity of every employee.

Guess what? Fundraising is the same! Neither quality control nor fundraising are the reasons why you went into business, but alas, if you are assembling TVs or supporting homeless people respectively, they are one of your major day to day activities.

Here are five reasons why, in my experience, fundraising strategies fail miserably:

1 You think your cause is the best thing since sliced bread

In the charity sector, there are no equivalent to a market leaders like Coke, Apple or Miele. People will be attracted to different causes based on their personal stories and how emotionally connected they feel with the issue it is addressing. Believing your cause is the ‘cat’s pyjamas’, therefore donors will be naturally drawn to it, is counterproductive. There are hundreds of great charities doing amazing work in the non-profit sector, you are just one of them. On the other hand, explaining why your cause is important, necessary, and speaking about the impact it has on the community with knowledge and passion is how you will resonate with the right donors.

2 Ask your friends to donate

If your fundraising starts and ends with your network, you will end up with no friends and little money for your cause. Fundraising is a commercial activity, as much as it is a social enterprise strategy. It means going beyond your immediate network, and acting very professionally when you approach individuals and organisations asking them to support your cause.

You are an ambassador for a service to the community, and you are selling this concept in the same way someone who works in sales is selling air conditioners, holidays or any other goods and services. Be professional and entrepreneurial. If people need or want to support your cause, if it makes them feel good, only then they will “buy” it.

3 Receive the donation and send a thank you note

Unlike other services and products that are transactional (think ‘thirsty – coke’, ‘house – auction’) people will expect to be involved with your cause. The more a donor gives, the more they want to know where their money is going.

A general thank you note is not enough. Your donor also expects to be kept up to date, maybe receiving a newsletter every now and then, even if they don’t end up reading it!

If they have given a substantial amount, it is imperative that they receive an immediate thank you call or a visit from the most senior representative of your cause, as well as an invitation to meet the premises they helped build or observe the service they helped provide.

And more importantly: their engagement is for life, so be prepared to have an excellent CRM and relationship management strategy.

4 You are a volunteer, so you don’t need to give

Imagine this scenario. John and Mary are keen on buying a car, so they rock up to the Toyota dealership. Peter the salesman tells them how beautiful, powerful and energy-efficient the Toyota car is.

John and Mary are very impressed, and they ask Peter if he drives a Toyota, to which Peter responds: “No, I don’t. You see, I spend so much time here, giving the company my work and experience, so I think that’s enough. I decided to spend my money differently and have bought a Kia.” John and Mary are confused. They reconsider buying a Toyota and decide to visit the Kia dealership.

Why would the rationale which leads donors to invest in a cause be any different then John and Mary’s? It does not send a consistent message to the community and future donors if the directors and volunteers, while knowing the cause needs funding, decide not to give. Some, in fact, give to other causes, but not to the cause they are actively volunteering for. It is not a good look.

Don’t be shy. If your fundraising strategy is to approach high net wealth individuals (that is, giving capacity worth over $1 million) for a $10,000 annual donation, and your net wealth is $100,000, then you can possibly give $250 to $1,000 per year, depending on your circumstances.

If you are a recent graduate and you want to support your alma mater or favourite charity, start with $100 per annum. Give what you can, even if it is a small amount in others’ eyes.

What that says to prospect donors (the people who you should be trying to impress!) is: “I believe in this cause so much I have personally invested in it.”

Chances are you will not miss that money if you have budgeted well. But I can guarantee that when you take money out of your own pocket, you will feel much more connected to the cause. You will feel more comfortable about asking others to give, and your prospect donors will believe you.

5 Your fundraising strategy is a revenue stream with no expense line on your budget

This is potentially the biggest downfall of all. As a non-profit leader with a reputation to uphold, it is better to be upfront with your board, members and colleagues about the necessary investment required to run a successful campaign. Assuming your charity needs to raise $1 million, be ready to spend $100,000. That is the rule of thumb with the following variables:

  • Scales of economy: if you are fundraising for $2 million you may not need to double your fundraising expenditure, but you most certainly need to increase it, or run the risk of doing a poor engagement job with new and existing donors.
  • ‘Lower hanging fruits’ already lined up: you feel confident about your potential donor’s ability to donate.
  • Existing infrastructure and resources: you already have a CRM, social media and marketing strategy in place to support your fundraising drive. You already have an employee who has the required skills to support the growth strategy and lead the fundraising drive.

Renta Bernarde provided permission to re-run this article.



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