Tips & Tricks - Boosting your fundraising efforts
Fundraising forms the most important activity of any Organization to sustain and continue their efforts towards development. Practitioners consider fundraising or resource mobilization as the driving force of an organization as its decline spells doom and its increase guarantees longevity of the organization and the development agenda at large. However, this is much easier said in theory and a daunting task in practice, but with some mentoring, coaching and sustained practice one can boost up your fundraising efforts leading to securing actual resources to implement projects and programs.
While there are no blue print applicable approaches as a result of the dynamics of the development sector, this write up sees to offer some strategic tips and guidance on what has worked and what can potentially work for organizations depending on application and practice. The following are some of the to-dos that have worked for me while working with International Organizations, National Organizations and Community Based Organizations in Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Having an effective strategy in place: Strategic planning is the key and that’s why do not wait till your project comes to an end. Start planning at least a year in advance, so that you have enough time to submit application to various donors. As different donors have a funding cycle, you will not want to miss any opportunity and therefore keep enough time. You can engage team members in the fundraising exercise and allocate responsibilities for taking up different roles for example; someone can conduct donor research and mapping, while the other can develop proposals and concepts. This approach almost guarantees that you don’t miss any deadline and all correspondence with the donor is done on a timely and proficient manner allowing for build-up engagement for improvement or focus shift.
Mapping out and approaching a host of donors: There is a term that was coined and has taken root within the development spheres and it’s called “donor fatigue”. Most organizations and their fundraising staff are stuck with the traditional donors leading to this term – donor fatigue. It is a high times that Organizations became innovative in their programs and approaches to avert the consequences of this term. There are several new donor mechanisms in place such as virtual funding platforms, crowd funding, corporate social responsibility, individuals etc. Keep an eye on such funding windows as there is a huge potential to get funds from them. This will surely help in engaging with multiple donors thereby enhancing your chances of securing funding.
Documentation – blogs and MSC stories: Donors like to know how you have utilized their money, and not only that, they love it when the people whose lives have been changed are in a position to narrate the stories and proactively predict the possible future based on their new statues as opposed to the ancient 100 page reports that no one really wants to read from the onset. Sharing information through stories and pictures entices donors to not only continue funding your program but also consider visiting the program areas often – such visits also allow you as an organization to identify other dynamic areas of funding to better impact the lives of the people. Through rights based or result focused documentation, you can let the donors know that their money is being used to improve lives and with their continued support can bring about a positive change in the society.
Developing focused proposals based on a firm argument (s): The donor does not know of your intended project beforehand unless there have been prior visits but even through, your proposal needs to be able to be picture perfect for the donor so that they can relate to it despite not being at the project site. Proposal formulation is one of the most important steps towards ensuring donor engagement and subsequently receiving resources from donors. Your proposal should provide information on what you intend to do, what are the objectives, key activities, how will it help the cause, how much money you need etc.
You should be considerate to the fact that yours is not the only organization soliciting for funds and by virtue of not being physically present to argue out your case as cited on the proposal; your proposal has to be overly focused and convincing to warrant a call from the donor. This is because, at any given time there are several organizations applying for funding, you need to develop a strong case to avail the fund. Writing a proposal forms the most important part of the fundraising plan, as it is the proposal that will decide if you will get funded or not.
In my earlier days in development work, I made a host of mistakes which may have caused the fundraising efforts I engaged in to fail to get recognized or even funded. As such, here are some points to be kept in mind while drafting your proposal to be increasing your chances of being funded;
§ Use simple and effective language to explain your proposal. Avoid using jargons and don’t be too wordy;
§ Avoid making spelling and grammatical mistakes, so share the proposal with your colleagues and get it checked thoroughly before submitting;
§ No one wants a research or thesis paper as a proposal. As such, do not make the proposal too academic by using too much facts and figures. Use facts at only relevant places e.g. describing the issue/problem and how you intend to solve it;
§ Project a human pitch/face to your proposal, which simply means the proposal should show that your care about the issue NOT the money. However do not make it overly emotional.
§ In the case of a CFPs – Call For Proposals, follow the guidelines, format and instructions properly as provided by the donor;
§ Clearly mention about the sustainability aspect of the project and your exit strategy from the project site. No donor wants to fund your Organization for years on end – this is partly what leads to “donor fatigue”; and
§ At first submission, just highlight a budget reflecting how you will be utilizing the funds. On the second level of engagement, consider having a detailed budget.
Last but not least, always recognized your donors in your various engagement platforms – be it community meetings, networks, reports, newsletters and social media platforms. This aspect motivates them to continue their support. These tips will surely boost up your performance and will help you engage with many donors consistently.