If you have a small staff or are the founder of your startup nonprofit organization you’ve likely said the words, “I don’t have time for fundraising.”
I get it. It’s not that you don’t want to invite people to support the organization you are passionate about. It’s maybe that you:
- Don’t know what to do to cause individual donors to make contributions.
- Have had less than stellar results with the mailings or in-person attempts you’ve already made.
- You truly don’t feel comfortable talking about money. You’d rather, as someone shared with me recently, “peel your skin off than ask someone for a contribution.”
So what to do?
Understand that fundraising (and its sibling communications & marketing) are one of the four key components to your growth and success.
I was an executive director and a development director for three small, start-up nonprofit organizations when I worked “in the trenches.”
Because I was the only staff I had to stay focused. I used the image of four legs of a table to help myself, our board, community partners, volunteers and potential donors understand our needs.
Programs & Services
No matter what type of organization you are you deliver one or more programs.
Maybe your organization organizes testimony at the state or federal level to advocate for funding or new laws; manages the process for pet or child adoptions; conducts research to share with other nonprofits; provide a safe place for women, children, vets, or frail elderly. . . or you are one of the many other important nonprofits in your community.
Your programs require attention and financial resources to ensure they are delivered professionally and successfully. That means YOU or someone has to spend time on this leg of your table.
Appropriate & Sufficient Space
In one start-up nonprofit I worked in an office the size of a large closet. It was free space provided by a hospital. When we added an admin support person to help me, we outgrew our free space.
Now, time needed to be spent finding sufficient and appropriate space for the kind of work we were doing. It takes time to find new space. And negotiate a “deal” for a small, financially strapped budget.
Space is critical for delivering professional programs – all of them, including your fundraising & communications programs. How much time do you need to spend on this leg of your table?
Unless you are super human you simply cannot do all the doing alone. And as a registered 501c(3) nonprofit organization you’ll need to be governed by a volunteer board of directors.
Adequate human capital means hiring staff, training volunteers, powerfully orienting new board members. How much time do you spend on this leg of your table?
The final leg on your sturdy table is your financial resources combined with your brand identity & awareness.
This is the where the money program lives. It must have its own staff, plan, goals, and communication activities.
In my experience this is, unfortunately, the wobbliest leg on the table. When you are a staff of one with no “extra” time in your day and people are waiting to benefit from your programs & services, who has time to ask for money? Send a mailing? Update your Facebook page with compelling posts?
Without time spent on this leg of your table, it will topple over. And your work will feel like pushing a boulder up a slippery hill.
Understand that fundraising is a PROGRAM. Programs require staff, planning, and best practices.
Just as you have taken time to determine how best to deliver your services or program(s), time must be taken to determine how best to invite financial contributions.
Fundraising (& Marketing) is the PROGRAM that allows you to serve others and do your important work.
If you aren’t the person to meet with potential donors to share your case for giving via story examples find someone who will.
Here’s an excellent read to help you figure out where to begin.
Understand that fundraising is about fulfilling the aspirations of your supporters. It’s not about you. When you make it about you, you do a disservice to the people or environment or animals you serve.
To get inspired AND learn some best practices to implement immediately read this straight-talking post from Seth Godin’s blog, In Defense of Raising Money: a Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs
Back to the statement, “I don’t have time for fundraising.”
Want more help with your fundraising?
- Lori is delivering a session on sharing your money story at Cause Camp 2018 March 26 . Check it out! You can participate in person or virtually.
- For more inspiration and short case study stories download the free eBook: Nine Steps to a Successful Fundraising Campaign.