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Fundraising or just collecting money?

The first book about fundraising that I read was by S. Y. Seymour, a US fundraiser who first committed his fundraising experience to paper in the 1960s.

I’d recommend his book, ‘Designs for Fundraising’ to anyone serious about fundraising today. The first chapter is a fascinating, maybe damning, insight into what constitutes proper fundraising. Essentially the writer says there are two types of fundraising activity: properly constructed, planned and thought-out organised fundraising. And there is just collecting money: going out and randomly asking the public for support without any clear idea of objectives, clearly articulated case for the money, definite target amount to be raised, a targeted list of definite donor prospects and a committed time plan. (How close to home does that sound?)


If Small Charity Fundraising stands for anything, it is making a stand against ‘just collecting money’ and helping fundraisers move to a proper, organised basis of fundraising.

So what are the key elements of effective fundraising? A good starting point is to look at what is undoubtedly the single most successful model of fundraising campaign yet devised: the capital appeal. There is so much to be learned by all fundraisers by simply studying and understanding how capital campaigns work that, in my estimation, getting this taped should be the prime requisite of every fundraiser before starting that new job, or very soon afterwards. It should be a requirement that trustees understand the basic elements of capital campaign fundraising, because without, they are barely equipped to judge the efforts of their paid fundraisers, staff or consultants.


I pick on capital campaigns not just because of their incredible success record in raising billions over the last 100 years or so, but because the capital campaign structure encapsulates all of the elements required for success in any fundraising campaign.


Not necessarily in this order, these elements are:

  •      A clearly agreed set of objectives – what do we need the money for.

  •      A clearly articulated case as to why the money is needed

  •      A definite target amount to be raised

  •      A targeted list of donor prospects who could realistically, between them, give the amount needed.

  •      A committed time plan.

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