You’ve heard the phrase “Buy cheap, pay twice”. It’s a universal truth that applies to almost everything in life: shortcuts just don’t work. If you buy cheap, you end up paying twice. If you go for the least expensive option, you nearly always end up with the most expensive outcome. So how can any small, cash-strapped charity get good results from its fundraising without spending ( or “investing”) a fortune? Here are some guidelines.
Use volunteer fundraisers. People who are happy to help with fundraising. This often means asking your trustees to accept a lesser, ‘facilitating’, ‘door opening’ role. ( You can hear the sigh of relief already, can’t you?).
Don’t ask them to bake cakes or dress up in fetching costumes, fun though that may be. Instead ask them to form a development team that is going to help the charity break into the world of the wealthy and comfortably off. This world has a big cross-over with the world of business, of course.
Clearly, it’s going to take a certain type of volunteer to do this – people who are comfortable talking with anyone from any walk of life. People who relate to people. Not necessarily wealthy themselves, just good at relating to people.
When you have a team of at least 3, ask them each to create their own list of people in the area who they consider to be successful, wealthy or comfortably off. Coming from the locality, volunteers are often much better at this than paid staff.
When each member of the team has 15-20 on their list, ask them to hand their lists in and make a consolidated list. Pass this back to the volunteers and to each trustee, asking them all to add any more names to the list that they can think of, marking any known personally to them, or who are known acquaintances of others on the list. It is surprising how a partially completed list jogs memories while a blank piece of paper causes instant memory loss.
With a fair wind, you should now have a list of at least 60 people. This has cost nothing so far, apart from some focussed effort. But it has also grown from a small idea to the beginnings of a fledgling Major Gifts Campaign – just like the big charities do.
Now things get a bit more, shall we say, business-like. The 60 need to be contacted. But not all at once. Volunteers wilt quickly if faced with an overwhelming burden. So it’s best to suggest that the list is divided 3 ways and each member contacts 2 on the list each week, starting with an introductory letter that asks permission to hold a brief phone call to discuss a particular challenge the charity is facing. Make it clear that the purpose of the phone call is to seek advice, to consult, not to ask for money. Major Gift Fundraising is not about asking a reluctant donor to get out her or his wallet. It is about sharing a problem or a challenge and getting people of good will to help create a solution.
You will find that people who are contacted will very quickly bale out if they don’t want to become involved. The others will hear what your volunteers have to say and, more often than not, say something along the lines of “ how can I help”, “ what can I do to move the charity in this direction…?”
Obviously, there is more to Major Gifts Fundraising than this, but only in detail, not principle. What is described above is a simple way in which any charity of any size can make a start in Major Gifts Fundraising. It is something that will bring many rewards and not merely financial.
The success rate in Major Gifts Fundraising is between 3 and 4 successful outcomes for every genuinely qualified donor prospect contacted. Average return will be better than £4.80 for every £1 spent.