Few nonprofits can honestly say they have mastered every aspect of fundraising and cultivating donors. Successful fundraising takes lots of hard work and persistence. Executive directors and the larger organizations that can afford specifically designated development directors ultimately must be given time and the proper amount of resources to get the job done. So what is the real secret? How can your organization become successful in fundraising?
Long before someone asks for money you need to make sure your organization is known in the community and the services you provide are seen as essential.
If what your organization does is so nebulous and the community has no clue as to what you do or how effective you are at meeting the needs of your client population then this must first be addressed this before you can begin to really be serious about raising money.
If however, you have indeed made “a name for yourself” then you have made the right first step. Yet, as you might imagine, just being known does not necessarily make you successful but it doesn’t hurt.
I am reminded of the Spencer Tracy’s Oscar winning movie “Boys Town,” based on the actual story of Father Edward J. Flanagan who in 1917 opened is first Boy’s Home in Omaha, Nebraska. This ninety plus year old residential program today serves over 47,000 children between the ages of ten to seventeen in fifteen states and the District of Columbia.
More than likely you have heard at one time or another television advertisements promoting the twenty-four hour crisis hotline. In 2008, nearly 175,000 children and families were helped through the Boys Town National Hotline, and over the past decade, more than 8 million callers have found help at the end of the line.
Again, realize that while your nonprofit may not make this type of impact it is still important to be seen and recognized that what you do is playing an important part it changing your community and benefiting others.
I think one common misconception that many nonprofits tend to operate under is that just because they are doing something that is “worthy” or “good” that people will come out of the wood work to support the cause. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but unfortunately this is not the case! You have to understand that every day there are many “good choices” to pick from that people see as “worthy.” What your organization needs to do if it has not done so already is quickly establish your point of difference. Let me explain!
Let’s say you have two youth service organizations. Both offer after school programs where children are helped with homework and kids are offered additional fun opportunities to do arts and crafts and play sports. One organization has a multi-million dollar budget and serves hundreds of children in different locations and the other serves fifty kids and has a budget of less than seventy five thousand dollars.
So what is the point of difference?
First, bigger is not always better, but it does help if you operate under a national brand name, in this case Boys and Girls Clubs.
Second, there also is an underlying question that people ask at least in their minds are asking if not out loud. That question is: Do the people running this program know what they are doing, and do they have the educational background to pull it off? Also, another question asked is: Does this program serve the entire community or just a small segment or population?
The smaller your target market the harder it will be to raise money! In both cases the organizations have support yet the smaller organization struggles more because their support is not as broad based.
Another example of a different program:
This program serves the blind by providing a special radio where clients can tune in to hear the local newspaper read. So the question remains who generally will be really interested in giving money to this type of program? Normally people who are most affected that have some attachment are going to be your likely sources of support. In this case the family and friends of those who are blind. You can, however, bring others into the fold but you have to first “make a connection” for them in order for this to work. People give to people first! Sometimes the cause can be secondary but in order for a fundraising gift to be lasting and on going you have to create a spark or meaning that the gift given made a true difference which resonates with the individual giver.
Let’s face the facts. When it comes to creating a nonprofit, anyone can pay money to get the paper done. Yet this step alone does nothing to ensure that the people in charge know how to run a business or manage a program or build support by having a board of directors and ultimately having successful and ongoing fundraising to support the cause.
In the end the deciding factor in determining the success of a nonprofit are the people that run it and the ability to raise money.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice, or to address specific situations. Please consult with your legal or tax advisor to supplement and verify what you learn here.