Fundraising revisited for the Not For Profit sector

What if I told you that fundraising was like making pickles?

You’ve probably already raised one of your eyebrows, but it’s the truth. You can’t put a baby cucumber in vinegar and expect it to turn into a pickle overnight. Pickles take time to ferment and securing funding requires the same thing – time.

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage ‘it takes money to make money’ before, but for fundraisers in the NGO sector, the challenge is even more pronounced because it is a fundraiser’s mandate to find as much money as possible whilst spending as little money as possible in the process.

It seems that every year there is less funding made available in the non-profit and social enterprise sector, and yet every year there are more NGOs emerging that require funding. That can mean less money to be shared across more organisations, which doesn’t make fundraising any easier. Fundraising strategy has to change dramatically in order for any NGO to be able to secure decent funding in the future. The responsibility to both deliver on funding today while planning the strategy of tomorrow is often placed within the fundraising team.

Let me share a story with you that illustrates just how challenging this vital role in an NGO can be.

Nicole is a fundraiser for an NGO. She is passionate about her role in the organisation because it supports highly-educated refugees in Europe, something close to her heart as the child of two refugees herself.

For these personal reasons, Nicole is highly-motivated to secure much-needed funding for this worthy cause but despite her determination and emotional investment, she is still finding her role a big challenge.

What if I told you that fundraising was like making pickles?

You’ve probably already raised one of your eyebrows, but it’s the truth. You can’t put a baby cucumber in vinegar and expect it to turn into a pickle overnight. Pickles take time to ferment and securing funding requires the same thing – time.

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage ‘it takes money to make money’ before, but for fundraisers in the NGO sector, the challenge is even more pronounced because it is a fundraiser’s mandate to find as much money as possible whilst spending as little money as possible in the process.

It seems that every year there is less funding made available in the non-profit and social enterprise sector, and yet every year there are more NGOs emerging that require funding. That can mean less money to be shared across more organisations, which doesn’t make fundraising any easier. Fundraising strategy has to change dramatically in order for any NGO to be able to secure decent funding in the future. The responsibility to both deliver on funding today while planning the strategy of tomorrow is often placed within the fundraising team.

Let me share a story with you that illustrates just how challenging this vital role in an NGO can be.

Nicole is a fundraiser for an NGO. She is passionate about her role in the organisation because it supports highly-educated refugees in Europe, something close to her heart as the child of two refugees herself.

For these personal reasons, Nicole is highly-motivated to secure much-needed funding for this worthy cause but despite her determination and emotional investment, she is still finding her role a big challenge.

1. Diversifying Your Funding Resources

As the fundraiser of an NGO, Nicole is inclined to follow in the footsteps of her predecessors and contemporaries, but this may not be the wisest course of action.

Most NGO fundraisers approach the same big organisations and government bodies for their projects and then resort to approaching the same group of better-known foundations for funding. Everyone has the same funding database.

The problem is that if everyone is approaching the same people for funding there is even less of it to go around. Nicole begins to realise that to get her hands on the money her NGO needs, she’s going to have to diversify her resources.

There may be lesser-known high net-worth individuals or other opportunities in the business sector that she could tap into. But who are they? Do they fund NGOs? Are they interested in her work?

As the fundraiser of an NGO, Nicole is inclined to follow in the footsteps of her predecessors and contemporaries, but this may not be the wisest course of action.

Most NGO fundraisers approach the same big organisations and government bodies for their projects and then resort to approaching the same group of better-known foundations for funding. Everyone has the same funding database.

The problem is that if everyone is approaching the same people for funding there is even less of it to go around. Nicole begins to realise that to get her hands on the money her NGO needs, she’s going to have to diversify her resources.

There may be lesser-known high net-worth individuals or other opportunities in the business sector that she could tap into. But who are they? Do they fund NGOs? Are they interested in her work?

2. Change Your Fundraising Approach – Lead it like a Change!

Now that she’s thinking about diversifying her potential resources, Nicole has to get everyone else in the NGO to understand that her process is not going to be a “quick win”.

To go back to the analogy, she’s making a pickle and pickles need time to pickle. She will need some time to bring about the necessary change required to find more strategic ways to secure funding.

The board members and management of the NGO expect Nicole to just go out there and secure funding as if it were a three-step process. But Nicole realises that she may have to employ quite a bit of organisational change if she is going to find new and more effective ways of securing funding.

In fact, Nicole realises that bringing about optimal organisational change may require at least 8 steps if change management expert John Kotter is anything to go by. How is she going to explain her plan at the next Executive meeting?

The NGO only has enough funding for another year and Nicole is beginning to suspect that the board members do not yet realise how urgent sourcing more funding is at this point.

Now that she’s thinking about diversifying her potential resources, Nicole has to get everyone else in the NGO to understand that her process is not going to be a “quick win”.

To go back to the analogy, she’s making a pickle and pickles need time to pickle. She will need some time to bring about the necessary change required to find more strategic ways to secure funding.

The board members and management of the NGO expect Nicole to just go out there and secure funding as if it were a three-step process. But Nicole realises that she may have to employ quite a bit of organisational change if she is going to find new and more effective ways of securing funding.

In fact, Nicole realises that bringing about optimal organisational change may require at least 8 steps if change management expert John Kotter is anything to go by. How is she going to explain her plan at the next Executive meeting?

The NGO only has enough funding for another year and Nicole is beginning to suspect that the board members do not yet realise how urgent sourcing more funding is at this point.

3. Engage Your Community – Engage Your Board!

Part of the trouble that Nicole is facing is that she is trying to do everything all by herself. Until recently, she hasn’t tried to harness the influence or assistance she might be able to gain from the other stakeholders in the organisation. She is at risk of disappointing management if they don’t understand how urgent her job is and how vital rapid change may be required.

The board has not been engaged in other fundraising activities and this has been a missed opportunity. Nicole believes this is partly due to an aversion that she has detected amongst the board members when it comes to getting involved in anything concerning getting funding. “We hired you to do it, leave us out of it”, is something she dreads hearing.

The rest of the organisation also seems terrified that she’s going to ask them to go out and peddle for funding, too. There are so many ways that they could help Nicole enrich her funding database without having to do very much at all. Nicole is going to have to start communicating with them soon if she hopes to manage their expectations and leverage their networks effectively.

Part of the trouble that Nicole is facing is that she is trying to do everything all by herself. Until recently, she hasn’t tried to harness the influence or assistance she might be able to gain from the other stakeholders in the organisation. She is at risk of disappointing management if they don’t understand how urgent her job is and how vital rapid change may be required.

The board has not been engaged in other fundraising activities and this has been a missed opportunity. Nicole believes this is partly due to an aversion that she has detected amongst the board members when it comes to getting involved in anything concerning getting funding. “We hired you to do it, leave us out of it”, is something she dreads hearing.

The rest of the organisation also seems terrified that she’s going to ask them to go out and peddle for funding, too. There are so many ways that they could help Nicole enrich her funding database without having to do very much at all. Nicole is going to have to start communicating with them soon if she hopes to manage their expectations and leverage their networks effectively.

4. Low Hanging Fruit? Yes! AND Plant a TREE!

If Nicole was going to successfully apply the 8 steps of change she believes she would need to implement to improve her fundraising potential, she would do well to generate short-term wins. In other words, “low hanging fruits”.

There are businesses and high-networth individuals right under all of their noses that Nicole might be able to approach. She just needs to get everyone on the board onboard with shifting the focus from the long-term goals to these short-term strikes for a certain period of time.

These small funding inputs can add up dramatically and make a big difference, but Nicole knows she cannot afford to lose sight of the big potential grants.

Again, Nicole needs to get the organisation and all their affiliates to understand that fundraising is a group effort and not something that she can or should do on her own successfully.

If Nicole was going to successfully apply the 8 steps of change she believes she would need to implement to improve her fundraising potential, she would do well to generate short-term wins. In other words, “low hanging fruits”.

There are businesses and high-networth individuals right under all of their noses that Nicole might be able to approach. She just needs to get everyone on the board onboard with shifting the focus from the long-term goals to these short-term strikes for a certain period of time.

These small funding inputs can add up dramatically and make a big difference, but Nicole knows she cannot afford to lose sight of the big potential grants.

Again, Nicole needs to get the organisation and all their affiliates to understand that fundraising is a group effort and not something that she can or should do on her own successfully.

5. It’s ALL about the NETWORK!

Nicole’s NGO has a fantastic network of volunteers and affiliates that she has not yet been tapping into as a resource. There are numerous networks that the NGO could benefit from if they were properly engaged and mobilised to help.

There are networks among the donors, among their suppliers and also among the businesses that they often deal with. She could tap into people and groups that already identify as allies of the NGO, in one way or another.

Nicole needs to harness all these networks as an untapped resource instead of knocking on the same doors that all the other fundraisers are knocking on. Moreover, the queues outside these usual doors are getting longer and longer. By the time she gets her turn to knock, there will be nothing on the other side of the door.

Nicole’s NGO has a fantastic network of volunteers and affiliates that she has not yet been tapping into as a resource. There are numerous networks that the NGO could benefit from if they were properly engaged and mobilised to help.

There are networks among the donors, among their suppliers and also among the businesses that they often deal with. She could tap into people and groups that already identify as allies of the NGO, in one way or another.

Nicole needs to harness all these networks as an untapped resource instead of knocking on the same doors that all the other fundraisers are knocking on. Moreover, the queues outside these usual doors are getting longer and longer. By the time she gets her turn to knock, there will be nothing on the other side of the door.

6. Share Resources – Sharing is POWER!

What frustrates Nicole is the competitive culture that seems to have developed within the world of NGO fundraising.

Because there is this common perception that there isn’t enough money to go around, even NGOs that share similar values and are trying to achieve the same outcomes are competing with one another instead of pooling resources and sharing their experiences with one another.

This makes Nicole feel despondent because it takes some of the shine off of the great work that so many NGOs are doing when they begin to operate in competitive and, at times, even cutthroat ways.

She would love to be able to share resources with other organisations that are working for the plight of refugees in Europe, too. She believes that together all these organisations would advance much quicker in the spirit of sharing than they would be going it alone.

Luckily, Nicole knows that funders prefer to support organisations that collaborate and partner with other NGOs, so she intends to incorporate it into her change steps strategy.

Partnership and collaboration, which is the 17th and last goal of Sustainable Development Goals identified by the UN, is often overlooked as the powerful tool it can be for positive change.
Nicole knows the value of partnership, and she could really benefit from finding the right people to partner with.
Contact me if you’re looking for the right fundraising partner.

What frustrates Nicole is the competitive culture that seems to have developed within the world of NGO fundraising.

Because there is this common perception that there isn’t enough money to go around, even NGOs that share similar values and are trying to achieve the same outcomes are competing with one another instead of pooling resources and sharing their experiences with one another.

This makes Nicole feel despondent because it takes some of the shine off of the great work that so many NGOs are doing when they begin to operate in competitive and, at times, even cutthroat ways.

She would love to be able to share resources with other organisations that are working for the plight of refugees in Europe, too. She believes that together all these organisations would advance much quicker in the spirit of sharing than they would be going it alone.

Luckily, Nicole knows that funders prefer to support organisations that collaborate and partner with other NGOs, so she intends to incorporate it into her change steps strategy.

Partnership and collaboration, which is the 17th and last goal of Sustainable Development Goals identified by the UN, is often overlooked as the powerful tool it can be for positive change.
Nicole knows the value of partnership, and she could really benefit from finding the right people to partner with.
Contact me if you’re looking for the right fundraising partner.