Five tips from a fundraising professional

Here are five tips for fundraising from author, professional fundraiser and consultant, Valerie Morton.

Trying to pick my top five fundraising tips feel a bit like being asked to choose your favourite children (although having one child, as I do, makes that a somewhat easier task). I will cheat a little though and look at, yes, some textbook tips, but I’ll also be giving my personal take on when it is easy to interpret them inappropriately.

1. Select your supporters and donors wisely.

We are, of course, very grateful for the financial support, gifts in kind, time given to fundraising, partnerships and the like provided to our charities. And it is only right that we should recognise that a pensioner giving £5 could be as much of a sacrifice as an employed person at the peak of their career giving £10K. I hope no fundraiser is tempted to present a business case for not thanking those making small donations but on the other hand, we have a duty to spend our charity’s resources wisely. So, do a risk assessment on potential fundraising activity to ensure you are in control of the net income. We’ve probably all felt bad turning down the offer of someone doing some amazing personal challenge when they expect an excessive amount of input from the charity. But we have to be prepared to say no. Membership schemes are another example, it’s easy to get excited about them but the true cost of servicing, without real evidence of future potential, often results in a net loss.

2. Know your donor/supporter.

This is the fundraiser’s dream, finding out as much as possible about donors and being able to offer them the right ‘products’. There is a ‘yes but’ here, though. Often, I’m unsure whether donors always know why they have given – and I include myself in that camp, so I am not being patronising. Supporting a charity is not like buying a meal deal in a supermarket. I could try to explain why I gave the donations I made in the past year but when I reflect, the real reasons are not obvious. So, don’t assume. And that also includes not assuming that every supporter is on your database, or that everyone on your database is a supporter. I’ve tested that theory out by the way. Do your fundraising plans reflect this?

3. There’s a difference between being strategically opportunistic and jumping at offers that happen to come up.

If a trustee offers you access to their customers, check that they are the kind of people you had planned to approach rather than changing your approach to match the customers. If a potential corporate partner contacts you, check that they can meet the criteria you have in your strategy rather than changing your strategy.

4. Every person/organisation will give more if asked in the right place, by the right person, for the right thing, at the right time.

Nothing more to say on that one. It’s just true. And before I am accused of encouraging manipulation, I’m not. Just good use of tried and tested techniques. Big difference.

5. Make sure your trustees understand fundraising.

To quote CC20, ‘charity trustees have overall responsibility and accountability for their charity, and this includes its fundraising’. So there it is, it’s part of their duties. There is no place for ‘I don’t like it so I don’t think we should do it’, or for not asking whether fundraising figures are gross or net, or for turning down well thought through investment because ‘we should be using our income to do the charity’s work’.

Valerie Morton is an experienced fundraiser and consultant. She is also the author of Corporate Fundraising and Partnerships.