Bootcamp for Fund Developers – Or, how I learned to stop learning and get on the court.

The following is a guest blog post by Shannon Whissell, Manager, Communication & Fund Development at The Cridge Centre for the Family. Shannon kindly offered to share her learnings from our recent Planning for Fundraising Success workshop with Kari Frazer. Thank you Shannon! We welcome feedback from other participants who attended on the day as well! NOTE: Non-profit members who are new to fund development are invited to attend our no cost Q&A sessions. To find out more, contact Beth Cougler Blom or call 250-386-2269.

I’m going to be really honest with you – when I took my joint communications/fund development job eight months ago, a big part of me hoped there’d be much more communications than fund development. I know fundraising is an essential aspect of continuing to offer and expand our services, but I just didn’t have the same level of knowledge and comfort with this aspect of my job as I have with communications. So I took to learning, reading, attending workshops, developing my knowledge of fundraising as something I could master through learning.

It’s no small coincidence then that I walked into ‘Planning for Fundraising Success’ with Kari Frazer eager to do more learning. In the first few seconds of our pre-workshop conversation though, Kari assured me that this day was a chance to break up that ‘learn, learn, learn’ tendency and come away with actual manageable plans for doing fundraising successfully … to get me out of the classroom and onto the court.

Kari got us moving and interacting quickly by having each of the 20 or so participants write on flipcharts around the room key points from the financial planning audits we’d done prior to arriving. What are our biggest challenges? Our key assets? Who does fundraising in the organization now? What was remarkable to me as I looked at the sheets was both the diversity and the similarity of the responses. Whether the organization was an environmental group with a budget of under $50,000, or a social service agency with a multi-million dollar budget, we all struggle with how to make the most of our resources, how to succeed in shifting financial sands, and what on earth to do with social media.

As we moved through the day, Kari kept coming back repeatedly to key themes, including building on our strengths, taking care of current sponsors (thanking them, reporting on the careful use of their donations, etc.), and using a systems approach to fundraising to keep things moving forward. As someone with a background in project management, this final theme really worked for me. Applying a systems approach to fundraising demystifies the whole thing, breaking it into manageable steps that I can check off a list.

Kari also provided us with some very useful tools throughout the day. As I mentioned, we arrived having completed a thorough audit of our current fundraising practices that allowed participants to focus on specific needs during the workshop. Kari also provided tools for creating a strategic fundraising plan that include specific goals and actions, developing a case for support that appeals to both the head and the heart, and identifying and nurturing our key supporters.

One of my favourite tools – one I’ve already used to evaluate a couple fundraising ideas in our organization, is what I call Kari’s Event Matrix. This simple table evaluates fundraising activities on three criteria: A – Ability, B – Belief, and C – Contact. More specifically, how does the activity reach an audience that is able to give, increase the audience’s belief in the organization or service, and deepen the level of contact with the organization? I’ll give you a couple examples:

Activity Ability (/5) Belief (/5) Contact (/5) TOTAL (/15)
Spring concert 5 4 3 12
Breakfast Benefit 4 3 3 10
Targeted mailing 4 5 4 13

 

From these three examples, we can see that the return on investment for specific activities varies depending on if the audience has the opportunity and means to give at the activity (Ability), how much they can learn about our organization from the activity (Belief), and if the activity strengthens their level of connection to the organization (Contact). If there is a weakness, which Kari identified as any item with a 3 or lower in any column, we can re-design the activity to increase that number.

I came away from the workshop clear about specific actions my organization can take to begin impacting our fundraising goals immediately, and to continue to build on our successes and mitigate our challenges. And, knowing that it’s not possible to master such a complex subject in one day, I’m excited that Volunteer Victoria and Kari will be working together to host ongoing fundraising question and answer sessions where we can all continue to learn from and support each other in our fundraising efforts.

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