Fundraising 101


An uncomplicated approach to successful fundraising might be to consider the process akin to the basic principles of sales. You need to capture donor attention (these are your customers), excite investment interest (sell the product), make a clear ask (close the deal) and say “Thank you!”  With this simple formula in mind, trust, inspiration and personal generosity become the fundraising equivalents to product quality, marketing and customer service necessary to make any financial endeavor succeed. From there, event development, written appeals and daily program operation can all become creative vehicles for delivery of your product: Donor happiness.


The first thing to remember when considering fundraising projects is that few donors will actually feel as deeply passionate about your cause as you do.  Strange as it may sound, your tender understanding of the direct benefit donor dollars will provide to your cause will not attract donations all on its own.  There are simply too many compelling needs to support in the world.  Sustainability for your project will be better served by directing passion toward creating events and presentations that solicit universal experiences of joy that everyone can relate to.  Then describe your request for sponsorship in terms of the joy and health your organization or project creates.  This way, your potential donors will begin to relate more directly to what you are trying to achieve and their financial gift will have more personal value.



Successful fundraising is a year round endeavor that includes three primary types of activity; community events (related in concept to trade shows), informative written appeals (primary marketing messages) and focused individual donor attention (sales lead cultivation).  Be aware that even common business contact with your organization can encourage giving if daily interactions are consistently positive and friendly.


When planning events and writing appeals, put yourself in the donor (customer) shoes and design your activities based on what is of greatest interest to them.  Golf, for instance may have nothing to do with your cause, but a well-planned golf tournament benefit will draw a wide range of participants, who in turn may take an interest in your cause.  Letters sent out asking for regular contributions should be fresh each time, letting the donor know you have taken the time to think about what they need to hear to stay current with your cause.  Your fundraising events should become known, enjoyable reflections of how your organization operates every day.



Fundraising is a daily discipline and timing is everything.   Annual campaigns are expected by most donors in the fall, before or right after Thanksgiving.  Spring time mailed appeals are also common.  One primary event per year that both entertains and fully guides participants to contribute is key once you organization is fully established.  Thank you notes and regular updates are essential.  Each one of these projects takes full attention weeks, months and in some cases a whole year in advance.  If you organization is small, start small.  Complete a whole calendar that projects deadline dates and outcomes and add the necessary activities to your day planner.



There are both State and Federal regulations that define the taxation expectations around donated funds.  Check with your Secretary of State and your State Board of Charitable Licensing to learn the technical details. Keep accurate records of every dollar accepted, including name, address, date, and payment type of each donor or sponsor organization. Be sure you document how raised funds are spent.  Successful fundraising is based on trust and solid relationships.  Your records are the gateway to establishing and maintaining long term public support for your work.