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Fundraising Idea of the Month -
Market Research

by Doug Nash

What is market research in regards to fundraising? It is the same as if you were running a commercial venture! The principles are the same. Find out what you need to do to make a success of your venture. You do this in two ways. First go out and have a look at what others are doing in the area you want to go. Secondly, ask a lot people a lot of questions. People like customers, donors, helpers, critics anyone that you feel can help by passing on to you their opinions or knowledge.

Simply start by answering these basic question of who, what, when,where, why and how. Who did it? what did they do? when did they do it? where did they do it? why did they do it? and how did they do it? Once you have these answers you may want to move on to questions like: Who did what? Why did they do it when they did it? Why was it held where it was? While it may sound amusing these are valid questions. Who did what relates to organisational structure and allocating tasks and responsibility. Why did they do it when they did it? Was weather or other community events the major reason in deciding this point. There is no such thing as a stupid question!

As an example lets use a fete as our fundraising project. The first thing to do is find out who else also runs a fete in our area. If there are a lot of fetes in your area and you can't offer something either better or different, you may want to think of some other type of fundraiser. If you decide to proceed then go and if possible have a close look at what they do and how they do it. Take a note of what attractions they have, how did they advertise? Is their fete well established, annual or occasional? When do they hold it and why do they hold it that particular time of the year? Who were their donors? Was it a success? What if any rides did they have? What worked and what didn't?

By collecting this information you can then set about devising your own fete that is different and hopefully better. You will have a better idea of what to copy and what to leave out. By doing this research you may discover a niche in the market, an area that you can address that no-one else can or have thought of. You will also know better what you have to provide to make it work in regards to volunteers, donations, events and other detail that can make or break your fundraiser. With this information you can better assess if you have the area, the people power, the resources and the desire to make it a success. Without this information you can not accurately judge if this is the right fundraiser for your organisation. You will either be hoping or guessing that it will work. Just because the information you receive indicates that it may not be the fundraiser does not mean you should not proceed. However you will know what you are up, against and by using this information have a better chance of avoiding a disaster.

Even if you already run a fete you can benefit by keeping an eye on other fetes. You will be able to compare other fetes to your own. Are they better? Can you copy something they do to improve your fete? If it is a school fete, have they catered for all the groups that have attended? Groups like grandparents, parents, children and those not connected to the school? Are they copying things you do ? If they are then compliment yourself for doing something right. Can we do it better? how can we do it better?

Now armed with this information you can answer the most important questions of all and they come from your members. When they ask what is it we should do?, why should we do it?, why will it be successful?, how will we do it? and is the best options for us? you will be able to answer them with confidence and details. By being able to answer their questions with facts and confidence, you will find it easier ( note: it is never easy only easier) to win your members support and efforts when the fundraiser moves off the drawing board and into reality.

Two major keys to success are planning and preparation. By doing market research you will be able to plan better and prepare better. Market research can guide to areas you may not have thought of originally. Fundraisers are based on giving others something worthwhile in return for their support, the better value you offer the better they will support you. The better they support you the better the financial return for your efforts.

You may have noticed the number of questions you have just read in this article. This underlines the importance of questions in market research. Asking the right person the right question will give you the right answer. Experience will enable you to know if you have asked the right person the right question. This is the same when asking for donations. Market research can trigger or improve brainstorming sessions to help you improve your organisation or fundraiser.

Market research will not guarantee a success nor is it a shield from disaster. What you do with the results will determine the outcome. Market research is an aid, a very valuable aid, but nevertheless just an aid. Just like volunteers, use it well and it will reward you accordingly.


About the Author:

Doug Nash lives in Logan City in Queensland, Australia. He has graciously consented to share a fundraising idea with us every month. Although many of the ideas aren't new, each of them has a unique flair that comes from being developed and refined half a world away from ours. Visit his web site at for more fundraising ideas.

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