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Fundraising Idea of the Month:
Income Base

by Doug Nash

A major consideration of a fundraising group is to know who and what is their income base. All companies need to know where they will make their money so they can develop strategies to maximise this vital resource. If you don't understand this then you will have tough times raising the funds you need. Once you understand that fundraising is exactly like running a business then you will understand that copying what businesses do will benefit you greatly.

For grassroots' or small community fundraisers there are four main levels or areas to address:

  • members and past members
  • friends and family
  • local area
  • other areas

By grassroots' or small community fundraisers I refer to school P&C's, sporting clubs, community clubs like Apex and Lions and families trying to raise money to help their children as examples. No matter how "little" or how much you are trying to raise, if you understand what you income base is you will know better how to manage this resource.

The first stop for most fundraisers are members of the group they have joined. Amazingly they forget to include past members, if the individuals support your group and efforts once they are likely to do so again. Who else is so intimately informed on what you are trying to achieve. You are effectively preaching to the converted and are most likely to find some way of helping if not in cash then in experience or other means.

The problem is though that this first level of appeal is the most taxed in way giving in time and money. So you need to take this point into account and find new and creative ways to prevent their burnout. This is the level that burns out first and becomes very selective in who they support. Schools are a great example of this. They know that the parents and students are their primary base and in a lot of cases stop putting any creative thinking into their fundraising calendar. Over a period of years the parents are less excited about the chocolate drives, spelling bees and other annual fundraisers. The fundraisers also may not take into account the parents are also being canvassed for their time and money by other non-school groups that the children belong to.

So the parents are pulled in many directions and in a short period of time become very strict about which group they support with their time and money. Each group must then sell themselves as being the best recipient of this support. Unfortunately there are groups who don't sell themselves or their advantages very well if at all and so loose this support. From this tight situation the group will then just increase the requests from the remaining members and in so doing risk loosing even more support.

The next level of fundraising is aimed at friends and family. Some individuals have no problem in approaching friends and family for support, especially the financial kind. However the number of these individuals are fast diminishing. While friends and family can be a great resource, if they are not managed carefully they can be a very negative force to deal with. Reaching out to this group needs careful thought and planning as to which fundraisers are appropriate for them.

The local area level of fundraising is usually the most overlooked and worst managed. At this level of support the competition is fierce and forgiveness for honest mistakes very scare. Local companies and businesses are assaulted on a daily basis from all kinds of worthy not-for-profit organisations. The problem is these local commercial companies must make the most of their recourses. So you must first make sure that you clearly explain to them why you are the best investment - what's in it for them. Fail to do this and you will struggle to find any support. You must be able to write down why they should support you and not someone else. An advantage you should make the most of is if one of your members has a connection to one of the local business. Find out if they are related or already do business with one of your members and ask them to approach the business. Building on previous relationships makes a lot of sense. What a local business is trying to do by supporting you is to access another market or improve their business, it is all about money or goodwill - which leads to more business. Whether you like it or not, whether you agree with this method of business or not, this is the way of the world and how you must go about your business of fundraising.

Once you established a relationship, you must nurture it. There is no point going to all the effort of gaining the support of a local business only to loose through being sloppy or thoughtless. Make sure you take the relevant steps to maintain this support by advertising the support you are getting and help you supporters receive the maximum gain by supporting you. Make no mistake if you don't someone else will!

Once you have worked your way through the first three levels you reach the fourth level - that of other areas. This level of fundraising takes a little more thought and research. The benefits of maximising this level are many and well worth the effort. Appealing to companies outside your suburb or even city can pay handsome dividends. As before if you can demonstrate the benefits of a particular company to support your cause then it doesn't where they are located. Do your homework and find out what kind of companies support causes like yours and them prepare an approach. With the benefit of email, you can put forward detailed appeals to companies that are located just about anywhere. Follow the initial approach with a phone call , you do this to make the request personal. It is much easier to send a letter denying a request then telling someone over the phone. Even if you are turned down, you can gather a lot of information that you can use to improve your next request either to the same company or a different company. You may find out how close you were, that you missed out even though you made no mistakes, simply choose the wrong time of the year or you could be referred to a company that is more suited to your organisation. Always call.

Another method at this level is grants. Many fundraisers don't apply for grants because they are intimidated by the process. Fair enough as grant applications at times can seem extremely complicated and confusing. However many fundraisers have learned that with persistence and the determination to learn from previous efforts, success can be won and be very rewarding. Even if you have no faith in your current ability, you can learn from each effort. Ask yourself what other fundraisers can be so profitable with the same amount of effort and at so little cost? If this doesn't appeal to you or your members then hire a professional who deals with grant applications. Spend a little to earn a lot. If you study successful people you will notice that they seem to know and deal with a lot of other successful people. Why should you be any different? Find successful people and incorporate them into your efforts.

To find out what grants you can apply for search the internet or approach your local, state and federal politicians. They all have their own lists and each level of government has their own grants aimed at different aims, you could find that you can apply to grants at different levels. Not only can the politicians give the list they can help in other ways. They could introduce you to other successful grant applicants or put in a good word for you to the organisation that is offering the grant.

These are just two examples of what can be done at this level. Now that you are aware of the different levels of fundraising you can put your thinking cap on and discover others. It really is worth your while to put some effort into this area. Never prejudge your chances or worthiness. Apply and then reapply with the benefit of the experience from the first effort. Persistence can pay huge dividends, especially when you consider that at times one successful grant application can double your fundraising efforts. The organisations that offer grants are usually eager to help applicants like you in many ways. Remember they want to give this money away.

The last point for you to consider is to mix and match your fundraisers. Your members will love you for it and you enjoy better success. Keep your members informed on what you are doing and why you choose to go that way. Your members are not stupid and should not be treated as if they were. They will very quickly get behind an effort that moves the weight of fundraising from them to someone else. Fringe dwellers will be more likely to come forward if they see you are making every effort to spread the burden of the financial side of the fundraising to other opportunities apart from their wallet.


    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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