Rites of Passage
May 22, 2013
“Thank you for your future gift.”
June 5, 2013

Fundraising Vision: 5 Questions to Consider

361164928_547c6714d9_zAnn has a great saying, “A happy fundraiser is one with a strategic plan”.  And I absolutely think that’s true.  It’s great to have a clear map that spells out why you are raising money.  It’s so helpful to have a vision for the future of the organization.

But lately I’ve seen too many strategic plans that have lots of good program stuff in them, but are missing one thing: a vision for fundraising.

Sure, there are goals for growth and dollars.  For example, one strategic plan may have a goal to grow 20% over three years.  Another, to raise $1 million a year dollars by 2017.

But very rarely do you see a plan that actually envisions what the organization’s fundraising will look like in three to five to ten years.

A fundraising vision that answers the questions:

  1. How many donors do we want? Do we want a large number of donors or do we want to focus on larger gifts from fewer sources?
  2. What kind of donors do we want?  Do we want a donor base of individuals? Do we want corporate donors?  Do we want to take funds from the government?
  3. Are we looking to diversity or to focus our fundraising? What do we want our funding source pie chart to look like at the end of five years?
  4. What donor audiences can we best reach with the channels of communication have we built?  Will these channels of communication most effectively carry our message to our target donor audiences?
  5. What do we want our donors to do for us? Just give money? Or is there some other way we want them involved in our mission? How can we best leverage their support to make real change on our issue?

The answers to these questions paint a picture of the kind of fundraising operation your organization wants to be.  This fundraising vision drives the fundraising strategy.  Without the vision, the strategy boils down to just chasing money.

Creating a robust fundraising vision and strategy requires you to make choices and set priorities.  It requires you to look at fundraising as an indistinguishable part of the organization, not a separate function just generating the money.

This is hard work.  There is no one-size-fits-all or magic template.  Your vision and strategy will be distinct and unique to your organization.

Large foundation funding might be the perfect strategy for a policy organization that has restricted, high-profile programs, but it’s not a great fit for a homeless shelter.  Building a large base of individual donors might be just the thing for a reproductive rights group, but might not be a sustainable option for a small arts organization.

The best fundraising strategy really isn’t even about the money.  It’s about creating a program that maximizes the strengths of your organization and seamlessly fits with what it is trying to accomplish.  With this kind of strategy you’ve got more than money; you’ve got money and partners.

The reason why Greenpeace and the Sierra Club fundraise the way they do is because the number of donors they have matters to them.  Having as many supporters as possible helps them accomplish their mission.

On the other side of the spectrum, research institutions generally have no need for a large number of donors.  Their goal is to work with government, foundation, and corporate donors to leverage as many funds in as few transactions as possible.

These are two radically different fundraising visions that have been carefully considered and the resulting fundraising strategies fall in line quite easily when the vision is clear.

When you look out 5 years, what do you see?  Is your fundraising view clear?

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