The financial health of any organization is directly linked to its ability to raise money. But not just any money—sustainable fundraising. These funds are generated through planned and strategic activities that don’t deplete the organization’s reserves or exhaust its donors. Fundraising that is sustainable has a positive return on investment, is cost-effective, and has minimal impact on donors’ propensity to give again in the future. Nonprofits that integrate sustainable practices into their fundraising efforts are more likely to achieve their goals without compromising organizational objectives or risking their financial stability in the process. Sustainable fundraising proactively addresses risks that can arise from outdated practices, such as programs with low returns on investment and telemarketing campaigns with high abandonment rates.
What is Sustainable Fundraising?
Sustainable fundraising is the practice of generating a consistent flow of revenue that won’t require your organization to constantly be looking for new donors, sources of revenue, or new funding streams. Sustainable fundraising is often referred to as “relationship fundraising” because it is based on building relationships with donors over time so that they become consistent and dependable supporters of your cause. Sustainable fundraising is both an art and a science. There are no quick fixes for raising money that will last for the long haul. It takes time, commitment, and consistent effort to build a sustainable fundraising program that will support your organization for years to come. It’s also important to strike a balance between the efforts you spend on fundraising now and the amount of money that will be generated over the long term.
Sustainable Fundraising Practices
Fundraisers who are striving to generate sustainable donations can follow these practices to better position their organizations for long-term success.
- Provide donors with an experience they’ll value. People are more likely to become repeat donors if they have a positive experience with your organization.
- Develop clear goals and strategies. Sustainable fundraising efforts are most successful when they are grounded in realistic expectations and specific goals.
- Target the right donors for your organization. Conducting research that identifies potential supporters’ interests, their capacity to give, and their reasons for supporting your organization will lead to more consistent and recurring gifts.
- Create a culture of giving. A culture of giving is a state of mind in which everyone feels a responsibility to support the organization. It’s important to engage all members of the organization in fundraising efforts, including board members.
Develop a donor development plan
One of the first steps in creating a sustainable fundraising strategy is to develop a donor development plan. A good donor development plan will include an assessment of your organization’s current donor base and the likelihood that donors will continue to support your cause. It also will provide a guide for how you can best engage your donors to increase the likelihood that they will remain consistent supporters. A donor development plan might include strategies to encourage current donors to give at higher levels, cultivate consistent donors whose gifts are above the average gift level and attract new donors who support the types of giving opportunities available. You also should include in your donor development plan a schedule of when you intend to initiate each strategy.
Develop a Quality Strategy and Plan
While it’s important for fundraisers to focus on quantity when developing fundraising strategies, it’s even more important to ensure that you’re also focused on quality. That is, the fundraising efforts you initiate must yield consistent and predictable results. A strategy that results in only one or two donors a month is not sustainable because it is far too slow for most organizations to reach their goals. To develop a quality fundraising strategy, you must first define what quality means in your setting. After you’ve established what quality means, you can develop a strategy for increasing the number of gifts from current and potential donors that are consistent with your funding goals. You can do this by adjusting your fundraising methods to meet the needs of various donor populations and improving your communication with donors to enhance their likelihood of making gifts.
Develop a Fundraising Plan
A fundraising plan can help you to achieve your fundraising goals by providing an overview of the fundraising activities you intend to be engaged in, the strategies you’ll use to engage in those activities, and the timing of those strategies. A fundraising plan also will help you monitor your progress, identify areas where you’re falling behind or need to make adjustments to your plans, and identify areas in which you’re exceeding expectations. A fundraising plan can be simple, outlining the various revenue streams, donations expected from each, and an annual calendar for planning purposes.
Incorporate New Technologies
New technologies have created more ways for people to make donations. Some of these new technologies include social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), which allow people to support your organization by “liking” or “following” it; crowdfunding websites (e.g., GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Patreon), which invite people to make one-time or recurring financial contributions; and online giving platforms (e.g., online giving pages, online giving apps, automatic giving and online fundraising), which give you greater control over donor communications and gift-giving processes. Each of these technologies has the potential to generate new and recurring donations for your organization. At the same time, though, each of these technologies also creates new challenges for organizations seeking to adapt to and embrace the latest trends and technologies. Incorporating new technologies into your fundraising efforts, then, requires you to consider the resources and training your organization will need to succeed in this new environment.
Commit to Constant Research and Evaluation
Fundraisers who are serious about generating sustainable donations can’t afford to rely on only one or two fundraising strategies. Instead, they should be committed to conducting research on what fundraising strategies have worked in the past and what strategies promise to have the greatest impact in the future. This will help you to identify new and emerging trends in the fundraising landscape and make necessary adjustments to your strategies and resources. You also should conduct periodic evaluations of your fundraising activities to determine if they are producing the results you expect. This will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your strategies and make the necessary adjustments to improve their effectiveness.
As you can see, there are many facets to fundraising and each one has to be looked at closely. You can’t expect to bring in sustainable funds just by putting on a charity event once a year. It’s a constant effort and it can be very challenging. But, if you keep these 5 steps in mind, you can develop a sustainable fundraising strategy.