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Fundraising Basics


By | NMMS Organization Program Associate
July 29th, 2014 | Category: Organization

Fundraising Basics

by Eduardo Martinez, NMMS Program Associate

Fundraising is a critical element of your MainStreet program success.  It’s not enough to rely on municipal contracts or public sources for operational funds (see Sustainable Funding Sources for NM MainStreet and Arts & Cultural District, NMMS Newsletter, January 2014).  Grant writing efforts are important but they rarely garner an adequate level of unrestricted funds.  Direct donor cultivation, fundraising campaigns and event-based fundraising can seem like a more daunting approach but they will often yield greater resources.  Below are some key areas to consider in your fundraising efforts.

Develop realistic fundraising goals and strategies.  Consider the size of your community and your ability to reach donors.  Start with moderate targets ($10,000 for small communities, $25,000 for larger communities).  Limit your “asks” by focusing on 1-2 efforts annually.  Convene a team to prepare the communications and engagement strategies or to manage fundraising events.  Enlist experienced fundraisers or volunteers that enjoy public relations activities.  Set timelines and distribute tasks among volunteers.  Partnering with other organizations on collaborative fundraising efforts is yielding high results in some NM communities.

Regarding fundraising events, unique cultural themes (e.g., a Mardi Gras ball or a seafood festival) can be introduced to the community with great success.  The highly successful crab dinner in Portales is one example.  Or build on local interest activities (Fiestas or Founders Day celebrations) that will draw community-wide interest.

Identify and involve prospects.  Donor development is highly relational.  Pinpoint the top 20-30 “champions” that can help launch your effort; their initial contributions will help build momentum for a larger campaign.  Consider all potential donors: middle income earners, minority populations and youth philanthropists (16-34 years old) now comprise a much higher proportion of donors than in the previous twenty years.

Educate and Cultivate.  Donor cultivation accounts for about 50% of any successful fundraising effort.  Communicate a “value proposition” that defines the impact of your services and builds a case for others to support your program.  Share key data and success stories, starting with historical reinvestment statistics.  Solicit public figures or media leaders to help launch your campaign.

Put your audience in the “driver’s seat” by soliciting photos, thoughts or stories about your district.  The more you involve prospective donors, the greater chance you’ll have of gaining donations.

Ask.  The actual “ask” should require no more than 5-10% of your entire fundraising effort.  Individual, direct approaches will be much more successful than a group solicitation. Use a simple message that all volunteers can easily share.  Practice with partners to hone your message before engaging donors.  Be specific in your requests and have a backup option ready for those can’t contribute money (in-kind supports or material donations).

Thank and Recognize.  Always follow up with a sincere and dedicated “thank you” call, communications effort or recognition event.  Social media is a great option for thanking individual donors (one tweet or Facebook posting a day!).  Recognizing your donors is critical to building a successful multi-year fundraising campaign.

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