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Raising More Money with the Resources You Have

development planning for executive directors Apr 12, 2022

Do you, as executive director, want to increase your nonprofit’s capacity without increasing the budget? It can be done.

Meet the maternal health education agency whose funding was about 80 percent from government, just under 20 percent from foundations, and the rest individual donations. And the domestic violence housing agency that relied on grants, rental income, fees for service, and four major fundraising events each year. In both of these cases, the agencies’ financial positions were good but community need was outpacing available resources. Staff were stretched to the limit. Both nonprofits wanted to grow but funds for capacity building were scarce. And they were stuck.

The answer was to raise more money with the budgets they had. The way to accomplish that was to improve their resource efficiency. And they did, by assessing their fundraising strengths and gaps, empowering their board to become mission ambassadors, setting up their staff up for fundraising success, and exciting their communities about the impact their organizations were making.

Assessing Your Fundraising Strengths and Gaps

To make modifications to general fundraising ideas, begin by assessing your nonprofit’s fundraising strengths and gaps. Do a complete and thorough assessment, including board leadership, infrastructure and performance, financial health, marketing and communications endeavors, and volunteer recruitment and development as they relate to raising money. For best results, tailor your fundraising plans to your nonprofit’s unique characteristics. Make sure you are designing accounts for your organization’s particular mission, community, donor base, budget, and organizational capacity.

The maternal health education agency you were introduced to was in the middle of an executive director search so executive staff gave their feedback helped get board member input. The results of their assessment surprised them. They had many strengths on which to build a fundraising structure that would yield more general operating monies, including the existing program research protocols and financial reporting systems, collaborative culture, appetitive for excellence, and overwhelming desire to change their current situation. Caught up in the day-to-day operational issues that arose, they could only see the weaknesses of their position; it was eye-opening to them to see such strength.

I worked with the development director at the domestic violence housing agency. The development director and I fashioned a questionnaire that we could get staff to answer given their limited time. The development director worked with the executive director to get the board’s perspective. The development director then crafted foundation and business giving plans to meet the agency’s fundraising goals. Since departments were pretty siloed, she needed a way to get staff working together on fundraising. This meant infusing fundraising into the organizational culture. The agency’s vendor relationships is where she initiated a business giving program. She moved the foundation program forward based on research, educating non-fundraising staff in the differences of the work involved in  requesting foundation and government funding and their subsequent reporting requirements.

Empowering Your Board

Boards have a legal responsibility to make sure resources are available for mission achievement. Prepare your board to fundraise by properly recruiting members, focusing them on strategy, and engaging them in creating life-changing transformations. Help your board members lead by example. Share board giving inquiries that come from other donors with your board. Develop a board giving policy that allows for participation and sacrificial giving no matter what the income level. To overcome objections to fundraising, don’t call it fundraising. Start by breaking down the steps of an ask into specific details. Don’t focus on the money you are trying to raise. Instead, emphasize the progress in mission fulfillment the organization has achieves through added financial support.

At the maternal health education agency, the executive director search took priority. So, we decided to prepare the board for fundraising for the incoming executive director. The first task was convincing the board of the need to invest in fundraising when the agency was growing and demand for services was high. We developed a board training that showed the need for unrestricted monies, defined fundraising in terms of mission fulfillment, explained foundation and major donor inquiries, including inquiries into board giving, and made the case for investment in fundraising. The board responded well to the training, asking that the conversation about fundraising be continued at future board meetings.

Since only the executive director interacted directly with the board at the domestic violence housing agency, the development director needed to develop nontraditional avenues to get the board involved in fundraising. Which meant disseminating information to the executive director about funding requirements for board giving. Because so many foundations required it, the board, interested in raising as many additional resources as possible, bought into 100 percent board giving. The development director then formed a development committee, inviting board members and donors to join the committee. Intrigued, a few board members did. Because they were interacting with clients at the board level, the committee members saw how additional resources changed people’s lives in a very real way. Because they were involved with donors, board members got a real sense of why people gave. And they got excited about it. And started sharing their enthusiasm with other board members. Which excited them to share with their friends. Soon board members were bringing the names of their community connections to the executive director, who shared them with the development department.

Setting Your Staff Up for Success

Don’t set your development staff up for fundraising and financial failure. Budget conservatively, accounting for total costs. Spread your risk by diversifying your revenue streams. Build in a surplus and put a portion of it aside. Remember, what gets measured gets done. Make the goals you give your staff specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and time bound. Fundraising staff interact with program, finance, IT, marketing, communications, volunteer training and management, board members, and the community. They work most effectively when they are aware of any internal and external changes to regarding these constituencies.

To increase the unrestricted revenues the maternal health education agency hoped for, we created a case for support that gave the staff words to tell their story in a new way and a development plan that leveraged the nonprofit’s strengths within the limits of its organizational capacity. We outlined an individual-giving program that grew in its forms of giving. We trained key staff in the principles and strategies of asking for business donations, highlighting the difference between the motivations behind why businesses, governments, foundations, and individuals give. We also conducted a staff fundraising training. We talked about what fundraising was and wasn’t, mission-driven efforts, how fundraising affected operations, and how the staff could participate without becoming fundraisers. It was gratifying to see how many of the staff participated.

To get beyond the silos at the domestic violence housing agency, program, finance, and development staff talked about their different recording and reporting needs, processes for covering administrative costs and realizing a surplus, and the pros and cons of further diversifying funding streams. The development staff created a grants plan that increased general operating revenues with mostly simple reporting requirements. The group created communication and reporting processes where no one department would be significantly taxed, and information was available to everyone who needed it. Because the non-fundraising staff felt heard by the development staff, their needs were met, and their contributions recognized, it was much easier to mobilize them to support new fundraising initiatives.

Exciting Your Community

Good PR and marketing include more than press releases, social media campaigns, website development, speaking engagements, media coverage, advertising, organizational memberships, resource list inclusion, and hosting community fundraising events. For best results, target your efforts to specific groups you have identified as the most crucial and thoroughly research them. Create and maintain consistent, strong messaging through good branding, articulating a unique marketing position, making your message a mainstay of your culture, and spreading your message extensively.

Since the maternal health education agency wanted to increase its individual donor base, expand foundation support, and initiate a corporate giving program, the messaging from the case for support informed its appeals, grant writing, business asks, social media outreach, and annual report. By integrating communications and fundraising, its messages to the community were unified and consistent, leading to a larger presence in the community. We also worked on creating mutually beneficial fundraising asks based on its mission. Instead of trying to reach just any foundation or business, we identified prospects that had some relation to its mission, operations, board, staff, or client base. I did the initial research and then trained the staff on how to approach these potential supporters. By the end of the engagement, they were ready to move to the next phase of donor development.

Since the domestic violence housing agency was large with many different departments, the first thing we did to excite the community was to understand how the departments worked together. Then we created a unified message and made it consistent within the organization’s newsletters, press releases, grants, event speeches, and business meetings. The agency could then present one unified front to all its internal and external constituencies. We then developed a business packet highlighting the financial and mission strength of the nonprofit, as well as opportunities for mutually beneficial involvement. So that businesses could see how the agency benefitted them and the community, we included agency client and business relationship testimonials during networking meetings. It wasn’t long before this agency had community business support.

Next Steps

Let’s talk about where your nonprofit is in its fundraising journey and what your next steps are.  You’re invited to schedule a complimentary, thirty-minute strategy session with me.  During our time together, we’ll clarify the issues your nonprofit is facing, explore possible solutions, and develop a plan of action. I look forward to speaking with you!

I want to move my fundraising to the next level