Successful Fundraisers – Why Money Isn’t Everything

What makes for a great and successful fundraiser? Raising a lot of money, right?

Money is just the tip of the fundraising iceberg.

Raising money is obviously a goal when fundraising, it is the very definition of it. But you also need to look at the bigger picture. The majority of things that we fundraise for – whether it be a good cause, a charity, or a school – fundraise yearly or more often depending on their need or type of fundraisers being used. If you are planning to have more than a one time fundraiser, then you are essentially joining the fundraising business.

What does this mean for you?

This means you get to “brand” yourself, along with the event or organization you are raising funds for. You get to become a professional fundraiser.

1. What is “Branding” and how do I do it? Branding is a term that is often thrown out in business fields, but what does it mean? In a nutshell, it means letting people know what you stand for and carrying it through all aspects of what you do, say and represent. This happens with or without you knowing it, and the perception can be good or bad. This is something you have to steer, guide and influence with your choices as the decision maker for your organization. A positive branding campaign can create strong return donations or customers (if selling a product for fundraising), as well as begin to spread the word about you and your organization. This will bring repeat business and make future fundraisers exponentially more successful and profitable. People will begin to advertise for you and not only look forward to but also seek out your next fundraisers. However, the reverse can also become true if you choose to ignore this very important aspect.

2. Think like a retailer. Whether you are collecting cash donations or selling products and/or services to raise money, the concept is the same. Treat those who donate like customers, because that is what they are. Think about your favorite store. Why is it your favorite? Great value, great product, great service, right? You must adopt these same traits into your fundraising plan to have a successful, repeatable event. How often do you give or receive tips on a great new store or product? And how often do you also hear from or tell others to “not go there” since you received sub-par service or poor quality items? Most people listen to these suggestions, good or bad. Which referral will you get?

3. Have a quality product. If you are selling items to raise money they need to meet a few criteria. From the consumers’ point of view they need to be quality and affordable. And for your organization they need to have decent profit margin and preferably be a great gift item, fairly unique and also highly-consumable. This doesn’t only refer to edible products, but ones that get used up and need to be replenished; therefore bringing repeat customers back for that “must have item.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to selling goods and/or services either. You can still provide a good quality “product” when fundraising for cash donations. Be gracious, thank them generously, and if possible let them know where their dollars went and what they helped your organization achieve. This gives the donors a great sense of accomplishment while building a rapport and making them feel appreciated. Satisfaction, with a product or an organization builds and broadens your customer base. Remember those referrals from earlier?

4. Never let them see you sweat. This saying is never truer than when you are trying to get someone to believe in you, your product or your organization. The beauty of fundraisers is that they usually take place in our “spare time.” You know, after work, before dinner, between shuttling the kids around, etc. And anyone who has organized a fundraiser knows that it is no small task, but more like a second job. This is not to say that you can’t be stressed, because you probably will be at times, but you should try not to show it around your customers and donors. If they feel like you don’t know what you are doing or are not organized, they are less likely to trust you with their donation.

5. Don’t forget to have fun! Remember what brought you to this place of volunteering – your passion for the cause. With large events especially, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the business aspect of things. Make sure you take time to remind yourself why you are there, what you are trying to accomplish and how it will be all worth it in the end. Sometimes it helps to create an inspiration board with article clippings, pictures and goals. Have something visual you can refer to that puts you back on track and keeps you motivated.

Those that feel the calling to dedicate themselves to such an undertaking are often taken for granted. Take a minute to pat yourself on the back and remind yourself of all you have accomplished – or will accomplish. Fundraising events are no small feat. They take a lot of planning, determination and hard work to make them successful. So thank you for all you do! People that take time out of their lives to make the world a better place – that is the best “bottom line” any organization can have!