Kick-start your 2019 with a new Fundraising Strategy

Top fundraising tips for rural charities from the Foundation for Social Improvement

Are you heading into 2019 feeling optimistic or worried about your rural charity’s future? It’s a challenging time for local charities and community groups, but there’s lots of opportunity to raise funds from a range of places, even with limited time and resources. This blog will share the starting points for developing a sustainable and achievable fundraising strategy, and top tips for overcoming the challenges facing rural organisations.

Where do I start?

There’s no ‘right way’ or ‘wrong way’ to create a fundraising strategy. Every organisation has its own unique circumstances and opportunities to generate income. But no matter how much you’re trying to raise, having a clear, actionable plan will make a big difference to your fundraising.

The strategy should first of all look at your charity’s overall plan for this year and the next 3-5 years. What are your objectives for this period, what services do you plan to deliver, and how much will this all cost? What’s on your “essentials” list and your “wish” list? It’s important to shape your fundraising strategy around your organisational objectives, rather than letting fundraising drive your direction.

What fundraising methods are best for my charity?

You want to ensure your strategy covers a range of income streams and isn’t overly reliant on just one supporter – this is essential to making sure you’re sustainable. Aim for a balance of short-term, low return streams like fundraising events, alongside medium-term and higher return streams like trusts and foundations and government grants.

However, this doesn’t mean diverting all of the time you currently spend on writing trusts applications to running 20 fun runs each year. Think about where you’ve been successful in the past, and develop your strategy to build on this, before you expand into new uncharted areas.

It’s around 11x more expensive to recruit new supporters than to retain existing ones, so when you have limited time, prioritise keeping existing donors on board and increasing their support. Thank them on time and with genuine feeling, share stories and reports on the impact of their support, and invite them to see the work in action – and don’t forget to ask them for money! Also think about the different ways you can leverage existing projects, for example, if you have lots of local supporters who donate to your fundraising challenges, could some of them become regular monthly donors?

How will I know if our strategy is working?

In your plan, you want to set measurable targets. These can be both in terms of income raised, but also in terms of actions delivered – for example, submit 5 trust applications every month, or write to 2 new donors each month. Check in on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, and communicate progress with your colleagues.

Remember, fundraising is a long game. You will inevitably get more no’s than yeses, so don’t be disheartened by this. You can benchmark your success rate and Return on Investment (how much money you’re raising compared to how much you’re spending) against other organisations. But remember it may take 2-3 years to reach your best return on investment, as you improve your skills and networks in each type of fundraising.

How can I get volunteers and colleagues to help?

Fundraising is a team effort. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a Fundraiser, fundraising shouldn’t be limited to them. Everyone in the organisation has a role to play, from volunteers running challenge events, to staff delivering your services who can track the impact of your work and share case studies, right through to the CEO and Trustees who will be providing contacts, influence and strategic direction.

Having a plan in place with clear, achievable goals will help everyone understand what’s expected of them and what role they play. It can also be useful to do an informal session making sure everyone can explain exactly what the charity does and why they need funding – just practicing this a few times over a coffee break can make a big difference to people’s confidence.

My other top tip is to celebrate your successes! Fundraising isn’t easy, and taking a few minutes to celebrate a successful grant application or a new donation will help motivate everyone and make it feel far more achievable.

How can I get more fundraising support when I have no time or budget for training?

The Foundation for Social Improvement is a small charity with a mission to support small charities and community groups to become more sustainable and resilient, through free and heavily subsidised training and advice. We recognise the challenges for rural charities accessing most training as it’s often out of reach both financially and logistically. That’s why we’ve invested in our online learning opportunities like webinars, top tips videos, and our new e-learning courses.

Put these top tips and much more into practice with our Developing Your Fundraising Strategy e-learning course, from just £25, without having to leave your office. You’ll have access for 30 days and can download the activities for posterity, making it completely flexible around your charity’s needs and location.

Find out more on the FSI’s website.

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