Fundraising Dos and Don'ts

Do Ask your donors for support.

Don't Not Ask. Excuse the double negative but it's worth emphasising. You should not be afraid of someone saying 'No' to you. That is their prerogative and as a fundraiser you must respect people's wishes.

Don't Take 'No' For An Answer. That may appear to contradict the previous statement but really it's all about cultivating a fundraising mentality along with a thick skin. If someone has a negative perception of your organisation, cause, fundraising methods, or even of you personally (it can happen; don't upset yourself; it's not your fault) it is your job as a fundraiser to find out why this is the case and see if the matter can be remedied. The skill of fundraising consists in your ability to channel and not unnecessarily challenge perceptions.

Don't Just Ask for Money. Donors give in many ways. For some it is easier to just write a cheque, but some have time on their hands that can be put to good use. Others may be in a position to act as goodwill ambassadors for your cause, or they may have contacts that can open doors for you. 

Do Acknowledge all Donations and expressions of support that you receive, large or small, be it financial or some other consideration. It is the single most important task that befalls a fundraiser and you would be surprised how many people 'forget' - could it be because they simply don't care?

Don't Be Greedy. Fundraising isn't an objective in itself. Contrary to what you might hear, greed is not good, either in fundraising or in any sort of business. Organisations that fundraise (be they charities, not-for-profits, NGOs, etc.) must not allow themselves to become mere fundraising vehicles. This defeats the purpose of fundraising, which is only a means towards achieving results or securing a desired outcome.

Do Keep an Open Mind. Be open to the endless variety of ways that committed and sincere individuals can come on board and help your cause.

Don't Feel you have to Second Guess Donors' Intentions. It doesn't bring any practical benefit to do so. The issues at stake are rarely about individual motivation. Organisations that fundraise should have loftier objectives. In terms of understanding donor behaviour there are only two real factors which determine why donors give - because they want to and because they can.

Do Keep Emphasising Positives. Focus on solutions. People only ever set themselves problems they can solve. Once you've identified the problem, the next step is to identify how fundraising can precipitate a solution.

Don't be a Passionate Fool. Unless of course you are supremely confident that you can carry it off. Otherwise, drama queens belong on stage. Fundraising is really about bringing intelligence to bear on what can be quite emotional issues. A sort of Emotional Intelligence Quotient (E-IQ) is what is called for.

Don't be taken in by Marketing Pseudo-science. Fundraising is a branch of Marketing but marketing itself is almost entirely practical, experiential and anecdotal. Always be prepared to ditch a tired, old idea once a new and better one comes along. Remember, all marketers share the same goal - to sell you something! 

Do Cultivate Your Contacts. Keep comprehensive records including names, contact information, details of past support, etc., for your donors, but also for your prospective donors. Store this information in a database that allows for easy retrieval. Your database is the single most important fundraising tool. Invest in good software - and in training to help you make the most of it.

Do Get To Know Your Donors. Listen to them and learn from them. Their perceptions are your eyes and ears on the world stage. If at all possible, do try to meet them in person a couple of times a year. Let it be known that your door is always open.

Do Recognise Differences in Donor Behaviour, preferences, patterns of support. Information you glean from such exercises will inform your fundraising strategy.

Do Be Wary of Fair-weather Friends. People who only want to jump on the bandwagon of a cause that has caught the public imagination. Once the public bandwagon has moved on they generally move with it. Exploit opportunities that arise but don't base your activities on temporary phenomenon. 

Do Bring Your Donors Along With You. Involve them in your work. Keep them informed. Don't leave them in the background.

Don't Try to Involve the Whole World. Different individuals will have different levels of involvement. The mistake many make is trying to achieve some kind of impossible consensus before even starting out.

Do Share the Good News Along with the Bad. Let your donors be the first to know when you've made some progress or achieved a breakthrough. Donor fatigue sets in when, despite constant appeals and requests, there appears to be no end in sight.

Don't Spread False Optimism. You're donors have a right to know if things aren't going well, or to plan.

Don't Allow Others to Steer You Off Course. This applies as much to fundraising as to the overall mission of the organisation. Be alert to people who want to turn every discussion into a moral or ethical debate. Fundraising is primarily a practical matter.

Do Pay First Rate Attention to Governance Issues. The purpose of steering committees (whatever name they go by) is to keep everything on track. They don't always do that job well. There is no shortage of not-for-profit organisations beset with woeful governance structures. Recognising the necessity and importance of your mission should be the glue that keeps everything together.

Don't Let Yourself be Taken for Granted. Too many organisations fall apart when key players move on to pastures new. This suggests that there never was an organisation to begin with. Encourage professionalism. Insist upon it even.

Don't Try To Do It All On Your Own. That's not what it's about. No one's asking you to be Superman. Delegate responsibility. This becomes easier if you let your own enthusiasm rub off on others.

Don't Succumb to the Pressure of Feeling you must Get Everything Right First Time. All this will do is postpone take-off indefinitely. Mistakes are what inform our future behaviour and failures are only embarrassing if someone sees them. Not he is wise who makes no mistakes ... [but] he is wise who makes not very serious mistakes and who knows how to correct them easily and quickly

Do Adopt an Integrated Approach to your Fundraising. And not just to your fundraising. For fundraising to work it has to be closely connected to your organisation's mission, goals and objectives. When adding new elements to your fundraising strategy, consider how it fits in with your existing strategy and overall approach. 

Don't Feel you have to Hide your Fundraising, push it into the background. Stand up to those semi-detached arguments directed against fundraising and questioning the need for it. Ask such people if they have a better suggestion. Be candid and frank. Develop discussion and dialogue. Be patient as you explain what needs to be done, ways and means by which it can be achieved, why fundraising is necessary for the attainment of these objectives. 

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