The Four ‘Knows’ Before Fundraising


There is no perfect formula for fundraising. But like any business, it is absolutely vital that you and your colleagues are well prepped in the logistical information in order for you to reach your big goal. For many people that goal can be a couple hundred dollars. For others that goal is a couple million, maybe even billion, dollars. Regardless of the goal, the determination to succeed all comes down to the prep work.

Below, you will find four things a person must know before they start fundraising. While you make tackle this in your own way, following these lessons can give you that leg up you need in raising money for your organization.

Know the Product

There are many passionate and personable presenters out there. But regardless of who they are, if you do not know your product, you will not get that support or for this situation, that donation. In other words, it helps to know and communicate your product or mission in a clear concise manner. Many people call this the elevator pitch. To an extent, this is just the introduction. When you talk about your product (or your organization), it is imperative that you know the founders, the background history, how the company or product came to be, why it came to be, and of course future goals. Having this as an introduction to your pitch shows that you are not only informative about your organization, but also passionate about its mission. In addition, the best way to grab someone’s attention is to answer all of his or her unanswered questions. Make sure you are to deliver that level of knowledge before you ask for their donation.

Know Your Market

When setting up various venues, meet-and-greets, or phone conversations, it is important to have an understanding of the overall market. Similar to knowing your own product, make sure you know and understand the people you are talking to. Knowing your market, or audience, has a strong advantage in how you approach each pitch and each donation. This fundamental practice gives you enough insight in how to integrate your cause for your organization. It also gives you a complete understanding on the donation you are looking to receive. For fundraising, we often find two types of investors. The first are the ‘impact investors,’ individuals who are invested in the organization’s or venture’s mission and business model. These investors measure the success of their investment and look to see the overall organization as a whole thrive. The second type of investor is what we call a ‘financial investor,’ an individual looking to partner with your business or organization to increase his or her own ROI. This type of investor is usually found with entrepreneurs or businesses rather than nonprofit organizations.

3. Know Your Numbers

This is probably the breaking point in landing a big investor or donor. Having a strong knowledge of the overall numbers for your organization can strongly affect and persuade a person in giving you money. This applies to both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Just like knowing your product, you need to really understand the numbers of the organization, the industry, the market, the customers, the products, and the overall operations. Taking that into play, knowing how to handle donors money and where it can be optimized and leveraged to its fullest can ease every investor in why they need to donate. This type of easy-yet-knowledgeable communication is something people want to hear and what to see. At the end of the day, these donors want to know that they are having an impact. So show them through the numbers.

4. Know Your Pitch

Mark Twain once said that, “twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the ones you did do.” Whether you realize it or not, the minute you speak about your organization, you become the face of your product and your cause. Spend time crafting your emails and changing your overall online presence. In addition, make sure you practice your pitch. At times this can be tedious, and frankly time consuming, but at the end of the day the amount of work is worth it. You want to be able to get to a point in which you can adapt and leverage your speech in specific ways for your audience. The key here is to not simply memorize your speech, but to internalize it in a more optimal way.

Is Your Fundraising on the Right Track?

Man analyzing financial data and charts on computer screen

No matter what industry you are in, internalizing a holistic view on the progress of your cause or your project can give you the necessary strategy for future steps. This type of healthy development requires that style of internal reflection so that you can truly pave the path in reaching your financial goals at a timely manner.

Regardless if you are for-profit or non-profit, having these talks can benefit your cause greatly. For the private sector, this is usually done through quarterly annual reports, which breaks down the overall revenue, expense, and net profit a company attains within a three-month span. For non-profits, this type of analysis varies from organization to organization.

To help non-profits with this dilemma, below, you will find three key questions you and your team will need to ask themselves to see if your company is heading in the right path. If there is any hesitation or uncertainty for any of these questions, then you need to make sure you are able to attack that problem to its fullest. Keep in mind, this is standard in any company or organization. The best thing to do is to look at these gaps as windows for opportunity so that you can improve your logistics for the betterment of your cause.

1. When will you be sending your next donation newsletter? (Who is responsible for that? How will you market why they should donate today?)

For this question, it requires a variety of answers to fully grasp your next strategic moves. When you are looking for donations, there needs to be a way for you to reach out to the public. This can be done through actual newsletters or via email. The key thing is planning deadlines and responsibilities for your team so that you can meet your goals. These deadlines, also known as action steps, will be crucial in reaching future donors for the next up and coming months. In addition, for every newsletter, you want to continue raising awareness of why your cause needs more financial support. Just having the same speech is not enough to make a strong or compelling case to your donors. To get your team running strong, think of compelling reasons of what the funding can do for your cause. Will it be used to hire a new team or will it be used to help fund the equipment? These answers to these questions will give your pitch a stronger essence for your future donors.

2. What is your Donor Retention Rate?

By definition, a donor retention rate is a measure of how many of last year’s donors gave again this year. Donor movement is a fundamental discipline of strong organizations. You must have a plan for moving your donors through the fundraising funnel. In addition, not only are you looking to add to this pool of donors, but you also want to keep those for their contributed support, especially the big ones. Ask yourself a variety of questions such as: How many people from last year donated again? If they did not donate what was their reason? How many of the big donors did not donate this year? What is our future plans to have them donate again? Answering these types of questions will give you a stronger understanding of the people who are supporting your cause. In addition, this information will give you more knowledge on the overall numbers you are attaining in a calendar year.

3. How Many of Your Current Donors Came through Referrals?

At the end of the day, you want to make sure you are knowledgeable of the overall numbers. As much as some sales are done through a your own efforts, many donors come from referrals through current donors, board members, volunteers, and supporters. Make sure you know the number and the people on this list. These are investors who are supporting the growth and development of your cause. In addition, show them how impactful their donations have been to the overarching development of your organization’s goal.

Fundraising 101: How to Sell Your Idea

selling idea

We all remember those elementary school days when you had to fundraise for the classroom. All you needed to do was smile, give a one-minute embarrassing pitch, and hope that your family friend or neighbor found you adorable enough to donate a few dollars to your cause. While times have changed and the causes have altered, the concept for fundraising is the same. Donors look for that unique differentiated personable communication before they decide to donate. When you are fundraising for a cause, you are not just selling an idea, but also selling yourself.

So how do you fundraise? How can you make that sale?

One thing to remember is that personalization is a big key in gaining donor support. Like it or not, the minute you start talking, you become the spokesperson, the face, and the poster child for your organization. It is your job to captivate the crowd with your charisma and attitude. Be informative, but not too serious. And as always, be sympathetic. Think of this as if you are telling a story. If you were to look at the strongest fundraising campaigns, you would see how a majority of them start off with a story. It is that story that provides the necessary emotional appeal to get that person over the hump to donate.

Below, you will find five key concepts that can help you sell your idea. These helpful tips will guide you in creating a stronger, organic, and rich campaign for your organization to thrive on.

Be Informative

Before you start with your story, you want to make sure you know all of the facts. Providing valid and sound facts, statistics, and data about your cause can only aid you in your process. In addition, having this type of information gives your pitch stronger credibility. To do this, start with the bigger picture. Brainstorm your subject and write down information about the cause itself. Make sure you do your homework and provide an adequate amount of research. If possible, try and speak with one of the leaders of the campaign to gain more insight on the cause. The more you know about your topic, the more confident you will be providing this information to a layperson.

Articulate WHY the cause is important

Be absolutely clear in your pitch on the problem. Addressing the issue for your cause can oftentimes be overlooked in speeches. This type of problem happens because presenters usually assume that the audience already holds some type of knowledge on the topic. Do not make this assumption. The best way to nullify this problem is to assume that every person is a novice to the topic. When you are actually presenting the problem, make sure you are able to provide an adequate amount of information of why this concept is important. People can sometimes overlook the importance of the cause which can then sway their decision when donation. Stress the whys and play on the emotional appeal.

Show They are an Asset

Involving the audience throughout your pitch is a great way to get your audience engaged in your idea. In addition, discussing what impact they can have through their donations is something that should always be mentioned in any speech. People want to know what they are donating to. Make sure they are aware of that.

Become a Master Storyteller

As stated before, you are a storyteller. It is your job to get the crowd hanging on every single word. This idea of connecting with the audience’s head and emotion will play to your strengths as a public speaker. Utilize your body language to provide that vibrant message. In addition, throughout your speech, know when to pause, when to stress, when to be excited, when to be sad, and when to be angry. It is these acting techniques and social awareness that will allow you to captivate a crowd with simply your words.

Know Your Crowd

This is the idea of leveraging your strengths. Make sure you do your homework on the group you are talking to. Often times, you are going to need to change your story for a particular group. While the story changes, the message is the same. To change the story, you need to know the audience you are speaking with. For example, the way you would talk to a corporate event versus fresh college graduates about donating to their university will be a completely different situation. Look more into the person or groups career progression and pinpoint certain topics that can heighten their awareness.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now you have all heard this phrase before. But at the end of the day, it makes sense. Practice does make perfect. The more times you say your pitch, the more times you get a chance to internalize it. Having a deeper understanding of your speech can make you aware of the strengths and weakness of the entire situation. In addition, once you are able to internalize your pitch, you will be able to manipulate and optimize your speech to the most effective manner.