Reflections about making fundraising a dynamic experience

By Njuhi Chege, Well Made Strategy

The past two years have been tough for everyone. They have taught us that even the best planning cannot be done in isolation. It is the relationships that we cultivate that support us through the hardest of times. 

Fundraising is a discipline that gives many people the cringe. Many perceive it as difficult or intimidating. It wasn’t until a session with the For Impact team on the fundamentals of fundraising, that my perspective shifted to what a great opportunity fundraising is in cultivating relationships with folks who also care about the social issues that I care about. Lisa Corcoran of For Impact led two sessions for members of the Regional Education Learning Initiative on August 3rd and 5th of this month. The intention was to demystify the art and science of fundraising. She shared tremendous amounts of fundraising resources, all of which are available on their website at forimpact.org.  

Three key points stood out for me. 

  • First, is the importance of facilitating conversations so that we can learn and change. Fundraising is a body of knowledge which we must learn, just like there is a body of knowledge in medicine or history. We need training in the area to make it happen and master what good fundraising is and is not, and come to a common understanding about what we, as RELI, as well as our respective organisations, define fundraising to be.  
  • Secondly, we can improve our fundraising efforts bit by bit by changing our perspectives about why and how we do it. Trying to be a lot better across things like maintaining relationships with donors, documenting evidence and sharing it with programme officers (in an easy-to-digest format) and communications makes a difference. 
  • Third is that instilling a culture of fundraising involves time, patience, and dedication, as well as cooperation among the various people in an organisation – staff, board, beneficiaries, programme people etc. Fundraising is a group effort and must be coordinated among the relevant people The results are so worth it. 

Here are some other nuggets from the session: 

  1. ‘Asking’ needs cultivation: Get in the practice of asking – asking for advice, asking for involvement and participation, asking for a donation, asking donors to engage etc. 
  1. Harness the power of storytelling to help maximise engagement 
  1. Don’t assume that it is enough to take the same approach with different donors. Find out the pathway that the funder is asking to be approached and align. 
  1. Engage the donor first before sending a generic proposal – look at the alignment and speak to it. 
  1. Funders are people too. Treat them as such. 
  1. The more clearly we articulate our vision, the better. If we can show it, it is even better. If they can experience it, that is the most powerful. See the Altitude Framework below on the approach to take when engaging donors to help make your messaging succinct and direct. 
Image from the For Impact database
  • Your “High Altitude” (skydiving) message is about your WHY – the big picture.  
  • Your “Middle Distance” (mountain top) message is about your WHAT – your strategy and what are your key priorities?  
  • Your “Close Up” (street level) message is about the HOW – the nitty gritty of your PLAN and your next steps, and what the practical work required is. 

Implementing these takeaways will greatly improve the fundraising experience.

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