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11 Elements of a successful fundraising programme

There are 11 elements that must be present in a successful, well-managed development programme. Use them as a checklist for your organisation.

If you are missing some, you may well raise the question as to whether you are missing something vital for the success of your development programme.

1. A clear statement of your institution’s mission and purpose. One major reason a development programme requires a clear statement of purpose is that people today are so mission-orientated. Donors – particularly major donors – want to know the reason for your organisation’s existence and why it should be supported.

2. Specific goals and objectives. Once a mission is articulated, specific objectives for how your organisation proposes to fulfil its aims must be developed. A good development programme requires an institution to have a long-range plan covering dreams, plans, and programmes for the next three to five years. It should contain your mission, goals, and objectives. This plan is important because donors – particularly major donors – want to have an impact on the future. They want to effect change or help ‘make a difference’ in an institution and how it is going about its work. Clear plans demonstrate that your institution is dedicated to its mission.

3. Commitment to the concept of development. An organisation’s commitment to development as a concept begins with its president and board of trustees. A well-managed development programme is based on the commitment, support, and involvement of a nonprofit’s entire community: the CEO and other administrators, the board of trustees, volunteers in all positions, and all staff. Without understanding from these key people, a development programme cannot be totally successful.

4. Active involvement of the director or CEO. It is essential that the director provide leadership in public relations and fundraising. A director should be responsible for cultivating his or her institution’s top 10 to 15 major-gift prospects.

5. Dedication and participation by the board of trustees. Success in development begins with the board. No organisation can expect to have an effective and productive development programme without the leadership and involvement of every member of the board.

6. Adequate staff and budget. A well-managed development programme will have sufficient staff and budget to carry out the activities needed to meet its goals.

7. Committed volunteers. Your programme should involve volunteers in all dimensions and should place demands on staff to enlist, train, inspire, and serve volunteers and recognise them appropriately.

8. A vigorous fundraising programme. In the final analysis, gifts are received because willing and receptive prospects are asked. I cringe when I hear that people have said things like, ‘I wasn’t asked to give’ and ‘I didn’t know that you needed the money’.

9. Effective prospect identification, research, and cultivation. A well-managed development programme these days must set a high priority on a strategy and procedure to uncover and ascertain information about potentially large major donors, to court and cultivate them and to involve them in the life of the organisation. Such major-gift fundraising is a central part of all fundraising efforts. We know this to be true because in campaign after campaign, most of the money comes from only a few people.

10. An efficient donor-acknowledgement
and recognition programme. In a well-managed development office, all gifts are acknowledged within 24 hours. Large gifts should receive more than one acknowledgement – and major donors should have special recognition. Donors deserve to be thanked. People want to be recognised. This is especially important for major donors, because very wealthy people often are very lonely people. Donors should feel good about giving, and it is the organisation’s responsibility to help them feel good by thanking them and by assuring them that the gift they made will be put to good use.

11. An effective public-relations programme. In some organisations, the public-relations function is distinctly separate from the development office. Our firm has advocated for nearly 40 years that the two functions are inseparable and must be co-ordinated by senior administrators of the organisation. Public relations is an essential part of the development process.

For a development programme to succeed, an institution consistently must do an effective job of telling the public what it is doing and why its existence and future are important to society.

American Capital Fundraising authority, Charles P. Cushman.

This article first appeared in Fundraising Forum: Issue 12, May 1990.

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