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How to thrive when times are tough

Downes Murray International consultant, Sarah Scarth, is upbeat about the future of fundraising in South Africa. Here she explains why . . .

Recession; the threat of a credit rating downgrade; drought; falling commodity prices; weak investor confidence . . . all pretty depressing right?

Sure there’s a lot of negative sentiment out there but it’s not all doom and gloom for fundraisers.

Why am I so positive? Because I (like CAF Southern Africa) believe South Africans are a ‘nation of givers’ and most of us are highly sensitised to the needs of others. Combine this with the fact that ‘giving’ is scientifically proven to make people happy, and it’s a great time, as always, to be fundraising.

However as good as it is to be fundraising, there is no way to escape what Jeff Brooks of Future Fundraising Now describes as “the pain and hard work of fundraising”. In a recent blog post titled
The sad news about magical fundraising,
he shares the following advice:

No pain, no gain

How many fundraisers are looking for a way to escape the pain and hard work of raising funds, dreaming that some new social media site or ice bucket challenge or other flim-flam will cause funds to pour in?

“Too many. And that’s too bad, because there’s no such thing as a no-work, no-pain path to fundraising success.

"As long as your organisation keeps looking for a magic way out, you won’t be doing the real job of fundraising, which is paying close attention to donors and seeking ways to reach them.

"Fundraising is never easy. It always involves getting into the hearts and minds of donors and connecting with them on their terms. Sometimes lightning strikes and you connect with a lot of people in a deeper way than you’re used to. That’s great! But it only happens in the context of the hard work of paying attention to donors. No magic. No stardust. We raise money by paying attention and working hard."

I couldn’t agree more and if you need some tips on how to thrive during these tough times, here are a few:

  • There are no short-cuts or quick fixes! Successful fundraising demands consistency, hard work and strategic investment in good people and systems.
  • Donor stewardship is key. Finding new donors is important but even more so is nurturing and deepening relationships with those that you already have on your file. Attrition is to be expected but losing donors as a result of poor stewardship is avoidable. Start now by fixing that ‘leaky bucket’!
  • It’s all about the donor experience – not about you! Talk less about what you as an organisation have done and focus on putting the donor at the heart of your communication. Make it personal and celebrate what your wonderful donor has done to make things possible.
  • Diversify or die! Embrace a multi-channel communication approach to maximise results.
  • Plan and track. Careful planning coupled with a diligent approach to analysing results will enable you to learn and grow.
  • Educate your board and prioritise capacity development. Be persistent in this – building a strong fundraising programme managed by talented, committed and passionate people, which will generate sustainable income is an investment in your organisation’s future and your board needs to be convinced of this!
Focus on the constants

So in closing I share these wise words from Brady Josephson at re:charity:

If you want your organisation to be a strong, sustainable and successful one in 10 years, don’t worry so much about what will change and stop trying to predict the future. Instead, focus on what will remain constant –
knowing and caring for your supporters – and invest your time, energy and resources on that. Build systems, teams, and processes that make knowing them and caring for them as easy as asking and receipting them. And don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.

Good luck !"

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