Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Best Way to Raise More Money

Okay, what's the real secret to raising more money? What's the single most important step we can take to bring in ever larger amounts? Let's explore some of the options.

1. Be more aggressive in fund raising. Well, that advice is often given, sometimes by our bosses or our boards. Those who advocate such an approach want you to be aggressive with everyone but them. And what sort of donors would respond to such tactics? What would be the long-term consequences of pushing people too hard? It might work with some; it might work for a while but it isn't the answer.

2. Expand the size of your fund-raising staff. Sure, the larger the staff, the more prospective donors you will be able to reach. But, it's also a matter of how reach them and with what purpose.

3. Increase the salaries of fund raisers. Yes, higher compensation packages will help increase the quality of your staff but the most effective fund-raising organizations don't always have the most expensive payrolls.

4. Establish rigorous performance standards for your fund raisers. Creating a culture of performance is important. Establish metrics. Monitor performance. Create portfolios and put the staff on the road. But do you really think that a tightly managed staff will be more effective than advocates who are inspired by the cause they represent?

5. Sharpen your message. You bet. That's important. Crystallize. Clarify. Be more creative in both the crafting of your message and the channels of communication you employ. But the most effective communication strategy can't hide a lack of content or a sameness of content.

6. Develop a strategic plan. Great idea. Think through your institution's unique capabilities and how they relate to emerging opportunities and changing circumstances. Anticipate, adjust, adapt and catch the next wave before others see it forming. We're getting warmer.

7. Hire a charismatic leader. Oh man, can't you just see it? A stem-winding visionary with the ability to stir souls and mobilize the masses! That's got to be it, right? Well, it will give you a huge advantage but charisma can create runaway expectations and must be backed by performance.

8. All of the above. It was a trick question, right? It's not one thing but lots of things. Yes, fund-raising success is attributable to many of the aforementioned factors but, no, it wasn't a trick question.

9. Ask how your organization might better serve its constituents. Begin by resolving to make a difference. Especially where your organization can make a substantial difference and where a difference needs to me made. You don't raise money by first resolving to raise more money but by first resolving to achieve a greater good, and committing your entire organization to getting it done. Start by asking who might be better served as a result of your initiative. Define the scope of the project, the specific goals to be achieved, and the timetable for completion. Those are the elements of a powerful case for support. Does not this first step give coherence to all the other options we have discussed? Can you think of anything more important?

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