Five steps to increase your unrestricted charity income

Five steps to increase your unrestricted charity income

Tenika Ah-Wan | 22 January 2013

It is clear that small charities have a disproportionately high level of restricted income. Whilst it is and should remain an important part of your fundraising mix; dependence on restricted income leads to organisations becoming trapped in a cycle of continual replacement of project funding; or worst still seeking the holy grail of ‘core funding’ to maintain operations.

At this time of year when we are all thinking about our New Year’s resolutions, it seems to me that there is only one thing we should all be committed to this year; and that is increasing our unrestricted income. ‘Easier said than done’ I hear you cry. Regardless of your past experience of raising restricted income it is clear that small charities have a disproportionately high level of restricted income. Whilst it is and should remain an important part of your fundraising mix; dependence on restricted income leads to organisations becoming trapped in a cycle of continual replacement of project funding; or worst still seeking the holy grail of ‘core funding’ to maintain operations. 

Other dangers of restricted funding are that your identity and brand can become determined by ‘what and how’ you deliver activities rather than ‘why’ you exist and difference your charity makes to the lives of your beneficiaries. Subsequently, charities create and innovate projects to meet the funding criteria of others, rather than meeting a strategy that supports the charity’s vision and core purpose. 

Whatever your experience of restricted funding; the current fundraising climate and statutory cuts have left us with deficits to fill and concerns to address regarding sustainability and risk management. With this in mind, here are five steps to help increase your unrestricted income:

  1. Acknowledge that you need to change.  No amount of willing it to be different is going to change the fact that restricted sources will not be able to sustain your work.
  2. Establish your case for support and find the story.  You need to be able to justify why your beneficiaries need you and your services.  If you can’ justify it to yourselves internally…and believe it…then donors externally will not believe it.   Identify the types of donors you want to target and find the story and message of your work that will connect with them.
  3. Start asking. Start with the small changes to things that you already do for example … if you send a regular newsletter how about making it an appeal letter instead
  4. Invest.  Be disciplined and invest your early unrestricted income into more fundraising in order to establish regular unrestricted programmes.
  5. Keep records of whom you communicate with. Until you establish unrestricted fundraising programmes, all your stakeholders are prospects and you must be able to thank those who do donate as well as keep in touch with those who may in the future.

Like all new years resolutions, they are only successful when they are lifestyle changes that a new good habit. So here’s hoping that 2013 sees us all developing the habit of increasing our unrestricted income.

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