Lessons From a Small Shop: How to Make an Impact on Your Own
If you work as a solo fundraiser or in a small team, you will know that it has pros and cons. Without a complex sign off structure you can change things easily, be reactive and be the master of your organisation’s fundraising destiny.
On the flip side, you have just one pair of hands, not enough hours in the day and no-one to blame – or rather – turn to for support. Besides, even the best fundraisers can’t be specialists in all areas, and you can easily feel like the strategy maker, chief exec and office dogsbody in the space of an hour.
So, I’m offering a few top tips for making an impact as a solo fundraiser. Why not make yourself a quick cup of tea, and read on.
1. Crack on
When you’re on your own it is down to you. There is no successful campaign that will bring in the funds, or a trust bid that will boost the total. If you’re on your own – the buck (pardon the pun) stops with you. So you need to take action. It’s important to remember that you cannot raise money without action.
But – part of this action should be planning. I know, I know, I just said you should crack on – but there is a slight caveat. It’s important to know, at least roughly, where you’re going and whether that place is the right one for your organisation. Creating a plan can help with this.
As a starting point – where is your organisation now? What’s good, what’s great, what’s not working at all?
Then look at analysing the operation - what are the strengths of your organisation and fundraising? What needs improving? What are the things out of your control that have an impact? How can you minimize these?
If you’re a solo fundraiser, or part of small team – there is no marketing team, or prospect researcher, or social media expert. There is probably no budget for any of the above either, so innovation is crucial.
With a smart phone you have access to everything you need to create images, infographics and even videos. Scanning the local papers can provide leads to individual or business prospects. Piggy-backing on events and activities that are already happening in your organisation is a fantastic way to save money and time.
3. Look for quick wins
The term low hanging fruit is often banded about in fundraising. What it means is – where are the easy victories? These can help with income streams and crucially – your morale. They also give you the time and space to plan for the future.
So – what can you do to get these quick wins going?
Are there donors or organisations who have supported your organisation in the past who have dropped off the radar – how can you work to bring them back into your charity?
Are you turning donors into regular monthly donors? Are you asking for second gifts quickly?
Are people visiting your online donation pages but not giving? Is it confusing to give online? What can you to your webpage do to convert these people who are already there?
Is your stewardship programme robust – to ensure the highest retention rates of the donors you get already?
All of these things should be looked at quickly, to maximise on the people who you already have at your disposal - as you build time and capacity to reach further afield.
4. Build for the future
We all know that in fundraising, some things take time. But these are often the things that are worth waiting for. A legacy programme and a major gift programme will pay dividends in the future. Make time and space to build these functions.
5. It’s good to talk
Finally make time – lots of it – to get out there and speak to people. Fundraising is about relationships, and the best things happen when you step away from your desk and meet people. Yes, this is hard when you’re the only one – but it isn’t a luxury, it’s absolutely fundamental to your job.
Good things happen when you’re out there, so close down your email and meet your donors, your prospects and people who have never heard of your charity. It truly is good to talk.
Rachel forged her fundraising career in Regular Giving, leading successful programmes at Durham and Edinburgh University. She now heads up a one-(wo)man fundraising shop for a leading art gallery. Responsible for all elements of the fundraising operation, she loves looking for new and innovative ways to connect with supporters, and finding bigger and better ways of doing things.