Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a strategic planning session with a small start-up charity. Money was on the minds of many around the table, so I thought I would share my thoughts on the four essential tools I think all fundraisers need in their toolkit before soliciting donor prospects.
A compelling case for support – Most often prepared by the fundraiser or philanthropy team (supported by the marketing team or an external consultant), this primary document should accomplish 3 things: tell your story, connect impact with data and take a donor from intention to action.
Before you begin designing your case host a number of discussions across your organization about your donor audience. The better you understand what motivates, resonates and what the giving behaviors are with donors the more likely you will create an effective case for engagement (support) that connects your cause with the donor. Conducting new research can provide fresh perspective on what is working or not in an ever-changing fundraising environment.
Transparency and accuracy of the reporting is essential to telling the charity’s story and building trust amongst stakeholders and donors.
Research has shown audiences respond to stories that are emotive, demonstrate mission and connect the viewer with the charity in a more personal and relevant way. With greater donor insight you can carefully select stories that connect with a donor and avoid the infomercial approach. Your best stories not only help to inform but motivate donors into action.
To learn more about developing a Case for Support review Reimagining Your Case For Support
The most recent annual report – Commonly prepared by the CEO/Executive Director, CFO/Finance, and Marketing Head or external consultant, the annual report should have final publication approval by the Board Chair. Given its importance in reporting to stakeholders and donors about the charity’s governance, finances and impact, the fundraising staff should have some influence with its content, look and feel.
Annual reports should provide the reader with pertinent information, namely: what is the vision/mission/purpose of the organization, what was the strategy to achieve the vision and mission, governance structure, what were the objectives for the year and what was accomplished (including challenges, risks, issues), financial and non-financial highlights and what is the organization’s plan moving forward.
Financial reporting must agree with the audited financial statements while linking non-financial information (program, client and volunteer data) to help the reader understand how donations are linked to the charity’s work in the community. Transparency and accuracy of the reporting is essential to telling the charity’s story and building trust amongst stakeholders and donors.
The most recent audited financial statements – Charities have many stakeholders who share a common interest in the financial affairs of the organization, namely the protection of the financial assets entrusted to the organization and use of the organization’s resources. Funders want assurances that their contributions have been used in accordance with their program(s) and donors want a guarantee and level of confidence that their contributions have been applied according to their wishes.
For the fundraiser the audited financial statements demonstrate a charity’s compliance to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) reporting required, transparency on overhead costs and how financial assets are being used in support of the mission, and is a tool to aid in building donor trust and transparency of the organization.
In today’s fundraising environment these four essential tools should be easily accessible to the public and any potential donor on the charity’s website.
To learn more, review: CPA – A Guide to Financial Statements of Not-For-Profit Organizations
A robust recognition program – Every donor wants some form of recognition for their contribution to the cause, . whether this comes in the form of a thank you letter or email, donor impact report or naming rights for a program or building. Expression of gratitude is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach so developing a robust recognition program is essential for the fundraiser to have on hand when engaged with potential donors.
A recognition program can include thank you cards, digital shout outs, annual report listing, impact report stories, event invites and carefully considered naming rights. Having a clear, agreed upon strategy is essential inside the organization, while being flexible to the desires of the individual donor.