Ten Tips to Fundraising Success

We're offering 10 tips, from start-to-end, that should put you well on your way to achieving your personal fundraising best.

Post Date: Aug 13 2019

Welcome fundraisers! On this introductory blog post, we wanted to take you through some tried and true best practices for successful (and repeatable!) fundraising. We're offering 10 tips, from start-to-end, that should put you well on your way to achieving your personal fundraising best!

1. It all starts with belief...in yourself.

Truly great fundraising leaders combine two distinct personality traits:

  • A selfless commitment to their group or cause, and,
  • An unshakeable belief in themselves, which energizes their team and supporters
energizes their team and supporters

Whether you're leading your organization’s fundraising effort, or playing a supporting role, belief in yourself can be your most important asset. Your passion for your cause and your team is critical, of course — but we believe that the talent for fundraising is one that you, or anyone, can develop with some time and practice. In fact, we're willing to bet that everyone who seems to have a "natural gift" for fundraising, started out where everybody does: wondering what to do first!

2. Set the right goals for your fundraising effort.

Identifying your sales goals is a great starting point for getting your fundraising effort organized. Everyone involved, from your team to your contributors, will feel the excitement and a magnetic pull as you establish, and then get closer and closer to achieving your goal. Your team will continually use your goals to assess how the fundraiser is going, and to know if adjustments to strategy or tactics are necessary along the way.

We use a well-known acronym for creating fundraising goals: just make sure they're SMART:

  1. Specific. Make sure all of your goals are stated as specifically as possible. Do you have goals for each member as well as total funds to be raised? For impressions or shares on social? Get all the most important ones down "on paper" (or on a computer!)— and share them with your team.
  2. Measurable. Measurable goes hand in hand with specific, naturally. Make sure whatever your goals are, you can measure them -- and keep track, and share progress with your team and potential supporters as you go — via regular emails or social media posts. Momentum is your new best friend!
  3. Achievable. Consult with your team and get familiar with prior fundraising efforts, or other fundraising campaigns similar to yours. Goals that are too easy to achieve can cause a slow-down as you reset. Goals that are too far reaching can suppress response and drain energy from supporters and team-members alike. Also consider scaling your goals: think about the mileposts as well as the end-destination.
  4. Right. Think also about goals being relatable or relevant. This is one to think about as you're working on identifying ALL of your specific fundraising goals. What goals, financial or otherwise, will motivate your team and potential supporters?
  5. Time-bound. Make sure all of your goals find their way on to your program calendar with a starting and ending time period. The clock can be a great motivator. Remember, without a date... your fundraising goal is just a wish. Think about ways you can provide a visual clue that shows the amount of time left - counting down the time on a clock or crossing off the days on a calendar.
Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Right, Time-bound goals
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

3. Gather, organize and motivate your team of volunteers.

This is a subject that could fill not only a whole blog-post of its own, but a book (or two). For now, we'll try to keep it simple and focus on a few key points.

First, make sure you specifically address team-building as one of the first tasks in your overall volunteer recruitment effort. Account for the time and resources you'll need to recruit, assemble, and motivate your team, and the ongoing effort needed to keep it operating smoothly. Depending on the size of your organization, your team might consist of a leader/chairperson, a treasurer, administrators and sellers. We’ll talk about different team organizations and roles in detail in a future post.

If you already have a team of volunteers in place, make sure you talk to the members and get their input about their roles, and the effort you're expecting from each team-member. But also be prepared to assign roles and delegate responsibilities where needed. It's true what folks say about there being no "I" in team. But individual goals and measures can be extremely important, especially if the jobs and efforts performed by your team members vary significantly.

Consider also how you personally want to lead, and how you want the team to work and make decisions. Think about creating some simple ground-rules for operating so that input-gathering and decision-making processes are clear and well understood. This simple step can save you a lot of time and can help keep your team operating smoothly and efficiently!

Make an emotional appeal

4. Craft your fundraising message: make an emotional connection between your cause and your supporters.

You know why you’re raising money and who it will benefit. But you need to get that information to your supporters in a clear, powerful donation message.

The best way to craft this message is to get together with a friend or team-member, and just speak the core message — out loud, in plain, conversational language. Make sure someone writes it down, then work with your team to refine it and sharpen it.

Make sure the emotional core message is there. Why are you leading this effort? What are your team member's shared passions about your cause or organization? Put this in your message as simply as you can, and make sure every word counts, both emotionally and informatively. A good message will include:

  • who you are as fundraisers;
  • the organization / cause / specific goal you're raising money for;
  • the reason your organization and the campaign goal matters;
  • and specifics about how the supporter's money will help.
  • Last but not least: make sure you have a call to action.

Here's an example of a solid message for a fictitious fundraiser called Lost Pet Super Friends:

Hi! We’re Lost Pet Super Friends of Chicago, IL. We take in abandoned cats and dogs and find them good homes. Sadly, there are dozens of pets abandoned in our city every day. But with your help, we take them in and find them new, loving owners. Every $50 we raise means another pet gets a new home. Please support us with a purchase of these delicious snacks: every bite helps us reach and place more lost pets.

Thank you!

Once you’ve nailed down your core message, you’re ready to go! And you'll be amazed to see how many times your message is used: in meetings, for recruitment, at events, on hand-out materials, doing personal outreach, posting online.... Take the time to get your core message right — it can be a BIG part of your team’s success.

5. Motivate your members to sell! Sell! Sell!

Inspire your team-members to reach your fundraising goals. What exactly are the group and individual members’ sales targets? Set clear objectives for what you want to accomplish, so all team members are focused and on-task. Recognition is important: as you progress toward your goals, acknowledge your team’s achievements and exceptional efforts. You may want to offer team incentives. Ask the team what would mean most to them!

You can also motivate your members by making fundraising fun. Consider "gamifying" your incentive structures and create some friendly competition on the team. You might want to use a point system, keep a fundraising leader-board, or issue badges / progress rewards. Motivation increases when everyone is connected, in the loop, and working toward your goal. Use your imagination and have fun yourself!

6. Identify and grow from your circle of support.

Once you've created your emotional message and seller incentives for your fundraising campaign, you’re ready to ask supporters to donate. But who should you ask? The answer is usually all around you, right nearby...

There are two groups of supporters that should be at the top of your list: your inner circle — the people who are close to you... and people everywhere who care about your cause. At the core of your support circle are people such as your family and friends. They are more likely to pitch in, because they already know you and like you. Same goes for classmates and work colleagues. Then expand your circle outward and ask people who are simply "in touch" with your circle: your neighbors, acquaintances from your school (or your children’s school), and so forth. There are always delightful surprises as you move to those first outer rings, and this is where new friends and supporters are made.

Once you’ve reached out to all the people close to you, think about other groups and people who might have a strong affinity for your cause. For example, members of the local community band might want to support your high school choir. Dog-owner clubs may be interested in donating to your animal shelter. Use your imagination to stretch out and examine lots of possibilities — people have all sorts of reasons why they might want to help. You may be very pleasantly surprised.

Kids in Fundraiser

7. Get social to reach your supporters!

Use social media to boost your cause and increase your circle of supporters. Facebook is a perfect place to build awareness about your fundraiser. Simply create a Facebook Page or Event and start sharing news and updates about your cause in general — and your fundraiser specifically. Get possible supporters engaged in your effort with visuals showing how close you are to reaching your fundraising goals. This can help members of your own group promote your cause, and will help keep them motivated too. After all, social campaigns should be... social!

Instagram is another terrific platform to connect with your supporters. The IG network is built on the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words — and that power can work for your fundraiser. Meaningful photos enable you to shape and share news about how and who in your group will benefit from the donations, and build excitement for your event. (Does your team have somebody who has a knack for taking great photos? Find out!) Food photos are a perennial Instagram favorite, so if food is part of your incentive plan, go right ahead and tantalize your prospective supporters with something that looks delicious.

Twitter and LinkedIn are other places to share your fundraiser. (No doubt about it, some folks still do give at the office.)

Whichever social media outlet you use, just remember to keep your messages and pictures concise and positive. And make it easy for people to reach out and help you!

8. ASK for a donation “In Real Life"!

In addition to an internet audience, you can also reach supporters and get donations “in real life.” For some of us, asking for a donation in person can feel awkward. And for others, making the ask is no big deal. But as we've noted, almost everyone can learn how to raise their hands and raise funds. Keep in mind that your cause, whether it’s a team, club, or charity, has to be front and center. It’s only natural that you need funds to carry out your plans and achieve your goals.

Getting out and about is good for your campaign and great for team-building: you can set up a table or booth in a high traffic area in your community. Locations that welcome fundraisers include local storefronts, area banks and business, community fairs, and church, club, or sporting events. Just be sure to get permission and/or apply for needed permits in advance. Before the big day arrives, have your team members and your equipment — such as tables, chairs, supplies and display materials — ready to go and prepared for any weather. Keep your set-up organized and be sure everything is well-marked.

Once you're set up, just be friendly and not too aggressive: this will definitely increase spontaneous in-person donations. ...And keep in mind that no matter how good your core message and selling-script is, there will be a lot of “no’s.” But don’t be disappointed! And always thank everyone, or wish them a great day —whether they say yes or no. That's the first step to getting a donation NEXT time...

9. "Always-on" fundraising tactics to help reach your goals.

Sometimes the demands of running a successful fundraiser can seem like a real struggle. You and your team are all busy, so it makes sense to set up fundraising efforts that can work without continued oversight. Online fundraising sites can work like your slow-cooker: you “set it and forget it.” Some partners have a service that provides a small percentage donation for online shopping. Others (like Terri Lynn!) will provide an online store for your group, complete with your logo and donation message, to sell your fundraising products. And there are sites who simply set up online monetary donations.

Of course, you shouldn’t really “forget” your online partner. Promoting your online fundraiser will keep supporters active and donating to your cause year-round.

10. Keep your supporters active and informed.

One of the most important parts of a fundraising project is properly thanking your supporters. It should be done immediately, or as soon after the donation as possible. And more than one thank you is encouraged! For many fundraisers, you'll want to keep in continued contact with your supporters. That's a great opportunity to cultivate a good relationship with someone who might be favorable to donating to your cause again in the future.

Using our previous pet adoption example, here is a simple thank you message:


Lucy says "Thank You" for your contribution.

Today, she became the 500th dog placed by Lost Pet Super Friends of Chicago!

Fundraisers posted on Facebook or other social media should use these platforms to keep supporters up-to-date — sharing both progress toward meeting goals, and the happy results of fundraising campaigns. Local groups can put up signs, posters or notices in community locations, with thanks, photos, and goals met. Everyone loves to see the “thermometer” signs with donation amounts increasing, whether online or on local signage. Share the joy of achieving your goals with everyone who participated and contributed!

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