The biggest mistake in relation to fundraising strategies

When we get our fundraising strategies wrong it can make things really difficult and frustrating. We've all experienced the frustration of a local community that just doesn't seem to care about your community organization? Isn't it exhausting when you have to do the lion's share of the fundraising just because you can't seem to attract enough volunteers?

I've been through the mill with these particular frustrations. That all started to change around the beginning of the year 2000. It all started when I was sitting, moaning to a friend about how fundraising for our football club was driving me to despair. He was in Sales & Marketing. Dirty words to me as a techie! After a long conversation he made me realize that my fundraising strategies were event-bound (as he put it).

Event-bound: "What is that?" you may ask. Well, the problem was that I was concentrating on our fundraising events and paying little of no attention to the people I was expecting to attend those events. The same thing was true for our campaigns. We'd been quite successful with our campaigns because in a small rural community it's hard to refuse someone whom you know, when they're standing on your doorstep! Nonetheless, in many instances I could sense their distain and that wasn't a pleasant experience.

My friend explained to me that it's difficult to be successful at selling unless you first build the relationship with the customer. Selling, what was he talking about? I'm fundraising for a community organization! He explained to me how everything has to do with selling! I was horrified but I eventually realized that he was right!

The truth is that we are selling almost every time we open our mouths. We're often trying to sell ourselves, sell a concept or simply trying to get someone to agree with our point of view.

The point here is that, in relation to community fundraising, your customer is your local community and if you don't build the relationship with them, you will always struggle with community organization fundraising. You can promote your events and campaigns until you are blue in the face but true success will only come when you have the attention of your community. That can only happen if you choose fundraising strategies with relationship building as their central theme.

By my estimations about 85%-90% of all community fundraisers are finding their fundraising frustrating simply because, they too are event-bound (like I used to be). If you are struggling then this is almost certainly the root cause of your problems. The beauty is that you can eliminate your frustrations by switching to a people-focused strategy.

I've had people say to me, "But we already have a good relationship with our community". When I actually go through the details with them, almost always, the relationship is practically non-existent. Sure, most people know about them and most would even agree that they like the organization (if asked). The "if asked" part of that last sentence is the key. Other than being asked, most people hardly ever think about the community organization because its not embedded in their sub-conscious.

The fundraising strategies for many community organizations I've dealt with, consisted of promoting their fundraising activities through ads (or notes) placed in their newsletter or in the local press. They tried to recruit volunteers in the same fashion. If you are doing this today, then you are destined to be both disappointed and frustrated. Maybe you've experienced this already?

Fundraisers can come up with all of the unique fundraising ideas they want but failure to build the relationship will mean that fundraising will always be a chore. The good news is that relationship building is easy when you know how. You don't have to be one of these super charismatic figures either to achieve great levels of success!

Once you've built a strong relationship then your activities will be consistently successful, without the need to wear yourself out promoting them. Perhaps even more importantly, you'll be able to attract many more motivated volunteers than ever before. The bottom line is that the proper fundraising strategies will make your life easier!

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