Fundraising the SMART way

Fundraising is a key component of any community focused organisation.

If your organisation has enough employees or dedicated volunteers to call upon, smart fundraising can allow you to be far more ambitious with your future projects.

Fundraising is not an easy skill. As a street fundraiser you had 3 days to prove you could handle it, and if you couldn’t, you were dismissed. I saw a lot of people quit before the third day. The average fundraiser lifespan was around 2 weeks.

Stopping people at all was challenging, let alone dealing with the constant rejection whilst maintaining the energy and optimism required to generate enthusiasm in strangers.

And if you did get people interested and passionate about the project, the worst part was that most people wanted to volunteer instead of give. We could only accept direct debits.

Asking for the money was another challenge. I didn’t manage a confident enough “ask” until the last hour on my third day. Asking someone to help had to be done with the confident expectation that they wanted to help you.

When you do ask for money in this way, you may erode good will. Using guilt and fear was certain to ruin the triumphant hope of a new donor. These emotions would cause donors to “just remember” that they didn’t have their bank card, but would definitely sign up at home.

When asking is done particularly poorly it can greatly erode good will. Check out this email:

The Sanders campaign's latest fundraising email from an hour ago ...

This email is very unlikely to be the first “ask” for donations, and sets a very negative tone! Fundraising must be about hope and solutions. Asking in this way makes the cause seem very unachievable. It doesn’t give us any idea what the money will be used on. They could have done much better.

Their fundraising strategy was widely criticised even by those with enormous support for the overall project.

At Believe in Better Education, we support SMART fundraising.

SMART stands for social events, merchandising, always positive, reaching out, trials.

With fundraising I believe there are three main questions to focus on:

  • Who is it that supports the incredible work you are trying to do?
  • What do they need / want / buy / appreciate?
  • How do we reach those people and would they donate or volunteer?

Work out who it is that would love to support you, give them a chance to! Knowing your audience is key, which is why research is key. Once you identify your audience, you just need to work out what they might spend their money on. Social media platforms are an excellent way of reaching potential volunteers.

Here are two suggestions for what you might consider trying to get them to buy/attend:

  • Social events – talent shows, expert panels, meet and greets etc.
  • Merchandise – clothing, stationery, stickers etc.

It is easier to sell a shirt marked up by £15 than to accrue a £5 donation.

It is easier to get people to pay optional ticket prices than to secure a direct debit. Just give people two options: a box that charges £3 or a text box that lets people write what else they can do to help instead of donating. Leave it as an option to leave the box blank. Let people surprise you with their generosity!

Before really engaging with your organisation, people are inherently more interested in what you can provide for them, than hearing about what they can provide for you. SMART fundrasiers take advantage of this.

Key Points

Make sure to keep your fundraising SMART:

  • Social events that grow your reputation and promote your goal
  • Merchandise to allow people to fund and display their support
  • Always positive: focus on hope and solutions
  • Reach out and encourage volunteers, and make sure you use them efficiently!
  • Try new ideas! With any new fundraising project, run a small test version that can be scaled up. Even if you only reach two people, two volunteers could be very useful!

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