Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Implementing a social networking strategy to drive effective green technology and sustainability – a practical guide, part 6

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on April 14, 2010

I started discussion on fundraising in support of Green initiatives with Part 5 of this guide, with a basic approach to fundraising organization and governance that is designed to support transparency and credibility for your efforts. That posting presented a basic approach, but left open the question as to how to more effectively build on that to actually raise revenue in support of mission.

In a way, this is one of the more difficult of postings for me to write, and not because I find it hard to find things to say on the topic. My difficulty is more in what not to say – fundraising for good causes is way too often marred by ham-handed, off-putting, high pressure tactics. I find myself thinking to some of the basic problems I have seen in retail sales poorly done as I write this, citing my recent posting: Rainmaker Myths and Traps, and Rainmakers as a Source of Shared Best Practices. I will only add here on the bad-practices side of this that I have seen good people who are seeking to fundraise in support of worthy causes revert to the types of practice that give used car salesmen a bad reputation. This can be done better and my focus here is going to be on how to do that.

There are a lot of basic fundraising campaign formats that are available and a lot of ways to set up and run a fundraising campaign. There are a lot of venues you can reach out to people through to develop these campaigns through. I will go into at least a few details on that side of this topic in this posting, but first I want to develop a framework for knowing which types of campaign and what fundraising approaches would work for you and your organization, that would actively, positively support your ongoing mission.

Develop an effective fundraising campaign architecture that supports your organization and that positively represents it and your mission.

• You want to reach out to people where the people you seek to reach out to are going and where they would be receptive to your message. This means knowing something of the demographics of your target audience and that means market analysis. This, I add is always going to be a moving target as individual and community concerns and communications preferences change, and both as fads and as longer term trends. And it will at least hopefully be an expanding one as well as you identify and reach out to new prospective audiences for your message.
• Focus on the value and significance of the mission and on how this support is crucial for effectively addressing it.
• Make that vital connection between your mission and the people you reach out to – don’t simply leave it as someone else’s problem unrelated to them in any meaningful way.
• Don’t push to hard. Don’t come across as slick. Be genuine and fundraise as an educational and information sharing effort.
• Enlist people who are directly involved in and affected by the issues compelling your mission in your fundraising, just as you turn to these people in developing your basic marketing as a focused endeavor.

Understand fundraising time frames and develop your campaigns accordingly.

• Fundraising can be done on short term time frames and with immediate or short term goals. This type of fundraising, closely coordinated with immediate and ongoing marketing is often connected to specific events that are geared towards bringing people together. That can mean any of a wide range of local events that bring people together, and it can mean more individual outreach, taking the campaign to peoples’ homes or places of work. It can mean some combination, where for example you develop opportunity for local fundraising teams whose members can work together to raise money and other support.
• Short term fundraising campaigns can also be carried out by less personal means like postal mailings and bulk emails, but these types of campaign are less likely to work effectively if they do not engender a human connection or develop any true rapport. The more disconnected a fundraising plea is the more impersonal it is and the easier it becomes to simply set it aside and forget it. Postal and related can be very cost-ineffective for the cost of sending out materials when compared to your response rate from this effort. So don’t simply rely on approaches of an earlier generation that are in effect geared toward majority failure for all whom you reach out to. Look for ways to personalize, connect and involve.
• Simply turning a “to who this may concern” or dear neighbor” into a “dear _first-name_” and doing the rest as if on automated, impersonal autopilot does not create that interpersonal connection you need.
• This is a place where Web 2.0 and the interactive web, where you listen as well as speak can make all the difference. Reach out to gather stories from your community and from those not yet in it but who are directly affected in their own lives by the call to mission and the reason for your organizing efforts.
• Longer term fundraising is often more effectively carried out in coordination with efforts to reach out and develop close supportive relations with specific potential donors. When I was Webmaster at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society we set up a capability on our major fundraising events sites where individuals could set up personal landing pages to tell their story and why they were involved in the Society. Some of their stories were amazing, and all were very compelling. These people were at minimum raising thousands of dollars when the events were organized under the Society’s Team In Training program.
• Effective fundraising is all about making the connection. It is not about making the sale. Fundraising as money offered and received is the consequence of making those personal and interpersonal connections.
• Connect your marketing and your fundraising, as they are potentially two sides to the same powerful coin, and watch how you express and represent your brand.

Connect and manage your fundraising and your finances and with a solid understanding of tax and related consequences. It would probably be a good idea to enlist the support of a good accountant who knows tax law and at least ideally, who has nonprofit experience. This is particularly important if you organize and register as a nonprofit as you need to be able to document how your incoming revenue is used, and what percentage goes towards mission – and by criteria acceptable to tax law.

Develop or adapt from the outside best practices for monitoring your campaigns so you focus on what works for you and know how to tweak your processes to make them work better. Seek out help and support from people who have done this with other groups and organizations who have hands-on experience with what does and does not work, to reduce your group’s learning curves.

And this brings me to a short set of basic questions you need to be able to answer if you are to fundraise with any possibility of replicable success.

• Who should you ask for funds from and in what ways?
• How much should you ask for from the members of those target demographics?
• How often can you effectively ask for support?
• How often should you add variation into your message and what of your message should you keep constant and as part of your basic branding?

And I will add one more reality check question, or rather two closely connected questions:

When you yourself have been approached to make donations, what has worked for you, creating that bridge of connection and making you feel positive about actually giving? I could have asked what does not work for you but the positive list is probably a lot shorter and it is an easier best practices starting point for you to build from.
Why? What makes those approaches effective for you, or for members of your family, that you can also tap into as you design, set up and run your own fundraising campaigns?

I have intentionally not given a laundry list of tips and tricks on door to door, or flier, or postal mailing, or email-based, or other specific campaign details. Yes, everyone has seen those boards in stores to push quarters into and we have all gotten stuff in the mail asking us to donate or reminding us that we have in the past and that the cause is still in need. We have also all seen fundraising ads on billboards and on TV and heard them on our radios and we have all received return address labels and so on with donation requests.

• Start small as far as up-front costs are concerned and don’t begin with the full page ads in all the local newspapers.
• Start from a foundation of your involved members in their reaching out to tell their stories and start with marketing and getting your word out.
• Registering as a known and knowable organization with an address can really help here as most of us have become leery of simply sending cash to unknowns who may or may not be legitimate.
• Use your ongoing experience to help bring your campaigns into clearer focus, and in coordination with your marketing and public outreach. Consider holding an event to share word of your mission and as you state your mission and stress its connection to your audience, bring them into your community too.
• Get a sense of commitment to the need to address your mission and then seek out support in meeting this challenge. People do not donate to causes they do not see value in and that means for most of us, some sense that this could affect us or our family, our friends or members of our own direct community. There are too many possible causes out there competing for our attention and every single day for this to be otherwise.
• And do not set your fundraising or your marketing on autopilot and simply let either of them try to proceed as is. Keep them fresh and responsive, and grounded in an ongoing, evolving understanding of your communities and your target markets and how they are changing.

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  1. […] focus on mission and vision, and I have looked into functional issues such as fundraising (and Part 2) and marketing for Green. I have also at least started a discussion on issues related to Green […]

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