As a former development director with over 15 years’ experience, and now an expert consultant, CEO and founder of Juliet Corbett Consulting, Juliet Corbett shared her advice in the recent webinar ‘Demystifying fundraising strategy’ on how to build a strategy that works for your team, no matter how much resource you have or what your fundraising goals may be.
There are many demands on your time in a busy development office, with team members often wearing many hats from major donor contact to marketing extraordinaire in order to meet your fundraising goals. The feeling of being constantly busy can make it difficult to step back and plan your future fundraising activity, but by harnessing the power of a robust strategy, you will be able to prioritise more easily and rely on proven tactics.
The thought of planning a strategy can feel outside of the comfort zone for many, with preconceptions of having to spend lots of time analysing data and breaking down jargon before you can even get started. This can lead to working from a long ‘to-do’ list rather than prioritising actions based on your strategy and taking opportunities when they present themselves. However, building a fundraising strategy doesn’t have to be overcomplicated; what’s most important is to focus your efforts and streamline your activity to fit with your resources and overall goals.
To build a successful fundraising strategy, you’ll need to consider three core components: a compelling transformation; a focus on opportunities; and smart tactics.
At the heart of your fundraising vision, there needs to be a compelling transformation that will inspire people to give. When fundraising for bursary appeals, for example, the transformative element is clear in the opportunities that it can provide individuals to receive an excellent education. For capital appeals for buildings and school development projects, there is still a transformative aspect for the community and the students, but this needs to be articulated in a compelling way.
To communicate this effectively, you’ll need to curate your fundraising projects to match the amount of resource that you have; for a small team, you might only choose one fundraising project, for a larger team you might take on two or three projects. These need to be decided and agreed upon ahead of time not only in your team, but with your senior leadership team and governors too. Matching your fundraising projects to the school’s strategic priorities is therefore the best way to ensure that not only are you working in tandem with the Head and governors, but you can demonstrate to donors that there is a genuine need for the cause you are asking them to donate to.
However, you’ll also need to consider the philanthropic vision of your donors, and take on projects that will inspire them to give. By balancing a donor-led strategy with your school’s strategic priorities, you can begin to produce a compelling case for support that clearly demonstrates the need while inspiring donors to consider the transformative impact of their potential donations.
One of the biggest benefits of working with a strategy is the flexibility that it provides to seek out and take opportunities that can help you to meet your fundraising objectives. Taking the time to seek out opportunities requires you to ask questions such as:
Consider not just names, but segments and types of donors, e.g. an age group or profession
If you are in a smaller team, it’s more likely that you will need to focus your efforts on a narrower range of fundraising methods. Research shows that major gifts are often the most effective way to meet your fundraising goals, so consider where you should dedicate your team’s time and efforts.
This will help you to develop a long-term strategy; consider how you can involve your students, and how your stewardship strategy will support donor retention over time.
You should also consider how you can face common challenges, such as a lack of buy-in from your stakeholders, and flipping between ideas without a sustained focus. Working with a strategy helps to overcome these issues, as it provides a framework and clear objectives for you to work from, so you can focus on putting activities into a manageable action plan.
Plan to carry out your strategy using smart tactics, by breaking down each piece of fundraising activity into an action plan. Each activity should have a strategic objective, timeframe, a person responsible, a budget, and a measure of success. The measure of success should tie into your strategic plan; instead of measuring KPIs that are easy to measure, focus on what success looks like for the strategic objective that this activity is aligned to. This activity plan should also include potential challenges and how to overcome them, and a plan to build up efficiency and effectiveness in your team through training and technology. By creating efficiencies behind-the-scenes through your workflows and data management, creating relationships with potential donors becomes more effective as you can dedicate more time to finding out about your donors’ visions.
Thanks to Juliet Corbett for presenting this webinar and sharing her guidance. Juliet specialises in strategy development for independent schools, with a particular focus on strategic fundraising. She has worked in fundraising, strategy and marketing within the education sector for nearly twenty years, including leading two development offices in Cambridge and Oxford University colleges plus in an independent school in Sydney, Australia. To find out more about Juliet Corbett Consulting, please visit the website.
An all-in-one system provides opportunities for development teams to reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks, with a database that automatically updates and easy ways to pull together compelling communications, but doesn’t make your donors feel like their journey is automated or generalised. To find out more about ToucanTech, a combined CRM, database, and online platform to engage your donors and community, speak to a member of the ToucanTech team.
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