5 steps to setting up a fundraising programme from scratch

We talk to a great many deal of organisations who are just starting out in fundraising, some are toddlers, and some are trying to grow specific areas of their fundraising programme. We want to help them all and we look at a few fundamentals that we believe are essential as a backbone of a solid fundraising programme before we get to work with them.  Here’s our top tips for starting a fundraising programme from scratch.

1 Feasibility & Research

A feasibility study will help guide and direct a strong fundraising programme and it will establish whether or not your cause is one that people will support and may help you identify possible supporters.

A feasibility study for your fundraising programme will include interviews with individuals, corporates and funders. They will range from people who know your organisation well, people who have never heard of you before and some key decision makers in the charitable sector i.e. funders.

What you’re wanting to learn from them is whether they would be supportive, is your fundraising target realistic, and where do they think the money will come from.

Basically throughout this process you’re testing out your case for support (see: developing your case for support)

In your research phase you will also want to work out what resources you need for instance: website changes, database, donation page (with payment system), policies and procedures. Some of these will require a budget.

2 Commitment from Board

You need to get commitment from your board. Without it everything else will be more difficult such as getting your fundraising plan approved, getting the right resourcing and support so your plan succeeds.

Your organisations Board needs to be committed from the get go. We need them to be saying YES this is exciting and will help us grow, rather than frowning about spending money on something that isn’t a short term fix. We want them to invest rather than cut down expenditure.

3 Planning

Plan. Plan. Plan. Plan. Plan.

Plan out different scenarios, plan out step-by-step processes, plan messaging, plan plan plan.

As part of your plan you should be setting a budget of income and expenditure and you should do it over a few years. Fundraising is not a short-term fix or a plan you can whip together overnight. Spend some time on this and set some realistic timeframes and communicate this to your manager or board. If you’re not working full time on it – make it months not weeks. You want your fundraising plan to be infallible!

Your plan should include more than one revenue stream from individuals, business, trusts and foundations. Funds can come in from regular giving, campaigns, events, bequests, grants, partnerships, community fundraisers and your plan should detail how you will engage in these fundraising activities, when you will, and how much you expect to raise (targets) from these activities.

As part of your plan there are two key policies you need in place before you start fundraising, they are your Gift Acceptance and Privacy Policies.

3 Resourcing

Right, so now you have a plan, a budget and board support. Now you need the resources you’ve identified as part of your research and planning for instance, a fundraising database. You will also need your Board’s time.

Get your board to set up a fundraising committee. The committee will comprise of a couple of people from your board, your director, you and maybe a finance person. It’s important that there is a mix of governance and operations represented (and that the fundraiser is on that committee!!). The committee shows us two things: that the organisation is ready for fundraising and that they’re prepared to set some dedicated time aside for the purpose of planning and supporting the organisation in its fundraising.

Investment is the key term here. We need to invest resource, money and time into the things we believe are important so if the financial sustainability of your organisation is important then a strong fundraising programme will be an essential part in achieving that.

Things you will also need for your fundraising programme: a fundraising database, donation page, and gift acknowledgement procedure.

5 Implementation

Now we get to the real fun bit! This is when you start to engage with your supporters and potential supporters.

Stay committed, ask for support when you need it, stick to the plan. The plan is there for a reason, it is the foundation of effective implementation and building of a sustainable fundraising programme. Evaluate after a period of time, amend if necessary.

In all of this don’t forget your supporters. They’re the ones who are going to make your fundraising programme successful. Fundraising is not about money but it is about people. Keep in contact, appreciate them and they will stick around. They will make the difference.


5 steps to setting up a fundraising programme from scratch

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