Tips on how to get started in local fundraising by Michael... PART ONE Before you get started

Tips on how to get started in local fundraising by Michael Norton
Before you get started
So you’ve decided that your organisation ought to be developing its fundraising.
But before you actually get started, there are a number of things you need to do
• Check the legal situation, to see whether and how you are allowed to
fundraise, and what permissions you might need to obtain.
• Check the tax situation to see whether there are any tax benefits available to
donors to encourage giving, and if so, then how to obtain them.
• Find out as much as you can about the state of fundraising in your own
country, and what other organisations are doing to raise money.
• You should also try to see what experience of fundraising, if any, there is in
your own organisation.
1. Legal and Tax matters
Are you actually allowed to fundraise? The legal situation varies from country to
country. So find out about the situation in your own country:
• Are voluntary organisations allowed to fundraise?
In most countries this won’t be a problem. But in India, for example, you will need
special permission to receive money from foreign donors.
• Is special permission needed to collect from members of the public?
Public collections (in the street or house-to-house) may be regulated in order to
protect the public. Find out if you need to obtain a licence and if there are any
rules for collecting from the public.
• Are tax reliefs available in your country on charitable donations by
companies and by individuals?
You should familiarise yourself with the tax situation on donations and whether
you qualify to benefit from these. They can add to the value of any donation and
provide an additional incentive for people to support you – the main reason
people will give you money is that they believe in what you are doing and want
to support it.
2. Finding out what others are doing
Before getting started, try to find out a little about the customs and practice in
your country regarding charitable giving and what other organisations are doing
to raise money. Try to answer the following questions.
What is the cultural situation in your country?
• Religion
Religion provides a strong focus in many societies for charitable giving, with
money being donated by members of any particular religious community to the
temple, mosque or church to support the religious institution and to help those in
Many religions promote the idea that a portion of one’s income should be
donated to charity, sometimes as much as 10%. The religious calendar can also
provide dates when charitable giving is auspicious. In the Christian calendar it is
the season before Christmas. In Islam, the festivals of Id are a time for giving.
• The role of the State
In some countries, the government plays a strong role in meeting health,
education and welfare needs of its citizens. In other countries, the level of
provision is much smaller and there may be a feeling that it is up to people,
families and local communities to provide for themselves rather than rely on a
corrupt, inefficient or unwilling state.
In India, for example, there are many and large budgets available for social
welfare and community development, such as the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana
programme for rural development. But many voluntary organisations feel that
they should not be taking government money, as it would compromise their work.
But there may well be opportunities for creative partnership. Bunker Roy, an
Indian voluntary sector leader, advocates accessing government funding, if you
feel that you can use it effectively and achieve your goals.
• Building on local tradition
Fundraising, if it is to be successful, should try to build on the existing traditions
of giving, rather than import fundraising ideas from the United States and Britain,
where the culture and expectations of citizens may be completely different.
What are other organisations are doing?
The next step is to find out as much as you can about what other voluntary
organisations are doing about fundraising, and this includes:
• The leading organisations in the country, who may be the first into
fundraising. In India, for example, CRY (Child Relief and You) which was set up
in 1979 has been a pioneer of fundraising, raising money through child and
project sponsorship, from cultural events such as film premieres and art
exhibitions, and from gifts of services and products in kind, and especially from
the sale of greetings cards.
• Your ‘rivals’ – other organisations of a similar size and doing similar work to
you. What are they doing to raise money? What techniques are they using? How
much money are they raising?
To find out, you can do the following:
- Make friends with people in these organisations and ask them.
- Get hold of their annual reports, promotional literature and the material
they use in their fundraising.
- Find out about the fundraising events they organise, and even
participate in them yourself!
Study the information carefully to get some idea of what works and what works
less well. Many fundraisers are happy to share their experience.
Information and networks
You also need to research what information exists, and what networks there are
to provide you with training and support.
Are there any good publications that give information on donor agencies,
foundations, leading corporate givers and government grants? These can be
invaluable to the fundraiser, showing what is and what is not available.
Information can go out of date very rapidly, so it is important that you use
recently published editions. It is also important that the quality of the information
they contain is high.
A good starting point for finding out is the ‘national association of voluntary
organisations’, which will be acting as a focal point for liaison and information
At a national level, there may be one or more networks of businesses, such as a
‘Federation of Chambers of Commerce’ or a ‘Confederation of Industry’ which
acts as a forum (locally as well as nationally) for corporate social responsibility.
They may publish reports, with examples, case studies and directories of
member companies, and some offer awards for good practice.
Rotary Clubs, Lions, Round Tables and other networks will also be useful. One
fundraiser got started in Kenya by giving talks to Rotary groups, and was able to
motivate a number of people to become active and committed supporters.
The Resource Alliance is another useful network, running annual conferences in
Amsterdam and Bangkok as well as regional fundraising workshops, where you
will be able to learn some basic fundraising techniques, as well as sharing ideas
and information with others.
3. Your own organisation’s fundraising experience and credibility
Find out as much as possible about your own organisation’s experience of
It may be that your organisation has previously tried to raise money.
• What techniques were used and how much was raised?
• What worked well? What did not work? And why not?
• Did the organsiation attract any enthusiastic or large supporters? Is their
support continuing?
Does your organisation have a membership list? Or a list of people who have
subscribed to a newsletter or bought publications? You should note the
difference between those who receive a publication and those who purchase a
publication, those who are just on a list in order to receive information about your
work and those who have supported you – by giving money to you or
volunteering their time.
You also need to think about your organisation’s fundraising needs. How much
money needs to be raised? And when? This year, or next year, or perhaps if you
are thinking strategically, in three years time?
Some organisations get propelled into fundraising because they are about to lose
a significant grant which they need to replace or because a donor requires them
to explore ideas for sustainability. But getting started in fundraising takes time.
If you need to raise large sums quickly, then you will probably need to find
another funder to take over – another donor agency with similar aims who is
interested in what you are doing.
If you are developing local fundraising with little or no experience of raising
money in this way, then it will all take a lot longer than you think. But you will be
building a fundraising base for the future of your organisation.
What contacts does your organisation have?
It is always useful to have contacts with business leaders (who control company
charitable budgets), with politicians (who can be useful in helping you access
government funds), with leading experts and academics, with donor agencies
and other international bodies, with the very rich, and with the media and
advertising agencies.
Who you know can be as important as what you know when it comes to
fundraising. So begin to see what contacts you have and explore ways of
widening these.
What are your successes and achievements as an organisation?
What have been the successes and achievements of your organisation since it
was founded – and more recently? You will be asking for money for your work,
so it is always helpful to recognise how successful you have been. A simple
exercise is to write down a list of the recent successes that your organisation has
What press coverage has there been for your work?
Having a good media profile is important to successful fundraising. You can
photocopy articles describing your work that have been published and attach
these to letters you send out.
It is also important to keep letters of endorsement from experts and famous
people commending your work to others.
Before starting your fundraising, purchase a box file to keep press coverage,
letters of commendation and endorsements and other material which helps
demonstrate your success as an organisation and the value of your work. You
can call this a ‘Credibility File’.
What promotional literature and other information has your organisation
In your communication with potential donors, you will need good promotional
literature, and especially an annual report or review of your work and a snappy
brochure or leaflet which describes your work.
4. Ethics and accountability
There are a number of issues around fundraising which need to be resolved
before you start:
• Who will you take money from? And are there people who you would not
wish to be associated with? Discuss this, and make a list of all those you don’t
want to get support from. It is better to do this at the outset, than to find yourself
returning a donation.
• How can you maintain accountability to the donors and supporters you
propose to raise money from? You will need to make sure that you spend their
money in line with what you have told them you will do with their support. You will
need to keep them regularly informed. You should try to send them any reports
and a copy of your annual accounts. A good website and an e-newsletter are
good ways of reporting back.
• What messages and images are you happy to give about your beneficiaries
and the communities you are working with when you are inviting people to
support your work? For example, it is easy to portray people as starving and
helpless when asking for money. But you may want to show them as doing
something constructive to address the problems that face them – as individuals
and as communities.
5. What next?
Now you are ready to get started.
But at this stage it is easy to make a fundamental slip. If you are to succeed in
fundraising, you need to ask for money. It is no good doing all the preparation
and research, if you then don’t go out and ask.
Many people who take on a responsibility for fundraising feel embarrassed about
actually asking for money. But you are asking for money because there is real
need out there, and because you think that there are some people who might
share your passion for doing something about this.
Your job is to find these people, and then to ask them effectively. But remember
that many people will say “no”. You need to persevere until you find those people
who say “yes”.
So get going. Don’t give up. Learn from experience, so get better and better at it.
And the best of luck!
Raising money through donations from individuals
WHO HAVE THE MONEY..... and how to succeed in getting it. There are all
sorts of ways of raising money for your work in your own country and in
your local community.
Here are some of the main sources you might consider:
• Individual donors
• Fundraising events
• Corporate donors
• Trusts, foundations and other grant-making agencies
• Overseas non-resident communities
• Tourists and visitors
• Government sources
• International aid and foreign funding
There will be ways of saving money, which in turn reduces your need to
fundraise. These include:
• Getting gifts in kind (where products or services are donated).
• Using volunteers rather than paid staff
There will be ways of earning money, although it will usually be easier to raise
money. Possibilities include:
• The sale of your expertise, including training, consultancy and information
• Income generation schemes, such as the sale of craft items and greetings
In this article, we will look at how an organisation that is just getting started in
fundraising might seek to get support from individuals. The situation is very
different from a large organisation that has a fundraising department, an existing
mailing list and money that they can invest in fundraising, PR and supporting
Who are the donors?
There will be a wide range of people who might be interested in giving to your
cause. For each, there will be different motivations for giving, different
preferences for how they would like to give, and different pathways for
communicating with them.
It is important to be as clear as possible about who you plan to approach, how
you will reach them and how you propose to attract their support.
Your potential donors include:
• The less well off as well as the rich
• The young through to the elderly, and everyone in between
• Men and women
• Those that are affected by the problem or in some way involved with it.
• Those with a known commitment or interest in the issue (for example,
supporters of children’s rights might support a street children project) as well as
those who are only mildly interested
• The general public – everyone through to those with a particular perspective
• Professionals such as lawyers or doctors or scientists or teachers
• The whole of the country to those living in a particular region or city or in
the neighbourhood where your programme is located
• Family and friends of existing supporters
• Members of interest groups and social organisations, such as members of
a campaign organisation, members of a Rotary Club or a professional
association, members of a political party or trade union, or young people at
school or college. If you have access to the membership of such groups, you can
try to raise money from them.
The more clearly you can specify who is likely to be interested in your
cause, the more successful you will be in reaching them.
• Think about the sort of work you are doing and who is likely to be interested
in it. Some causes are more attractive to young people, for example.
• See who is already supporting you – perhaps carrying out market research to
find out why they support you. If you have some supporters already, a simple
questionnaire will provide the answers to this question.
• Test different audiences to see what the response is. You will almost certainly
find that a wider range of people want to support you and for different reasons
from what you imagine. Go out and meet people; talk at meetings about your
work; organise a reception and give a presentation to people who have
expressed some interest.
Why people give
If you understand why people want to give, it will make it easier to get their
support. Here are some of the main reasons:
• Concern about the problem. Giving provides an opportunity to do something
significant for a cause you believe in.
• Duty. Many people feel a sense of social responsibility and many religions
encourage members to give to charity.
• Guilt. Guilt encourages the donor to give in the hope that the problem (and you)
will go away.
• Personal experience of the problem can be one of the most powerful
motivations for giving like having if you have an elderly relative with Alzheimers
or a child who is dyslexic…
• Personal recognition. Many people like having their generosity publicised.
• As a memorial. People often give to commemorate someone who has died or
to celebrate an anniversary or birthday.
• They are asked, and it is hard to refuse. The main reason for most people NOT
giving is that they are never asked. Research demonstrates this again and again.
• Peer pressure, where people know that their friends are giving, or where
friends and colleagues are asking them to give.
• Tax benefits, which are not usually the prime motivation for giving, but can
encourage people to be generous.
Think about the more important reasons why they might be interested in
supporting you, then frame your request to them accordingly.
The different ways of giving
There are not only different types of donor, but there are also different ways in
which they can give.
People can also give through:
• Child sponsorship, where a regular donation is linked to the development of a
child. There are many variations on this idea which link the donation to the
support of an individual or a specific piece of work.
• Making a major gift in response to an appeal
• Sponsoring a project or a programme
• Leaving a legacy to you when they die
• Making a gift in kind. This can be anything from office space to items to sell at
a charity auction
• Participating in lotteries and raffles, by purchasing a chance to win a prize.
• Raising money from family and friends. People who support can be extremely
successful in encouraging their family and friends to give
• Encouraging to give
• Becoming a member paying a regular subscription or joining a supporters
• Giving time as a volunteer to help in the work or in the fundraising.
In particular, a donor can support you by:
• Giving a one-off donation. Incidental support is not so important to you,
because the cost of getting it will often outweigh its value. What you want are
donors who....
• Continue to give you support on a regular basis, perhaps through making
some form of commitment, for example by becoming a member or pledging to
give money every month or annually.
It is part of successful fundraising to find donors, and then to persuade them to
give to you regularly – possibly increasing the level of their support as they begin
to recognise the good that they are doing.
Getting in touch
To be successful, you need to do three things:
1. Identify likely people who might be prepared to support you, then....
2. Create the right message that is likely to appeal to them, and then....
3. Communicate that message, directing it to the person you are targeting.
How much to ask for
This is one of the most important decisions you have to make.
If you ask for too much, you may find that people are unwilling to give. If you ask
for too little, it is a wasted opportunity. You should take the following into account:
• People don’t like to be seen as being either mean or over-generous. They like
to do more or less what others are doing.
• Start with what you need to raise and how many people you think you can
persuade to give. This will give you an approximate sort of figure, and you can
then think about whether it seems reasonable, or whether you will need to find
more people who are willing to give.
• If the appeal is extremely urgent, you will find that you can ask for much more.
The tsunami in South Asia and an earthquake in Kashmir need urgent action.
People recognise this. One trick is to create a sense of urgency about your work.
People are more generous than you think. So do not ask for too little. It’s best
to ask for a specific sum, rather than just for “a generous contribution” – when
they won’t know how much to give.
People respond better if the amount being asked for is linked to something you
will do. This is why child sponsorship works so well. People can see that their
money is going to support a child and that it will make a difference.
You can provide people with a range of options, with the amount you are asking
for pitched at different levels. People can then select how much to give and what
to support.
You can divide the work into units and ask people to select how many units
they would like to support, such as paying for an eye operation or to educate a
child for one month or for a tree to be planted.
How to ask
Remember that:
• A face-to-face meeting works better than…
• Addressing a group of people, which works better than…
• A telephone conversation, which works better than…
• A personal letter from someone known to the recipient, which works better
• A personal letter from someone not known to the recipient, which works better
• A circular letter.
The more personal you make your approach, the better the chances of success.
Meeting someone is always better than not meeting them. Having a meeting at
your project, where they can see you and your work, and possibly meet some of
the beneficiaries, will always work better than meeting at their office.
Finding supporters: some simple first steps for getting individuals to give
If you are starting out in fundraising, these are some of the first steps you might
take to find your first supporters:
1. Ask all those who are already connected with your organisation to give
something towards its work. It is always best to start from the inside than
immediately asking outside the organisation. Tell people that you are launching
an appeal for funds, and that you want your staff, volunteers, Board Members,
(and their friends) to give.
2. Tell inquirers and visitors, and anyone else you can think of, that you are
looking for support. Ask them to give to you, or to raise money for you – from
their friends or by organising fundraising events. Have some decent leaflets
available describing your work. Think about developing a membership scheme.
These days with email communication it is neither expensive nor hard work to
keep in touch with people who have shown an interest in your work.
2. Ask everyone who has given to you to suggest some names of people
who might be interested in the work of the organisation and in supporting it
(again in a small way). Then draft a letter which they will send to their friends,
and follow up if possible with a phone call or a personal request.
You need to keep records of your donors and also of those who have expressed
an interest but who have not yet given. You should be keeping the following
information about your donors:
• Name and address
• Phone number
• How much they have given and when they last gave something
• Other information, such as:
“They are particularly interested in our girl child education programme” or
“They recommended three friends all of whom gave something” or
“They are a lawyer and would be prepared to help with legal advice”
Start small. Try to get a mailing list of 50 or 100 people in the first instance. Try to
get at least half of these people to give something – however small. This is a
start. Your job then is to get more people to give larger amounts, and persuade
them to give regularly.
Once you have a mailing list of 100, it is much simpler to expand this to
200.....and then to 500....and then to 1,000. You will find that you are slowly
beginning to build up a successful membership scheme or direct mail fundraising
programme. Even organisations like Oxfam started with just a few supporters,
although they now have millions of donors worldwide.
Once your list begins to develop, this will require proper management (to remove
names of people who seem no longer interested, to add new names, to update
the information on each donor, and to ensure that amendments are made when a
change of address is notified to you). You must also make sure that you don’t
have the same person on the list twice. This can give the impression of being
inefficient and wasteful.
Get some publicity for your work
Try to get coverage in the press (locally or nationally). A feature about the work
you are doing; an interview on the local radio station, a news item on some latest
success you have achieved; a publicity stunt to draw attention to your work; a
request for volunteers; a letter to the editor making a particular point.
Try to ensure that when you get publicity, an address is provided where those
interested can write to (or a phone number, but make sure that there’s someone
there to answer the phone when it rings) or that you have a good website which
provides enough information and the opportunity to give or volunteer.
Many organisations are reluctant to promote themselves – or they do not think
about doing it. But effective PR is important, and can underpin your fundraising
efforts. If people know about your organisation and its work, then they are more
likely to give. And when you get publicity, you will find that some people write in
either sending a donations or expressing an interest in doing something to help
Find other people to write to
There may be a list of people that you can use. A members club or association
might let you include a letter and a leaflet in a mailing they are sending out, or
give you permission to write to their members. You might be able to get your
leaflet sent with a magazine or journal to subscribers. It is also possible to buy
lists of names and addresses from direct mail agencies. All sorts of lists are
available, from credit card holders to members of a professional association.
These people are not your supporters. They have little information about your
work, and you don’t really know whether they will be interested in supporting you.
These are called ‘cold lists’, rather than the ‘warm lists’ of past supporters and
friends and contacts. You will need to find lists that you judge will have the sort of
people who might like to support you. You will send a simple leaflet that explains
your work, together with a short appeal letter asking them to give and possibly a
reply envelope. This sort of promotion is expensive, and it is not always costeffective.
Make contact with your local community
Most organisations fail to take advantage of the fact that they are part of a local
community, and that some local people might be interested in what is happening
in their neighbourhood. Some may want to give time or money – if you ask them.
If you have a project in a neighbourhood, then go around the neighbourhood
knocking on doors asking to leave a leaflet about your work. If people seem
genuinely interested, then:
• Make a note of this and ask them if they would like to receive an occasional
newsletter about your work. You should also produce an explanatory leaflet
about your organisation.
• Think about having an open day, and asking local people to come and see you.
Invite a celebrity to attend, as this will be a ‘draw’ for others. Make sure you give
out literature about your work. A variation on this is exhibiting at a fair or ‘mela’.
• Think about having a local person as a Board Member. This is always a good
idea for any locally-based organisation, as it will provide a link into the local
community where it is operating.
Another idea is to offer to talk to local groups such as Rotary Clubs and other
business associations. They may have slots for speakers, where you can be
invited to talk about your work and ask for support.
Organise a house-to-house collection
Visiting people in their homes and talking to them about your work can be an
extremely effective way of recruiting support. A personal approach is time
consuming, and it requires the right people to do the asking.
This method of fundraising is particularly good for gathering support in your local
community. The more volunteers you have who are prepared to knock on doors,
the more you will raise.
The volunteers need to be properly briefed about the work of your organisation,
trained to ask effectively, armed with promotional literature and given a formal
letter of authorisation by you to do the fundraising (on headed writing paper and
with their photograph, so that they can be identified).
Make sure you ask!
Set yourself some targets, and do your best to achieve these. A common
problem is to spend a lot of time planning the fundraising, and then somehow to
forget to ask. Many people get embarrassed about asking. But the most
important rule of fundraising is “If you don’t ask, you won’t get”. Spend time
identifying people who might be interested in supporting you, and then learn how
to ask effectively.
Wherever you go, make sure you have lots of nicely-designed leaflets and
business cards to hand out. The more people you meet and talk to, the more
people you will find who are interested in what you are doing. Your job as a
fundraiser is then to convert that interest into support.
Michael Norton, OBE, changed the face of charity in the UK. Michael is founder
of the Directory of Social Change, the UK’s lead agency for voluntary
organisations and the Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action. He has set up
street children’s banks in South Asia and, with Childline, a network of phone help
lines for street children in India. Michael is author of the Worldwide Fundraisers
Handbook and many other publications. His latest book 365 Ways to Change the
World will be published on 5th December 2005. To read more and how to order
please Click here