Key steps in developing a successful fundraising strategy

Usha Menon is Executive Chairman of Usha Menon Management Consultancy (Asia), an international training and consultancy service working exclusive with ‘for-impact’ organisations. A celebrated speaker, connector and consultant on non-profit management, fundraising and philanthropy, she has presented, trained and inspired non-profit leaders across the globe in more than 30 countries. Usha shared with us some of the key steps in developing a successful fundraising strategy.

Tell us how you have worked with non-profits to strengthen their fundraising strategy
For the past 25 years, I have been involved with numerous non-profit and for-impact organisations to help them create, enhance and restructure their strategies.

Create:  As the Asia Pacific Director for Resource Development and Regional Programs for Habitat for Humanity International, I worked with the regional and national teams to transform fundraising in the Asia-Pacific region by developing a sustainable local resources mobilisation strategy in-country. The resulting impact was that in less than a decade, the Asia Pacific region changed from being a ‘recipient’ region to a ‘donor’ region.
Likewise, I have many other organisations that I have consulted with on their ‘Asian market entry’ strategies with a specific focus on fundraising.

Enhance:  For the past five years, I have been a consultant to many arts, education, national and international charities as well as social enterprises across Asia, and have had the opportunity to help them to review their existing strategies and to identify areas that can enhance their fundraising performance, as well as discover supporter and donor segments that they may have overlooked. One such area includes developing a strong strategy to tap into major donor and venture philanthropy potential.

Many of our Asian fundraisers are afraid to ask ‘BIG’. Ironically, many Asian supporters are waiting to be given a chance to do something inspirational with their wealth. However, because they are only ever asked for small amounts – they generally, therefore, only tend to give small amounts.

Restructure:  While the methodologies (mass marketing, corporate sponsorships, major gifts, annual or legacy giving) are important while developing the strategy, there is always a risk that fundraisers may get too impressed by the methodology. So much so that they forget the other important areas such as leadership, policies, donor-care, reporting, keeping with the times such as integrating their online and offline plans, for example. Some of my most memorable successes have been helping clients to restructure their strategies by putting in to place the building-blocks for effective and sustainable fundraising strategy and not just a methodology implementation plan.

Give an example of accompanying an organisation in developing and implementing its fundraising strategy

The Community Chest/United Way in Singapore would be one such example where over the past four years I have been mentoring and guiding their fundraising team in the area of building a strong regular giving program that brings together the corporate sector, base of the pyramid donors, online presence and interactive donor-care.
What are the key steps in developing a successful fundraising strategy?

My workshop at the International Resource Mobilization Workshop -(IWRM)  will provide a step-by-step methodology and strategy template, however my three key points that I want to share here are:

  • Work from your area of strength and build on it
  • The plan should incorporate the people (including volunteers), process and policies needed to ensure the success of the chosen strategies. If not, it’s a lot of time spent on creating good-looking documents with no structure to support the strategy.
  • Once you have the strategy in place – ‘just do it’.  If not ‘analysis paralysis’ will set in. The best strategy is not the one that looks perfect on paper, it is the one that in reality actually brings in the funds! Until you implement the strategy, you will never know which one it is.

What are the challenges of developing a successful fundraising strategy?

  • To know where your genuine strengths and weaknesses lie.
  • Being so impressed by the methodology that the reason for the fundraising is lost and, because of this, the donor feels a lack of involvement.
  • Not building on Asian sensibilities and trying to force-fit into ‘western’ matrixes which does not always align with Asian thinking or practises. My blog on this topic may provide more insights into fundraising challenges.

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