Several times a month, I receive a message from somewhere far, far away.
They all want to raise money in America. And they all want someone else to raise it for them.
While these organizations could benefit from a trusted counselor, they rarely have the resources to pay for one. And since no legitimate fundraising consultant would accept work on a commission basis, they appear stuck.
But are they really?
Emerging organizations can take several simple steps to bring them closer to their goals. And they begin right at home.
Here are the recommendations I find myself sharing with early stage charities weekly:
1) Start locally: People raise money all over the world. The key is to build support first in the community in which you work, then to work outward to the region, the nation, the continent and the world. Having local support both makes your work more sustainable and lends credibility as you seek support from people and institutions far away.
2) Start with your leadership: Every real nonprofit organization has a board. This board must be comprised of people who both give and get. Start there, making sure that your organization is their highest giving priority. Then you can find out who they know, asking each board member to reach out to their network on behalf of the organization, whether through letters, phone, email, in person, or all of the above.
3) Engage Partners: Private and public companies, foundations, local governments, and local offices of international NGOs are all potential partners, potentially reducing operational costs, increasing revenues, and expanding the network of individual contributors. Ask them to donate goods. Ask them to give or to match gifts by their employees. Ask them to help advertise your work. Ask them to donate volunteer hours. Ask!
4) Use social networks to expand your reach: Rather than trying to find fundraisers for hire on LinkedIn, you can identify and reach out to those with an expressed interest in the mission of the organization. You can search LinkedIn for groups devoted to similar issues. Search Twitter for people talking about the same cause. Search Facebook for companies, foundations, groups and individuals interested in the same things. Engage in conversation. Find out how they want to be involved. Provide those opportunities. Then–and only then–ask for their financial support.
5) Get training: Find out what successful peer organizations in the community, country and region are doing in the area of fundraising. For example, there are fundraising associations throughout the African continent, including the West African Institute of Fundraising, the Kenya Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Southern Africa Institute of Fundraising. Fundraisers in the Middle East now enjoy the newly emerging Pan-Arab Fundraising Association. Asia boasts such organizations as the South Asia Fundraising Group and the Japan Fundraising Association. And the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Resource Alliance also offer training around the world.
There are many tools and techniques of fundraising but fundamentally it is a matter of defining your market, making your case, and asking for support.
For emerging charities hungry for resources to meet their mission, it may seem natural to look far away for money. And sometimes, using some social platforms, an organization might attract some donors that way.
But growing a sustainable organization always starts where you are and with who you know. Because, just as little Dorothy Gale discovered, there’s no place like home.