When mapping out your fundraising plan, it’s best to play to your fundraising strengths.
Are you strong in event planning, mindful of all the little details?
Great at asking for in kind gifts?
Masterful at telling stories that bring people to happy tears?
Is social media where you connect with people? Or do you excel in face-to-face meetings?
Can you speak in front of groups? Or are you better at making connections one-on-one?
If you play to your strengths when raising money for your organization, you’ll have a better chance of success.
In fact, the work will be easier, and you’ll find yourself having fun.
So why don’t all nonprofit founders, leaders, and fundraisers intentionally play to their fundraising strengths?
Because we tend to look at what other organizations do to raise money and try to capture their magic by copying them.
That’s not the best way to do it.
By working with your own personal fundraising strengths, you’ll make your own magic for your nonprofit.
In addition to your strengths, you need to consider the strengths of everyone on your fundraising team. What does everyone bring to the table? Board members, volunteers, and staff members will have more success if they are working in their individual areas of strength instead of just trying to get a job done because someone needs to do it.
On top of all that, what are your organization’s fundraising strengths?
Every organization has something special and useful going for it, like:
- Maybe your mission is irresistible,
- Your cause is constantly in the news,
- You have several Board members with strong connections in the community,
- You have a large social media following,
- You have a vehicle with your organization’s name plastered on both sides,
- Or something else that is an asset you can use to raise funds.
Every nonprofit has something to work with, even if your organization is new or young. It’s time to look around and see what organizational assets you can leverage to bring in money.
By focusing on your personal fundraising strengths, your team’s strengths, and your organization’s assets, you can choose fundraising strategies that WILL WORK.
And you’ll need those as you create your annual fundraising plan.
They might be different from the strategies that work for organizations you admire, but they will be right for you because they play to your fundraising strengths, making the work easier and more fun.
Assess Your Personal Fundraising Strengths
Before you can play to your strengths, you have to figure out what they are.
It’s time to determine your personal fundraising strengths and have the courage to own them.
This can be hard.
Many of us have been conditioned to be humble and to focus on areas where we need improvement.
But when it comes to fundraising, it’s better to know your strengths and work in them.
So, be honest. What are you really good at? What do people compliment you on? What comes naturally to you?
Now, write them down.
Write down everything you can think of that is useful in bringing in money to your nonprofit. But don’t write down things you wish you were good at or things you plan to get good at with training. Stick with things you are good at right now.
Your list shouldn’t be long. There are only so many hours in a day, and no one is good at everything. Most people have four to six key strengths that are applicable to nonprofit fundraising.
Feeling stuck? Let me walk you through an exercise that will help.
Now, look at the things that are “above the line” for you. Write down what you’re good at in declarative sentences like this:
- I am a great networker!
- I am a wonderful event planner!
- I’m really good at organizing things.
- I make people feel at ease.
Keep this list handy and read it out loud to yourself every day until you really feel this in your bones.
Then you’ll truly own your strengths.
Assess Your Team’s Fundraising Strengths
Next, have everyone on your fundraising team go through the Unique Brilliance exercise in the video above and write down their strengths, too.
Have each team member share what’s both above the line and below the line for them.
You’ll find out what people are good at and that will make it easier to ask them to do things that are in their wheelhouse.
You’ll also find out what people are NOT good at and you’ll know what not to ask of them. For instance, if someone has “talking on the phone” in a category below the line, you definitely don’t want to ask them to call monthly donors to thank them. That would be a disaster!
And this exercise will help you uncover that.
Once you know the results from this exercise, you can better match people to tasks that need to be done not just in fundraising, but across your organization, resulting in more work getting done and a happier team.
Uncover Your Organization’s Fundraising Assets
Think of your organization’s fundraising assets as things that help your organization stand out from the pack.
We hate to think about being in competition with other worthy organizations that do important work. But, when seeking funds, your organization needs to stand out.
Here are some organizational assets your nonprofit might have that you can leverage:
Identifying your organization’s assets is fun, but you need to think outside the box. You may be completely overlooking something really valuable that’s right under your nose.
I once met with a nonprofit leader who felt stuck. She had a list of people who had attended a fundraiser three years earlier, and I told her that was a great place to start.
But, then, she mentioned that a case her legal organization worked on was featured on a podcast. And through the podcast, she got a list of 8,000 people who wanted to receive updates on the case via email!
She had not one but two fantastic assets to work with! She wasn’t stuck at all! Within two years, the organization was thriving.
Another client had an email list of over 10,000 who were receiving a program-related newsletter. I asked if she had ever asked those people for money and she said “What?” We put together a quick appeal and within a couple of weeks, she raised $10,000 just by giving those folks another way to support the nonprofit’s good work.
Personal Strengths + Organizational Assets = Basis for a Fundraising Plan
Okay, now that you’re clear on your personal fundraising strengths, your team’s fundraising strengths, and your organization’s fundraising assets, you can figure out how to use these or combine them to choose strategies for your fundraising plan.
You’ll be working in areas that feel comfortable and that you are good at, which will move you quickly toward your goal.
For example, if you’re strong in writing, focus on:
- Donor-focused email marketing
If you are more social, focus on:
- House gatherings and other events
- Update and thank-you phone calls
- One-on-one asks
This doesn’t mean you exclude the things you are not good at. You should always be stretching into uncomfortable areas as part of your growth as a nonprofit leader.
But some things you just can’t get better at no matter how hard you try. It might make more sense to hire someone to do the things you aren’t that good at, especially if you can easily hire someone who is great in that area.
For instance, many nonprofit founders would benefit greatly from hiring a bookkeeper, instead of trying to save a few bucks by managing Quickbooks themselves. The time and energy that would free up would allow that founder to work on spreading the word and raising money, which is a much better use of time for them, and would help grow the nonprofit faster.
You can hire someone to do anything you’re not good at, don’t want to do, or don’t have time for, from writing your website content to handling your media relations. If you’re not ready to hire, enlist Board members to help with fundraising, get an intern to do grant research, or form a committee to plan and execute your signature event.
You don’t have to do it all, and you can’t do it all!
Work in your personal strengths and leverage your organization’s assets. This is how you make fundraising easier and more productive.
The Bottom Line
Taking the time to list your fundraising strengths is a powerful exercise. Working with your team to encourage them to write down their strengths is another important step toward easier fundraising.
And then evaluating your organization’s assets will truly light the path forward.
You will clearly see what you should be doing, which strategies you should pursue, and ways to raise money that make sense for you and your organization right now.
This is the juncture where fundraising gets easier and feels more natural. It can even be fun!
Wouldn’t that be great? For money to flow into your organization and for you to be able to focus on running programs and changing lives?
That’s what focusing on your fundraising strengths can do for you!
Want more help choosing fundraising strategies that are right for you? Join me January 26th for Fundraising Blueprint. I’ll walk you through a step-by-step process to create your plan, plus you’ll get my color-coded, detailed annual fundraising plan template AND a sample plan! Sign up at www.GetFullyFunded.com/Blueprint