It was another fruitful Melbourne Campaigners’ Network session with around 25 folks turning up to discuss fundraising on September 27. A range of community organisations were represented, with diverse experience of campaigning and fundraising amongst the participants.

Naomi Blackburn facilitated an activity to kick things off – small groups workshopped how they would raise $10,000. What would $10,000 mean to your project or campaign? How would you determine the best approach to raising money? Many of the ideas people came up with were tailored to the strengths and resources of the groups involved.

Sarah Johnson shared from her extensive experience in fundraising in the environment movement as well as for an arts institution. She shared these valuable tips for building a donor base:

  • Have a database. An effective database allows you to keep track of all the interactions someone has had with your organisation: actions they’ve taken, donations they’ve made, and of course their contact details…
  • Collect details. You can’t contact someone if you don’t have their details. Every campaign activity should be an opportunity to build your list.
  • Know your people. Code the contacts in your database so you’re able to get a summary of who is interested in particular topics or has taken particular actions in the past. That way when you ask them for support you can tailor your request to their interests and level of commitment.
  • Start with supporters. People who already have a connection to your organisation and support its mission are far more likely to convert that support into a financial contribution than ‘cold calls’. It is also much easier to reengage than to engage someone for the first time. That is, if someone has already made a financial contribution they are more likely to again in the future than someone completely untried.
  • Tell your story. Have a brief but compelling ‘elevator pitch’ which communicates what your organisation or campaign is, why it is worthy of support, and what will be the result of a donation.
  • Ask for money. You’ll never get money if you don’t ask people for it! Don’t let awkwardness or feelings about money get in the way of asking for what is needed (the post on Empowered Fundraising has some great points on this). Think of asking people for money as a way of giving them an opportunity to take action about something they care about.
  • Operational vs Project costs. Many philanthropists and government funding rounds will not make money available for ongoing costs, and other donors may not view them as worthwhile. Look at how to ‘carve out’ parts of your budget into discrete projects, for example printing materials or holding events.
  • Welcome different kinds of support. If a person or organisation or company is not able to make a donation can they provide in-kind support instead? For example, printing, use of facilities, labour… or can they connect you with others who can offer support?
  • Manage your finances. Ensure you are accountable for the money you receive and expend. Make sure you issue receipts to donors.
  • Research givers. Get a sense of the interests of philanthropic wealthy individuals so when you approach them you can make an appropriate request. Such people get numerous requests – you save them time and increase your likelihood of success if you’ve done your homework.
  • Say Thanks! It is incredibly important to thank people for their support. It’s best to do this without too much delay – even if you thank them first and send out a receipt later.

Rick Chen, cofounder of Pozible, came along to introduce the basics of crowd-funding and how to use the Pozible platform. Here are some of his key points:

  • Crowdfunding = Presale of rewards. When a group uses Pozible to raise money they outline what they are seeking money for. They then issue a series of rewards for donations. When the funding target is reached your project receives the money people have pledged and in return you need to provide the rewards.
  • All or nothing. People pledge to support a project but if the funding target isn’t reached the money will not be deducted from pledger’s accounts. This means it’s important to…
  • Be realistic about your target. How much money do you realistically believe you can raise via crowdfunding? You may need to reduce the costs of your project overall or only use this method for partial revenue towards the project.
  • Build your audience. Crowdfunding depends on your own established networks. If it’s early days in building your list and profile you may need to do more of that before embarking on a crowd-funding campaign. Around half of the traffic to comes via Facebook or Twitter so it’s a method well suited to using social networks. Like any other donor strategy personal relationships and recommendations are highly valuable.
  • Use what you’ve got! When coming up with rewards use what you can get your hands on, what you were going to do anyway, or what is a realistic use of time and resources. For example, crowdfunding may be pre-sale of event tickets ie if people pledge $50 they get a ticket to the event and you have a guaranteed crowd. One person who crowdfunded travel overseas then sent pledgers a postcard from the place. Come up with rewards that people will appreciate but won’t be a drain on your resources.
  • Create Buzz. Be creative, make it personal, do the unexpected, and connect to trends and current issues to increase the buzz around your crowdfunding campaign. This will increase the likelihood that people will talk about it, share it with their friends, and pledge support.

There’s lots of great tips on the Pozible site.

Want more resources on fundraising?

There’s a whole bunch right here. Sarah Johnson also recommends the Zen of Fundraising by Ken Burnett, a handy resource for all stages of a fundraising campaign.

What have you tried? What tips can you share with other campaigners and community projects?

See you at our next Melbourne Campaigners’ Network event: Campaign Q & A, 6pm-8pm, Thursday 15 November at the Wheeler Centre. We’ll have a panel of representatives from diverse campaigns sharing their perspective on highlights and lessons from the last year.