Happy spring, everyone! Depending on where you are in the country, warmer weather is either on its way or has been around for a couple weeks. Either way, things are looking up! It’s not just the warmer weather we’re pumped about – Take Roots has been working on some very exciting projects in the last little while!  In fact, the inspiration for this blog post comes from the fact that we’ve been working with a few amazing not-for-profit companies.

We recently did a workshop about Fund Development and the feedback was so strong, we thought we would share some of what we talked about. First of all, let’s talk about what fund development is.

“The way I think of fund development is the process by which organizations use fundraising to build capacity and sustainability. Fund development is a part of the strategic marketing of a nonprofit organization. It is the concerned not only with raising money, but doing so in a way that develops reliable sources of income that will sustain the organization through the realization of its long-term mission and vision.”-  Ron Strand, President, Strateo Consulting Inc.,

Sometimes the importance of mapping out a Fund Development strategy gets lost in the shuffle but, trust us, this can prove to be a critical mistake. It’s not that organizations don’t want to have a long-term strategy; it’s just that it’s often so easy to focus on the short-term goals because they seem much more attainable. For example, figuring out how your organization will raise funds for a specific campaign is much more clear-cut than strategizing how money will come in on a consistent basis.

This is where understanding the difference between fundraising and fund development becomes essential. Remember, fundraising is the activity not-for-profits use to raise money, while fund development is the strategy behind how an organization will consistently raise money.

Creating a Baseline

The first thing we suggest a not-for-profit do is analyze what they have done in the past. Look at last year—how was the majority of the money raised? If they haven’t already, the following should be considered:

Grants – it goes without saying, but grants are a not-for-profit’s best friend. Grants can account for a huge percentage of fund development; therefore, it’s essential to research all the grants your not-for-profit qualify for. Look for grants based on location (federal, provincial, municipal and city), industry, sector etc. We’ve worked with many companies on grant applications and we cannot stress the importance of attention to detail enough. Another tip: start the application as early as possible. (Trust us!)

Events often times, events are the first thing that come to mind when people think of ways in which money can be raised. There’s good reason for this—events provide the opportunity to: showcase your organization to your current supporters and members of the community, make money from companies and people who might not otherwise give, build your database, and raise unrestricted, operating dollars, which are difficult to raise in other ways.

Mailings – bulk mailings, both traditional and electronic, are still an effective way to generate funds. However, it is still important to weigh the cost vs. donations received (are you spending a lot on printing and graphic design without receiving much interest in return?)

Asks – this is exactly what it sounds like—asking individuals to become donors. There is an art to this but, if you don’t ask, you won’t receive. Simple as that.

Cultivating Relationships

Much of this has to do with cultivating relationships in order to ensure there is a reliable source of income. True cultivation is essential to any organization’s success for many reasons. Most importantly, it builds trust between the donor(s) and the company, which translates into more than just a one-time donation. A crucial part of cultivation is ensuring that there is an ongoing dialogue between someone at the organization (executive director, board member, etc.) and the perspective donors. One call or meeting won’t do the trick, folks. The donors have to feel like you care about building a relationship with them.

FCultivating Relationships Take Rootsurthermore, this ongoing dialogue is a perfect opportunity to educate a potential donor about the benefits and outcomes of your organization and ignite his or her passion for the mission. It also gives you the chance to learn about a potential donor, understand his/her interests and what motivates him/her to give.

Don’t forget, it’s a two-way street and both parties have to benefit, otherwise, it won’t work.

Based on prior experience, we also thought we would pass along the following, which are commonly mistaken for cultivation (but actually aren’t cultivation, at all!) Cultivation is NOT:

  • A monologue about how great your program is
  • A single meeting
  • A tour of your facility, highlighting the shiny new (or dirty old) equipment, classrooms, facilities, conference rooms, etc.

There are many steps to creating a strategic Fund Development Plan that will work for your organization but once you start to understand its importance, your organization will be far better off. Take Roots not only offers a Fund Development workshop, but we have worked closely with not-for-profits to develop concise and effective plans. Contact us to find out how we can help your organization!