‘Fundraising Management: Analysis, Planning, and Practice’ by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay is what I would call the comprehensive textbook of everything about fundraising. It is an instruction manual into every technical aspect: audit, market research, strategic planning, different forms of fundraising, benchmarks, management, leadership, and legal.
The book critically examines the different components and offers examples and case studies to show how to put things into practice.
When I began fundraising, I focused my learning on the fundamentals that would make the most impact. Then, as donations started coming in, I looked to learn how to be a better fundraiser and build from my early success.
This book is a valuable source for understanding each element of fundraising, top to bottom. The authors dive into the mathematical probabilities and statistics of different approaches. While some may think the authors go into too much detail, this level of detail helps you understand what you should and why you do it.
I would recommend this book for any professional fundraiser who wants to drill down into the specifics.
12 Takeaways from the Fundamentals of Fundraising
If I had to sum it up, I would say these 12 takeaways stood out most for me. I think they will help you know what to focus on:
Have a clear direction. Fundraising begins by clearly defining your vision, mission, and objectives. A vision describes the world you want to see, while a mission statement maps out how you intend to that world a reality. (for examples: I walk you through exactly how to do this in Catholic Fundraiser Academy: click to join)
Know why you are different. To compete successfully for donations (as there are many charities, non-profits, and religious organizations), you must understand what differentiates you from everyone else and who specifically would be willing to donate to you. (I walk you through exactly how to do this in Catholic Fundraiser Academy)
Have objectives. You must set three fundraising objectives: (1) a target amount you wish to raise (2) the categories of donors that will supply these funds (individual, corporate, foundation, trust, major donor), and (3) the acceptable costs of raising these funds
Write a case for support. A case for support provides a rationale to donors for their support of you. It answers 7 questions: (1) Who are you and what do you do? (2) Why do you exist (with focus on the people you help and services you provide)? (3) What makes you unique? (4) What must be accomplished? (5) How will you accomplish this? (6) How can someone get involved? (7) What’s in it for the donor? Else, Why should they give?
Schedule and plan. You must schedule and plan all your fundraising activities (direct mail, email, press ads, display ads) in advance.
Give potential donors a starting point. Providing information about another donor’s contribution greatly influences the level of the target donor’s giving. Therefore, you must state a figure as a starting point.
Be personal and specific. Personalized, clear, and unambiguous requests for support are more likely to engender giving than those that are vague or general in nature. Therefore, the phrase “Please Give” all by itself doesn’t work. You have to be more personal.
Stay in touch. Donors are significantly more likely to quit donating if the recognition offered to them is seen as being inappropriate or insufficient. Therefore, set a standard and keep increasing that standard. You can find your standard by asking donors what they would like.
Know who your ideal donor is. A ‘picture’ of the individuals you are attempting to reach, even in outline or aggregate form, is an enormous advantage in increasing your donor base.
Keep donors. You must keep your retention rate as high as possible. This is the percentage of current donors who will still be active the following year.
Don’t lose donors. You must keep your attrition rate as low as possible. This is the opposite of retention. It’s the percentage of current donors who stop giving.
Look at the long-term. Focus on the Life-Time Value (LTV) of a donor rather than receiving a one-off. LTV is the total net contribution that a donor generates during his/her time as a donor. Therefore, if someone donates $50 the first year, you can say that their LTV is $50 x [Years as Donor], estimated as $50 x 10 = $500. This thinking helps you recognize the value of all gifts, big and small because, with time, they all add up.