Carla C. Cataldo, Principal of Proposals, Etc., has more than twenty years of experience in fundraising and non-profit work. She helps nonprofits, cities and towns raise more money, and helps for-profit companies access Workforce Training Fund grants. She answers two questions on how development professionals can hone their focus to raise more funds.
A. It will vary a little by industry sector, but a fundraiser can never go wrong by spending more time deepening relationships with existing donors. A nonprofit organization must continually acquire new donors to offset those that leave the area, die off, etc., but the bulk of fundraising dollars will come from existing donors. So we need to deepen our relationships with them and our organization’s mission to increase the size of their gifts.
That said, I would recommend doing a good job in a few areas of fundraising concentration, such as major gifts and direct mail appeals, or foundation grants and special events, rather than trying to do everything without enough staff capacity.
A. You have to know your audience — the individual(s) or foundation(s) from which you seek money. If an individual is very charitable to health organizations, but not interested in arts/culture, then you aren’t going to convince them to fund your theatre. Same with foundations. If their priorities don’t match yours, then don’t waste their time – it won’t be a successful application. You really need to research potential donors and target your message accordingly, and then follow the rules/directions for an ask.
Also many special events like 5K runs that attract people who may not care one whit about your cause, but show up just to run, are one-off dollars. It is very hard to build a donor base of consistent givers invested in your mission with this kind of fundraising strategy.
If you are considering hiring a proposal writer to improve your odds for raise money, keep in mind that from a cost perspective, a proposal writer should bring in two to three times his/her salary and benefits to support the organization. Larger organizations may need expert help from time to time on a certain type of funding application with which they do not have experience (e.g. government grant), or a certain peak volume time of year. For strategic planning, hiring an outside consultant as a facilitator might make sense, so that all staff and organizational volunteers can participate fully in the planning process.