At this time of year as Spring approaches in the UK I always think of gardening as metaphor for fundraising. It really works.
The daffodils I planted many months ago have popped out. The tulips I planted many years ago (from my attendance at the International Fundraising Congress in Holland) are on their way. I can already see the potential for the Spring and Summer – I can’t wait for the wisteria to explode into life! Whilst there are not so many weeds due to leaf mulch I put down on the borders I can see there is still work to do – moss patches all over the garden lawn and the fruit trees to prune.
So what are the fundraising equivalents? Here is my gardening checklist:
Fundraising Garden Checklist
1. Pruning : Where will the “wow” moments and windfalls from your fundraising garden come from? Your major donor programme, corporate or institutional fundraising? Having identified them what preparation do you need do now to maximise the chances of further growth? Do you need budget plans from your programme team? Have your sorted out your story narrative?
2. Compost and manure : What resources will you need to renew your fundraising for the year ahead? That leaflet or video you need to respond to enquiries. Rather than be reactive (and stressed) anticipate those needs now and get them done so you can respond quicker when those opportunities occur.
3. Weeding : In a garden what is a weed to some is a joy to others. What should you focus on? Do you have a plan of how all the different parts of your fundraising programme connect? You need a plan to know how it all looks together as you can’t do everything. Which bits complement each other? What looks good or performs well on its own but doesn’t add to the full picture? At SolarAid we sell solar lights just like the ones we use in Africa. Each sale gets about £10 profit. Most importantly, and strategically, it puts our story into the hands of someone else who in turn can influence their network.
4. Planting bulbs : What can you do now that will payback in months ahead? Have you thanked your donors really well? Not just some standard letter – I mean something that makes a lasting impression. Have you kept those major donors who gave some months ago up to date? You don’t want every communcaition to be about an ask. These small actions now will help line up future donations – just like the daffodils and tulips I’m looking forward to seeing.
5. Avoiding moss in lawn : I wish I had done something to avoid the problem of moss all over the lawn. Have you had a good look at your donor base to see what issues and pitfalls lie ahead. How many have given in the last 18 months but not the last 12? Do you have a plan to re-engage potential lapsed donors before it’s too late? Have you got systems in place to reactivate lapsed donors and most importantly donors who end their regular gift?
Unlike gardening, dictated by the seasons, your preparation can start any time.
Over the last few months average donations to SolarAid have been double the previous year (and doubled again by a UKaid match). Last month we had our largest major donor pledge and renewed support from a major corporate. On Friday we had a surprise visit from a donor to our office, who popped by last week too, giving a donation of £500 on each occasion.
These outcomes are as a result of preparing the ground, constant attention and nurturing throughout the year, leading to growth. With the financial year end, and Spring, approaching, SolarAid’s fundraising programme looks set to have grown by 100% in one year, and its ‘fundraising garden’ is well prepared to explode – just like cherry blossom in my front garden will do in a months time.