When raising less could mean more

So let’s accept for a moment that as a result of the clamp down on fundraising we will raise less. Rather than bemoan our lot what should we do?

Well if your charity is going to raise less someone needs to ask : What should we focus on? What is our core purpose?

Four and half years ago we did that at SolarAid and by doing less we seem to have achieved more. At the time we had a number of solar initiatives ranging from installing solar panels on clinics and schools, to solar cookers, and solar lights. We decided to set a BHAG*. A goal to focus our limited resources. That goal was to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020. We then dropped the programmes that didn’t help progress that goal.

To begin with we did raise less because of our focus. We even turned down grants from funders wishing us to do work we no longer wanted to do because it didn’t help us progress towards the goal. Instead we focused our limited funds, our precious time and all our energy on solar lights. Even though we were raising less I felt we were achieving more.

As we got better at telling our story the income started to rise again. In a one year period it doubled and stayed up the following year. With a focus on our purpose the proportion of unrestricted income has increased four fold in four years. By 2014 we had become the biggest distributors and sellers of solar lights in Africa! That’s what our fundraising had helped achieve – reaching 10 million people with safe clean solar light.

Last year was our highest in terms of income fundraised. Yet it was a tough year for our programme in Africa. Although we distributed more solar lights in Africa then before it was not to the extent we would have wished to be on course to achieve our goal.

As a fundraiser I realise I no longer view income as the measure of success! What matters is how we are delivering on our purpose. Are we raising the right money from donors and funders to do the things we want and need to do? Are we using funds raised to help us achieve our goal? After all isn’t this is what it’s all about – not how much money we raise – but what change we bring about to make the world we live in a better place?

And a sense of purpose makes me feel what I do each day really matters. When times are tough, as they are now, those of us involved in this mission will do our best to go the extra mile. It’s amazing how your attitude can make a difference.

So if you are worried that you will raise less use this moment to push your organisation to find and  focus on its core purpose.  Ask what value can your organisation bring to make the world a better place? Four years ago a week into my new job I  asked a question in a meeting : “What’s it all about – what’s our purpose – what’s our BHAG goal?” A question. That’s all. So you can make a difference.

By getting your cause to focus on its purpose it will help find your organisation’s story, one that will inspire others. So the story will spread. That’s when the magic starts to happen. People and organisations advocate on your behalf. This in turn opens up new opportunities to sources of funding by leveraging their social capital.

Ironically, by focusing on your purpose to do more with less, not only may you achieve more, it could lead to you raising more !


*Blogs on BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals)

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