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Is Fundraising On Your Mind?

Summer is barely over, and the rush into Fall is already well underway.

You know the feeling. New hires, program events, reports due... it's as if a bell goes off the day after Labor Day and then it's full-speed ahead - at least until Thanksgiving.

For those of us for whom fundraising is but one responsibility (executive directors, board members, senior staff), it can be all too easy to relegate Fall fundraising to writing breathless notes on annual appeal letters in late-November.

But what a missed opportunity.

So here are some quick tips for those fundraising-is-but-one-part-of-my-job staff and board members, to help us kickstart Fall... and set us up for a terrific spring.

Lay The Groundwork

As with anything, the most important tool in fundraising is the plan.

Take a couple of hours one afternoon to plot out the Fall. That way, when everything else is breaking loose, you'll have your prioritized to-do list right in front of you. You'll still have to implement, of course, but you won't have to take the time to think about what to do (the most common reason for losing focus when life gets too busy).

What should be in that plan?

Donor Stewardship - The payoff for most of your donors is the feeling that they are "seen" as providing support and feel part of the family. Make time each week to reach out to a donor or two from different constituencies (this includes board members!). Let them know how much they mean to you, and take time to listen: they will tell you loads.

Consistency - Commit to doing two fundraising tasks per week. Every week. Donor calls, prospect lunches, brief but warm cover notes sent with interesting news articles... make this a habit twice a week. No slacking!

Balanced Return - Include activities with both short and long-term payoff. Reaching out to the funders of the future, as well as nurturing prospects close-at-hand. Sometimes you need a 3, 5 or even 10-year timeline to get to a really big payoff. Begin to sow those seeds now.

Combined Strategies - Mix up requests for all sorts of things (money, goods, expertise, time) along with pure donor stewardship - and always remember to ask "Who else might be interested in knowing about our work?"

Once you have your plan, it's a matter of follow-through - and while that's easier said than done, it's much simpler than trying to figure out, week by week, what should come next.

If your organization produces a Fall fundraising event, that's even more reason to think it through beforehand, before the press of the event turns your brain into mush.

Now Forgive Yourself

Because there will inevitably be weeks where, before you know it, it's late afternoon Friday and the two items on your list are but a dream. But don't lose hope.

Have a list of "catch-ups" - such as "good news" emails that are timeless that you can write at 6 pm on a Friday (and perhaps schedule to go out the following week) that keep the momentum going.

Slippage will happen. But have confidence: the half hour to two per week that you've spent consistently on fundraising throughout the Fall, will definitely pay off in the weeks and months to come. 
Tales of Board Ambassadorship:
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families 

Cause Effective client the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) works to improve the health and well-being of Asian Pacific American children and families in New York City.

Cause Effective worked with CACF to develop a strategy to allow the board to step more fully into its fundraising role. To CACF Board member (and former board president) Angie Wang, the most critical job for a board member is being an ambassador. In her time on the board, she noted, that has gradually become easier: "As you learn more about the organization and become more immersed in the work, it becomes more natural to talk about the mission; you're more comfortable speaking about and making a pitch for the work."

How does Angie manage to find the time to be an active ambassador? "Prioritization," she reflects. "I've got a full-time job, a family, and am involved in other projects that I'm very committed to - so I don't waste my time. I try to find what I can do now that will pay off later for the organization - to figure out where the low-hanging fruit is. I try to be open to being in the right place at the right time." This involves "looking at your daily life, at the things that are already happening, and looking at your network for the opportunities that you can leverage as a board member," she explained.

Why does she continue to make the effort, a decade in? "I juggle it because I'm passionate about the mission." And the camaraderie of connecting with other board members also makes it rewarding: "In the beginning, I wanted to be on the board because I cared about the work. I still care about the work, but what motivates me now is that I care about the people too. Other board members are my allies.

Angie sums up CACF's process of working with Cause Effective on board ambassadorship as: "Cause Effective helped us ask the right questions, and facilitate a conversation so that we as board members can actually take ownership of fundraising."
Cause Effective Can Help

We coach board members, staff and volunteers to stay focused and get results - no matter how much time they're able to put in for fundraising.


Drop us a line, and we'll be glad to strategize with you on how to make the time you have, most effective.

Judy Levine 
Executive Director  
Cause Effective Around Town
New Workshops, Fundraising Inspiration, Office Space for Rent, and more...  
  Upcoming Workshop: What Board Members Need to Make Crowdfunding Wildly Successful
Nonprofit Coordinating Committee 
Monday, Sept. 28th
    Join Cause Effective and the nonprofit crowdfunding specialists ioby to learn how crowdfunding can serve as a fundraising and community engagement tool. This workshop is tailored for board members, and will cover crowdfunding from a board perspective. 
Register HERE
Upcoming Workshop: Fundraising Best Practices for New Executive Directors
Foundation Center
Wednesday, Sept. 30th
10:00 - 11:30am

 This workshop will help new executive directors apply the lessons of seasoned fundraisers from the get-go. Learn to build relationships with supporters, fix the mistakes of your predecessors, unearth friends in unexpected places, activate your board as allies, get staff to join in fundraising, and form an organization-wide culture of philanthropy. 
Register HERE
Cause Effective Office Space for Rent 
Cause Effective has a large corner office (holds 2-4) and two workstations for sublease.  Get more info here and call 212-643-7093 to enquire. 
From the Cause Effective Blog:
51,473 Voices for Good
The Humans of New York Indiegogo campaign for Mott Hall Bridges Academy raised $1.4 million on an original goal of $100,000. But there's an even more important metric it achieved - the number of individuals who were inspired to put their money, in denominations as low as $5, into making a difference for the kids of Mott Hall Bridges Academy.

Why this school and not another?  Why kids and not endangered snow leopards?  What was the story that so moved and inspired?  [more]  
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For over 30 years, Cause Effective has strengthened the nonprofit sector by increasing the capacity of more than 5,000 nonprofits to build sustainable communities of supporters.  We provide carefully tailored counsel to help nonprofits diversify funding, raise more money from individuals, activate boards of directors, and get the greatest value from anniversaries and special events so they can achieve long-term, community-based change.

To learn more, please visit www.causeeffective.org.