The secret to raising more money for your non-profit… without spending more money or hiring more staff… is building fundraising systems.
When we talk about “fundraising systems,” we’re not talking about your donor database or any other technology that you use at your non-profit. Instead we are talking about specific, step-by-step fundraising strategies that you use across all of your development programs, including prospecting, cultivation, asking stewardship, events, online fundraising, and more.
You can learn more about what fundraising systems are and why they are important by clicking here. You can see the most common types of fundraising systems that non-profits build by clicking here.
As you develop fundraising systems for your organization, it is important to remember that all successful fundraising systems have four things in common:
#1 – Defined Goals
One of the key things for any fundraising system that you are building is that it should have specific goals and objectives. If you want the systems you build to be successful, you need to know what the end game is. What are you hoping to accomplish? What are the goals for this specific system?
For example, one of the first systems you should build at your non-profit is a donor stewardship system. Many non-profits think that when it comes to donor stewardship, the only objective is thanking their donors – that’s far from the truth. Yes, thanking your donors is important -very important – but the donor stewardship process is much more than that.
There are actually three very important, and very measurable goals for your donor stewardship system. Those goals are donor retention, donor upgrades, and donor referrals (getting your donors to introduce you to their friends and colleagues). Each of these goals is measurable, and you can easily test lots of different strategies to figure out which ones produce the results.
For every fundraising system you build at your non-profit, ask yourself: what are the specific, measurable goals for this system?
#2 – Timelines
In addition to defined goals, every good fundraising system needs to have defined timelines. Successful systems include action steps for your development strategies along with timelines and deadlines for each. Deadlines keep everyone working at the correct pace and ensure that everyone knows when items will be completed.
Sticking with our example of donor stewardship, your stewardship system may say that every donor who makes a donation over $50 will get a thank you call within 48 hours of receiving the gift. Likewise, you could say that all donors will receive an e-mail newsletter, which will go out monthly, on the third Tuesday of each month.
Every good system includes well-defined timelines that keep your fundraising program moving at the right pace.
#3 – Responsibilities
Great fundraising systems include defined responsibilities. This means that your systems need to spell out who is responsible for each action item. You can do this by listing the staff position at your organization that will be responsible for each task. Including this information in your fundraising systems helps avoid confusion and ensures that everyone is clear on which team member is responsible for each task. It also allows everyone to see how all of the tasks work together to create a sustainable donor fundraising system.
Thus, your stewardship system could say that all thank you calls for donors who give less than $500 will be handled by volunteers, overseen by the Development Coordinator. Your plan could also say that donors who give over $500 will receive a handwritten note within 10 days, and that this note will be written by the Development Director.
Smart non-profits build out fundraising systems that include not only ambitious goals and well-defined timelines, but also spell out specifically who will be carrying out each task.
#4 – Segmentation
The final thing every good fundraising system needs, in addition to goals, timelines, and responsibilities, is segmentation.
Let’s face it – chances are your non-profit’s development program is understaffed and under-resourced. And even if it’s not, chances are you don’t have more resources than you need at your disposal.
Because you are working with limited staff, time, money, and bandwidth, you’ll need to segment your donors and make decisions about how much time and money you can spend on each.
Thus, while it may be beneficial for your team to personally call every single donor who makes a gift to your non-profit to thank them for their gift, you may only have one full time fundraiser and a very limited supply of board members to help you make these calls. So, you may decide to segment your donors and only call those who make a gift of over $100, or over $250, or over $1,000 – or whatever makes sense for your non-profit.
Likewise, you may decide that you have the time to do twice yearly stewardship visits with all of your major donors who give $5,000 or more per year to your non-profit, but not with donors who give less than that amount. That’s ok – your systems need to work for your non-profit based on your budget and bandwidth.
Good donor systems establish donor segments to make sure that you are using your time, money, bandwidth and other resources in a responsible manner, by investing them in a way that will result in maximum return for your non-profit and the people you serve, without leading to staff burnout.
Remember, for each of the fundraising systems you build at your non-profit, you’ll want to include defined goals, timelines, responsibilities and donor segments. Include these four things, and you’ll be off to a great start in launching successful systems for your organization!
Photo Credit: Fotologic
Mary Pat Boron says
This post, “Every Great Fundraising System Needs These 4 Things.” and your booklet “10 Great Ways to Find New Donors” are so helpful and timely! We instituted your fundraising system and continue to follow your advice because it works! Thanks so much.
Joe Garecht says
Thanks, Mary Pat! I am glad you have found our materials helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions or need any help…
Leah Holt says
HI Joe – I work for Sandy Rees as one of her grant folks. I’m a process-oriented person and LOVE your systems approach to successful fundraising! I feel like you speak my language — which is a rare thing for me to find, haha. I enjoy reading what you write and your presentations. Thanks!