The highest performing non-profits, in terms of fundraising, are successful because they have developed strong fundraising systems. This is true of both small, local charities as well as large international organizations. These systems make their fundraising hum along like clockwork, with a steady stream of donors and ample funding for their programs and mission.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at fundraising systems to see what they are and how you can develop them at your organization.
What Is a Non-Profit Fundraising System?
A good non-profit fundraising system has the following characteristics:
It makes your fundraising knowable.
A good fundraising system clarifies your development program and makes your fundraising knowable. This is because systems are testable – you can implement a system, and track the results. Through testing, you can see whether the systems you establish are successful or not, and tweak them until they are. Once you have good systems in place, you will know what results you can expect.
For example, you will know that if your non-profit follows a certain strategy when meeting a new prospect, you will have a higher likelihood of turning that prospect into a donor.
It makes your fundraising scaleable.
Because systems make your fundraising process knowable, they also make it scaleable. Once you have good systems in place, you will be able to add more donors or activities into the system and know that the outcomes will remain the same.
Thus, once you have a good online fundraising system in place, you will be able to increase your online prospecting and know that the system will scale to accommodate the new prospects.
It clarifies decision-making.
Good fundraising systems include decision points that clarify decision making for your team. Far too many non-profits waste bandwidth trying to customize decision making for each donor action… and many organizations are reluctant to make decisions that conserve necessary resources based on a cost / benefit analysis.
For example, many development offices will spend time and money communicating with a prospect long after it is clear that the person will not be making a gift to the organization. A good fundraising system makes decision-making easier. It lays out a set of actions, and then when those actions have been taken, details a decision point.
Thus, a non-profit may take a series of 5 actions with new individual donor prospects, and then have a simple decision to make about whether or not the prospect will remain on the prospect list. The organization doesn’t need to wring its hands over each prospect it drops from the rolls. Instead, it can rely on the system to make the determination and have confidence in the result.
It has defined roles.
A successful non-profit fundraising system lays out defined roles for staff, board members, and volunteers. Good systems detail responsibilities and provide accountability for your entire team.
It conserves resources.
Very few non-profits have excess capacity. Because they are knowable, scalable, and allow you to make good decisions based on your return on investment, fundraising systems allow you to conserve resources by doing more with less. Most non-profits that implement good systems can dramatically increase fundraising without needing to hire new staff or invest in new technology.
It can be represented schematically.
Finally, good fundraising systems can be represented by a chart or diagram that makes action items and decision points clear and easy to understand.
Why Do Fundraising Systems Matter?
Fundraising systems matter because they allow your non-profit to raise more money with less stress, hassle, and resources. Development offices that don’t have good fundraising systems feel chaotic… and fundraisers there often struggle to keep their head above water, with the constant sense that the organization is one bad month or one missed check away from insolvency.
I call this “the fundraising treadmill” – the feeling that no matter what you did this month, come next month you will be starting from zero again, and it will be just as hectic and chaotic as ever.
Good fundraising systems allow you to get off of the treadmill by implementing a knowable, scalable system that provides the revenue your organization needs to thrive.
Types of Fundraising Systems
There are many different types of fundraising systems you can implement at your non-profit, including:
Prospecting System: A sustainable strategy for bringing in new donors year after year.
Cultivation System: A method for easily and effectively communicating with your donors and building relationships with them, even with limited time and resources.
Ask System: A winning formula for segmenting donors and making asks through meetings, phone calls, direct mail, e-mail, events, and more.
Stewardship System: A plan for systematically thanking and recognizing donors, retaining them, upgrading them, and getting them to refer new prospects to your organization.
Donor Communications System: A step-by-step method for reaching donors through newsletters, annual reports, snail mail appeal letters, and more.
Events System: A strategy for easier, hassle-free fundraising events that raise more money in less time.
Online Fundraising System: A plan for raising more money online through your website, e-mail, social media, crowdfunding, and more.
Board Engagement System: A formula for getting your board engaged in fundraising without making them nervous or resentful.
What Does a Good Fundraising System Look Like?
Perhaps the best way to understand fundraising systems is to see an example of what a good fundraising system looks like. This simple example assumes that you have tested the strategies and each of the tactics is working for your organization.
Let’s say you are a small non-profit whose board is asked to introduce their network to your development staff. Your fundraising system for board member introductions might look like this:
Of course, this is just a simplified example… your system would continue with additional actions based on the results of your asks and the responses prospects have for your meeting requests.
Every non-profit, no matter how small or large, can benefit from building scalable fundraising systems for their organization. To learn a step-by-step process for creating fundraising systems at your non-profit, check out our course The Fundraising Strategy Masterclass.
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