Is your charity an endangered species?

publication date: Jun 10, 2013
author/source: Leanne Hitchcock

Excellence in Fundraising in Canada authors Hala Bissada, Sharilyn Hale, Mike Johnston and Ken Wyman Leannerecently spoke as part of a breakfast panel, highlighting aspects of their work in the book.  Organized by Paul Bubelis of the Sustainability Network, the event was moderated by Ken Wyman, consultant and Humber College professor. Ken is currently on sabbatical from Humber and is doing research on the nonprofit sector.  The following article is a brief excerpt of Ken’s presentation on what your charity needs to do to successfully fundraise.

More than 1,000 charities close in Canada every year.  To ensure that yours isn’t one of them:  create a plan.

Keep your goals realistic and assess whether your strategies are working.  Ken outlines some key steps in this process:

1)      Diversify your income. If you get more than 50% of your income from one source, it’s time to panic.  Make sure that your donations come from a variety of sources, and don’t rely too heavily on any one stream.

2)      Build your budget using activity-based costing.  Calculate project costs to include everything; including operating costs.  Restaurants don’t charge for pizza and ask for donations to cover the cost of rent, linen, cleaning services etc.!  Neither should your charity.

3)      Plan for the long-term. Don’t base your fundraising goals solely on the income from an event or one campaign.  In order to ensure long-term success:

a)      Thank your donors warmly and quickly.  Ideally, this should be done within 48 hours because when you do this, stats show their chances of giving again almost double!  However, make it personal - don’t send automated email thank you responses.

b)      Tell how the gift changed one person’s life – make them want to give again.  By personalizing the impact of a gift, the chance of future gifts rises exponentially.  Conversely, the more generic your story, chances of future gifts fall dramatically. 

c)       Ask them to give again.  Set a goal of 1/3 becoming monthly donors.  Constantly build the donor pyramid.

4)      You can’t afford not to have a major gifts plan. Spend 80% of your time on the 20% who give. 74% of Canadians give just $206/year to all charities combined.   Look at these key stats: Who gave you the single largest gift? Who gave you your largest cumulative gift? Who has supported you for the longest?

5)      Plan to focus on people known to be generous.  Characteristics of generous donors tend to be those who are: 

a)      Older

b)      Religious

c)       Those with higher education give triple the amount to charity than others

d)      Women

e)      Professional – who are the most generous? Accountants give more than triple the national average.  Farmers – the second most generous profession.  Doctors.  Lawyers.  Dentists.

f)       Already giving – look at donor walls, charity websites, thank you lists, annual reports of other charities etc.  These people have already made substantial gifts and are likely to be charity-minded.

 Most importantly while you are doing all this: make a plan to change the world!

As Publisher for Civil Sector Press, a division of The Hilborn Group, Leanne Hitchcock manages all aspects of the bookroom and leads our book publishing division. Contact her at .


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