The biggest and most common mistake made by fundraising organizations is to go into a fundraiser without a solid strategy. Simply saying, "let's sell candy to raise money this year," placing an order and handing out boxes of sweets won't get you good results. There's a lot more to it, and a lot more than has to go on behind the scenes to make it as successful as possible.
If you work at a big corporation, you know very well about meetings and committees, and probably hear lots of complaints about them. And sure, many of them seem unnecessary and boring, but consider one thing: Some of the most successful and profitable companies in the world got that way because their staffs spend so much time involved in those committee meetings.
To be sure, there are meetings that are unproductive and serve no purpose, but then again, there are those that drive the direction of the organization, regardless of what kind of organization it is. This is where the strategy gets decided.
The Right Group for a Strategy Meeting
One reason that strategy meetings fail is that they have too many people in them. There's really no need to open up these meetings to every single person that is involved with the group.
Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that because they are a charitable or benevolent group, they must allow every single person in the group to participate in the group's direction. That's simply not true, and is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, invite everybody with an interest to provide input in the form of suggestions to committee members. Then, create a committee made up of a smaller subset of the larger group.
If your group has a hundred members, and you have a hundred people at a strategy meeting, then you have virtually no chance at all of getting anything done. Elected officials, one or two of your most active volunteers, and maybe a staff member or two is all you need for success.
Outline Your Tasks and Milestones
Your goal may be to raise money, but that is only your primary goal. That goal is actually made up of several smaller goals, or milestones, that will be accomplished along the way. And for your fundraiser, or any activity for that matter, to be successful, a larger task must be divided into smaller ones.
Create a timeline. Okay, you need a thousand dollars by June, but that doesn't mean you have only one item on your timeline. Circle your date on June 1st, but don't stop there. If you have three months before that date, stop to consider all the different tasks that have to be done before then.
Your fundraiser is made up of several small tasks: You have to order products, distribute them, re-order when you run low, get volunteers to sell, and create publicity.
There are dozens of other tasks as well that you will lay out in your strategy meeting. Create a timeline that shows each one. In addition to the timeline, create a financial timeline. If you need a thousand dollars by June 1st, and you have three months to do it, then break it down into weekly goals.
Taking in a profit of $77 a week for the three month campaign will meet your goal. Factor in expenses, and for example, say you figure you will get a 50 percent profit. That means you must sell $144 a week in products.
If you have ten solid volunteers who are selling them, then they need only sell about $15 a week each. When you break it down like that, it seems a lot more reachable.
Take those timelines and milestones and transform them into easily readable charts, and post them where everybody can see them. As each milestone is reached, check it off. Small rewards and recognitions along the way will also help to retain the excitement and momentum of the project, and keep everybody interested.
Planning for the future is also a big part of strategy. Keep careful records so that after the fundraiser is over, you can go back and see in black and white how successful it was.
You can then use that information in your next strategy meeting to determine the nature of the next fundraiser.