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Home / Stories from the field

A Fundraising Primer

2004-03-03 16:28:58

Fundraising - the most demanding work!

One can say it is the easiest part of running an NGO! Well, it is not! It takes time, knowledge, connections and moreover patience.

It does not happen like a miracle. It demands patience and persistence to get the donor's attention.

I have to notify you that fundraising is not easy for anyone's organization, that runs different activities like advocacy, human rights, women's issues, etc., but it is durable for organizations like ours dealing with information technologies. Information technology is a new area even for large donors that operate for long time; most of the funding organizations prefer to see in an organization's activities and budget something that they are familiar with.

Other issue that is very interesting is looking for financial support on regional level. You have to be very prepared for this, because you are going to face a massive obstruction. Donors prefer to support local and small cost organization, instead of huge, highly rated and difficult for management organization consist of four or five or even more countries. According to some of them they choose to do so, for the reason that they could fund ten more little organizations and get wider advertise and results, instead of funding one that could contribute much more for their recognition. Other say it is easy to track the results and the desired outcome of the project is easily achieved. Consequently they are not conducive to risks as the for profit organizations and companies are.

Nowadays is very difficult to fundraise money for issues like minorities and human rights too, since most of the donors are based in countries that are either part of EU or are not willing to fund organizations that are based in EU member's country. That is why, for instance it is trouble-free for one organization to apply if it is in a precession country or already a member to one of the many EU programs for development. We had this problem with our own organization, we are based in Bulgaria, but we have Hungarian, Czech and Slovak eRiders, and some of the donors said "we would like to work more in Bulgaria and Romania instead in Hungary". And of course vise versa.

Be prepared for the fact that there is difference between fundraising for an NGO that has priorities in human rights, than an NGO looking for funding whose major aims is information technology; even though that the funders are now very much interested in technology you have to prepare a very good proposal listing your previous outcomes (if any) with specific numbers and figures, that describes them. As well as the beneficiary of this project, it is very important the way you will present to the donor that your target group needs what you can propose and why exactly you. It is also good to have a good contact within the funding organization (if any) that can lobby for you and your project. Anyway you have to explain to the donor on a very simple language what is technology, what you can use it for, why and when. Do not use specific terminology that can confuse the regular person, which as normally will decline the project if does not understand it.

There are several steps, which need to be undertaken before one decides to fundraise money for a project. You would need a registered organization, according the existing legislation in the country; you would also need to have a clear idea what you are going to do, which is your target group, who will achieve the desired goals, are your goals measurable and sustainable, the outcomes have to be realistic.

And above all you have to perceive the support of all your stakeholders, team members, members of your Board of governance and grassroots.

Next on the agenda is the preparation of a list of appropriate donors. Donors, who's funding strategy fits your basic goals, it is meaningless to contact a donor or funding organization, which clearly states that they are not supporting activities like yours.

Whenever, you are ready with the list, however you would need to figure out an internal person; closest to the person you want to reach. Usually these are assistants or deputies of the senior managers or coordinators of the huge funding pyramid. The other way around is connecting the right person.

Ways to make the connection: first of all you could to do it by writing an e-mail, containing basic and well written message of your financial need. You would need to include information like your basic mission, values, importance and uniqueness. Use a simple, but strong language, that does not provoke negative reactions, but interest, concern and trust.

The second way of connecting the donor is via phone call. In most cases the receptionist knows well enough to whom she has to connect you, however you have to be polite enough not to incite unhelpful attitude from her/him. You have to incorporate all your charm, efforts, and patience into this call. After you have the person's attention, you have to provide him in short time with the most adequate and precise information.

The third way of connecting a donor is the personal meeting. You have to be prepared for a lot of questions; they could be defensive and attacking at the same time. Also you have to prepare yourself with written materials, like brochures, summary of your proposal, short reports on your activities, even a recommendation. Most of all do not forget your business card; this one is the most important thing for an outrageous result.

Also be awake that donors can make you sweat. When you meet them they ask questions such as do not think the costs you have pointed out in your budget are not too high, and why do you think they need this kind of service and not something else. I would like to tell you that it is hard to say to donor, in case that you need this money, what you think is worthy, and not what the donors thinks it is commendable. However, I urge to do so because this is the way to state and set up you and your target group as top priority for donors.

I would like to tell you that out there are different donors: embassies, EU programs, UN programs, corporative foundations, private foundations, governments. All of them have different format of initial inquiry for funding, different deadlines, different grant amounts and etc., however you have a very strong tool in your hands the INTERNET - most of them have placed information for their grant programs there, as well as deadlines, way of initial approach, everything.

Tips for technology fundraising:

1) Plan Don't Project - do not do the work for a funders. Remember to involve your stakeholders to come up with a long term plan and not just proposals.

2) It is not what you know but who you know - engage everyone you know in the fundraising effort. Send letters out to supporters letting them know you are looking for help.

3) Spread the Work Around - get the whole team involved in the process.

4) Be Creative - this is not just about grants. Think about partnerships, revenue generation.

5) It's the work Stupid! - what really makes all projects worthwhile is not how good you fundraise but the quality of you work on the ground and the impact that has on the people you are trying to help. When the fundraising becomes too much go back to work.

These are some interesting websites worthy to visit:

a.. www.fce.bg
b.. www.fundersonline.org
c.. www.hrfunders.org
d.. www.foundationcenter.org
e.. www.ceetrust.org
f.. www.soros.org

These are a few advices, which I have endeavored. So now you are a bit prepared, go ahead and conquer them!

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