The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising by Larry C Johnson

Boring book cover but fabulous content. Let me run you through the authors suggestions:

 1.       Donors are the drivers. This means seeing things through the donor’s eyes not the transaction-based project-driven manner so common amongst not-for-profit organisations.

2.       Begin at the beginning. In other words spend time clarifying exactly what it is your organisation wants to achieve, and identify how that fits with the personal values of the donors. Alignment brings multiple rewards in terms of money and involvement.

3.       Leadership Leads. The author focusses here on the role of the Board. They are there to Advocate, Set policy, and to lead by example. Period.

4.       Learn & Plan. Obvious really, but you need to have a coherent and easy-to-understand plan that identifies donors,  finds out their reason for giving, and then develops a relevant means to collect the money.

5.       Work from the Inside Out. This means staff and volunteers, following the example set by the Board are regularly and explicitly asked to contribute. This changes the culture.

6.       Divide & Grow.  New donors need to be attracted; existing donors need to move up the ranks; Major donors need to be shown how to donate from their assets, and finally a bespoke face-to-face programme needs to be in place to organise bequests.

7.       Renew & Refresh. Check out the first time donor refresh rate and check how close you are to capacity. Shift with the times (move with the cheese) and keep your activities up to date.

8.       Invest, Integrate, and Evaluate. Measure and adapt. You need to be doing the right things for each donor and doing them consistently.

The highlight for me was principle No 1. See it from the donor’s perspective but more importantly realise that this is not legalised begging but a fair exchange of a deeply profound transaction.

The not-for-profit offers the donor the opportunity to be part of something that reflects the values in their life. Get the alignment right and you can turn fundraising from an angst ridden obligation, to an opportunity of a lifetime. Remember donors want to be acknowledged, and sometimes recognised; they want to know that their money has been spent where they expected it to be spent; and they want to know what difference it has made. In other words keep in touch and pay attention to the detail.

I know he is right because I have witnessed a US$46,000 p.a. pledge be withdrawn for lack of courtesy; I have seen a US$10,000 p.a. offer being turned down because the foundation was not ready to accept the gift it had been soliciting; and I have seen a nil response converted to a US$500,000+ offer then reduced back to zero for lack of proper governance.

Anyone involved in the charitable sector should get a copy of the book, issue it to everyone on the Board and work through the hard hitting questions at the end of each chapter.

You might not like the process but your organisation will love the impact that will inevitably follow.