Knowledge Management for Better Fund Development Results
Updated: Apr 7
Fundraising is all about money. It is identifying an opportunity and orchestrating a successful delivery. If you keep the relationship between opportunity and delivery simple, it is easy to see what is important, if you want your fund development program to be successful.
Opportunities come in many forms. Most are the result of a concerted effort to make things happen. The reality of the fundraiser is not only investigating potential opportunities but retaining what they have learned.
Inspiration vs. Perspiration … effective fundraising will increase one and decrease the other. Which one has the greater impact on your fund development program… inspiration or perspiration?
It is said that those who are successful will do the things that those who are not, won’t do. Many of the activities of success are not draped in drama and glamour but rather come down to good practices and hard work.
As a Not for Profit Organization one of your most important tools, if not the most important, will be the data management tool you use to capture and manage your opportunities. To be effective and have a long-lasting impact this tool will be coupled with well-defined processes and procedures to ensure that it is used to its fullest extent.
The search for this tool can be aggravated by an unsupportive board or by the idea that the organization can get along without it … because they aren’t ready yet … or that they will build their own.
Any one of these three attitudes presents an enormous risk to an organization and the information it gathers, as its knowledge base is what it thrives on. After 16 years of working with charities, our advice is to invest in a system at start-up; one that is supported by good management and data collection methods … the same methods that a business would use to market and sell a product.
Factors that undermine the work of committed staff are found when opportunities cannot be addressed due to:
lack of time
lack of staff
lack of morale
lack of funding for programs, and
the inability to meet goals and objectives.
Little or no data management along with poor processes are major contributors to these factors.
Leadership from senior NP management is essential. Firemen do not fight fires with a shovel and a pail because it is cheap. And you cannot fundraise effectively without a good quality data management tool.
Fund development is marketing. It is telling your community who you are, what you do, the benefits you provide, and identifying how people can participate. Some charities are masters at marketing, everyone knows who they are and what they do. Others assume everyone knows who they are when in fact their exposure is minimal.
Marketing can be done on a one-to-one basis … or it can be done more effectively by passing your message along to larger groups. Marketing requires a strategy and examining options that may have been overlooked.
Fund development is engaging the public or specific audiences in the support of your charity. How you engage these groups is dependent on what you know about them and the potential for a relationship.
So where do opportunities come from? They come from examining your charity and the impact it has on your community. They come from knowing what complementary groups have accomplished in other areas. They come when you apply a creative approach to your target audience and bring forward appealing ideas.
Telling your Story
The ability to tell your story can take a great deal of time … or it can be relatively easy. The key to better use of your time starts with some documented planning and investment in setting up the initial building blocks.
Who falls into the storytelling category? Media is an obvious one, but it may extend further than just your current radio and TV stations and key newspapers. It might include community papers and journals. Your client base, if you are program driven, is another group that could use a broader perspective of what you do. Let’s look further.
There are people in your community that work as influencers for you. This might include Members of Parliament and your Legislative Assembly, or the Councilors and Mayors of the various communities you service. It might also include people who have senior positions in organizations that you need to remain close to … like a health authority. Then ... there are groups like service clubs, associations and unions whose membership could also have an interest. Corporations and major businesses that benefit from the services you provide could be another target group, particularly when they publish a newsletter and welcome submissions.
Is sourcing these groups going to be easy? … Unfortunately, a good deal will be ‘not interested’ before finding those who are. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
The key to taking a proactive approach to telling your story and keeping it in front of your target audience is to have rapid and accurate access to the right groups.
What most organizations do, is skip the use of their data management tool and store this information over several systems, often duplicated, on paper, in Word documents, or Excel sheets … lots of places where access to the information is awkward and time-consuming if it can be found at all ... and when found ... inaccurate!
Engaging the Public
You all have donors. Retaining them and developing the long-term commitment of these donors is very important. Increasing the size of annual gifts is a goal.
Relationship building takes time and needs to be strategic. Just as important is your ability to retain what you have learned so that it can be capitalized on at the appropriate time. make work light’. Service Clubs can be a source of this activity, as can unions, employee associations, and small businesses who want to help. When you are talking to groups, are you recording all the right pieces of information that will open doors for you? Better yet, are you asking the right questions while you are getting to know them better?
Relationship building takes time and needs to be strategic. Just as important is your ability to retain what you have learned so that it can be capitalized on at the appropriate time.
Researching Common Interest
Corporations and Foundations often have gifting criteria …adding descriptive keywords to your system allows you to source funding opportunities right from your own initiatives. The first time an organization is researched it is an investment. If this information is lost, and the organization needs to be researched a second or third, or fourth time … it is a cost in both time and resources and potentially the loss of valuable funding.
Not only are we interested in what they will fund, but when they accept proposals, who is the head of the community investment department, have they provided a proposal format, did we ask them for money in the past successfully or unsuccessfully? A quick profile on the organization should offer answers to all these questions. Being late or not submitting proposals could cost an organization thousands of dollars.
Board members, committee members, and volunteers; who were these people from the past? When looking at a profile it would be beneficial to know more about the commitment people have shown.
Staff turnover is a given and frequent for some organizations. Retaining organizational history and knowledge is an area that needs to be addressed in an electronic format as it impacts potential opportunities that are often hidden away in old file boxes or in the memories of past employees.
Leaving your Legacy
Leaving a legacy of well-defined opportunities should be a goal. Starting over from scratch every time a staff change occurs is neither profitable nor desirable. Solid expectations and the implementation of policies and procedures regarding information retention need to exist if an organization is to grow. Ask yourself 'What will your legacy will be?'.
The fun side of fundraising is delivery. A great opportunity has presented itself and now you move into delivery mode.
Delivery should bring about the capture of all elements of the event or activity, and how your audience participated whether it is a direct mail, a third-party event or a special event.
Take a special event for example. It has a series of elements, none of which should end up on a spreadsheet but rather all should appear your fundraising software tool.
Auction Item Donations
Silent Auction Sales
Live Auction Sales
By keeping all transactions together you can easily receipt those who get receipts, thank those who have contributed to your success, build bid sheets for the event, invoice sponsors and tickets sales. Having a list of who participated is your future list for next year's event!
All of the above activities take no more than a few minutes to complete providing the data has been recorded, giving the fundraiser and their staff more time to focus on the event and enjoy the event themselves.
Building a Knowledge Base
Selecting a database should be done based on what it will do for you today and how it will support you in the future.
@EASE has been built and designed to build a Knowledge Base for an organization. Our philosophy has been to develop a powerful tool that speaks to your strengths and gives you access to what you need when you need it.
We have designed @EASE to be easy to use so that all members of your organization can participate and help to build a successful future. Hands-off management of your most important asset does not, and will not work. We need senior management that is comfortable enough to be involved in how a knowledge system is used and populated to create and sustain a bright, productive future.