Fundraising & Development

Christine Graham of CPG Enterprises offers useful advice for nonprofit leaders:

“While most people are interested in the technical data of raising money, the longer I am in the field the more I realize that it is the “intangibles” that help you to raise money.” She encourages us to break the barriers that keep us from asking. “You have to believe that “fundraising is an OK thing to do. That good feeling and reaching out is really what makes fundraising works. It’s not what you do. It’s how you do it. It’s having a warm personal feeling about fundraising. Once you have that sense of warmth, you can make the best decisions about how to use the tools and techniques of fundraising.”

Graham advises nonprofit leaders to consider the following questions:

  • How does money get raised? What do people respond to? How does your audience differ and what do they care about?
  • Why to do people give? (You can raise more money when you ask people for it!)
  • How different different donors are and how you have to tailor your work to the people you speak with.
  • Finding and interesting donors is one of the hardest things to do in Vermont. The only the thing to work is to talk with people and find out who your likeliest are supporters.
  • Every fundraiser should become a philanthropists in order to understand why and how people give. If you want people to give, you have to become a giver too.
  • Your attitudes affect your work–it makes a difference. Try to feel positive, upbeat and full of expectation.

“Fundraising and development are partnerships with your donors. It’s a way of making the community a better place. That good feeling and reaching out is really what makes fundraising works.”

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, there are many moving parts to successful nonprofit fundraising and development. The work starts with a development plan which has the support of board and key staff members including the Executive Director and, if the organization can afford it, development staff and/ or consultants.

The development plan helps the organization to target its audience(s) and craft a case for support, which forms the core of any appeal. Plus, the plan identifies the capacity (staff, volunteers, database, resources, budget) of the organization to raise funds from multiple sources including: annual giving, special events, major donors, grants, capital campaigns, endowments and online giving.

The Fundraising Pyramid is the foundation of a concrete plan that leads to more loyalty and larger gifts. The purpose of the plan is to move people to their “maximum capacity and commitment”. This development process takes years. The future of your organization is at the bottom of your pyramid. But you cannot continue today without the top level of donors (8-12 of your donors give you 60% of your money). The bottom, “grassroots” level will give you 10-15% of your money for 30-50% of your donors. The middle category, “the transition people“, are generally moving up a level (and sometimes if you have lapsed, they’ve move down from the top). These donors account for 30-40% of your fundraising income.

A cycle of stewardship involves the following, repeating steps for cultivating relationships and encouraging maximum giving:

1. Welcome: Identify and Re-Identify Your Donors
2. Educate: Cultivate and Inform them
3. ASK
4. Thank and Steward

Your development plan interacts with your organization’s strategic planning, business plan and marketing plan. Successful fundraising and development is a combination of an open heart, imagination, tested tools and practical techniques.

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About Christine P. Graham

Christine Graham is a specialist in Nonprofit Management and Fundraising.  She has worked in the nonprofit sector since 1969 as staff and consultant to organizations of all sizes and in all fields, with a concentration in Northern New England organizations and a programmatic specialization in fundraising.  She was the founder of the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont and its first director, and established several academic and revenue-generating programs at Bennington College as Director of Special Projects prior to serving there as Director of Development.  She served  as Consulting Director of Resource Development at the Vermont Institute for Science, Math and Technology (now Vermont Institutes) during its first five years of operation.