Preparing your organization for fundraising should be an ongoing part of an organization’s day-to-day work plan. The nonprofit, chamber, or economic development organization that says “we need to raise money this year, so we better start talking to funders” is way behind from the start. The same is true for organizations that do not have a current strategic plan. Investors want to know what they are investing in. Follow the tips below to prep your organization for a successful fundraising campaign in 2022.
Hopefully your organization has a proactive internal communications plan that includes social media, e-communications, and direct outreach to stakeholders. Leading up to a fundraising initiative, review that plan with a fundraising lens. Are you hitting on ROI, community impact, accomplishments, and touting accolades? Or are your communications just a list of activities? Be sure to state – and re-state- your organizational goals as you report on activities. Link your programs and meetings back to organizational priorities. Tell everyone how you are focused on achieving your goals!
Investor relations visits have been hard over the last two years. Companies have been focused internally on labor shortages, rapid growth, supply chain disruptions, you name it. Meeting with a nonprofit, chamber, or EDO has not been a priority. Make a renewed effort to reach out for one-on-one meetings with investors and presentations to local governments and other funding organizations. If your local council allows ‘speakers from the floor’, sign up for a 5-minute update on your goals and progress. Remind your stakeholders of your shared interests and projects. Also, the Great Resignation has created a lot of turnover. The person who had been your chief ally may have left the organization. Set up introductory briefings so you can form a relationship with the new person before soliciting for funding.
Establish a Fundraising Timeline
One common pitfall in fundraising is starting too late. If your last campaign contributions from a previous funding cycle will be billed July 1, 2022, you are already late to the dance. It takes time to update your strategic plan, solicit investor input through a feasibility study, finalize the strategic plan, and raise funds. Unfortunately, we know too many organizations who had a gap year in funding because they did not plan far enough ahead for the next fundraising campaign.
|Months 1–6||Update Strategic Plan|
|Months 7-8||Test with Investors, Feasibility Study|
|Months 8-9||Finalize Strategic Plan|
Update the Strategic Plan
Investors need to know what they are funding. Now is a good time to update (or completely overhaul if it has been 3+ years) your strategic plan. The economy and the business of economic development specifically have changed significantly over the last two years. Target sectors should be revised or validated, talent attraction strategies updated, entrepreneurship programs ramped up, BRE program reinforced and modified for pandemic conditions and priorities, etc.
Take the draft strategic plan out to investors and ask for their input. Convergent Nonprofit Solutions does this during the feasibility study. You don’t want investors in the weeds; however, you do want to find out what they are interested in funding. This is also the time to discuss success factors for your activities to create meaningful metrics (or investable outcomes, as Convergent calls them).
After receiving investor input, finalize the strategic plan. This does not mean eliminating strategies investors are not excited about but your organization believes is important. Rather, highlight strategies with the most investor interest. For example, investors may not be very excited about certifying sites, but you know it is important for new business attraction. They may be more excited about funding talent attraction. In the strategic plan, move talent attraction up in the list of goals and strategies, call attention to its importance, and assign it a significant amount of resources.
Preparing your organization for fundraising in 2022 is about being strategic. It takes time to do the advance planning that is needed to be successful in fundraising. Given the pace of current economic development activity, we know many economic developers and nonprofit leaders go from putting out one fire to another. We recommend setting aside one day as a staff retreat to focus on preparing your organization for fundraising in 2022. The investment in planning time will pay huge dividends in a successful year of fundraising.