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The Best Non-Profit Intel

Part 1: Starting your Fundraising Campaign

Has your charity reached a new phase where you need a little boost to take your fundraising to the next level? The first time you venture into a fundraising campaign can be daunting and many not-for-profits aren’t sure where to start. Most expert fundraisers will suggest you break down the campaign into two parts – one to quietly raise funds from larger donors and the second when you announce your campaign and look for public donations.

This image displays a start graphic and portrays relevance to branding and strategy for non-profit fundraising campaigns

During the first phase, the fundraising campaign is not made public and the focus is on corporate donors, government, and large personal donations. The goal is to raise between 50-70% of the required funds that will demonstrate your campaign already has considerable support when you do go public.

Why not go public right away?

The reality is that people want to bet on winners and if your campaign seems out of reach, donors will be less willing to support it. Successful fundraising campaigns create a sense of urgency with realistic, reachable goals. To create a sense of urgency, keep the campaign short – set an end-date that is front and center. Use the money you raised prior to going public to show you are close to your goal so that donors feel the goal can be reached and feel you are almost at the finish line. Your public donors will only account for about 20 percent of your overall campaign goal so it’s important to show how close you are to reaching 100 percent.

After the public phase is launched, you should still be approaching larger donors – it’s a great time to suggest matching donations. Matching donations can be an excellent way to encourage the public to donate and make the large donor feel their contribution made an even bigger impact.

Now you are ready to start thinking about your plan.

What to Consider Before Developing Messaging:

Now you’ve got your basic campaign outline – what’s next? It is important to review and evaluate before starting any new campaign – even if it’s your first campaign. Before developing messaging your first phase, consider the following:

  • Do you regularly prepare a yearly marketing/communications strategy?
  • Do you maintain an existing donor list? How big is it? How long have the donors been on the list? What is their typical donation? Why do they donate? Do you gain and lose donors? Do you consistently engage your donors? How? What information do they find most useful?
  • What marketing and communications do you presently do? How do you plan for it? Is it consistent and tied into a plan? Do you evaluate messaging? Have you adapted messaging to achieve a goal? How do you measure the effectiveness of your marketing and communications? Have you tested any messages? What has this information told you?
  • Do you prepare a content calendar for social media? Per year or per month? What is the goal of your content calendar? Are the messages pre-approved? Who does the social media? Is it tied to an overall marketing/communications plan? Do you monitor for comments and questions? Do you consistently respond to comments and questions?

Once you’ve answered all of the above questions, take a look and see what the answers tell you. Understanding how and where you can improve your overall marketing/communications is an important first step in creating any new plan. If you’ve never done a plan before and have no information about your possible donors, the first step is to start researching and collecting data on who your ideal donor is so that you can tailor your messages to the right people.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of this four-part article by Allison Hawkins about fundraising campaigns. In Part 2 she will explain the ideal messaging strategy in detail.