How to fundraise from your network?
Updated: Jun 22
It is not uncommon for programme leaders operating in the charity or voluntary sector to find themselves in a situation where they need to raise money to bring their projects or vision to life.
You might be, for example, a community leader, an artist, or a missionary with a brilliant idea that you believe will make a difference in the world.
However, to bring your vision into reality, you need to raise funds to finance your work.
The first place you will likely look is to grantmakers, corporate sponsors, or fundraising events. While all these are good avenues to consider, the simple truth is that you will raise more funds quicker when you approach your existing network.
I joined Katie Beardsworth from Polyphony Arts last month to discuss this subject in depth. If you prefer to learn through audio or video you can watch our full discussion here:
Over the years, I have trained many people whose primary job is not fundraising on how to raise money from their network.
What I have discovered is by addressing people’s fundraising Preference, the Process they follow, and what Platform they will utilise, they have greater success in raising money from their network.
In the first of three blog posts, we will look at each of these three Ps, starting today with:
You do not have to be a professional fundraiser to know that people give to people.
In fundraising, the adage is absolutely true; it is not what you know; it is who you know that counts.
Despite this, many I speak to will not, or certainly will avoid as far as possible, fundraise from their network.
Yet, all the evidence and experience shows that you are far more likely to support someone who you already have an existing relationship with than a stranger.
It is for this reason that peer to peer fundraising (e.g. sponsoring someone to do a 10k run) is so successful. You ask the average person in the street when was the last time they gave to charity, and most will say it was sponsoring a friend/family member/co-worker to complete a fundraising challenge. Not to overemphasise the point, but ask that same person which charity the money went to, and most could not give you the specific charity name and some will not even be able to tell you the type of cause.
The importance of fundraising from your network can also be seen when we analyse who makes the best fundraising prospect for a project or charity. All the research indicates that your best prospects will have:
Affinity to your cause - they will share your beliefs on what the challenges or opportunities are in society, and how to address them. Given we tend to mix with people who share our beliefs and values, it is likely that those in your network will most likely have a natural affinity to your work.
Access to the person who can decide to make the donation - you need to be able to directly speak to the person who can choose to make the gift. The reality is while Richard Branson might be interested in my work, the chances are I will never be in a position to ring his mobile and have him give me 20 minutes to share a project I need to raise funds. Stick to your network, and you will find it easier to have the conversations you need.
The Ability to support you - as part of your fundraising, you need to assess who has the funds to support your project and what is the most appropriate amount to ask them to give. When making this judgement, you want to be considering factors like disposable income, lifestyle, and how charitable they are. All of these assessments are easier to make when it is someone you already know.
Yet for most people, the mere thought of asking someone they know for support fills them with dread. The result being, many will put immense effort trying to galvanise the support of strangers rather than contacting those they already know. Ironically, a lot of this effort will be given to building a relationship with these strangers in order to ask them for money then.
We need to overcome this mental hurdle. It may well feel more comfortable asking a stranger for support. However, we know deep down that it is not as effective to fundraise this way.
My best advice for overcoming this fear is to spend some time looking at the situation from the supporters perspective.
If a friend had a charitable project that they were passionate about, would I want to help them bring this into fruition?
Am I more likely to donate to a complete stranger or someone I already know and trust?
Would I be offended if someone I know and trust shared a charitable project with me and asked if I would like to get involved?
As humans, we tend to want the people we know to thrive and succeed in their endeavours. We also get immense satisfaction from helping others achieve their goals. Looking at it from the donors perspective, it is good to try and mobilise your network to achieve common goals.
So please, next time you need to fundraise for a project, alongside all your usual methods for fundraising, do also consider how you can engage your network and ask for their help in raising the funds you need.
Next time, we will look at the process to follow when fundraising from your network.