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  • Writer's pictureStuart Chell

How to fundraise from your network (2): Process

Back in May, I had the opportunity to speak with Katie Beardsworth from Polyphony Arts about approaching your existing network for funds.

When we start thinking about fundraising, our minds instantly focus on the activities that we will utilise. Should we write grant applications, approach corporate sponsors, or put on a fundraising event? However, a more fruitful starting point is to think about what relationships we already have in place. The reality is that people ultimately give to people. If you start by assessing your relationships, it will quickly become clear which fundraising activities will be most fruitful in your unique situation.

You can watch our full discussion here:

I have spent many years training fundraisers and people whose primary job is not fundraising, and have found that the greatest success in raising money from your network comes from addressing the Three Ps: Preference, Process, and Platform.

You can read about the influence of people’s fundraising Preference in the first of this blog series here.

Today we will look at the second P:


While online giving platforms like Patreon, online tip jars, and other online fundraising websites are fantastic, we cannot be passive and rely on these tools to do all the work for us by simply posting a link on social media. Far too many expect the website to do the fundraising for them.

To make the most of these online tools, you need to be proactively engaging with people about your fundraising campaign and directing them to the platform to get involved.

Identifying and getting in touch with people you think might be interested in financially supporting your work is key. You will not know if someone can or will give until you ask, so do not say people’s ‘no’ for them!

Many people I speak to are daunted by what I call ‘blank paper syndrome’. This is the effect of having the goal of asking people you know for money but with no step-by-step plan, often resulting in not having these conversations at all.

By making fundraising from your network a methodical process, you can overcome some of the anxiety and passivity you may otherwise fall into.

Step 1: Make a List.

This should be a list of everyone you are in contact with - your family, friends, former colleagues, past organisational partners, and people who have engaged in any way with your project in the past. Try to get as many names down as possible, we will come to the filtering in the next step.

Step 2: Assess.

In my last post, I explained about Affinity (sharing your beliefs in the cause), Access (can you directly speak to the person who can make the donation?) and Ability (do they have the funds to support your project?) Assessing everyone on your list using these three measures will show you who to contact as part of your fundraising.

I suggest scoring every individual from 1 to 3 for each measure. For example, when assessing your Nan, you might give her a 2 for Affinity (she is interested in what you do), 3 for Access (you can phone her directly and she would love to hear from you), and 2 for Ability (she might be able to give £20 a month but not £100).

Multiply the three scores together. Everyone who scores 20 or above on this scale is a good prospect and should make it to your final list of people to contact.

Step 3: Reach Out.

Separate your list into manageable chunks, perhaps a goal of contacting 3 people each week.

All the research shows that the more direct the contact, the better the result. As humans, we tend to want to be passive when asking for money; an email or a message on social media feels more comfortable to us. But the way to see the most success in fundraising from your network is to reach out as directly as possible and have a two-way conversation.

Phone people, or meet in person (where circumstances allow). A two-way conversation allows you to calibrate what you are saying as the discussion progresses, based on two main factors:

  • their interest - while you will probably love every part of your project, not everyone you speak to will be interested in the same things. For example, in a community arts project, some people will be interested in the quality of the art, others in how you are providing access to the arts and some in how the project will bring the community together. A conversation allows you to expand on the parts of the project which will be most persuasive to each individual.

  • their financial circumstance - asking (with genuine interest and where appropriate) about someone’s family, hobbies and work will often provide subtle clues for what might be an appropriate donation to ask for, or even if it would be more sensitive to ask for a different kind of support. If someone is in a full-time job, with no dependent children, and going to the theatre every week, they likely have more disposable income than someone who is on a zero-hours contract and has three children to support. Having a direct conversation allows you to pick up on these clues and be sensitive to what they can give in a way that a blanket email cannot.

Remember that the people you know are more than likely interested in what you are passionate about. Think of these conversations as an opportunity to share your excitement and invite them to be part of it.

Next time, we will look at the Platforms to use when fundraising from your network.


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