Nigel Harris & Associates


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Why are you Raising Funds?

It’s a simple question. With an obvious answer. Or is it?

Fundraising serves mission, or to put it another way, your purpose. Your organisation’s reason for existing.
And fundraising serves philanthropy. It provides the action that enables the aspiration to serve others. With and through your organisation and its purpose.

So, does your fundraising approach address the needs you serve or the needs you have? If

If you are

  • going to market as and when you need money.
  • talking about yourself and your organisation’s achievements.
  • measuring money, especially in a short timeframe such as monthly or even annually.
  • budgeting based on what you want rather than what you can raise.
  • conducting fundraising programs as a series of unrelated activities.
  • communicating with your supporters only when you want something.
  • asking more than thanking, informing, and engaging.
  • talking more than listening.
  • finding for reason for fundraising is not anchored in an understanding of philanthropy.

there is a strong chance that you are fundraising for your needs, rather than to serve a purpose.

So, what might you do?

Focus on those you serve and those who you support, rather than you and your organisation. That may mean a subtle shift or a sharp change of direction.

Start with the impact you are seeking to create and the outcomes that enable the impact. That will provide a clear focus on the purpose you are serving and those who benefit. This also provides clarity around what is needed. 

Determine what resources you need and in what form, over what time. This leads to a clear conversation about the way in which the support that is given makes a difference to the purpose being served. It addresses scale, time, and questions of efficacy. It also addresses your case for support – how you articulate your proposition to those who do or may support the purpose you serve. This frames your choices around fundraising programs, audience, communication, and resourcing as well as your expectations around processes and outcomes.

Consider your market as the key point of reference in framing your mission and its relevance, considering your fundraising business model, and any expectations you have around your margins.

Understanding the why, as well as the what and the how of fundraising is critical. This often means pushing past what may be held as obvious or self-evident. This will be the perceptions that are shaped by the experiences we have over time, and which forge our understanding of what we think fundraising is and how we go about it. 

Think deeply about the aspirations and experiences of those who give – time, voice, money, and other gifts that serve purpose. To consider why they would engage with you and your organisation to serve a purpose that they believe is important to them. It also challenges us to think about the way in which those who benefit through the purpose that is served are engaged and represented in the fundraising process.

The ‘why’ question also leads to the construct of a cogent and connected business model for fundraising.

One that is

  • informed by a clear understanding of why and how people give and what purpose is being served.
  • geared to meet the timeframes of the purpose being served, which will in most cases be long term.
  • shaped by organisational strategy, framed by a philanthropic culture, and that can be effectively implemented and executed.
  • informed by an informed, tested and evidence-based understanding of fundraising programs and processes.
  • resourced in a manner and at a level commensurate with the expectations identified.
  • supported by processes, measurement and reporting that considers a strategic context and the connection and continuum of the work being undertaken.

Addressing the ‘why’ question is key to your fundraising effort. It is a question that needs to be asked and answered on several levels. It is a question that needs to be addressed with clarity and urgency.

So, tell me again, why are you raising funds? 

Nigel Harris AM