How to overcome your fundraising obstacles

How many of you reading this feel that your fundraising challenges are completely unique, your board is unusually difficult, and there are impossible obstacles to overcome to become more sustainable?

It wouldn’t surprise me if most people raised their hand at that.

However, over four years’ working at the FSI, I’ve seen the same problems come up again and again, and I want to share the things we’ve seen work really well to overcome them. This blog is a summary of my talk at the FSI’s Fundraising Conference in June 2019 and draws on conversations with dozens of learners on the FSI’s Fundraising Qualifications – small charity staff going through the same things as you.

What are the main obstacles in our way?

  1. Getting buy-in from senior leadership and the board – this comes up again and again – fundraising needs to be endorsed and supported by the whole organisation to be successful.
  2. FEAR! Of being different, of a departure from the status quo, maybe due to a lack of trust in the person making changes… And change brings a new set of possibilities and problems which people may fear.
  3. Setting unrealistic expectations – especially when set from above without reasonable discussion of the realities of the situation.
  4. The first thing you try doesn’t work – it can be demoralising to get buy-in for an idea, and then it doesn’t raise the amount you initially had hoped.

How can you overcome these?

  1. Build on your strengths, and look at what other charities have done and see what worked for them. Starting to build fundraising based on existing programmes and areas where you’ve had previous success or know you can get some quick wins will start to secure buy-in. And if Trustees can see that it is possible for others, they are more likely to buy-in to the possibilities for you.
  2. Set SMART goals and have a clear plan – this will give confidence that there is an achievable plan in place, you can see the intermediate and achievable steps, and it especially helps trustees to buy in to investing in fundraising
  3. Think really hard about the resources you need in order to reach targets – if your target is increasing by 50%, do you need 50% more resource? That might be your time freed up from other tasks, additional volunteer support, or help from colleagues or trustees.
  4. Use it, don’t lose it – there will inevitably be lots of ‘no’s along your fundraising journey. However, it’s very rarely completely wasted effort. Keep a regular progress check on how you’re doing against target (we suggest monthly), so you’re never surprised at the end of the year that a whole income stream hasn’t worked out. Keep refining and learning from failure, and know when to redirect your energy and resources to another area that is perhaps performing better.

Find out more about how approaching fundraising with a strategy can make all the difference at FSI training courses and webinars, or bring us in to work with you to develop a Strategy through our consultancy.

Amber Shotton is Head of Compliance and Accredited Learning at the FSI.