Fund Raising Project
Your fund raising project : information handling
Running a successful fund raising project requires a wide variety of skills. When we think about the skills required for successful fund raising, we tend to think of communication skills: writing good fund raising letters , cold-calling, keeping fellow fundraisers motivated. But organizational skills are just as important. For example, if you can't keep track of the contributors to your campaign, you will miss important fundraising opportunities.
Handling information correctly is vital for the success of your fund raising project. You will almost certainly need to keep track of one or more of the following: financial information, donor information and event information.
Can software help?
For long-term and large-scale campaigns, software specifically designed for fundraisers can help greatly in terms of keeping track of contributors, creating reports and organizing contributors by demographic group. See our page on fundraising software for more information. However, you may also find that ordinary office software is enough for your needs. Do you simply need to keep a note of names and addresses? If so, any database program will allow you to do this. The truly technophobic can fall back on a regular address book from a stationery shop.
How you handle the finances of your fund raising project depends on its size. If you have registered as a non-profit organization and you are running fundraising events on a large scale, don't struggle alone. Take the advice of a professional accountant. Many professional accountants will give you an initial consultation free of charge, and the cost of professional advice is well worth it, compared to the cost of trying to chart your way through unfamiliar territory.
Keeping receipts and other documents is essential, as this is a legal necessity for registered charities and grant-funded organizations. If your organization is a public charity, you will be publicly accountable to some extent, and you will be required to keep detailed accounts. If your organization is grant-funded, you will be accountable to the body that provides the grant.
However, if your fund raising project is on a smaller scale - a sports day to raise a few hundred dollars, for example - there are fewer legal obligations, and there usually isn't any need to hire an accountant. Just make sure you keep a note of:
- what you spend
- who spends what (In a group of fundraisers, it is vital to keep track of each individual's expenditure, especially if they want to be reimbursed.)
- how much money is coming in
- from which sources the money has come in
Learning double-entry book-keeping will be a great asset to you in keeping track, but it isn't essential. However, keeping receipts and other documents is very important, even if you are not legally obliged to do this. If you forget to keep your records up to date, a paper trail will be invaluable to you as you try to piece things together after the event.
If you are doing a sponsored event, a smart move is to take the money from your sponsors before the event, although this can be more difficult if the amount raised depends on how well you do in the event - for example, if you are being sponsored per mile in a running event. It is a good idea to give people the option of sponsoring you for a fixed amount. If they choose to take that option, request the money in advance. Always write down who has pledged money, the amount they have promised and their contact details. You will usually need to ask people more than once for the money, but most people pay up without having to be asked more than three times.
You may find you need to keep track of contributors to your campaign in a more sophisticated way than just writing down names and addresses in a book. Fundraising software can help with this, but it is possible to keep track without using such technology. Even a manual file card system will help a long-running fundraising campaign. See our introduction to the legal issues in nonprofit fund raising for a discussion of the law relating to keeping contributor information.
So why do you need to keep track of contributor information? Imagine a scenario in which you call someone on your regular list of contributors. You begin your speech: "Hello, Mrs Jones. I'm calling because our pre-school education project is in desperate need of funds, and I'm asking you as one of our most valued contributors..." Then Mrs Jones reminds you that she donated a hundred dollars only last week. Not only that, but she told you then that her mother was desperately ill, and you haven't even bothered to ask after her. Your phone call makes you look ungrateful, forgetful and uncaring. You may think that you would never make a mistake like that, but when you call hundreds of people in a week and don't write down any information, you will end up making mistakes which cost you loyal contributors.
So note down how much each person has donated, and on which dates. Also make notes of what you know about them: age, number of children, hobbies and jobs, for example. On a computer database, you will be able to include brief records of your phone calls and what was discussed. On a manual file card system, you will have to be more concise. Remembering the little things about contributors is the key to making them feel valued.