Current Oxford MBA student Deepti Pulavarthi gives her perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘Taking Your Donors and Fundraising to the Next Level’.
”For six years, I worked at a small not-for-profit organisation based out of New York City. We were a fifteen people organisation funded primarily by the U.S. Department of State and had very few individual donors. For the two years before I left, we were struggling to raise money from individual donors. After listening to Mark Rhode and Teresa Guillien, I was able understand and internalise these challenges in a structured manner. We were unable to:
Convert first time donors to regular donors
Achieve clarity on the most cost effective medium to reach out to donors (direct mail, newsletters, radio announcements etc)
Determine proper tools of impact measurement
Draft a consistent message
Taking Your Donors and Fundraising to the Next Level, Teresa Guillien
During my work at the not-for-profit, I realised the importance of having mixed revenue streams, both government and private, as most government funding came with restrictions on spending. From Mark and Teresa, I learnt the importance of structuring fundraising efforts and building a strategic timeline on how to reach out, who to reach out to, what to say, and how often to say it.
To understand the heart of a donor, it is important to identify the building blocks that engage the donor and resonate with them compelling them to donate. In order to determine how to reach out to the donors. the first step would be to determine the cost of acquisition per participant: How much would direct mail cost and what would the expected returns be? Furthermore, before reaching out to a wide spectrum of audience, it’s important to understand ‘who cares about who cares’.
Mark mentioned another consistent issue with small social enterprises that resonated with me. A charismatic individual founder on whom the organisation depends on for funding. Our founding Executive Director was that charismatic individual who had become a brand by which funders recognised our organisation for twenty five years. His exit from the organisation left us struggling to maintain credibility with funders. This only reinforced the importance of building a strategy for fundraising that would include brand recognition beyond just an individual.”