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Fundraising: It’s mainly about one’s connection to humanity!

Thanks Rituu, for providing the opportunity to share my thoughts on this important topic....Fundraising.

I am from the eastern part of India and having lived in different metropolitan cities of the region. In my career span, I have worked primarily with organisations such as Greenpeace, ActionAid and Oxfam. Currently, I am associated with Netherlands Leprosy Relief. My career has mainly centered around fundraising with corporate sectors, donor agencies, institutional donors, individual donors and high-value donors. I want to share my experience about fundraising.

 My career path has been very interesting and adventurous. I have had worked for the organisations where protests and campaigns were the part of daily life, and once I had a narrow escape being arrested. My most proud moment in my professional life was when I raised 600 USD on the second day of my new job!

 Key lessons learned in fundraising - what helps?

  • The orgnisation should provide ample time to fundraise especially when the responsible person is new to the job or when the organization is new to fundraising as it takes time to cultivate trust of donors. And there is no loss, you give time and know budget and see how much effort is viable to  spend on fundraising.
  • To acquire a donor follow up with donors is essential. After acquisition of individual donors/ Micro Small or Medium Enterprises (where, donation amount could anything less than 10000 USD) We usually approach existing  donors after 90 days or in time he/she has specified.
  • Those who fundraise should have deep understanding and orientation of the issue/product they are trying to raise funds for. Therefore working closely with programme team helps one not only understand the issue but also keeps one updated on the developments that take place.
  • It is not only important to know your product also know who will donate for your product. In India most individual donors have a soft heart for girl child education, health. Not many would like to donate for environment.
  • Not only regions or states, even amongst cities, donors think differently. In Mumbai, donors like to spend earnings on share market and out of this profit like to donate. In Chandigarh people like to donate but are not connected with issues across the country. One has to keep local culture of the city in mind like in Mumbai one take off shoes before entering some offices.
  • How you share about the product can be key in getting the donor on board. In one of my jobs, I would meet the employees from corporate sector in the company cafeteria where they came to have their meals and tea. Once I was trying to get permission of the lady in-charge  for sharing  about the work of my organization on the issue of environment in the company café. She remarked that environment could not help her colleagues. She refused to listen to me.  Finally, I told her that environment is of concern to everyone even her little son. The milk consumed at home can be contaminated. This finally did the trick. Therefore I have realized that one needs to develop interface or link with the donor ‘everything is linked with our personal life’.
  • For an individual donor it does not matter that you are from which NGO. If you are honest and know your work you will be successful. Emotional quotient works in development sector.
  • In one of my jobs I worked with communities. The community experience helped me tremendously in my fundraising efforts. For instance in Marathwada (draught-prone area in Maharashtra)  I met a lady and her husband who did not have food to eat but wanted her  Daughter to become a Doctor. Then in MP (Madhya Pradesh) in health sector I came across woes of travel and access to hospitals and medical services. I was also personally motivated by my work with communities and explained the issues very passionately to donors.  When I shared such stories it touched hearts of many people. Donors realize you are not a typical sales person but who understands the sector and is emotionally connected to the issues.
  • Donors need correct and regular information about the issue or the project at right the right time. Bureaucracy in organization and delay in information flow can hamper relations with the donor. Information also has to be provided as per needs of the donor- through virtual platforms like Facebook, website etc for younger donors whereas senior citizens want printed reports. All donors want how the money was spent which may not be possible in the case of individual donors but regular reports and updates build credibility. 
  • Also to provide varied information one needs to work hand-in-hand with communication, programme and finance teams of the organization.
  • Another most important trait of a good fundraiser is his or her ability to deal with negativity as only 2 to 5  percent of the leads turn into success.  One should have capacity to talk to the hundredth person with same energy and strength.
  • Tax benefits on donations can particularly interest high value donors
  • Donors like to give to communities and NGOs which work directly with communities and have lesser number of mediators are more like get funding.

One challenge I face is that NGOs cannot receive cash donations. They need money transfer through the bank and often people do not want to donate through banks and even more hesitant to share bank details. Rather than one time donations, I encourage individual donors to give fixed monthly donations which are automatically deducted the bank and are not a monthly hassle for the donor.

For me the foremost challenge was a personal one. I had to convince myself that if fundraising is begging and it took me six months of thinking and reflection. Now after 11 years of experience I can say that there is a huge difference between begging and fundraising. We must realize we can’t leave everything for government to take on. People too have begun to get that and this has helped in fundraising.

Fundraising is not plain sailing but I enjoy it because I meet a variety of people and get to learn a lot in the process.

Wish you all Happy “Fun-Raising” & please feel free to contact me.


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