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Fundraising is increasingly important for smaller charities, but how can you ensure that your organisation is seen and heard? HelsinkiMissio’s Kristiina Backberg talks about the importance for smaller charities of building partnerships to extend capacity and shares her tips for fundraising success.
Like so many other charities, we’re a relatively small nonprofit organisation with a big mission; the fight against urban poverty – loneliness and indifference. Here at HelsinkiMissio, we have an urgent need for funds, but there are many other community-based organisations who share this challenge. How can we make ourselves heard and achieve our funding goals?
We have a clear objective – to help citizens who are left alone. We know that neither Government not the city itself can solve the problem of loneliness. It is people that we need; friendships and companions for others in their time of need. Our answer has been to find volunteers that will help acheive that mission and to develop the concept of “social capital”.
We are a small nonprofit so we have to work hard to make sure our campaigns get noticed for the right reasons. This means striking a balance between getting people’s attention – encouraging them to donate, contribute and volunteer – without making them angry. There is a fine line between engaging and upsetting people and that is tested every time when we develop a powerful campaign.
Because we are small, our fundraising budget is limited. Online and social activity is important, but ultimately our work is about people. We need partners to work with and that has meant drawing in some pro bono agencies (in the fields of advertising, film production, media and a printing house). These relationships don’t grow overnight. They are long term partnerships, which are driven by a shared goal of fighting urban poverty. Our partners are genuinely motivated and inspired by the success that we can and have achieved together.
So, how can you punch above your weight in fundraising? My advice is to:
– Build relationships with partners that will really get behind your organisation’s mission and help you grow. As a small organisation with limited resources, we need partnerships that will not only deliver funds, but that can help us learn and develop. Media and fundraising are changing rapidly and it can be hard to keep up. Learning continuously is important.
– Offer supporters a range of ways to engage with the charity and to get involved with your work. We have about 90 professionals on our staff, but we rely heavily on volunteers and not just for service delivery. We are now looking at how we can give those volunteers a bigger role in fundraising and campaigning. After all, the more people we have, the more impact we can make.
– Be brave with your communications. Have the courage to deliver campaigns that break the mould and risk provoking a response. Emotional reactions are essential if you are to get through to your target group and encourage them to donate.
– Take good care of your leads. Make sure you have a process in place for converting one-off donors and others to become longer-term supporters.
– Really focus on fundraising. Many small organisations don’t prioritise investing in fundraising or allocating fundraising responsibilities to specific staff or board members. All too often, fundraising is added on to other job descriptions, where the post holder might not have any fundraising knowledge or skills. A good fundraiser is one of the best investments you could make, and will make a great return.
And don’t forget to recognise your assets and the advantages of being a smaller charity. People in the community will often feel closely connected to the cause and can see the impact of your work. Rather than being perceived as a global corporate-like machine, as is the case with some larger NGOs, your supporters are likely to have a far better understanding of what you do and how you work. This is a great asset – do what you can to build on this high level of engagement with supporters.
About Kristiina Backberg
Kristiina Backberg is Head of Communications at HelsinkiMissio in Finland. She is responsible for running the charity’s communications and fundraising campaigns, working towards the goal of fighting against urban poverty, which is mainly seen as loneliness and indifference. Founded in 1883, the charity is an expert and forerunner in co-ordinated volunteering (involving seniors, young people, families with children and people with special needs). It also provides non-cost professional help for seniors and young people. It has 90 employed professionals and over 700 active volunteers.