I’ve worked with hundreds of charities on their Individual Giving activities, and one of the things that has surprised me over the years is that many (including very large charities) don’t have an Individual Giving strategy.
There are a number of reasons why this might be the case – for example, the organisation may think it has one, when it actually doesn’t!
An Individual Giving strategy is not a quick calendar of activities you plan to do in the year. It’s a roadmap for the Individual Giving programme over the short and medium term, running from first principles (Why are we doing IG? What are our strategic aims as an organisation? What are our aims for IG in the light of this?) down to the detail of how you will execute each activity (including timings, costs and plans for testing).
It enables the organisation – and its fundraisers – to think in a holistic way about IG and how it integrates with the organisation’s other communications with individuals (from campaigning to volunteering).
So, why don’t many charities have one of these Individual Giving strategies? In my experience, the main reason is that certain people within the organisation don’t think one is necessary, or at the very least don’t think it’s worth the investment in time and money to develop one.
Here are 6 reasons why building an Individual Giving strategy can be very much worth the investment:
1. It ensures your fundraising is travelling in the same direction as your organisation – your organisation’s strategic aims should run down every branch of its work like a ‘golden thread’ – and this includes your Individual Giving programme. Otherwise, how can you possibly know whether each part of your organisation is working towards the same overall goals?
2. It enables you to see the big picture – it helps you to stand back from the rush and detail of your day-to-day role and see what your overall priorities are, as well as find the most effective ways to address each of these priorities within the budget you have available. It also helps you articulate your thinking to other people in your organisation in a convincing, lucid way – something we all regularly need to do as fundraisers – whether its to our trustees or teams.
3. It enables you to get the details right – an IG plan gives you the opportunity to think about how to optimise each activity. It can help you evaluate what’s working, and consider which variables you should test to improve the performance of your fundraising. Without a plan, how will you know this?
4. It makes your life a lot easier – once you’ve written it, your IG plan can operate as the organisation’s bible for this work over the coming years, setting specific objectives and a clear, practical plan of how to meet them. It gives you a roadmap to monitor your progress against on a regular basis, adjusting your plans where needed. When you’re busy, it’s an enormous help and reassurance to know you’re heading in the right direction.
5. It enables you to build better relationships with your supporters – a strategic plan will enable you to consider the journey you want to go on with your supporters – all of them, not just donors. It gives you the time and space to consider who you are speaking to as an organisation, the relationships you want to build with each group and how to build them. It therefore improves the supporter experience. Without a plan to link this all together, you may not find the opportunity to consider these fundamental issues.
6. It helps you raise more money – and this is why your fundraising team exists, right?
I’ve written a lot of individual giving strategies for charities. Without exception, every one of these charities has gone on to improve their results and build a better fundraising programme.
Overall, having a strategic plan for Individual Giving enables you to be a truly professional fundraiser – and achieve the greatest possible impact for your cause.
Richard Docwra is Director at ChangeStar fundraising and social change agency.