Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter

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December 16, 2018

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Hitting The Wall,
As a community organization fundraiser

by Patrick Mc Erlean

More than 90% of all community fundraisers today are experiencing significant levels of frustration. Maybe you're one of them? Most would cite the apparent apathy of the local community as the root cause of their problems.

Community organizations are a subset of nonprofits, which are geographically confined to a particular local community. Organizations such as, sports teams, school groups, church groups, youth groups and community support groups are all examples of community organizations. The most common comments from community fundraisers are: "No-one comes forward to volunteer for our organization anymore" and "Our community is very slow to support our fundraising efforts; many just don't bother".

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that the source of the apathy is rarely the community. In most cases the source of the apathy is the community fundraiser! That may seem like a controversial statement, but nonetheless it's true. Understanding why, it is the key to your fundraising success.

The problem is that the fundraising landscape is vastly different for our community organizations than it is for charities and other nonprofits. Charities receive the bulk of their money from donations. Community organizations are not often afforded such luxury!

Charity fundraisers have a significant advantage in that their organization's benefits are plain for all to see. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out how your money is helping the starving children in Africa or the potential benefits when you donate to cancer research.

It's a little harder to figure out why the local soccer club is so important. In today's world full of noise and haste, people are bombarded with advertising messages. Many have become immune to all types of marketing and unfortunately that extends to our community organization advertising.

This is often the main reason for thinking that your community doesn't care about your organization. That ultimately leads to a very frustrating experience as a community fundraiser. Frustration leads to apathy (if they don't care, I don't either). You've hit the wall. Now, how do you get over it? Well, it's pretty easy, as it turns out. In most cases the community does care. The problem is that your organization is not at the forefront of their minds, so they naturally block out your messaging. The crux of the problem is that most community fundraisers are event-focused rather than people-focused.

Believe me it's very difficult to succeed when you're event-focused. I know this from 5 years of bitter frustration! Sure you can experience some measure of success by working really hard at promoting your events and campaigns. As you've probably discovered already, that only leads to exhaustion.

In order to make your life easier you must put relationship building at the heart of your fundraising strategy. People-focus is the key to your success and that starts with your benefits message.

As a sports club, our benefits message centers around the part we play in the development of our local youth. They learn skills such as, self-confidence, coordination, teamwork, social skills and learning to cope with success and failure.

These benefits are obviously very important in the development of these young people, so why then do people simply take them for granted? The answer is because they've never actually given it any thought. Who would blame them?

The first time I put our benefits message in the club newsletters I was amazed by the reaction. People came up to me and said that they'd never viewed the club in that light before and as a result, I was able to convince them to become more proactive in their support.

Events such as your Open Day also play an important role in your relationship building. The theme of such events must be fun and enjoyment. That usually means, lots of kids' activities. Where there are kids, there are parents, and that's your queue to start your relationship building.

My community organization and many others have now benefited greatly from the switch to a people-focused strategy. Maybe it's time for you to think about making the switch as well?


About the Author: Patrick Mc Erlean has been fundraising for his local sports team for this past 10 years. He has been able to transform their fundraising fortunes, while maintaining his own sanity, by developing a people-focused approach to community fundraising.

Visit his web site at

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