Recently I had a series of interviews with the ”top-fundraisers” of the World Bank. These top-fundraisers are responsible for acquiring funds for the Capital Injections in the bank as well as for the so-called Trust Funds and the projects by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Why do I call them top-fundraisers? Simply because they are responsible for and successful in acquiring mind-blowing amounts of up to tens of billions of US dollars.

So, what can we learn from the best? In these blogs, we focus on the following topics: 1) Proposition and 2) Strategy. This week we zoom in on the “perfect strategy”.

In the previous blog in this series, I explained the three ingredients to develop the perfect proposition: 1) Relevance, 2) Innovation and 3) Delivery. So, what if your perfect proposition is there? How are you going to excite the donor to fund it?

In the interviews I had with Sheila Redzepi, VP External and Corporate Relations of the World Bank and with Patrick Luternauer – Global Partnership Lead for Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland for the IFC, we talked about strategy. These are the lessons I took from those discussions.

Set a clear goal

Each fundraising goal is unique. For some projects, you need short term funding, for others, you wish to engage in a more sustainable relationship with a donor. How much funding do we need and what kind of funding is required — e.g. grant, loan or investment? Answering these questions will help you to select the best possible donors to approach and to determine the next steps in your strategy.

Understand your donor

Knowing your donor helps you to adjust your ask. What is a good moment to ask for example? Some donors have certain funding cycles you have to follow. Asking too soon or too late will have a negative effect on your appeal. Also, the amount you can ask will depend on the situation of the donor: asking too much or too little is a mistake easily made.

To avoid these mistakes, it is important to build a relationship with your donor. Fundraising is a long-term activity.

Divide roles and tasks

Fundraising is teamwork. This means that different people should play different roles. At the Worldbank for example, they made a division between lobbyists and the actual fundraisers. Lobbyists do not ask for funding; however, they play an important role in the process. They are the ones who collect relevant information about the donors’ needs and who can explore the interest in supporting a cause. At a later stage, others will connect with the donor and make the ask.

Boost your marketing

Targeted marketing of your project can make a difference. For example, media attention for your cause can create an urgency to contribute. Social media are a low cost and effective means, but also more traditional offline tools — such as events — can make a difference. It is important that the marketing is tailored to the donor to keep it cost efficient and effective.

Make the donor feel special

People give to people. Even at WorldBank level. As we all know, we all like to feel appreciated and special. And it is not very hard to reach this with a donor; just give personal attention, time and appreciation to the donor when you meet with them. Make sure these interactions are genuine, it should definitely not be a trick. This will make your work more interesting and at the same time help to increase the chances to make the deal you are looking for.

As you can see, fundraising is people’s work. In the end, it does not differ much whether you work for a small non-profit, or for the highest levels at the World Bank; the elements of a successful fundraising strategy remain the same. Ensure to know what you want, why you want it, and genuinely engage with the people who can help you financially to reach your goal.

Han Valk

Han is founder and fundraising consultant of Han Valk – Fundraising Consultancy & Interim Management. He is dedicated to support non-profits by offering practical, tailor-made and flexible solutions on all fundraising levels. The way he would have liked to be supported when he was head fundraising the past ten years. Rather than providing broad concepts, his tools and advice can be implemented directly in your organization.

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