Are You Sabotaging Your Shelter’s Fundraising Efforts?

Do you ever wonder why you don’t see more revenue from your publicity or fundraising efforts? Are you adding new donor names to your database after each fundraising event? Are volunteers becoming donors and helping spread the word about your shelter or rescue? If not, maybe you’re sabotaging yourself. Use this checklist as a starting point to evaluate ways you can improve.

Make sure local publicity explains how your shelter or rescue relies on donations for survival. A local nonprofit group that offers therapeutic horse lessons for developmentally disabled kids was featured in our newspaper today with no reference to their desperate need for funds. Specifically, the article could have mentioned two upcoming fundraisers. They could have also mentioned the cost of sponsoring one child for a series of lessons or the cost of feeding all the horses for one month. If you are interviewed by a local newspaper, be sure to get the word out that you need the community’s help to survive.

Make sure you are on message. Word your message to reach donors who have a passion for what you do. A local group involved with training assistance dogs for several years did a great job of showcasing the dogs and humans whose lives were totally changed in their promotions, newsletters, fundraising activities, etc. They evolved into a message that focused more on the troubled teens who help train the dogs. In fact, they mentioned in some fundraising material that if they didn’t receive XX in donations, they would have to withdraw from a certain school program, etc. There are multitudes of nonprofits in our area that work specifically with troubled teens. In my opinion, their donors are more likely to donate when the message focuses on the dogs and disabled humans than the troubled teens.

If you run a rescue group, be sure your potential donors understand that many of the dogs you rescue would be euthanized without your help. Some people don’t actually understand the life and death services performed by rescue groups.

Be sure your appeals are inclusive and that your staff, volunteers, and board members recognize that every dollar is important. For example, I’ve seen appeals from a local nonprofit in our newspaper stating “Where are you, big donors?” An appeal like that should not be in the newspaper for everyone to read since it implies “we only want big donations” (whatever “big” means). I’ve volunteered for a group in which board members were part of the volunteer team that day and they talked among themselves about upcoming fundraisers. The volunteers knew nothing about these events. There was quite an attitude among these folks as if the rest of us were invisible when these were being discussed as if none of us would / could donate or participate in what they were planning. Make sure your message is appropriate for those you speak to verbally and in print.

Evaluate expenditures in terms of the bottom line net results. A group that operated a thrift store in our area as a primary means of fundraising moved the store to a larger and newer space even though the old space was booming with donated items, customers, and revenue. The new location is on the busiest street in our area and shares parking with a bustling restaurant. Once you got there, you couldn’t park. The group is now defunct as donors and customers found the location too inconvenient and business dried up.

Don’t go overboard on spending when you have a healthy cash reserve. A local group has closed its doors because they literally ran out of money. They built a rather large free-standing building before the economic meltdown. Many questioned how they could afford such a building since it would be costly to maintain on a monthly basis. (Same group which relocated its thrift store).

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