How to get what you need

Fundraising: how to get what you need

Yvonne J. Messner

Financial needs of leisure services are accelerating at a critical rate. From the public sector, we know that in the next five years state and local park and recreation systems will need $37 billion if they are to meet public recreation demands. YMCAs and other community centers from the non-profit sector (501c3 agencies) are raising revenues and conducting fund drives in a desperate attempt to meet their rising costs, but it is not enough! Budget cuts are forcing freezes on hiring, escalating lay-offs, eliminating programs, halting capital expansion and reducing facility maintenance.

In the past decade, staff in leisure service agencies responded to shortfalls by three strategies: cutting back on program and maintenance services wherever possible; maximizing efforts by increasing services, increasing reliance on community groups, volunteers and cooperative relationships; and developing a number of fiscal practices for saving money, using it more effectively, or gathering new and expanded revenues. Methods of retrenchment in leisure services included voluntary “pruning” of less essential programs and services to concentrate resources on the most important needs. Even these methods are not enough.

A Marketing Approach for the 90s

Leisure service agencies will need to seek creative ways of financing their programs in the 1990s. Agencies must adopt a business-like, management-oriented philosophy of leisure service operations, widely referred to as the “marketing” approach. This marketing approach is an integral part of the fundraising process which is used by all professional fundraising firms. Each non-profit agency needs to start NOW to build a solid foundation in order to obtain the necessary financial resources.

The first step is to develop a fund development plan.

* A Fund Development Plan. Planning is essential. A fund development program is the process of producing necessary income to meet the mission objectives of the agency. As elementary as this may seem, planning to plan is crucial. Who is going to do it? What information is necessary to begin?

* The Steering Committee. The chief administrator or CEO and the chairman of the board are usually the nucleus of the pre-planning process. They may wish to add the director of public relations, an additional board member, and an influential, knowledgeable community leader. Five members are usually sufficient for this pre-planning, called the steering committee.

* The Mission Statement. First, the mission statement of the agency is discussed. Why did it begin? Why does it currently exist? How can the agency most effectively serve the community and its neighbors? Dare to dream about what could be–five years from now, ten years from now, or in the year 2010. After the dreaming stage, what do the demographics suggest? Where will the people be and what services will they need? Specifically list the anticipated needs of the agency in the next five years. Cite costs for improvement of current facilities, land acquisition, capital funds (for construction and development of new facilities), personnel and operational costs.

* Do Strategic Planning. The committee is now ready to begin work on a strategic plan. They have pre-planned and revised the mission statement and projected, future needs in the form of a tentative budget. How will the agency proceed to raise these funds? The steering committee should be expanded to become the fund development committee. The “key” people of the agency need to be identified and screened as potential members of the committee. The number in the committee will vary according to the size of the agency and the number of qualified people (seven to nine is often sufficient). Each committee member needs to be fully committed to the agency and its potential for future development.

Consider Outside Help

At this point you may want to secure outside help from professional fundraising counsel. There are a number of reputable firms that will come in and make a presentation at no cost to the agency. Once the fund development committee is in place, discussion should center on the steering committee’s work. Additional ideas are introduced and necessary revisions are incorporated.

* Formulate The Case for Support.

The next step is formulating the case for support, which is an expansion of the mission statement. It precisely spells out the reasons why anyone should support the agency. The general outline for the case for support includes the following: history of the agency, mission statement, current activities that are meeting the mission’s objectives, statement of needs, current budget (summarized), anticipated results if needs are met and suggested opportunities for giving. These may include pledges, noncash gifts, deferred gifts and cash.

A good case for support will “… cover the ground, aim high, catch the eye and ear, warm the heart and then stir the mind to the convinced conclusion that the cause has importance, relevance and urgency,” according to H.J. Seymour. In addition, the case for support provides the basis for all public relations and fundraising printed materials.

The next crucial question that needs to be addressed is: How can the necessary funds be raised to meet the plans projected for the future? The answer is to formulate a detailed funding action plan. Remember, it will be necessary to spend money to raise money. Generally, you will need ten to 15 percent of the total amount to be raised to cover fundraising costs. These include such things as printed materials, office supplies, meeting expenses, travel, mailing costs, telephone/fax costs, audiovisuals and miscellaneous items.

The plan should include the fund development organizational structure, a chart of standards, sources of revenue and a timetable. The organizational structure should contain job descriptions for each person in a leadership role in the fund-development program. Each agency will have differences that will dictate a custom-tailored organizational structure and plan.

Leaders are Role Models

Leaders of fundraising endeavors should exemplify honesty and personal giving as a role model for others. In other words, top leaders should give first.

* Develop a Chart of Standards. The chart of standards provides visually the number and amount of girls needed to achieve the desired goal. For an example of a chart of standards used to raise $1 million for a nonprofit leisure service agency, see Figure One. More than 50 percent of the gifts will come from the “top ten” donors. A lead gift of 15 percent of the total amount to be raised should be considered a priority item in the plan.

* Identify Prime Sources of Revenue. Spend time researching which individuals, foundations and corporations have funds and an interest in the leisure service agency. Community foundations (public, nonprofit) are growing and can be a good source for special grants. These foundations exist to develop, receive, and administer gifts and bequests from private sources and manage them under community control for charitable purposes to meet local needs. Foundations provide tax advantages to assure that all contributions are tax exempt and fully deductible.

* List Other Revenue Sources (for gifts over 100,000).

–Members of Congress. Sometimes they will permit use of their names. Some legislators simply agree to attend charity fundraisers and may pass their honoraria along to the charitable agency.

–Sport tournaments. The Senators’ Cup Tennis Tournament and the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf Tournament recently raised between $200,000 and $300,000 in a short time for nonprofit agencies.

–Gift catalog. Many agencies create shirts and stationery and many other souvenirs to sell at all functions as well as through a gift catalog.

–A private enterprise agency. Rent “boatels,” which are lake cottages, each with its own canoe, include a golf driving range or a miniature golf course and/or contract for water-oriented retail shops, a marina or a restaurant.

–Special events. These can be from three days to two weeks. Include a parade, “special foods” booths, races, team events and entertainment.

* Devise a Timetable. After you have completed the chart of standards, devise a timetable which allows for identifying, cultivating, enlisting, training and volunteering. Dreaming stops here and deadlines are set. Specific deadlines are designed to be motivational. Foster confidence in their abilities by achieving small goals early and the volunteers will take on larger goals.

Success Based on Preparation

Once you have written the action plan and the board has approved it, you are ready to implement what you have envisioned. It may be that you spend more time planning for the fund development program than in its actual implementation. The better the preparation, the better the chances of success.

* Respond with Acknowledgments and Recognition. When you receive a gift send an immediate “thank you” letter or note. The same day turnaround is best and within two days is the outside limit. How you respond to contributions reflects your real feeling toward the importance of the donor and the gift. The task is not to get a donation but to develop a donor. Depending on the girl’s size, additional types of recognition and acknowledgment might be proper. These might include certificates of appreciation, plaques and the naming of various gift opportunities, (e.g. buildings, rooms, and so forth).

Leisure service agencies exist to service the public. Most, if not all, are family oriented. As leisure service providers we must plan now for the future of those families in the cities and rural areas whose happiness is one of our fundamental goals. The result of a well-defined mission statement and strategic planning, including a compelling case for support, will be an excellent fund-development plan. Based on sound fundraising principles and implemented by trained volunteers, the plan will facilitate the necessary resources for nonprofit leisure service agencies now and into the 21st Century.

Editor’s Note: References to accompany this article are available from the author at Winthrop University, Division of Phyical and Vocational Education, 101 Peabody Gymnasium, Rock Hill, SC 29733.

COPYRIGHT 1993 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group