Establishing a fundraising strategy

Asking for money is never easy, but it is unfortunately a necessity for many community groups, unless yours is one of the very, very lucky groups whose funding is guaranteed.

Fundraising can - and should - be a fun and exciting experience. It is also an experience that should be shared and for leaders of community organisations one of the challenges is ensuring that all committe members - and in fact - all the group should have some involvement in raising money.

As a first step, it is important for an organisation to assign the overall responsibility of fundraising activities to one person. Even with a fundraising committee or outside consultants one person needs to be in ultimate control of what you are doing in fundraising. While everyone seems to acknowledge that getting money into your organisation is important, the role of the fundraiser is often under-valued. It shouldn't be. Without sufficient funding coming in, groups can struggle to get their important message across, provide their services or indeed survive as a group at all.

Establish a fundraising strategy

The development of a fundraising strategy needs to be an annual exercise but it is also ongoing as well. A fundraising strategy needs to have the flexibility to be able to react to new opportunities or to curtail activities that are either not practical or not profitable. The best thing is to schedule some time where your committee or those interested in fundraising can get together and thrash around some ideas and establish some goals.

First steps:
  • Outline your goals. What do you hope to achieve?
  • Research past fundraising activities - what has worked? And just as importantly, what didn't?
  • Work out who your friends and potential friends are and who is willing to support your organisation - businesses, government departments, individuals, families, philanthropic trusts and foundations.
  • Conduct market research with members, friends, etc on their good ideas or what has worked in their groups to raise money.
  • Detail a case to support each prospective fundraising activity.
  • Describe and decide on the method in which you plan to raise funds.
  • Set an estimated target for each method.
  • Set a timeline. Set up a year planner noting good times for the organisation to raise funds. Pay attention to grant deadlines.
  • Document your progress so that if you are struggling, the bells start ringing early enough to change tack.
  • Establish an evaluation strategy in place.
Remember, if you are asking for money, it is easier to raise money for a specific project or activity rather than for the organisation as a whole. Most people would rather know exactly where their money is being spent.

What are the options for fundraising?

There are a number of sources of  funds. These include:
  • Grants - Identify Federal, State or local Government, philanthropic and corporate grants program open to your group (use the Easy Grants newsletter and database).
  • Sponsorship - identify possible major and minor sponsorships including possible naming rights - team, building, uniforms, scoreboard, events, players, trips, newsletter, lunches.
  • Membership fees - Different levels of membership or association fees - standard, family, non-playing, "Friends of" or associate membership, "Angels" or 'Gold" membership, Lifetime members, three-game members.
  • Bequests - providing general information/personal approaches to long-time benefactors/supporters that they provide an ongoing gift for your club.
  • In-kind support - Everything from venue/accommodation, office supplies, printing and photocopying, transport, entertainment, pro bono work (legal, accounting, IT, marketing/Public relations, auditing), gifts, subscriptions, uniforms.
  • Donations - including online donations - personal asking, general appeals, direct mail, appeals to your email database of all former players, members and supporters.
  • Special events which can include:
    • Sales, fetes.
    • Trivia nights, fashion parades, talent contests, art shows with a local retailer or gallery, dances and discos, Film nights, restaurant function.
    • Various 'athons, with club members and players gaining sponsorship for a walkathon, readathon, skipathon, workathon or skillathon
    • Games' nights using casino-type games and 'play money'.
    • Sponsored record attempts or other similar quests.
    • Fun runs (carefully check legal requirements with local authorities)
  • Raffles, competitions, auctions - major items, memorabilia, services, travel, gifts, tickets etc
  • Merchandising - club clothing, office products, sports products, glasswear etc.
  • Sales of goods and services
Your group will need to explore which of these are feasible, achievable, and profitable. The trick is to be creative and make the fundraising initiative work for you.

For each event or initiative, try and incorporate other fundraising initiatives. For example, if you have a special event, consider setting up a stall to sell your organisation's merchandise, or conduct a raffle, and always make sure programs or invitations have a donation form attached as well as information on how people can join as members.

Legal obligations 

When making an appeal for public funds there are certain laws you must abide by. There are different rules for each state and territory applying to different methods of fundraising. These rules are separate from the tax and incorporation laws that you are also obliged to observe.

To find out how certain rules will affect you, click on the relevant state or territory below:
New South Wales
Australian Capital Territory
South Australia
Western Australia
Northern Territory

What next?

Send your draft fundraising strategy to the Board and a cross section of the organisation before a final version is signed off. For most volunteer organisations, it is important that the strategy is not drawn up and then forgotten. Have regular updates at committee meetings and ensure your newsletters and communications carry articles featuring various milestones or fundraising actitivies.

Ensure the strategy is updated and changed as circumstances are. And also to ensure your organisation and leadership team are alert to new fundraising ideas and lessons learned from your own experience. If you see an idea that works, grab it and try and adopt and adapt it to work for your own club.

Fundraising activities can determine the future of your organisation. a strong fundraising effort can ensure there are funds to be able to extend your activities, a poor perfomance can drain money allocated to other areas. In your planning ensure that you have the ability to walk away if something is not working or looks as though you will lose money. It is better to walk away and lose a small amount, than go ahead with an event and ensure you lose a far larger amount. If you have planned well and have a strong risk management plan (see our help sheets on risk management) the alarm bells will start ringing long before it gets to that stage.

Finally one of the main lessons of fundraising is ensuring that you appropriately acknowledge those that have assisted you either as volunteers, donors or sponsors. This should be acknowledged before, during and after any fundraising event. Acknowledgement can be expressed in your newsletters, on your tickets, in advertising, or in a personal letter from the CEO or Chair. If the donation/sponsorship is significant consider providing a plaque, framed certificate or some form of permanent acknowledgement (signage, dedication).

For more information about fundraising, see Our Community's fundraising section: it includes a self-evaluation fundraising quiz, prepared with the support of the Department of Family and Community Service's Can Do Community Project. It includes over 150 tips to help you in your fundraising efforts.