I’ve been doing strength training with a personal trainer for about three and a half years. My initial assessment was humbling, to say the least, and at the beginning, there were several times I wondered “Why am I doing this?”
But I’ve benefited so much. Not only am I stronger, I’ve lost weight, I’m sleeping better, my mood is better, and I have a more robust immune system. I’ve also been able to keep up with it during the pandemic, although now I’m doing it virtually.
Believe it or not, strength training has a lot in common with fundraising and when I say fundraising, I’m including the all-important stewardship and relationship-building components. Here’s what they have in common.
It’s supposed to be hard, but doable
If I ever say one of my training exercises is hard, my trainer will respond, “It’s supposed to be hard.” That said, it also needs to be doable.
What a wonderful world we’d live in if people just donated money to nonprofit organizations without us have to do anything.
Fundraising is hard. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it, but you also need to be realistic. I’m not lifting 100-pound weights. That would be too much for me. If you’re a small organization, trying to pull off a huge event would probably be too much for you.
Starting small is often the way to go
I work out twice a week and do what’s known as a circuit – seven or eight exercises on each of the days, usually three sets of 10-12 reps each. People who are more advanced in their training might do four or five sets of two different exercises with heavier weights.
This same formula can work for your organization when you concentrate on individual gifts. Many of these will be under $100 each, but you’ll be able to get a larger number of them. You can also raise a good bit of revenue from monthly gifts, even if they’re only $5 or $10 a month.
Be patient and you’ll see results
It took about two or three months for me to see the results I mentioned above. Some of your fundraising will take even longer.
You can get smaller gifts fairly quickly. Securing major gifts and grants will take longer. It can take up to a year to cultivate major gifts and it takes a lot of relationship building to get there. If you get approved for a grant, it can take several months to get the money and these often come with restrictions.
But if you persevere, you should see results.
Take it to the next level
If I kept doing the same exercises I started with, I wouldn’t make much progress. The same is true with fundraising.
Most appeal letters are generic,one-size fits all. You’re missing an opportunity to grow when you don’t ask donors to upgrade their single gifts or invite them to become monthly donors.
There are so many opportunities to take your fundraising to the next level. Smaller dollar donors can upgrade to mid-level donors, mid-level donors can become major donors, and major donors are potential legacy donors.
You need to stick with it
If I miss a week or two of training, it suffers. The same is true with your fundraising. If all you do is send appeals a few times a year, you won’t have much success.
You need to engage with your donors regularly – at least once or twice a month. That includes showing appreciation and sharing updates.
You need a plan
When I started strength training, my trainer designed a plan for me that we can build on and modify as needed. You need to do the same thing with your fundraising.
You shouldn’t be raising revenue without a plan in place. You also need a donor communications and thank you plan.
You may need to make adjustments to your plans. Most likely that happened for you last year when the pandemic started. I had to make adjustments early on in my training when I tweaked my knee doing a quad exercise and had to strengthen my hamstrings, as well as do a modified version of it for a while.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
My workout consists of exercises for the upper body, lower body, and core. Your fundraising will also consist of different tactics, such as individual giving, major gifts, grants, events, etc.
And as I mentioned before, and I’ll mention again since many organizations ignore this, your fundraising also needs a gratitude and relationship-building component.
Fundraising, like strength training, takes a lot of hard work, but you should see results if you keep building and stick with it.
Photo via www.ptpioneer.com