New ideas need to be encouraged and embraced - but they also need to be used strategically, says our columnist
Too few charities have clear fundraising strategies in place. This is a huge mistake - in order to raise as much as possible, it is important to work out which funding opportunities are worth pursuing and which are not.
Fundraising is a task without end - there is always more you could be doing. To avoid burnout, it is important to carefully consider the options in the light of your resources of staff and volunteer time, existing donor contacts and fundraising experience. Of course, if you are confident a particular approach will work for your charity it might be worth fighting for extra resources to make it happen.
Not all fundraising streams are equal, and not all are equally appropriate for charities at different stages in their development. One of the big areas of variance is return on investment. The Institute of Fundraising's Fund Ratios analysis, published on its website, is very helpful, providing benchmark fundraising ratios for a range of income streams. For example, it suggests that for every £1 invested you can expect to raise about £9 from trust fundraising, compared with £4 from corporate fundraising or £3 from regular giving programmes by individuals.
New ideas need to be encouraged and embraced - but they also need to be used strategically. It is worth holding a strategic planning exercise that gives staff, volunteers and trustees an opportunity to put forward their thoughts, making clear that not all suggestions can be taken up. Of the best contributions, consider their potential, the investment of time and money required, how the idea would complement the existing fundraising programme and whether you should do a small-scale pilot in year one to test it out.
When ideas are suggested at other points in the year, it is worth thinking about whether an immediate response is called for. It might be that a personal contact of someone involved in the charity has expressed an interest in helping. Even if this is the case, it is worth thinking about the most cost and time-effective approach. For example, if your trustees are pushing for you to do a fundraising event - a highly visible, but usually low-return form of fundraising - consider setting up a volunteer event committee or encouraging a local fundraising group to take the idea on, rather than using up too much staff time at the expense of other funding options.
The most important thing is to be realistic. It is necessary to prioritise fundraising ideas. There's little value in writhing with guilt as you dream about all the tasks left undone. Put all suggestions and ideas in your records for consideration, but then think them through and focus on the approaches that will maximise the funds raised. If you want to have a big impact on the world - being strategic works best.
Anna Taylor is a freelance fundraiser, writer and researcher, and a former UK director of Child in Need India