Fundraisers are an unavoidable part of your operation. They can be fun and satisfying but they can also be stressful and consume an inordinate amount of time and effort that you would rather be spending on the great work that you’re doing. Ensuring your fundraising project is a success, say experts, just involves planning, communication and the right support. Here are a few project management tips that will save you time and money and help ensure your fundraising efforts are successful.
Start with your end in mind and know exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish. You should be able to summarize your project idea in a few sentences. What is the purpose of your fundraiser? Is it simply to raise funds or do you also want to create awareness or attract supporters? If you struggle to articulate what it is your trying to do or accomplish, there is a good chance that there are problems with the idea. Take a close look at your concept. Talk it through with your team and with senior management and ensure that it fits with your organization’s mission statement. A simple, clear summary of your project will also make it easier to communicate your concept to your team, your organization’s leadership and your donors and sponsors. Finally, a clear and concise description will help keep your team from the inevitable temptation to change course and stray from the original purpose and encourage them to stay focused on the goal.
Once you have a clear definition of what you want to do, it’s time to create a plan of action. This plan should clearly articulate and specifically define your goals. How much do you want to raise? How many new contacts do you hope to attract? Tie specific tasks and deadlines to individual team members. Include measurable success criteria for your fundraiser. Once the plan is complete, make it accessible to everyone in your organization. There are several common reasons that projects, including fundraisers, fail and topping the list are both a failure to plan and a failure to communicate the plan fully with both team members and executives in your organization. The Harvard Business Review in study on project failure also revealed that a lack of “white space” planning or planning for the unexpected . Understand that things will come up and your plan will have to be adapted to accommodate. Again, communication of the plan and its progress as well as frequent team meetings are critical to success.
Identify what you will need in terms of volunteers and supplies as early as possible and set a comprehensive budget that encompasses all expected expenses. Put someone in charge of securing every element in your procurement plan and set clear deadlines for having these materials in place. Assign someone else to be in charge of oversight. Their task is to follow up and sign off on tasks as they are completed. Tackle the most difficult items on your list first. Most of us are tempted to get the small, easy stuff out of the way, but that effectively reduces the time available to tackle the big stuff. You may actually need to allow some time for replies to requests or ordering of supplies. So, whether finding a guest speaker or deciding on a venue or something else is going to be your toughest task, put it at the top on your “To Do” list.
Once the project is underway, stick to the plan as closely as possible. Review it on a continual basis. Change management and a failure to keep executives informed about a project were identified as two of the top reasons why projects fail in a study conducted by Kelly Project Solutions. If you need to make a change, communicate with everyone including management. You need them to buy in to your project and back you as necessary. Continually check in with your team to ensure that expectations for deadlines or budget are being met. Consider an ongoing assessment of both risks and benefits. Regular meetings are critical as they both give you a chance to assess progress and allow your team members the opportunity to have input and problem solve as a group.
Take some time after the project to debrief. What went well? What didn’t? Is there anything the team would like to change for next time? Take a hard look at your plan and your goals. Did you achieve them? If you didn’t can you figure out why? Use the assessment procedures you laid out in original plan and measure your success using them. This step is critical say project managers because it allows you to both assess your current project and plan for the next project by identifying problems and possible solutions in advance.