At KABOOM!, we like to say that the four most important steps in fundraising are to plan, plan, plan, and then work your plan. Joking aside, a clear plan agreed upon by a unified fundraising team will save you scores of headaches in the months ahead. If nothing else, it will ensure that you don't duplicate (or triplicate) your efforts. Consider walking through our online Road Map so you can visualize the steps the whole planning committee will be taking along the way, and how fundraising fits into that picture.
Remember that project planning is all about good communication. Your fundraising plan should be a flexible, living document that changes and grows as you find out what's working in your community. Don't ever be afraid to scrap your initial plans and start again.
Already started your fundraising? Don't worry! It's never too late to sit down, discuss what's working and what needs work, and refocus your team's energies. Follow our seven simple steps for a dynamite fundraising plan.
Your team should consist of a variety of people from different backgrounds, each willing to commit at least eight to ten hours a month to the playspace project. Team members don't have to be fundraising experts (although it helps!), just people who are willing to help. Delegation is the name of the game here, and you'll need a variety of skill sets. Try to find a couple of friendly, outgoing types with broad social connections – people who aren't afraid to ask for money outright. Recruit a good writer for composing letters and grant applications. If you can find someone with an accounting or finance background, definitely bring them on board. And anyone who cares passionately about the playground can make a good team cheerleader and public face for the project. Finally, you'll need a leader – someone with good organizational and people-management skills who can coordinate the team's efforts and chair meetings. And you're ready to go!
Preparing a draft budget has two positive effects. For one, it makes the project seem more real and more manageable to you and your team. And secondly, it shows potential donors that you're serious and knowledgeable about the nuts and bolts of your project.
Once you know how much money you need, it's time to develop a rough idea of where you're going to raise it. How much might come from businesses? Which businesses might be interested? What about foundation grants? What do you need to get your applications going? Would people in your community rather write a check and be done, or show up for an all-night gala event? Who can you call on outside of your community? At this stage, brainstorm at length and don't rule out anything. Read a detailed guide on identifying community resources in the Community Involvement section of the Toolkit.
If you don't have a build date already, KABOOM! strongly recommends setting one now. Take our word for it. Even if you end up postponing the date later on, having a deadline will lend your team a sense of urgency and focus. Without a deadline, projects can flounder for years, just picking up small donations here and there. To set your deadline, consider the turnaround time for foundation grants as well as for the ordering of play equipment and construction materials. Then plug in any major fundraisers you're considering, taking note of important holidays and school break times.
Our advice: Try to place labor-intensive fundraisers early on in your schedule, while energy is high and the build planning is still a long way off. Midway through your project, stage fundraisers that will draw in a lot of people, especially potential build volunteers. And when you're in the home stretch, focus on high-yield, no-fuss projects like school penny drives or new business sponsorships.
Good fundraising is dependent on good publicity. Think about why you got involved in a playspace project, and try to communicate that inspiration in words and pictures. We recommend developing the following materials right off the bat:
The importance of donor recognition simply cannot be overstated, which is why we've included it as a prep step. Designate at least one team member who will be in charge of sending out timely thank-you's to each and every donor. Before you ever receive your first donation, decide how those thank-you's will look. Custom-printed project note cards? Handmade cards signed by children? What about a personal phone call or a doorknob hanger? Also brainstorm ways to publicly advertise donor names, from a playspace plaque to over-the-street banners and newspaper ads. Remember, you can include free publicity as an incentive when you're asking for business money!
Asking for money is a really tough job, so don't be shy about admitting your fears of rejection, of embarrassment, or of failure. Your fundraising team can be a great mutual-support network if you agree to discuss these issues openly and honestly – sometimes just saying it out loud really helps!
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