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Fundraising strategy: where should I start?

A good fundraising strategy will help you build future potential, opportunities, abilities and capacity, but starting from scratch can seem like an overwhelming task. Mike Fagg, Head of Fundraising at MAF UK, explains the approach he took…  

As a practical, hands on, like to talk more than write creative thinker, the idea of writing a multi-page fundraising strategy (FRS) never found its way to the top of my to do list. It was, however, near the top of my job description when I started as Head of Fundraising for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) UK in 2014, so there was no avoiding it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love strategy and planning; coupled with good processes, matrix team work, passion and creativity, you can achieve great things. I just prefer to write as little as possible – I say ironically writing an article!

Evaluating our approach

When I started at MAF, I gave myself six months to a year to see how the existing strategy was performing and to get a feel for our approach to supporter care and fundraising. Most people will be aware of many of the things I was looking at, so I won’t list them all, but they included things like supporter/donor demographic, breakdown of giving types, diversity of income, attrition, average gift, lifetime value etc.

After about 10 months I felt I had a handle on things and started the task of reviewing the performance of our FRS against our organisational strategy. I did this with the knowledge that this would help build our future potential, opportunities, abilities and capacity.

A cohesive strategy

At that time, my role encompassed supporter care, donor development (including legacy giving, regular giving, our magazine and appeal programme), support raising for overseas staff, MAF in the community (community fundraising, church partnerships, volunteers and events), our Scottish office and work in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The hardest part for me was trying to write a document that was going to work well across all departments, rather than lots of individual strategies. I was then also given marketing and acquisition as part of my responsibilities and this added a whole new dimension to think about in terms of a joined up, integrated, supporter base and fundraising strategy.

Specialist support

At this stage I decided that I needed some external support on which to bounce my thinking; this was partially to get an external perspective and experience of someone that worked across the sector. Through some different connections I had a few conversations and decided to get some input from a company called EPLS.

I found this helpful in two ways, one it really clarified my thinking, especially as I wanted to have a strategy that was much more of a working document, and secondly it helped identify areas that were important that I either hadn’t thought of or given enough attention to.

After coming up with a framework, I brainstormed with various team members, focusing mainly on what was working, what could and should be improved and where the internal and external opportunities were.

This combination of activities – and importantly some time out in an environment that allowed me to focus 100% on this piece of work – led me to a revelation of how to produce a strategy that I felt would both help set our future goals and produce a delivery model.

A strategic plan

So, what I produced was a strategy that had some of the usual things you would expect to see – vision, SWOT, goals and KPIs – in addition to a three-year plan and an annual delivery and review approach. This includes two relatively simple models, one focused on producing our strategic goals and the other on annual delivery plans with departmental and individual KPIs. Both work top down and bottom up towards our organisational goals.

I found the key things I needed to decide, which unlocked the rest of the strategy’s content easily, were the goals that come from our core foundations, our vision and values. For MAF, these are being inspired to pray, encouraged to serve and engaged to give.

Alongside these I felt three building blocks were fundamental. They are sustaining our core supporter/donor base, increasing retention/replacing attrition (well-balanced, including targeting like for like) and creating growth. We then use insight to help inform what, when, why and how we should do things, including messaging, content and communication platforms.

I am pleased to say across most areas of income and especially in acquisition, we are seeing year-on-year growth.

Mike will be speaking at the Successful Fundraising: Preparing for the future conference at the De Vere Holborn Bars, London on 6 December. To find out more and to book your place, click here.

Mike Fagg is Head of Fundraising at Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) UK


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