When Warren Buffet pledged to donate 83% of his wealth to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006, one could argue that the Gates’s had just pulled off perhaps the greatest fundraising ask in history.
Yet there is little in the way of support for philanthropists, who wish to do the same and leverage their position, network and their capital, to raise additional funding and resources. There are any number of publications, websites, groups and forums to help guide professional fundraisers in their quest to secure support from companies, governments, institutions and indeed wealthy individuals, yet almost nothing the other way around.
Yet a growing number of philanthropists are seeking support in this area. Over the past few years for example, UBS Philanthropy Advisory has seen a marked increase in the number of philanthropists who have specifically requested advice on how they can access additional resources, financial and nonfinancial, from their peers. In many cases, the purpose being to help them set up an endowment fund.
The needs of a philanthropist are very different to that of a professional fundraiser, and so too are the outcomes if done well and indeed the possible repercussions if not. It can be quite a daunting prospect, not knowing where to begin, who to approach and how to actually make the ask.
Raising donations, often for no tangible return, requires significant thought and takes careful planning. It is not to be underestimated. It can be a challenging, time consuming and even costly undertaking. However, with proper planning and a sound strategy, it can bring significant, cost effective returns, and/or additional resources alongside generating publicity and awareness.
When considering fundraising for your own philanthropic work, you need to think clearly about the reasons why you want to fundraise, what are the principal drivers? Understanding your own motivations will help you frame your planning.
1) Do you want to increase the scale of your work? Most philanthropic causes are not isolated islands but intricately linked to numerous other denominators which means that issues are typically too large for any single philanthropist to tackle.
2) Do you want to ensure sustainability? However wealthy an individual, funds are not bottomless and their lives are not eternal. Building partnerships with other philanthropic individuals can help to ensure that support of the cause can continue, even if they are no longer able to support it.
3) Do you want to inspire others to become philanthropically engaged? Many philanthropists want their peers, like them, to use their wealth to help build a better world. Through fundraising, they want to raise awareness of the joy of giving and the ability to create impactful change.
4) Do you seek public recognition for your philanthropic activities? Some philanthropists seek acknowledgement for their philanthropic work, standing as a role model to others to help further the philanthropic landscape. Fundraising enables them to build a platform whereby they can target key audiences, to raise awareness of all they have achieved and want to achieve.
5) Do you seek affirmation that what you are doing is has an impact? Many philanthropists are successful business persons or entrepreneurs. In their professional lives, having someone invest in their business is the highest demonstration of accreditation. They mirror this belief in their philanthropic undertakings too.
6) Do you belong to a board or are a trustee of a nonprofit? Many philanthropists have a specific role with third party nonprofit organizations and these posts often come with job descriptions, which more and more encompass a fundraising directive.
Once you are clear on your own motivations, you need to think about your target audience and ask why they would support you:
Why would they donate?
- You have earned their trust: You cannot underestimate the power of being asked by a peer; many will find it hard to say no.
- You will make giving simple for them: Impactful philanthropy is challenging, you could be offering them a simple way to give effectively
- You will show them a powerful cause they don’t yet know about: You might be opening their eyes to a cause they are not yet aware of
- You can offer them interesting networking opportunities: You might be providing them with a forum to work together with people they are interested in meeting
- You can offer an attractive and exciting way to give: Altruism may not be their sole key driver and you could be offering them a joyful way to give such as an auction
These questions sound simple but key to fundraising is knowing the motivations involved, yours and your target audience. Understanding these will help you craft a robust plan of action.
During the planning phase use the opportunity to take a step back and look at your philanthropic work as a whole. Are your vision, your mission, and your ultimate strategy clear? Are they simple for others to understand? If not, take the time to address any causes for concern.
As with any project, the best way to commence your fundraising plan is to visualize what the desired end goal should be. In a philanthropic context, that can be both a simple and complex task as the outcomes typically have a range and any amount of funding will be of benefit. So set yourself a financial target which is linked directly to the tangible result that will be created by this funding.
Then think about who you are going to approach and how, all the while taking into account the answers to the above question, why would they donate.