3 key components of a fundraising assessment

Before embarking on any major or systematic fundraising endeavor, a nonprofit should set aside time to examine and clearly define all of the organization's seemingly clear pieces: mission, values, program goals, funding needs, messaging and constituents. Such a fundraising assessment enables the construction of a concrete fundraising plan that will best serve the nonprofit's stated goals and objectives.

In the assessment phase, three of the most important areas of your nonprofit to explore include:

Short and long-term goals. Which programs or projects are important now? Which services need to be added over the next five years? How much will these various components cost, and which anticipated revenue sources--fees for service, charitable donations, sales, government subsidies--will fund them? Armed with this info, you can tailor fundraising activities to meet today's goals and tomorrow's wishes.

Your constituents' perceptions, feelings and needs. Don't make assumptions about how your clients, partners, or the general community perceive your organization. Take their pulse. Meet with some of your clients to understand how the nonprofit impacts their lives--and if there's anything you might do to serve them better. If you have some loyal donors already, ask them to share why they are so generous. What, exactly, about your work resonates most? Are they happy with the attention and thanks they already receive from the nonprofit? All of this feedback, whether positive or constructive criticism, will help you to understand your nonprofit's biggest selling points and areas for improvement from a fundraising and marketing perspective.

Your current fundraising and messaging. Have you been mailing appeal letters at random intervals and in differing formats? What's your social media presence like (or is there one at all)? Do the messages you convey in your newsletter vary wildly in style and tone from what's on your website or in your brochure? Put all of your materials side by side and ask yourself: Do these look like they come from the same place? Would this inspire me to give to the organization? Am I communicating with potential donors consistently?

The foundation of a sound fundraising assessment is a nonprofit's willingness to throw back the curtains. The next step is to take an honest and careful look around. Only then can you chart a course for fundraising success!

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