Getting the most out of fundraising

May 27, 2016
Getting the most out of fundraising

Fundraising is an enormously competitive field. In the US there are roughly 1.5 million not-for-profits. How are you going to take yourself out of all that noise, rise up above it, and make people take you seriously?

To make ourselves stand out, we’ve got to make sure that we have the funds to be able to put our mission forward. However, unlike the for-profit industry where a company generating a 25 percent profit margin is fantastic, a charity that spends 75 cents to raise a dollar isn’t considered to be doing very well. We need to do whatever we can to generate funds at a very low cost to funds raised ratio.

Here are three ways you can raise money at a relatively low cost:

High minimum dollar events

One example of a high minimum event is our own Step Up Challenge. Because we’re fortunate enough to work with property managers in three of Canada’s largest cities – Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto – we have access to five of the tallest office towers in each of those cities. The challenge is centered around corporate teams of five who raise $5,000 minimum per team and climb up 5,000 stairs to help spread our message.

The great thing about this event is that because you have a high minimum, you can super serve your donors and give them a great experience all whilst keeping costs under 10 percent – something which is very difficult to do with most walks, runs or galas.

Make your fundraising accessible

Everyone wants their own Ice Bucket Challenge. The idea saw people worldwide take part in the challenge and it raised plenty of money in one year. The only problem is that it only lasted for that year.

An even better fundraising concept that came before the Ice Bucket Challenge was Movember. This was an initiative created by four guys in Australia who picked a month for men to grow mustaches and raise money for men’s health initiatives and which has, in around a dozen years, raised almost $750 million. This year globally, they will have raised over $70 million.

Although one has more staying power than the other, there are a few key similarities which set them apart from most fundraising initiatives: they are fun, they are simple, they are leverageable on social media, and most importantly – they are accessible to anyone.

One of our own ideas challenged corporate Canada to wear Plaid for Dad on the Friday before Father’s Day. Because it was a corporate initiative, the major national firms participating were trying to one-up each other, meaning they got heavily involved and many created ideas of their own using our Plaid for Dad as a basis.

Partner with others and form coalitions

The biggest stumbling block for many charities is working with those much bigger than themselves. However, in a world with roughly 1.5 million great causes, unless you’re willing to work together on a coalition front, you will never be able to develop low cost fundraising and have an impact with donors.

One of the key things to remember is by letting people do their own thing whilst having fun along the way, they will always be happy to participate.

Watch Rocco’s talk from our second annual patient advocacy summit on how to get the most out of fundraising.

Getting the most out of fundraising


Rocco Rossi is the president and CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada, an organization dedicated to the elimination of the disease through research, education and support. From 2004 to 2009 he was the CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

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