Giving back is our ministry. My husband and I come from disadvantaged backgrounds. So, when he went to the NFL, our goal from the very beginning was to share some of the many blessings afforded to our family to as many families as we could. For the 10+ years Q81 has been in existence, we have been blessed to do to provide a variety of opportunities for people in underserved communities, from the U.S. to Senegal, everything from college scholarships to helping establish transparency around gold-mining laws inside African Diaspora. In all, more than 50,000 people have been reached. In all, more than 50,000 people have been reached. Our goal over the next decade is at least 50,000 more.
Recently, we wrapped up our 12th annual Q81 Golf Tournament fundraiser in Palm Beach, Florida, our home state. We were able to raise 20% more this year than we did last year. Success with fundraising efforts, like this one, is never a given, particularly when you are constantly striving to raise the bar to help more people. However, because of our track record with Q81 and the other nonprofit work Anquan and I are involved with, I am frequently asked by aspiring or existing nonprofit founders how they can launch or improve their own fundraising efforts. For this reason, I’ve come up with a list of five tips designed to help anyone passionate about launching their own successful nonprofit organization.
Choose Your Team Wisely
The secret behind the success of any fundraiser are the people behind it. It’s important to not only find individuals who have the skills, expertise, and ability to support your nonprofit’s vision, but the integrity and commitment to see the vision through, from strategy to execution. You need people who will not just donate their time but put their whole hearts into what they’re doing so that your organization can achieve its goals. We’ve learned the importance of choosing great people through trial and error and, fortunately, have been lucky. We have kept most of our core volunteers since we started. At this point, they are more like family, as are many of our donors. Our volunteers don’t get paid, yet they are the hands and feet of our organization and, as such, we treat them and our donors well. We make sure they know they are appreciated. The philosophy they have towards the people our organization serves is the same philosophy my husband and I have towards them - quality service. Wherever and however we can show up and support them and their businesses and families, we definitely seek to do that.
Not All Money is the Right Money
As Christians, raising money for families and, in many cases, children, we decided from the beginning that we wanted quality donors. We weren’t interested in taking on alcohol sponsors, for instance, or any other kind of sponsorship dollars that might appear misaligned with our mission. Similarly, we learned to solicit donors who weren’t just looking to bankroll our cause or part with end-of-year dollars but who truly believe in the work we were doing because they’d be more likely to not only be more involved but also stick around. In addition, being selective about which companies you’re aligned with can not only positively raise your nonprofit’s profile but attract other sponsors with similar ethics. So, while it’s important to solicit sponsors, I’ve found it’s more important to wait on the right ones.
Be Thorough and Transparent
The right sponsors and volunteers will get and stay involved with you if it’s clear you have a well-thought out plan, strategy and means of execution and that you’re diligent about adhering to them. We demonstrate our dedication by being as thorough and transparent as possible in everything from documentation to communication. At the close of each year, our donors receive an impact-statement telling them “this is what your money did this year.” We are also in constant communication with our board; they know everything because we’re constantly updating them via email, text, or events we host at our house. The people who need to know what’s going on and how much money has been raised and spent never have to ask for receipts because we are diligent about distributing them.
Keep Costs Low and Stick to What You Know
Speaking of receipts, this should go without saying in the context of nonprofits, but keep your costs low. We keep our administrative costs as low as possible and are constantly looking for ways to drive those costs even lower. By having an only-volunteer staff, our donors also know that every dollar they contribute (beyond the admin costs) goes towards the communities we serve. We have found that when donors can see exactly where their dollars are going the more they are willing to give. Also, I think the greatest fundraising tool is consistency. We create an annual plan and annual goals; we don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Our programming is consistent throughout the year. We set tangible fundraising goals, year in and year out, and try not to deviate much from our annual plan. Partners and volunteers know what they’re getting with us; we are not high risk.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
It’s important not to get lost in the “how” but remember the “who.” We build relationships, not just with our volunteers and sponsors, but with many of the individuals we have served. We tell their stories. We invite them to stay involved with us so we can better reach others who may benefit from our efforts. The folks that we have served also serve in many facets of our organization, and so we are always surrounded by great people with the best possible intentions, drive, and commitment.