In life, and in fundraising, there are no guarantees.
However, we like to provide you with a data analysis of your prior (2-3 years or prior campaigns like Kickstarter, etc) fundraising efforts and make an assessment and recommendation for fundraising goals, with some room for modest growth. We can’t guarantee you’ll go from $15,000 in gifts at the end of year to $65,000 but, we’ve seen it happen (for the record, for that client, we projected only $22,000). We want to keep your expectations grounded and rooted, and provide a strategy and clear steps towards achieving the goals we’ll come to together.
This is always the hardest answer to give. Red Olive’s primary client profile is that of organizations operating at or below $750,000. We thrive working with these organizations and simply love to see growth and impact in just a short amount of time.
Additionally, our services are customized to your organization’s needs. We don’t believe in one-size fits all, though there are certainly best practices that can be applied to many different types of organizations. You’ll find that what we suggest may seem familiar, but with the necessary and vital tweaks for your organization to reach specific financial and organizational goals we set together.
To that end, we understand financial constraints of organizations and do our best to make our services affordable and work with you on an agreeable pay schedule.
As a company policy, Red Olive does not work on commission. We don’t take a “cut” or percentage of money earned. We want you to understand the full commitment, and full services at the top of the agreement, and be able to budget accordingly. If we exceed our goals—(the vast majority of Red Olive clients do!) then that’s more money you get to keep. Working on commission is just too mercurial, and puts the full fundraising onus on us, and that’s just not our model. We want to teach you to incorporate fundraising strategies into the organization’s DNA. We want to work ourselves out of a job. We want you to be an active participant in achieving your goals.
Red Olive loves a catch phrase. One of the phrases we say most often is “You can’t do it alone.”
We fully believe in this philosophy as it comes to fundraising and often our first steps in an engagement is to help you change this pattern by identifying folks who, other than yourself, will function as fundraisers for the organization. In the absence of paid staff members, in an ideal world, your board would be the first folks listed. They aren’t? Let’s chat and change that.
As a consultancy, Red Olive operates primarily in the form of strategic/thought partner to the Executive Director, Board, and/or Development staff when in place. The bulk of this work is done remotely via phone or video conferencing and e-mail. Depending on the organization’s individual consultancy plan, there may be in-person trainings and support, however this is not a consistent expectation that a Red Olive consultant will be in-person in your office.
For some clients, they truly do need extra manpower. When this happens, we make the recommendation that the organization build their development department from the bottom up and start by hiring a junior staffer.
Red Olive has helped those clients to scope an effective job description for a junior development staffer (including negotiate pay and rates, etc), set up initial goals and needs of the hire, and work with the new employee and the Executive Director or senior leadership in best-practices for on-boarding a junior development staffer. We will still get great work done.
Utilizing donor-centered fundraising approaches is an important tool to master and consider in your annual year-round fundraising strategies. Unfortunately, it feels like we are asking you to do more work (we are). However, we believe the return on the investment of this work is a long-term strategy for fund development, and necessary if you want to build on your successes year to year instead of starting again from zero each year.
Because the donor is first, you (or a volunteer or staff) should serve as the front-facing person interacting with the donor or alumni or constituents. They need to get to know you!
We can help by role-playing conversations, drafting e-mails, and talking through strategy, but the point of contact comes from you/your organization. We want to teach you to incorporate fundraising strategies into the organization’s DNA. We want to work ourselves out of a job. We want you to be an active participant in achieving your goals.
Often times a prospective client will come to us with an idea of what they want to execute with our expertise, and during the discovery phase, we discover that there might be a few steps before we can execute the big Gala or $1 Million capital campaign.
Red Olive helps you reframe expectations and needs based on manpower, time, budget, and existing circle of influence (donor database network, board network, volunteer networks), then helps you identify who can help you achieve those action items.
We like to think of ourselves more like a guest conductor of an orchestra, you are the career musicians. Together we’ll play a new symphony.
Grants should certainly be a solid portion of any successful revenue stream for an organization of any size, and we can build support for grants into our engagement strategy. It’s more cost effective for you, however, to utilize us as a coach, and after having written a first draft of a grant, seek our expert advice for structure, strategy, and execution.
Mostly, if your organization’s grant revenue (foundation, government) is more than 60% of your budget, our recommendation will most likely be for you to focus on individual donors, and most likely not by way of major fundraising events (Galas, Benefits, Art Auctions, etc).
If we are working with you with a grants strategy, we assume you already know where you want to apply. Because of our work and years of experience in the field, we will sometimes make best-fit recommendations or suggestions, however, we do not currently offer prospect research.
If you’re going to pay for prospect research, we will point you to our friends Foundation Center Online.
In addition to “you can’t do it alone,” Red Olive practices what we like to call “mission-based fundraising” vs. “transaction-based fundraising.”
Transaction-based fundraising: For organizations that don’t have existing membership programs, the last few years and the insurgence of fundraising platforms such as Kickstarter, Go Fund Me, Patreon, and etc have certainly been a benefit to organizations who are looking to build a roster of individuals willing to give to a cause. What this model does however, is provide sometimes necessary funds (if goal is met and you aren’t using a zero-sum strategy) to a specific project in exchange for a gift or prize.
Sounds good, right? Before you start your own campaign, please be advised that most small organizations do not take into account a few critical pieces:
The sheer amount manpower it takes to manage these platforms via email, social media, print, word of mouth, telephone, skype, etc.
Processing fees. After all that’s said and done you could lose 3 – 10% or more of your funds raised to processing fees. For a project that raises $10,000, you would lose up to $1,000.
Price of gifts. It’s true, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. But is it worth that keychain, pencil, notebook, cheap tchochsky?
Mailing / Processing. You have to purchase the envelopes. You have to stuff the envelopes. You have to make your way to the post office to send the envelopes.
But you asked about Membership programs. They are no different; just a longer-term transaction-based program. You have to think about member benefits. What do you have to give in order to get? How many postcards and lapel pins and totebags?
We aren’t saying don’t do a membership program, we are saying, let’s work together on mission-based fundraising. Where you are appealing to your donors to join you in accomplishing the thing you created an organization to do. To be investors in your vision. And so on. If you do it right, it might cost you a lunch, or a coffee, or a phone call and an e-mail, but that’s it. And then you get so much more.
It depends on how much of your budget depends on it (please don’t say more than 20%–but we know so often it is more like 50% or more—the remainder of what grants don’t cover).
In an ideal world, we have a year to plan. In a secondary ideal world, we have 8 months. Anything less than six months, and we won’t recommend that we are the company to help you execute this fundraising plan. And if you don’t have a budget line for fundraising…well!
Listen. The world is shifting. We have so much competition for our time, our resources, our energy. If folks don’t know about the work you are doing, they are less likely to invest in a ticket price for a Gala that will allow you to 1) break even or 2) be in the black. So, then you’re just throwing a party for folks who already believe in your mission and support you without a fancy party, who would probably support you differently, if not more, without a big, fancy party.
In truth, if you are operating below $1M, the investment would probably be better spent on personnel (!), technology, or other long-term strategic opportunities that will last you longer than one night with a rubber chicken dinner.
Sometimes it’s hard to think outside the box, or to go against what board members or others who mean well are telling you to do. It doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been. It can be something uniquely yours. We can help you think of what that looks like.