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Fundraising Readiness

Prepare for Fundraising to Achieve the Best Results

There are many ways to raise money for charitable organizations including holding special events, conducting direct mail appeals, selling products, and submitting grant proposals to potential funders.  But a charitable organization will not achieve long-term fundraising success, if it is not ready to solicit potential donors.  

Fundraising readiness is particularly important for start-up organizations because they are not well-known or well-tested.  Therefore, potential funders do not have as much information on which to make a decision to support such organizations.  

What is fundraising readiness?

Fundraising readiness is an organization’s ability to “support and sustain fundraising activities.”  

I once received a call from an executive director of a small, struggling social service agency that was not serving its target population because it had no money.  She was desperate to obtain grants from foundations and corporations.  In talking with her, I discovered that she had no fundraising plan or clearly defined program descriptions.  She was not sure about the geographic area that her organization planned to serve nor had she thought about the number of people it planned to help.  Furthermore, her board members were not taking an active role in the organization, and she did not have a budget.  Although her organization addressed an important and worthwhile cause, it was incapable of successfully competing for grants.

What components are needed to operate a successful fundraising campaign?

Organizational Structure

To demonstrate stability, competence, and accessibility, an organization must have a basic business foundation that can be expanded over time.  This involves completing the following tasks:

Human Resources

The organization should have administrative staff (paid and/or volunteer) who have clearly defined roles and regular work schedules.  This will make managing the organization and conducting fundraising activities consistent and effective.  It is also important to have a board of directors with expertise in various areas of business.  Moreover, board members should take an active part in managing the organization and raising funds.

Financial Resources

An organization needs a budget to implement its fundraising plan, which might include the following expenses:

Like any new business, start-up capital for non-profits can be difficult to secure.  Some ideas for acquiring seed money include gathering donations from board members, investing personal income, working with organizations that help non-profits build capacity, and building a volunteer-based workforce.

Fundraising Plan

A fundraising plan helps an organization develop and follow an effective course of action, but it is not a static document.  Much like a business plan, it should be viewed as a blueprint for success that might need to be revised to address changing internal and external conditions.  

A fundraising plan also enables the organization to gain an understanding of its fundraising needs, choose the best fundraising methods, and evaluate the fundraising climate.  This makes it possible to move forward confidently and efficiently.


Depending on the fundraising method, it can take quite some time to get from the planning stage to the end destination of obtaining donations.  This makes fundraising a long, sometimes tedious, and usually on-going process.  Therefore, it is imperative that managers and fundraisers allow enough time to develop the organization’s structure, plan a fundraising campaign, and implement the plan.

Why is fundraising readiness so important?

When the organization’s structure is in place before fundraising begins, fundraisers can demonstrate its capacity to tackle a particular issue.  If an organization does not have sound business practices, a target population, established programs, and a well-thought out case for funding, it will have no credibility with potential donors.

Foundations, corporations, government agencies, and individual donors will not invest in an organization that they do not trust.  They will have no faith in the organization’s ability to make a positive impact on a cause that they feel passionate about.

Listed below are suggestions for preparing an organization for fundraising success.

  1. Develop a case statement. A case statement is a brief document that explains why an organization is important and worthy of funding.  This statement forms the basis for developing other documents such as proposals and fundraising plans.
  2. Develop a fundraising plan that lists fundraising methods, potential sources of funding, goals, and timelines.  The plan should take into account the organization’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the fundraising climate.
  3. Create an annual budget that lists revenue sources and expenses.
  4. Secure adequate resources such as money, equipment, and supplies before starting the fundraising campaign.  This will show potential funders that the organization has stability.
  5. Develop partnerships with local government, the business sector, community leaders, and other organizations.
  6. Clearly identify and describe the target population.
  7. Define the geographic service area.
  8. Develop solid programs that include best practices or innovative ways to address the target population’s needs. Program plans should also include activities, goals, objectives, timelines, and evaluation methods.

Creating a charitable organization that provides a full-range of services can take many years.  Building a sound organizational structure that makes it possible to raise money is the immediate task.  If a charity is just starting out, it will probably have to build its structure while raising the money it needs to grow.  

The key is to have a basic structure in place that shows potential funders that the organization is credible and viable.  This coupled with a solid fundraising plan will help the organization successfully compete for foundation, corporate, and government grants as well as donations from individuals.


Institute for Conservation Leadership. Assessing your organization’s fundraising readiness. https://www.icl.org/samples-lib/fundraising.php (accessed May 21, 2009).

Sarabi, Brigette. Fundraising readiness: How does your agency stack up? The Grantsmanship Center. http://www.tgci.com/magazine/Fundraising%20Readiness.pdf (accessed May 20, 2009).

Wyckoff, Barbara. Basic fundraising plan. National Forest Foundation. http://nationalforests.org/pdf/BasicFundraisingPlan.pdf (accessed May 21, 2009).

Copyright © 2009,2013 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

© 2014 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

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