How to set up fundraising

Before you ask for money

Before looking at how you go about getting started with raising money, there are a few golden rules that your organisation needs to discuss and accept:

  1. Fundraising is a crucial part of any seafarers’ welfare organisation’s planning. It shouldn’t be (but often is) seen as an inconvenience, something to reluctantly get involved with or a less meaningful side of the job than the delivery of the charity’s objectives. It is core work and should be in the minds of all staff at all times, every bit as much as delivering the services of the organisation.
  2. Don’t be embarrassed about it.  Of course it isn’t easy to ask people to give you money and some cultures are less direct than others on the subject. That being the case, it should always be kept in mind that you are not personally asking, but doing the job for your beneficiaries.  Never undersell your organisation by asking for less than you need and never be embarrassed about what you do.  The number one rule of fundraising is that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  3. Prepare for refusals and be persistent. It can be disheartening to receive setbacks and very easy to give up.  The rejections also tend to come quicker than the positive responses, particularly when applying for grants. There will be ‘no thank yous’ and many of them; every charitable organisation in the world will have more people who do not support it than do. It is not a reflection on the work you do, so don’t get downhearted and don’t give up.
  4. It won’t be easy or a quick fix. Don’t expect money to come pouring in as soon as you start. Many techniques take time to generate money, so develop a long-term plan and measure performance over 12 – 18 months.

Having established these principles, you then need to think about some of the administrative and legal aspects. Before people commit to giving you money, they will want to know they can trust you and that this is a legitimate organisation. Check local laws and regulations as these will differ greatly from one country to the next, but here are some things you might need to consider doing, where possible, to earn trust:

  • Set up a management committee of at least three people, including an appointed treasurer, so that one person is not solely responsible for handling income.
  • Putting together a written constitution (or a basic set of rules) that show what your group does, how it runs and how it is accountable.
  • Set up a bank account in the organisation’s name with two or more signatories needed to withdraw money.
  • Register the organisation in some way. Are there legal requirements on you as a charity or a recipient of public funds? Many large grant givers may only consider giving to registered charities.  If that is not a legal requirement in your country, can you partner with a respected international organisation that could handle this for you?
  • Draw up basic accounts that show income and expenditure for at least the past year.
  • Check what policies you need and what you have that will lend credibility to your organisation. Do you comply with your country’s legal requirements (in the UK, for example, you will increase your fundraising reach by registering with the Charity Commission and supplying them with your accounts for inspection). Even if not a legal requirement, do you have official recognition in some way, do you have policies that might help build trust such as a child protection policy or a statement on who can access your services and when?

With the basic rules and the legal requirements understood and accepted, you can begin to look at where you might start. It is not easy to begin from nothing. There are so many types of fundraising, many of which are expensive to pursue and which don’t promise results for a couple of years. If you haven’t worked in fundraising before, this makes it difficult to know where to start and which funding streams to pursue.  The most common fundraising methods are outlined later (need for hyperlink)

To help understand which ones may work for you, draw up a two-three year plan. This should look at:

  • The funding need.  Why are you asking for money and how much do you need? What is the minimum that will sustain you and what would you need to cover all project costs and then grow?
  • Skills and contacts available within the organisation. Who works there, who is connected to the organisation and who do they know within business and other areas that may support you?
  • Current levels and types of support available to you. Do you have any base at all from which to start? What support have you received in the past and on what basis?
  • Return on investment. How much can you expect to receive for every $1 you invest in a given area of fundraising and how quickly you might receive it.
  • If you receive money, especially for a project, do you have the systems and processes to deal with it? Will you be able to account for it, spend it and report back to the funder and meet legal requirements?

When considering all of the above, it will help if you bear the following in mind:

  • Be realistic. Many funders will want to know you can handle the donation and will spend it wisely.  Don’t expect, therefore, large grants straight away. It may be that donors start small and see how the money is spent, building trust and a track record that will help you to apply for larger amounts in the future.
  • Plan ahead. Many funders, especially foundations and other grant giving bodies, may only meet every few months, so apply for money 6-9 months before you need it. This is vital if you employ staff and need external financing to pay wages. Once you have started, you will get into the habit of applying, receiving money and reporting back in good time.
  • Keep good records. This doesn’t just apply to income. You should know who you approached, when, for what and whether you received money or not.
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