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Top tips for "borrowing" fundraising ideas

The old saying is that there is nothing new under the sun; that everything is just an adaption of an already-existing concept.

To that end, “borrowing” and adapting ideas is also a common part of the fundraising world – and here we provide 12 tips to help your group “borrow” efficiently and beneficially.

Three principles

  1. Your planning should be flexible enough to incorporate new ideas (and to substitute them for old ones) but solid enough so that you don't get stampeded into every suggestion at the meeting.
  2. You're selling your organisation, not your gimmick. You can't cover up structural weaknesses with a bright idea. This doesn't mean you have to be big, but it does mean that if you want to take on a new project you have to be sufficiently organised to be able to take advantage of it.
  3. Your strategic plan drives your fundraising ideas, not the other way around.

Three idea banks

  1. Join as a Funding Centre member and take note of the ideas or strategies you think you could make work in your own group.
  2. Read the annual reports of other not-for-profit groups.
  3. Read the newspapers, industry magazines and other's groups' websites, newsletters and periodicals and keep an ideas folder for clippings about successful fundraising projects. Try rating them out of 10 when you read them, then come back a week later and see if you still rate it as a good idea for your group.

Three operations

  1. For each project note the one unique driver or concept. What's new about it? What's different? What makes it work? What changes can you make to it to make it unique to your own group? How can you stick your own stamp on the concept?
  2. For each project, substitute your resources for theirs and see what change that makes to all the other variables.
  3. For each project, apply that unique driver to your own resources. What can you do with it? What other possibilities does it suggest?

Three follow-ups

  1. Identify someone in your group who has some expertise in this new area, or who can access it, and ask them to sketch out a plan.
  2. Do a back-of-the-envelope budget calculation of what the costs and the benefits of the new project and compare it with your existing fundraisers. Do you have enough spare resources available to add it on? Should it squeeze out an existing project or can you run a scaled back version as a value-adder to a current function?
  3. If it passes these preliminary filters, feed it into your strategic plan.