Q&A with a pro-fundraiser | Tehmi Sukhla
Tehmi Sukhla is an experienced fundraising expert and has worked closely with Creative Partnerships Australia as a mentor to arts organisations. We interviewed Tehmi about her professional fundraising advice.
What are some of the characteristics of a successful fundraising project?
Team Effort – It’s a team effort where the whole of the organisation is involved and supportive, and it’s not left to the fundraising team in isolation. From the Director/CEO to the board, from artists and creative talent to customer-facing staff, everyone is playing their role.
Clear Vision – There is a clear, compelling and appealing vision for the project. This is woven into an engaging story or narrative that appeals to potential supporters.
Ability to View the Project from the Perspective of Potential Supporters – The project is viewed from the perspective of a potential donor or sponsor, rather than from the perspective of the organisation alone. The following questions are answered:
- What is the potential supporter looking for? How does this project help them achieve this?
- What are the values of the potential supporter? How does this project help them express these values?
- When first beginning a fundraising campaign, what should be the very first steps that are taken?
A clear vision for the project or fundraising cause is developed – with input, as relevant, from the board, Director/CEO, artistic team and fundraising team.
This vision should outline clearly:
- What the project/fundraising cause is.
- Its expected outcomes and timeline.
- Why this project is important to realise. Outlining why it is important for the organisation, and crucially, why this project matters to the wider community.
- How much you need to raise to realise this vision, and by when.
When a campaign doesn’t go to plan, what would you recommend?
There could be any number of reasons why a campaign isn’t going to plan, and each would require a tailored approach.
As a general rule, first, try to identify why the campaign isn’t going to plan and then revise the campaign and/or the project to address the specific issue/s.
For example, there might not be enough qualified leads in the pipeline i.e. there aren’t enough prospects to approach. To increase prospects, you might re-analyse your database for past supporters who align with the project, or you might reach out to current supporters of the project and ask them if they know anyone who would also be interested.
Or in another example, you might have enough prospects, but they are all saying no.
Try to find out why they are saying no. Is it that the prospects haven’t been qualified? i.e. you are approaching prospects who don’t align with the values of the project.
Or is there something about the project that is unappealing or putting potential supporters off?
Or is it late in the financial year when many donors and sponsors have already allocated their support for that year, so the timing of your ask is not right.
How far in advance should a project be strategically planned ahead of fundraising delivery?
Fundraising is about relationships and these take time to develop, so the more information you have early on, the better.
All of the information about the project can inform your fundraising plan and help you develop supporter relationships.
It is most important that the vision and outcomes for the project are known and clearly articulated from the outset.
Things always change on projects, so be prepared to adapt and be flexible.
What should one do when they receive a ‘no’?
Don’t get disheartened; develop your resilience as there will always be ‘noes’.
Cultivate a mindset of a ‘no’ is a ‘no’ for now or one step closer to a future ‘yes’.
Find out everything you can about why it was a ‘no’, so hopefully, you can go back to the prospect in future with another project more suited to their desired outcomes/values/timeframe/amount.
How do you know you’re on track halfway through your campaign?
Recognise that campaigns don’t follow a linear pattern.
Often there can be an early take-up, followed by a plateau in the middle and then a late rush at the end.
Be ready for this pattern so you’re not disheartened when it happens, especially on larger and longer campaigns. Also share this pattern with your ‘team’ – Director, Board and artists so they are aware of a likely plateau phase.
You know you’re in trouble if you have followed up all of your leads and there are not many/any left in the pipeline. Then is definitely time for Plan B.
If you still have qualified, warm prospects in the pipeline tackle them first before going to Plan B – you may just have reached the plateau and its usually more efficient to get a past supporter to support again, then chasing a brand new supporter.
Best piece of fundraising advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling. It’s not enough to just tell a good story, you need to tell a story that people want to be a part of.
Create a compelling narrative that supporters want to be a part of and they will support you.
Our Arts Mentorship programs fund arts organisations to work one-on-one with an experienced arts mentor to develop goals and strategies for their organisation. More here.