Fundraising All Year Round Without Turning off the Locals

Dear Kim,

What results should we expect for a hospital foundation in a rural community after 2 1/2 years? I started as the first full time director of the foundation in Jan. 2000. To date, we have raised an average of $45,000 in an annual campaign and been awarded $60,000 in grants. We have also worked on education of the community about the hospital and why we need financial help from them. Yet a couple of volunteer board members feel we should be raising money and working on fundraising all year around. I try to explain that it takes time to build relationships and trust. And that folks in small town America could really be turned off by a year round appeal of funds.
—Treading Lightly

Dear Lightly,

I am not aware of any generic benchmarks for a hospital like yours, but I would say the result you would want is more money raised every year. It does not sound like that is happening. It also doesn’t sound like you have set a specific fundraising goal. Without a goal, no amount of money will seem like the right amount.

I do agree with the volunteers that say fundraising is a year round business. It doesn’t mean that you are asking the same people all the time, but that fundraising is happening all the time. Sometimes you are organizing events, sometimes you are writing letters, sometimes you are appealing to the business community, etc. Perhaps you also have a gift shop and of course you are seeking grant funding. A year round plan means a steady income, and in your first three years, you should be able to double the amount you are raising every year. Part of building relationships and trust is taking small givers and turning them into bigger givers. People in a rural community want a high quality hospital–that is the best way to build trust.
—Kim