Running a start-up is always challenging no matter what sector you’re in. However fundraising faces some unique challenges. First what your selling, the help the charity offers, rarely benefits the donor directly. Second your budget is always going to be tight because your raison d’etre is to give money away! Having said that there are also some great advantages, such as motivated staff, knowing that you’re doing good and having strangers praise your business! As a marketer for social enterprise Giveacar I’ve been able to help a fundraising start up emerge from its founders head into the bright light of the world.

Offer a service or product:

Giveacar’s success as a fundraising company comes from offering a scrap car collection service. Oxfam makes a huge amount of money through second hand book stores. The biggest charities tend to be cancer charities, which offer support for a disease people are very likely to suffer from at some point in their life. The point here is that people may be willing to give to charity but they’re more likely to pay for a service. Having said that as many cause related marketer’s will tell you, people are willing to pay extra and give to charity. It will also help provide you USP.

Charities are great for marketing:

Big charities carry a lot of credibility and trust as well as having mailing lists full of donors. There are a couple errors to avoid though when using this. Don’t buy mailing lists of the charity, even if they are willing to sell it will annoy donors and hurt both of you. Far more effective is to ask the charity to include a story or a link to your website in their newsletter. The second thing is to make sure you have a charity’s permission before you put their logo on your website.  They need to be trustworthy and having their logo printed on an unknown fundraising site won’t help them, so they will make you take it down. Having said that if they do give you permission use it! The presence of large charities on your website and literature will encourage and reassure donors.

Use social media:

Everyone should be doing this anyway but the charity sector is very active on social media, with a large number of twitter conventions such as Follow Friday #ff and Charity Tuesday #CharityTuesday. Mention your favourite charities in your feed and some will tweet about you in return. Don’t expect too many sales out of this, but it helps to spread the word.

Make sure that people know you’re not a scam:

Why would someone think that your fundraising might be a scam? It’s not like you’re asking for money or… oh wait, yes you are. There isn’t much you can do about this that doesn’t come under basic PR; however there are a couple of things that can help. As mentioned above getting approval from charities will help establish you as a safe contact. If you can sign up to an independent body such as the Fundraising Standards Board (UK) or the AFP (international) to show your accountability.

Charity makes for a great story:

For both PR and SEO you need a supply of stories to give to the press, bloggers and so on. Fortunately fundraising is full of human interest stories; it’s worth asking donors why they decided to donate. After all the old man who donates a car worth $20,000 to a little known charity that helps his grandson’s Spina Bifada or the women running a marathon for her best friend is the type of heart-warming story than any brand would be pleased to be associated with.

So there are some the lessons learned from working in a fundraising start up. Hopefully they will be helpful and not too obvious! We would love to hear from other fundraisers about interesting stories.

This is a guest post from Daniel Frank. He works as marketing executive for the fundraising social enterprise Giveacar.