Increasing Your Asks by Number and Scope
Communications, event planning, assisting with projects, administration and Board management -- often, fundraising is just one aspect of a fundraiser’s job!
It’s no surprise there never feels like enough time for it. Work on the ground in the day to day process can easily push aside longer term strategic fundraising.
Yet the math is simple: making more asks and bigger asks results in more funding. How to do it with so little time?
Luckily, there are some proven ways to help optimise one the most important aspects of your job: proposal writing.
Here are some techniques to help you maximize results by increasing both the number and the scope of your asks, without sacrificing more time.
Strategize and Share
First, do you have clear understanding of the projects that will need funding, their costs, timelines and proposed outcomes?
If not, start working with colleagues to ensure a process for communication so that you can have adequate knowledge (and lead time) to take these plans and secure funding to make them happen.
You’ll then need to check these plans against your current ask rate. Are you making enough asks to meet your current financial needs and targets?
If necessary, set goals for increasing the number of proposals you make per week.
Finally, who is responsible for what steps in the proposal writing process? Is it clear to everyone what’s expected of whom? Individual roles and goals should be clearly established and communicated.
Continually share your goals, timelines and progress with colleagues so they are aware of the effort and can better support the organisation's development.
With a clear picture of what needs to be done, efficient time management becomes crucial. You’ll want to ensure that proposal writing is part of a regular routine.
Plan specific time for proposal writing. into the workday or workweek It sounds simple, but the hard part is sticking to it. By getting specific about your schedule, you make it easier to form helpful habits and stay on top of your ask pipeline.
If you can, get even more specific in your scheduling: for instance, you could find one period per week reserved specifically for online applications.
Having properly scheduled enough time for proposal writing, the next step is to streamline the writing process itself so you can get more asks out the door.
One important way to do this is through templates, or “standard information blocks,” that will help you quickly compile the information you need for any given proposal.
For instance, you could prepare well-written blocks on the pieces common to most proposals:
Your organisation’s mission and values
A short history of your organisation
Team and Management
Board members, roles and affiliations
Examples of best practices associated with your organisation
Short case studies on your successful past initiatives
You can then cut and paste these blocks into your proposals so each one becomes a little easier to produce.
You can similarly streamline your outreach to funders who don’t like unsolicited proposals by creating a templated one-page letter of inquiry. Ensure that this letter includes clear contact information with your organisation, including address, email and phone.
An added bonus: creating templates will help you figure out exactly how you want to talk about your organisation, establishing the style and language you can use throughout your communications with funders. (Looking at successful past proposals may help.)
Most funders ask if audited financial statements are available. Ensure you have an electronic copy on hand for when a funder does ask to review. If the statements can be posted on your website, it makes a compelling case for transparency when you provide the link. Remember, for registered charities, your audited financial statements are available for public viewing on the CRA website so there should be no reason not to include these on your own organization's website under Governance.
Capacity permitting, efficient task distribution can also really help streamline your process. For example, you could have one staff member focus on online applications. That person then becomes very efficient at what is a similar process for each ask.
Increasing the scope of the ask can offer additional efficiencies for both the organization and the funder.
The scope of the ask refers to the potential breadth and timeline of your projects.
For example, if funding for a pilot project is needed, the scope of your ask can be widened to also allow for additional funding for the first year post-pilot phase.
Consider including the post-project outcome evaluation. Analysing and reporting on outcomes in the months following a project’s completion is an important part of your work that’s directly related to the project itself, which makes it a legitimate element to include in your proposal.
Proposal writing, when your process is well-developed, can be one of the least time-consuming part of fundraising. With these pieces in place, multiple proposals can be issued weekly.
Especially if you’ve expanded your prospect pool (see our Tip Sheet or download our Funder Research Guide to learn more on how to do that), increasing the number of asks to match with this expanded list of prospective funders will help you raise more money faster.