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An insider's guide to funding afterschool: IQCSS, the fundraising cycle

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An insider's guide to funding afterschool: IQCSS, the fundraising cycle

Raising the necessary funds to operate your afterschool program can often be one of the most challenging parts of your work day. It takes a great deal of time and teamwork to go from finding a donor to realizing a gift. A fundraising step-by-step guide can help.

The fundraising cycle consists of five steps and implementing them into your development efforts will help you focus and increase your chances for a gift. They are:

  • I - Identification which is to find a funding prospect (for purposes of this article, we’ll concentrate on foundations). Consider trusts and community, private, family and corporate foundations which have a track record in supporting the type of work you do. Search Google to determine what foundations fund afterschool in your community. Or, search for companies in your area such as local banks, car dealerships, and real estate firms, which tend to engage in philanthropic activity at the community level. Your board members may also have local contacts.
  • Q - Qualification is to determine if the prospect’s interests match your afterschool program needs and if it has the capacity to give. Review their websites to assess giving priorities and the types of organizations they fund. If the prospect appears to be a fit, reach out with an introductory email asking if they could spare a few minutes to discuss how you can enhance each other’s work. Do send a follow up email in one week should you not hear back.
  • C - Cultivation is about getting to know each other. You’ll want to review their annual reports and other collateral material to really understand the foundation. Additionally, you’ll want to engage them in your afterschool program by inviting them to your site, event or meeting. 
  • S - Solicitation is asking for a gift after you have qualified and cultivated the prospect (which could take up to 12 months). You would have had a conversation with the prospect about what to ask for and how much. For prospects giving on the low end, ask them to fund a portion (e.g. meals or snacks) of the program. Be prepared to offer them branding benefits such as name and logo on your website, mention in an upcoming newsletter, etc.
  • S - Stewardship once you receive a response, positive or negative, from your solicitation, it’s time to prepare for next year. Development never stops. Stewarding your donors is key to building long lasting relationships. You don't want to treat them like an ATM – just asking for money. Make them part of your afterschool “family” by sending them photos of your program, invitations for a site visit, or updates.

Each step builds on the one before it.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Christopher Vance, director of development, at cvance@afterschoolalliance.org.

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