Episode 13 – Tips on Fundraising

Your Sports Resource

Discover fresh fundraising ideas beyond grants and repetitive events as Danielle Locke shares valuable tips in this episode. She offers ways to not get overwhelmed and how to be purposeful in her approach.

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00:00:00 Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource Podcast, where each week you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement so the operations of your club, support your staff, and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.

Renata 00:00:27 

OK, welcome everybody to this week’s episode of the Your Sports Resource Podcast. My name is Renata, and I am very grateful that I have a special guest, Danielle Lock on the show today. Danielle is the founder of Locke Step Partners LLC an advisory firm which specializes in nonprofit management, donor cultivation fundraising, and campaign strategies and board engagement.


Danielle serves as a fundraising coach for nonprofit leaders, a nonprofit advisor, Speaker, and a Trainer as well. She’s very busy. She has successfully worked as a fundraiser for more than 20 years in organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic, the Community Foundation of Lorain County, and the Arthritis Foundation.


Danielle holds a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®) from the American College of Financial Services. A Master of Public Administration with a certificate in nonprofit management from the Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University. So welcome Danielle, appreciate you coming on the show.

Danielle 00:01:30 

Thank you, thank you! I’m happy to be here.

Renata 00:01:32 

Right. Well, if you don’t mind, let’s just hop right in, okay? Alright. So, you’ve carved out a really nice space of helping nonprofits with their fundraising efforts. So, why is this your passion?

Danielle 00:01:45 

Well, you know, first of all I’ve been in nonprofit 20 some years I started really right out of college. My first job was at a health and life insurance company, and I quickly skid at out of there and ended up in nonprofit and I fell in love with it, and I’ve been in nonprofit ever since, like it says in my bio I’ve worked for very large organizations I’ve worked for tiny nonprofits where I built my own desk out of a door and two filing cabinets, and I think for me this work of fundraising is it comes pretty natural to me. It’s part of who I am building relationships and seeing the connections between mission and philanthropy and individuals, and nonprofit and so you know, I’ve been around the block, and I feel like I, I really want to share the knowledge that I have and the inputs in behind launching my business was because my last position I was a fundraiser but I, you know, was the gift planning officer at a Community Foundation. So, my role was creating endowment funds, working with individuals, doing large $1,000,000 gifts.

Renata 00:02:49 


Danielle 00:02:50

But you know I would sit in these grant funder meetings, right? And I’d be with the committee members, and they would be talking about nonprofits, and we would be judging them based on their success. We would talk about the Executive Director, whether they were a good investment of our donors’ dollars. All of these things and I felt like I knew these nonprofits and I knew their struggles, and I knew the executive directors and I knew their donors because it was a relatively small community and I felt like I just kept thinking why are they so dependent on grants and their events, right?


If I could just take them by the hand and show them how to build a successful fundraising program that grows year after year. You know, if I could help them dig into their donor database and find the donors that they’re ignoring that I know that they have and do better with them, then they wouldn’t need. They wouldn’t be so dependent on grants and events they could be self-sustaining. Of course, I had a job and that was not my job, but when I left there, I really thought could I do this? Could I teach nonprofits how to build a better fundraising program and be stronger for it? And I headed down that path and I’ve never looked back.

Renata 00:04:03 

Oh, it’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, you touched on something in that, like I guess I’m gonna use the word judging. You didn’t, but the word that they were judging the nonprofit, and I know, especially in working with youth sports teams, they’re small, they’re small nonprofits, and they’re heavily dependent on volunteers to help get work accomplished.


And this is a space that, I mean, you just can’t pluck a volunteer up to head up your fundraising efforts you know, and usually, when you do all they’re focused on is the event side of it. And I agree with you that if people could take a really good, hard focus look, look at how they could fundraise. It would absolutely supplement the amount of grants that they have to write, and a lot of clubs in my experience, they have that same grant that they write for year after year because they’ve been successful with that one or two, and then they ignore everything else.


Well, grants are not guaranteed, just like fundraising is never guaranteed. And you know, I think when you can try to tap into a bunch of different buckets. I mean you fund yourself in so many different ways versus just hoping and praying on a wind that that one and grant’s gonna come through.


So, how do you? I don’t know if you have experience in working with really small companies like a sports organization and. I want to say that they’re kind of lackluster in the fact that they do the same repetitive things over and over again. So how do you get them out of that? Like, no, there’s so many opportunities, you just need to do this and get them into that mindset of taking that on when they probably feel like it’s really overwhelming. How do you do that?

Danielle 00:05:41 

You know it’s simpler than you think. Two things that I do when I start working with any size group and a lot of my clients are very small. It’s one is I take a look at everything that they have done, right? Because if you’ve been around more than a minute there’s good stuff to be had. You’ve got some volunteers, some board members that may have fallen away, maybe a bunch of lists of donors or people that gave to an event that no longer give, right?


There’s good stuff, right? So, I always work with nonprofits to dig around and find the good, right. And then let’s figure out how do you do more with that, right? How do you re-contact those donors? How do you sort of go back and take advantage of the things that were good, right?


The other piece of it is we do a simple exercise where I give them a fundraising grid and it’s basically just like a month, you know, January, February, March, April, May, June, right? And start to like map out the year and you know, for your groups it might only be six or nine months, right?


But you know what is it that you’re going to do in January? What are you going to do? Are you going to send a letter in February? You know you have, maybe you know the summers are really busy with events and with games. So then do you do an end of year, like a fall fundraiser thing, right? What does that look like, right?


And then how do you fill in the gaps, right? Which you’ll often see in that very simple exercise is that they probably do a whole bunch of stuff at the beginning of the season at the end of the season, right? But what happens during the year you’re taking advantage of people sitting in the game doing nothing? What are those holes that you have? And the other thing is to take a hard look at what you’ve done and say you know, is it still working?

Renata 00:07:22


Danielle 00:07:23

Is this event still effective? Are we still making money? Research will tell you most events have a, used to be a 10-year life cycle before you needed to blow up an event and totally change it. I think in this day and age it’s probably five or six years?

Renata 00:07:38 


Danielle 00:07:39

Before an event hits maturity and you need to either do something different or blow it up and make it different in such a way that it feels fresh and new, you know one of my old bosses used to say if you add something you have to take something off so don’t just keep adding a bunch of little stuff thinking it’s going to add up to a lot you have, you need to be choice full, you need to make choices about what is going to be the best given your resources, your volunteer base, what’s of interest to your audience and go after those things.

Renata 00:08:11 


Danielle 00:08:12 

You know the other thing is probably, particularly for your group is there’s such a stigma around asking for donations and so many people are afraid to ask for help, and so I do a lot of work with nonprofits around that and getting past that fear, but you know you’re not alone.


So many nonprofits, even ones I’ve worked with that have been around 40 or 50 years, have been sort of haphazard in their fundraising, and maybe haven’t sent a letter of appeal in a while, or maybe never have.

Renata 00:08:40 


Danielle 00:08:41

So that’s one of those things that you know we try to, try to put our bootstraps on and say, alright, we’re going to ask for some help and you know some people respond and some people won’t, but you’ll be far better off for having done that.

Renata 00:08:54 

Yeah. I think fear drives a lot of it, but I wanted to go back to how you were saying. Like your kind of layout that calendar. I love the planning aspect of it and getting them to, you know, really kind of plot out their year or nine months or whatever it may be. Do you also get them to think about, like is it also helpful to plan out what you actually need the funds for, and are there certain things that you tell them, no, that’s not the type of thing that you fundraise for you?

Danielle 00:09:22 

That’s a good question. Yes, I think it, I think, probably even before you plan out your year is to think about in your annual sort of organizational planning is, you know where is the gap in your funding? Where do you need funding and what do you need it for?


If you can identify specific needs. A lot of times when I work with nonprofits, I’ll encourage them to do two letters a year, one may be spring fall or spring, summer, and one like end of year, Thanksgiving time. I usually encourage them not to just have it be a blanket appeal like is there a specific need? Is there materials, uniforms, new benches? You know what is it, what is the specific need, and then tie a story to that right?


Like what does it mean if you had any scoreboard, right? What would that look like?

Renata 00:10:08 


Danielle 00:10:09

And communicate that.

Renata 00:10:11 

To me, that’s telling a story.

Danielle 00:10:12 

Yeah, donors like stories and they also like tangible, right?

Renata 00:10:15


Danielle 00:10:16 

They like to know that their money is going to something specific, so that’s really good. When you, you have a plan to say OK for this appeal, for this request, we’re looking for X amount of money for this purpose, and you know people like to know that it’s going to a specific cause for a specific reason. Yeah, I hope that answers your question.

Renata 00:10:37 

Yeah. So, do you find that the organizations that you work working with that when they get started like they get a better response than they ever, because I feel like sometimes, they just feel like oh nobody is ever going to give money. You know it’s too much work, and then when you actually get him in that direction, are they ever surprised at how well people respond to the appeals? Whatever they may be?

Danielle 00:11:03 

I will say 100% of the time I have never seen a nonprofit put out a request where they weren’t surprised by the results. Yeah, unless they had some crazy lofty goals, but in general, like you say, most nonprofits I work with, they’re fearful they’re nervous. They don’t want to offend people and you know, I work with them to put out that request, or to do that event or put up a social media post and they’re always, always surprised and encouraged by the response that they get if you ask, people will give if you are sincere in what you’re asking for and you’re passionate, people will respond. That’s just a matter of fact.

Renata 00:11:44 

That’s great. That’s good to hear, and I hope that’s encouraging to the audience that they hear that. Can you get in a little bit about maybe the different types of ways that people can fundraise. Because again, I think for our I mean I don’t know this might be my assumption and I may be completely wrong, but I feel like in the sports arena it’s always about an event or they feel like they need to sell something.


You know whether it’s at Christmas, it’s poinsettias, or is it candy or whatever it is they feel like they have to sell something so and I feel like that just limits people so much. But I’m the least creative person on the planet, so I don’t have. I don’t usually have an answer for different things that they can do, but maybe you do. Maybe you have some ideas that you can point them in the direction of the different types of things that they can do for fundraising or different ways they can fundraise.

Danielle 00:12:38 

Yeah, like you said earlier, fear drives a lot of what we do, and so the whole idea that if you have an event or you sell something, you’re giving something of value to your audience and so you can feel less guilty about asking them to write a check.


But there are lots of ways to raise money you know can be raffle drawing or a 5050 or like you said hosting an event. It could be sending a letter, you know, a letter of request. It could be just a Facebook fundraiser, right? Or a GoFundMe. You know I’ve had donors that have hosted their own golf outing or their own walk, or like you said, sell something.


You know the advice that I would give you is because it can get overwhelming very quickly, right? With all the different things that you can do.

Renata 00:13:29 


Danielle 00:13:31 

And so, I would say to take a minute and brainstorm. What do you need right? How much you’re trying to raise? What do you need it for? And then what do you have access to, right? Like do you know somebody that can donate a bunch of ice cream and you could do an ice cream social? Do you know a celebrity that people would pay to meet? Or can you tag on to somebody else’s event? You know what is it that, what are the relationships that you and your volunteers and your parents have access to that, and you can’t do them all. You have to pick. Like one or two. And you know, if they don’t work their work, then skip it and you know go to something the next year, right?


But what did you have access to that makes sense for you? And that’s where the calendar really comes into play. Because you can’t sell something every month of the year, so that’s where you want to create some diversity, right? You might do an event here, you might sell some stuff here, you might do a letter in the spring and in the fall.


You might just do online raffle tickets. There’s a lot of groups that will do, like an online 5050 like every month, and then they sell a bunch of tickets, and they draw a winner at the end of the month via Facebook live.

Renata 00:14:43 


Danielle 00:14:44

You can also do that with consignment goods. You know, like a signed autographed jersey kind of thing. There’s lots of lots of different ways. The other thing is to kind of feel out what is your audience like, right? Maybe they’re tired of sports stuff and they want. Some food or some bottles of wine, right? Like what is it they’re interested in and how could you tap into that.

Renata 00:15:04 

Right. So, who do you suggest they go after? Because I know a lot of times and again, I think this is where fear comes in. They don’t want to get out outside of what they know, and I think they depend so heavily on their membership who are already paying dues and you know every month so, who else should they be tapping into when they’re doing these fundraising efforts?

Danielle 00:15:27 

Yeah, there’s that’s a great question. There’s you know you want to kind of start broad and build down. I think you know you think about the old funnel, right? Like they’re looking at it from who’s the closest to them, right?


The dues paying members but go broader, look at your community, your small, your small business members, your banks, the local Walmart, the Kiwanis, Lions Club, Rotary groups. These all have dollars that they donate to local groups like this. You know your past members. Your past, board members, grandparents, right?


Like the thing that’s so easily it happens all the time is that you focus on the people that are right in front of you because they’re so closely, you know, they feel and see and touch that the mission that you have. But it’s so hard to retain all those old people, right?


I mean how? How often would you say like I really, you know. I remember those days, I remember when I was in high school. I remember when you know I used to go see my grandson play right like those people still care. It’s just they’re not at the games every day, they’re not actively invested, but so often if you reach back out to them and you honestly send him a newsletter and saying, here’s what we’re doing these days we could, you know, we would appreciate your support, or you know we’re looking to do a campaign to raise X amount of money for this.


People hold onto those feelings, and they want to support things that once brought them joy. Local business, your retail shops. They want to do good. They don’t have a lot of disposable income, but they can do a little bit, and you know, like I said, your banks, your local Walmart, your service clubs, they all have dollars that they have set aside to support local groups.

Renata 00:17:09 

Yeah, good I think 1 area that I resonate with, and this is something I push the clubs with all the time is their past members and I tell them all the time. If you’re not cultivating that list and keeping up with that list. I mean, I usually talk about it from a volunteer perspective. You know, I tell them all the time like these guys know your club. They know about you. They already know what you’re about and they’ve grown up and build skill sets that you can take advantage of, right?


But as far as fundraising is concerned, that’s the same thing, right? They may want maybe they don’t have time, but they want to give of money, or they’ve may cultivate their own soon, I don’t know groups of friends and acquaintances that they can tap into. They’ll also help donate as well.  So, I really, I really love that you said to look at your past members, because that’s just huge and I think it’s a missing gap for a lot of these clubs that they don’t pay attention to.


That could be so easy to draw them in with a simple newsletter and you know, once a quarter just to say this is what we’re doing, this is our next pledge and next thing that we’re going for. So, I think that’s great. So, I know you mentioned quite a few like of who like your local businesses and I didn’t even think about the local, you know, like the Rotary and the Kiwanis to go to ask for money, because I always assume, well, they’re a nonprofit they’re trying to raise money too. But how do you actually just start asking for the donations you know, I know there needs to be a bit of a plan, but like, can you give any advice as far as you know how to actually just start that process.

Danielle 00:18:41 

Yeah, absolutely you know talking about, you know, stepping back a second you were talking about the membership and your past board members. You know one thing that I always encourage them that might seem overwhelming. You might have hundreds of past members, right?


But start with either the most recent members or your board. Or you know most recent people that were that were in leadership position. I can tell you that I chaired a board for six years. I just finished last summer, and I haven’t heard anything from them, I was with them for seven years. Time, money, resources. I guided them through the pandemic. They were a huge part of my life.

Renata 00:19:21 


Danielle 00:19:22

And you know, I expected to be financially supporting them even though I wasn’t investing my time anymore as I finished my position. But it’s weird that I haven’t heard from them at all and it’s not a personal thing it’s a matter of functionality.

Renata 00:19:33 


Danielle 00:19:34 

It’s a matter of like. There isn’t some flag in their system to say oh, we should really be still communicating with our most recent board members because they cared so much about us at one point, and you know it just it just goes by the wayside. Like I said, you’re always focused on who’s right in front of you? So those are really missed opportunity.


Uhm, so getting started seems again overwhelming, but the two things that I would say are one is to get down what I call your money story which is. You know what is the need? What are you trying to accomplish? You know how are you trying to make a difference in the community or in the lives of youth and their families? How do you plan to address that right and really, what does it cost to do that? What does it cost you to run a season to buy the things that you need to do?


It would surprise you the number of organizations, no matter their size or their experience are not clear about what they need and what they’re trying to do when they communicate with people there, they just we do great work, and you should support us and that’s not enough anymore.

Renata 00:20:46 


Danielle 00:20:47

You need to be very clear about how my dollar is going to have impact. What you’re going to do with it and what you expect to happen. The other thing where I say to we talk about getting started is first of all is start with your mailing list. This is not, you know who you’re specifically going to ask, but who are you talking to? Who are you sending a newsletter to go back into those archives and pull up those old membership lists and get them into you know, MailChimp or Constant Contact. So that you start communicating with them and re engaging them, right?


If you’re new to get started, just start getting lists and names of people from your from your board members and from your staff and in your community. Just put a bunch of people on the list because you just want to start building awareness. You just want to start making connections and then people will self-select whether they want to actually make a financial donation.


But if you’re not talking to them. They don’t know, you know so I say start with a list. Ask a few times for some support. Make sure that you keep good records of who gave. Thank them profusely and quickly and honest, and you know genuinely you know. Make it easy to give. Let people donate online in person, drop off a check, mail you a check. Particularly online, right?


Make it make it easy for whatever the age they are right? Some people are online people. Some people want to send on the track and involve others, right shouldn’t just be one person who’s doing this. You want your volunteers and your board to be helping you know, have this conversation.


And particularly with small groups and smaller level donors, one of the biggest missed opportunities is recurring donors. It’s recurring donations right that monthly withdrawal that hits their checkbook or hits their credit card 10, 20 bucks a month for the whole year.


And there’s some easy, inexpensive online programs that you can use that makes that accessible to everybody. Think about how many people maybe give write you a check for 20 thirty 50 bucks, but if you could get them to do 20 bucks a month for the whole year? That would be amazing.

Renata 00:22:54 

Yeah absolutely. So, I love your wording that you’re purposeful in your approach in your planning and you’re cultivating your lists, right? Not being afraid to ask and making sure that you give them the reasons why you’re asking so you can pull in that engagement. It’s not airy, fairy, there’s specifics around it, so I think that’s all wonderful and then being flexible in how you ask for money and how you receive money and that just gives you know the audience or those who want to be, would-be donors, opportunities to donate in a way that’s appropriate for them, so that was my takeaway from that paragraph that’s wonderful. Heard that paragraph from your last statement. That’s great.


So, you have some mini-courses coming up. Do you want to tell us about those?

Danielle 00:23:43 

Yeah, that would be great! You know it’s been rather an evolution. You know I’ve been doing a lot of like I said, training with our local small business development center and some other membership groups and trying to make it as easy as possible for small groups to get started. How do you break that down into bite-sized pieces?


So, you know when I talk about The Who to ask when to ask, how to get started, what to say these things that we’ve talked about. Those are all just broken down into mini-courses. The Who the how the what, the one you know little inexpensive courses which I’m still working on in my spare time. Hopefully, I’ll get those launched this year.


But I dig deep into each of those topics so we talk about who would ask. We get into corporations and individuals and local businesses, and all the different ways to access those groups within that one course around who to ask, right?


Same thing about when getting more specific about how do you plan your year beyond that fundraising.

Renata 00:24:42 


Danielle 00:24:43 

So yeah, so stay tuned. I’m looking forward to those coming out this year. The best way to stay apprised of when that happens is to go to my website and sign up for my email list which I also try to send emails on a one or twice a month, but only when I have something valuable that I can send out, right? I try not to send junk or follow me on social media. I actually do a lot, put a lot of tips and tricks and updates on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.


So, I’m out there and you know. I would love to have anyone who has any questions DM me? I just I want to help the little guy make some big strides.

Renata 00:25:23 

So how can they find you? What’s the website, and what’s your socials?

Danielle 00:25:27 

So, the website is www.lockestep.com and then social on Facebook, it’s

Facebook.com/lockesteppartners So that’s my last name. Instagram is instagram.com/daniellemlocke  and LinkedIn same, linkedin.com/in/daniellemlocke.

Renata 00:25:52 

Awesome, wonderful and we’ll also put those in the comments for the podcast as well, so it’s easy for them to connect to you.

Danielle 00:25:58 


Renata 00:26:00 

So, anything else you’d like to share with the audience? I think you have a free download.

Danielle 00:26:05 

Yeah, I was going to say that the last thing I would say is I have a free download. I put it together about a year or so ago called the 10 simple and realistic ways to raise $20,000 for your nonprofit. And this is some of what I’ve talked about in terms of their service clubs, the easy Walmart grants. It’s the low hanging fruit that honestly, I see a lot of Nonprofits sort of whiz past and they’re focused on the events and some of the other things when there’s easy and quick opportunities out there so that you know that’s a free download from my website, http://www.lockstep.com.


And my last advice would be just to take small steps. Don’t get overwhelmed. You know this can be scary and overwhelming, and you know the best thing to do is to make a few changes. Try to try some new things. Plan it out so spread it out throughout the year and just add a few things. And give them a try and see how they do.


Do not try to do all things at once because you’re not going to succeed and you’re going to get overwhelmed and disappointed. So, take small steps. Be confident you are not selling used cars or shoes, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you are looking to support the great work that you’re doing, so be passionate, be proud, be confident and be sincere, right?


Just be genuine and the fact that you believe in the work that you’re doing and the mission that you’re striving for, and you are asking them to join you, right? because you’re giving a whole bunch of yourself and you’re asking them to get involved to give a little bit of their time, or their treasure or their talent. To help you move your mission and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, you should feel great about the work that you’re doing.

Renata 00:27:56 

Wonderful, well that’s wonderful words of advice to end the show on. I really appreciate you joining us today and for our audience, if you need help and assistance with your fundraising efforts, please look up Danielle and her organization and give her a conversation. Send her an email and you know. Check out what she has to offer. Maybe she can help you move to the next step.


OK listeners, that’s all for today. Thank you so much for joining and thank you, Danielle, for being here and we hope that you will like rate and review the podcast so many more can hear the information on how to lead your organization well.