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Fundraising strategies for busy researchers

Updated: Feb 21

No matter their career stage, most researchers find themselves perpetually short on time. Amidst the hustle of academic life, fundraising often lands in the ‘important but not urgent’ category. Yet, it's a crucial aspect of ensuring your research thrives and ensures the sustainability of your research programme.           

     

In my over a decade of working in the research funding space, here are my top 2 tips for being strategic about your fundraising with as little as 2 hours a month.


Set aside dedicated time for fundraising as a non-negotiable 


It’s essential to build in dedicated time for fundraising as part of your research activities. Implement a monthly development meeting into your calendar where you commit at least two hours every month to strategize and review your fundraising approach.                


Set a standard agenda including: 

  • Progress towards fundraising targets; 

  • Emerging, time-sensitive calls for proposals; and 

  • Potential donors and partners who could be approached on a more ad hoc basis.  

     

Be selective and focus on funding opportunities that align closely with your research objectives and organizational goals. Long shots are tempting, but they often aren’t worth the investment of your limited time. Fundraising, like all other activities in your research programme should have a strategic focus.





 Streamline with a fundraising system and team 

    

  • Fundraising shouldn’t be a solo mission. If you have a team, bring them into these monthly meetings. The more minds and hands involved, the lighter the load.If you’re working solo, consider hiring a research assistant for about five hours each month specifically for prospect research. They can compile a briefing for you, allowing you to quickly scan and prioritize opportunities without getting bogged down in the details.

  • A well-organized system can be a game-changer. Have an administrator manage a central spreadsheet to track applications and an online system for storing them. This setup not only makes it easier to recycle content but also helps in keeping tabs on what’s in the pipeline and what’s already been accomplished.     

  • Invest in a fundraising coordinator! This may seem like a lot of money upfront for what seems like non-essential spending - but it is essential for your sustainability. Think of a fundraising coordinator as a project manager with a laser focus on fundraising. They’re not just for administrative tasks but are instrumental in managing the entire fundraising lifecycle. This role can be filled by someone from outside academia – often, a fresh perspective can be invaluable. The ideal candidate is someone adept at managing upwards, ensuring that even the busiest researchers stay on track with proposal submissions and documentation.

                         

Fundraising, when done well, can be a powerful catalyst for advancing your research. It's about smart management, delegation, and strategic focus. By adopting these strategies, you can transform fundraising from a daunting task into a vital component of your research success.


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