Fundraising has become an essential element to schools, scouts, sports and cheerleading teams, youth sports leagues, and other community groups in both small towns and major urban areas. The need for fundraising has become of greater importance than ever before for a variety of needs ranging from playground equipment, uniforms, and trips, to primary funding to support and maintain many types of programs and curriculum.

Fundraising used to be a means to offer or support for supplemental programs or activities, but in today's world fundraising is being depended on more and more for the survival and primary support for more and more groups, activities, events and programs.

This importance of fundraising in today's marketplace has created the need for stronger and more successful fundraising programs than can generate impact and results. Fundraising is no longer just a fun activity, but rather an entrepreneurial enterprise - a business.

Parents, students and community members are bombarded and approached with more fundraising solicitations than ever before. "The one crucial element is to make sure your fundraising efforts do not get lost in the shuffle. You must make sure your fundraising campaigns are properly executed to position yourself to achieve the best results possible.

The good news is that there are seven important steps you can implement to help to insure your fundraising success.

1. Create A Good Fundraising Team

This is one of the first and often most overlooked aspects of a successful fundraising program. Your team is the heart and soul of your fundraiser. Even though it is often difficult to get volunteers and quality people to be part of your fundraising team, one of the biggest mistakes that can be made is just accepting anyone onto your team. Seek people that are driven, motivated, and share your fundraising vision. Those who can attain their given goals. Confident, self-starters who can take direction, yet be able to function and operate on their own.

It is better to have a smaller team of like-minded and motivated members than to have a larger team with some weak links.

Take the time to find the right people for your team. Talk to them, learn their interests, discover their strengths and weaknesses, and then put the best qualified person in their most appropriate position.

Do your homework and make the effort and you will find that this is time well spent as you are creating the strongest foundation possible for your fundraising abilities.

2. Selecting The Right Fundraiser

Equally as important as assembling the best fundraising team as possible, is selecting the right and proper fundraiser itself. Factors such as the length of your campaign, the season or timeframe of your campaign, the size of your committee or team, the amount expected to be raised, and your target market and demographics are just some of the key elements that should be considered to assist you to select the right fundraising program.

Let your fundraiser stand out from the pack. The market is saturated with many of the same typical fundraisers such as candy, candles, wrapping paper, cookie dough, discount cards and so on. While some of these may have the potential to offer decent results, you may find your efforts are greatly improved and better accepted by your target audience by offering a different type of fundraiser. Custom fundraising products, live event and family entertainment fundraisers, and other unique fundraising ideas can assist you in offering that "something different or special" element than can allow your campaign to stand out and be better accepted and a welcomed relief from the typical standards.

Explore your options and ideas. What programs really excite your team and can create excitement in your market? Take the time and effort to carefully examine these factors to select a winning fundraiser.

3. Plan Your Fundraising Success

Many times the lack of proper planning is the reason behind a lack of expected results. Chart out your fundraiser from your first step through completion. By creating a plan to execute your fundraiser you and your entire team will be able to see the big picture.

Plan out all facets of your fundraiser including staffing, dates, times, promotion, product distribution, ticket sales, accounting, meetings, and any other pertinent details than may be included in your overall plan.

4. Set Your Goals

Along with the proper planning of your fundraiser is the creation and execution of your goals. Creating a written set of goals allows you to see your starting point, where you are each step of the way, and where your final goals are at all times.

Having these written goals also helps keep your team invested and aware of their expectations, while also being a fantastic way to measure and track their results and progress. Your team will enjoy a great feeling of pride and accomplishment as each goal is reached during your campaign. There is no better feeling than to meet your expected goals and even surpassing them to achieve greater success. This also promotes team spirit and overall motivation of all of your team or committee members.

5. Manage Your Fundraising Team

Once you team is in place, your plans and goals have been determined, it is crucial to properly manage your fundraising team. Make your your leaders and team members are clear on their role and duties. Make sure they have the tools and materials to succeed. Identify any strengths and weaknesses that may exist. Tend to the weaknesses and play to your strengths. Who are your teams "superstars"? Who needs special attention and reinforcement and perhaps personal motivation? What combinations of team members work well together and produce the best results?

Managing your team while assisting and supporting your team leaders will put you on the fast track to your desired expectations.

6. Promote And Spread The Word

After all of the team, goals and organizational efforts are in place, the priority is the continual promotion of your fundraising campaign. Your main objective is to make sure as much of your target audience as possible becomes aware of your fundraising program.

Spread the word in anyway you can including as many methods and resources as possible. Although you must have a combination of promotional methods and techniques, the most beneficial is still word of mouth promotion. Let everyone you encounter be made aware of your fundraiser and the important cause or benefactor to your efforts. Promote the reason for your fundraiser and remind your target or potential customers that they are helping your cause and objective. People want to feel that they can help to make a difference.

You will soon find the amount of promotion directly affects your final results, so promote, promote and promote even more.

7. Motivate Your Fundraising Team

The importance of maintaining the proper focus and motivation is also very important to your fundraising success. Different people get bored or lose motivation at different levels. Stay on top of your team members and offer support and motivation to each member as needed. Acknowledge their successes and accomplishments, remind them of your goals, and reinforce their importance to your team's overall success.

Avoid "fundraising fatigue" or burnout. Offer incentives and rewards to your team members for achievements.

Maintain the spirit, attitude and enthusiasm of your team members. The right positive attitude is infectious. Being aware of these factors should help you to keep everyone focused and on track to attain your desired results.

By following these seven steps your fundraising campaign will be managed properly and positioned for optimum success. "While these steps may appear to be a more business-like approach, this is how fundraisers must operate to attain your goals, succeed in today's potentially saturated market, and prevail even in difficult times." These steps work well with all styles of fundraisers and offer immediate and residual benefits.

Robinn Lange is the creator of Main Event Live Entertainment Fundraisers and is a co-founder of Custom Fundraising Programs, specializing in custom fundraising specialty products and events for schools, colleges, and sporting leagues and teams.