Many non-profit organizations rely on outside financial support to maintain, expand, or create programs and services. Fundraising is the process of soliciting and gathering contributions of money or other resources in the form of donations, sponsorships or through corporate philanthropy. Although fundraising typically refers to gathering funds from individual donors for non-profit organizations, it is also used to describe other areas of soliciting funds for investments and/or capital projects.
Today, fundraising for non-profit organizations takes on many different forms, including:
- Special events and product sales
- Direct marketing
- Individual donors
There is a lot of literature available on fundraising and many resources available on the Internet. Also, professional fundraising groups, such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), are valuable networks for learning opportunities. However, some of the best fundraising advice is very basic.
PREPARE YOUR ASK
An organization must make their need known – and they must be clear about their cause and the need for increased support. To be moved to give, most people need to understand that the need is there. According to Kim Klein, Grassroots Fundraising Journal, “If you don’t ask, they will simply assume you are getting money from somewhere else.” In the case of grants, a proposal that outlines a clear need, as expressed through research and community support, will be a stronger applicant.
DO MORE THAN JUST ASK
In the case of individual donations, Klein notes that donors do not want to feel like ATMs. It is important that they feel you are not only contacting them just when you need more money. Turn donors into ambassadors for your cause. Send easy-to-understand newsletters, progress reports, networking highlights and regular thank-yous. Make donors feel important to your successes. This relationship is usually spelled out more clearly in the case of grants or sponsorships. Most funders want acceptable recognition for their support and/or contributions.
CULTIVATE THREE TRAITS
First, have a strong belief in your cause or project, even through tough times. Secondly, maintain high hopes of achieving your fundraising goals, but also realistic expectations. Thirdly, Klein adds to “have faith in the basic goodness of people.” Fundraising is not begging. If you are doing good work, then people will notice that the cause or project deserves their support. Articulate your vision and needs well – connect it to the values of potential donors and the criteria of funders.
A well-planned and articulated request is key for individual donors, but also in the area of grants and sponsorships. There are many good people working in funding organizations that want the community to succeed in getting funding to support worthwhile projects. Be sure to talk to these people in the grant-writing or sponsorship process – they are trained to help non-profits and community groups succeed in their funding requests.
Fund-chasing occurs when a non-profit organization applies for a grant just because the money is available, not because the work will promote the organization’s mission. Yes, this does put money into the operations; however, it can also distract an organization from its true mandate. Replace fund-chasing with careful planning, time management and wise spending.
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
An hour of planning can save you many more hours of work. A fundraising plan helps you get out of the weeds and look at the whole picture of where time is best spent. Past evaluations, testimonials, feedback can all be reviewed to create a strong plan for moving forward. Some people can keep it all in their head, but that doesn’t help them when they need additional support. A plan enables others to grasp the overall vision and provide much needed help.
THANK AND THANK AGAIN
Many organization have thank-you cards or automated thank-you letters to send out following donations or sponsorships. Organizations are encouraged to personalize these thank-you messages to donors and sponsors, and help ensure the donor or sponsor realizes the importance of his or her support. A late thank-you is better than no thank-you at all.
Five fundraising activities that board members love to lead. By Roxanne Tackie for Charity Village, 2021.
Introduction to Project Budgets Webinar with SaskCulture Outreach Consultant Dominga Robinson, February 2018
The ten most important things you can know about fundraising, Kim Klein. Grassroots Fundraising Organization, January/February 2004.
Strategies for Effective Proposal Writing, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition,
Association of Fundraising Professionals
How Board Members can Become Effective Fundraisers, Tony Poderis. Raise Funds.com, 2009.