How Do I Start Fundraising?

by | Jan 15, 2021

Did you know a majority (90%) of non-profit organizations report that they have one source of funding and that one source accounts for 90% of their total funding?

When we work with clients to help increase their funding, we typically recommend that they diversify their Funding Streams Imagefunding.  When an organization is strongly reliant on fees for service or grants, then we help them determine what other funding sources might be a good fit for their organization based on their industry, community and organizational capacity.

We often find that many non-profit organizations, especially those who are smaller (under $1 million dollar budgets), do not have a strategic fundraising strategy. Fundraising simply means partnering with individuals and organizations to support your cause. Fundraising can be a great method to supplement your existing funding (fees for service, grants, and contracts) that might be stringent with how you can provide services. 

As a non-profit organization, you might be wondering how do I get started with fundraising?  Recently we have worked with a few organizations to help them diversity AND increase their funding to grow their program and impact. Below are some strategies that we use that you could apply today!

1. Set a Goal

The first step is to set a goal for how much you need to raise from your fundraising efforts and how this will support your organization. For example, we worked with an early childhood education center that was expanding its services to a new location. They were seeking funding to support the renovation and start-up costs of this new facility and were able to determine the total costs they needed from individuals and organizations to support the existing funding that they already had. 

Put a finite number to your plan (a specific dollar amount) and develop a clear message for how that funding will be spent. This is what will excite individuals and organizations to partner with you!

2. Create a Plan and Timeline

Now that you have a fundraising goal, you need to create a plan that describes your steps to accomplish it. The plan does not need to be complicated, so don’t let that hold you back. The plan should be like any project plan. It will describe the different sources of funding and amount that you believe is realistic for you to secure to reach that goal. Who is responsible (we will get to “who” in the next step) and when will they accomplish it? 

For example, if you want to raise $100,000 then you’re plan may look like the following:

  • $25,000 – Fundraising Events (you will hold 5 events that will raise $5,000/ event)
  • $50,000 – Individual Donors (a combination of small and large gifts)
  • $25,000 – Corporation Sponsors (you will get 5 corporations to sponsor at $5,000/ event)

Your plan should be customized to the assets in your organization. If your organization is well connected / well known and has strong relationships in the community, then perhaps you can raise more money from individual donors. Maybe your organization is well organized and could put events together easily with volunteers, so you could generate more money through events. The purpose here is to be specific and realistic to what is possible with your organization’s capacity and resources. 

3. Develop a Team

When your organization begins to embark on fundraising as part of your revenue strategy, it is a team effort. It cannot be the sole responsibility of your Executive Director or Development Director. In order to accomplish your fundraising goal, you will need an army of champions and supporters who are working together (hence the need for a plan!). 

At a minimum, your team should include your staff (not just those at the helm), board of directors, and funders. Depending on your fundraising goal and current organizational capacity, you might decide that you need to form a special ad hoc committee to lead this fundraising campaign. The goal here is to excite your team about why you want to raise this funding, how it will grow your impact, and their specific role to help you accomplish the goal.

4. Track Your Results

Once you have a plan and put it to work, you need to track and monitor how it is going. This process will not only determine if you meet your goal but also inform future fundraising efforts. Tracking your data could look different depending on your activities. For outreach to potential individual donors you might track the number of outreaches you’ve made and types (emails, open/ click rates of emails, phone calls, events, letters, etc.). This could help inform the # or type of outreach that seem to be most effective for your donors. 

For a fundraising event, we recommend tracking all of the costs for the event including staff and volunteer time. We often find that a lot of “sweat equity” goes into putting on an event – so much so that sometimes the event does not net any profit when you factor it into the cost. With any event, you want to see your total return on investment after all of these costs are included to determine if that is the best use of your time. 

The purpose here is to use data to understand what is and is not working, which you can use to pivot your strategies and tactics. We have helped organizations to retool a fundraising event to bring in more money or launch a monthly donor campaign to increase cash flow. The goal is to get the most out of your fundraising efforts to accomplish your goals! {Interested in learning more on using data, check out several other blogs we have written on the topic here!} 

In summary, when your organization wants to get started with fundraising follow these four steps:

  1. Set a Goal
  2. Create a Plan and Timeline
  3. Develop a Team
  4. Track Your Results

We get excited learning about the possibilities for our clients and the causes that they are passionately championing. Do you need more help with your fundraising efforts? Give us a call to set up a free consultation on how we could support your goals.

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