Guest Article: Sandy Rees, Founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of Get Fully Funded
When you have a new nonprofit, you need money fast to get everything up and running.
You need to pay for programs, overhead, and salaries. So, you need fundraising ideas that will work without a huge investment of time, energy, and money.
There are literally thousands of ways you can raise money, but you need something that will work for YOU and generate as much as possible, not just the “latest-greatest” or some cookie-cutter approach.
Before you begin raising money…
Before you start fundraising, get clear about why you’re raising money.
It’s not about funding your organization, but about what that will make possible. Will your programs feed the hungry? Save a homeless animal? Counsel a veteran? Be sure you’re asking for something that donors will support.
Once you’re clear, choose a strategy that will play to your personal strengths, appeal to your ideal donor prospects, and meet your revenue goals. In short, don’t try raising money the same way that the nonprofit down the street does. Try something that will most likely to work for you.
8 Fundraising Ideas for New Nonprofits
Fundraising ideas are a dime a dozen and a Google search will return more ideas than you can ever implement. But not all ideas are created equally. Some are more efficient than others and some produce more revenue than others.
If you need money fast for your new nonprofit, check out these 8 hot ideas for fundraising. See if there’s one that feels like a good fit for you and give it a shot.
1. Hold an event. Something as simple as a backyard BBQ or a dinner in a church fellowship hall can be simple to organize and promote. Small events are great for raising modest amounts of money but can take a lot of work to pull off, so be ready to put the time in. To push your event over $10,000, create a planning committee to help with the details, get sponsors, and sell tickets.
2. Facebook fundraiser. Set your nonprofit up on Facebook and tap into the power of your current relationships through Facebook. Be sure to tell people WHY you’re raising money (e.g., feed 200 hungry people) to inspire them to give. Set a start and end date, and don’t be afraid to post frequently to remind people about your fundraiser. Don’t give up until it’s over – promote it all the way to the end. Most people are deadline-oriented and may wait until the last minute to give.
3. Crowdfunding. There are tons of crowdfunding sites online that can help you raise money through your network of relationships. One of my favorites is GivingGrid, which lets people upload a photo to fill in a blank spot for the donation they make. Understand that crowdfunding is not a “build it and they will come” model. You’ll still need to promote the fundraiser via email and social media to drive people to the crowdfunding site to give. This fundraising tactic can be a good way to get your Board and volunteers involved in fundraising since the ask is easy.
4. Online auction. If you have or can get a couple of dozen nice items or packages, consider holding an online auction. The benefit is that people from all over the world can participate as long as you can affordably ship the item to the winner. You can use one of the many online auction tools or use a Facebook group. Either way, the key to success is to have items that people want and can’t easily buy for themselves (artwork, experiences, etc.).
5. House parties. One of the best ways to leverage the relationships of key people including Board members, current donors, and volunteers is through house parties. Imagine if each of your Board members hosts a dinner party at their home and invites 20 of their friends, how fast you could raise awareness and find new donors for your organization! It doesn’t have to be fancy and there’s no need for a formal program – just a few words from you about what your new nonprofit will do once it’s up and running, then pass around some information and pledge cards.
6. Giving Day. If your community or state has a specified Giving Day, use that as an opportunity to raise money. There will already be lots of publicity around the day, so jump on the bandwagon to let people know about your organization. If they don’t have a specific site for you to set up a giving page, set up one on your website and track the donations that come in on and just before the Giving Day.
7. Champion letters. Invite your Board members and volunteers to send a special letter or email to their friends inviting them to give to your nonprofit. This is another great way to leverage the power of relationships since people will often give to nonprofits where their friends are involved. Be ready to write the letter for folks so all they have to do is insert their friends’ names and send.
8. Matching gift. Ask a Board member, current donor, or volunteer to offer to match donations up to their gift amount. People LOVE knowing their donation is matched dollar for dollar, and statistically proven to inspire more people to give.
Steer Clear of These Fundraising Ideas (at least for now)
You may notice there are a few things that are NOT on the list. That’s because not every method for fundraising is a good one – some strategies you should avoid. And not every good strategy works right now.
Here are 3 you should think carefully about while you’re in the startup phase:
Selling t-shirts, candles, calendars, etc. These have their place and can work well for some nonprofits, but the problem is they’re transactional. If you’re going to work hard to raise money, do it in a sustainable way. Raise money and build relationships at the same time so that people want to give again and again.
Corporate donations. Outside of event sponsorships, it’s tough to get corporate donations. As a startup, you’ll have a really hard time unless you know someone in a decision-making role in the company. Instead of spending time on this strategy that may not be successful for a new nonprofit, focus on something else that WILL bear fruit. You’ll be ready to go after corporate donations in a couple of years, especially if you’re growing a signature event.
Grants. Most new nonprofit founders want to go after grants and certainly it’s attractive, but it’s not as easy as it looks nor as productive as you’d like. Most funders want to see 3-5 years of experience before they’ll give you money. Plus, there’s an art and a science to grant writing that you must master to have a shot at getting funds. It’s smarter to start by building a donor base then working on grants later.
Ultimately, you need a fundraising plan that’s based on strategic decisions and sound fundraising practices to help you raise the kind of money you need to get your nonprofit up and running quickly.