3 ways to raise funds

3 Ways to Raise Funds, Even When Starting from Scratch

No Comments

Every nonprofit organization starts small. Someone has a vision for making the world a better place in a specific way, then they have to figure out how to fund it.

How do you get from start-up to a sustainable fundraising program with a database full of donors you can count on to give, upgrade, and include you in their wills?

It’s not easy, but here are some things you can do, even if you are at that very small stage. These activities can help you raise the funding you need now to accomplish your mission and set the stage for future growth.

1. Apply for Grants

Grants offer some of the highest impact fundraising available. They can produce a great return on investment, including the time you spend on them. A few hours spent applying for grants can result in thousands for your organization.

There are some downsides to grants as fundraising: They require specific charitable status and specific paperwork to prove it. They are often very competitive, as many other organizations are also angling for that funding. And finally, it’s common for grants to support specific program activities. That can make it hard to raise that all-important unrestricted funding that allows you to grow.

Like any other type of marketing or fundraising, success comes in the midst of failure. You simply can’t count on getting every grant you apply for. Depending on your experience, your sector and the funder, success rates vary from one out of 10 applications to 8 out of 10.

Here are three tips than can improve your chances:

Give yourself enough time to complete the applications. Grant applications can be complex, and deadlines are usually inflexible. Don’t lose an opportunity because the job turned out to be bigger than you thought.

Read the guidelines carefully. Even minor errors in your application and supporting paperwork can disqualify you for a grant. If anything is unclear, contact someone at the granting organization to clarify. At most organizations, they will be glad to help you – after all, they want to make those grants!

Be willing to invest. Sometimes, it takes money to make money. Pay for subscriptions and memberships that equip you for success. Consider paying a grant specialist writer—they will have a higher rate of success and can save you many hours of work.

There are three main types of granting organizations. Keep in mind which kind you are dealing with and be prepared to supply what they are looking for:

Government and fiduciary bodies. They’re looking for hard evidence of your effectiveness – often in the form of impact reports, evaluations, studies, etc. They usually want cost efficiency, value for money, and program effectiveness. They also tend to favor financially stable organizations that pose low financial and reputational risk. Many keep funding the same organisations.

Family and charitable trusts. These groups are sometimes more like individuals than organizations. That’s why emotive storytelling can be important for them. They are often looking to fund projects that will make an impact and enhance their reputation, innovative projects, and programs they can seed at the ground level. Sometimes they may want naming rights for programs or capital projects.

Corporate / employee foundations. To get grants from these business-based foundations, it’s often important to have an internal advocate. Without an advocate on side, the relationship tends to be short-term. They often seek projects or organizations that will be popular with staff, meaning they can be subject to following “fads.”

2. Nurture your donors with a high-impact event

Here’s something you can do that can successfully raise funds for a relatively small investment of money and your time.

It does require time to organize the event and to do the all-important follow-up.

I’m not talking about a large-scale gala, but a small and intimate gathering for up to 20 people. Here’s what it can look like:

  • It’s an informal and relaxed lunch or afternoon tea.
  • About 10 to 15 prospects/donors and 5 hosts.
  • Each host is in charge of 1-4 guests. They should be briefed on each one.
  • The invitation comes from the most senior person who will be present – Patron, CEO, Chair etc.
  • Brand it as a Thank You or Get To Know Us gathering or a CEO/Chair’s Lunch.
  • The venue can be at your office, or at the offices or boardroom of a board member or other key stakeholder.
  • Format: brief formal speech from main host (and maybe a beneficiary) on the theme, and each host is assigned guests to interact with. Keep formalities to 15 minutes max. Put these at the front.
  • Make it clear that you won’t be asking for any donations today but there will be a follow-up call or visit.
  • Invite donors to contribute by paying for their meal.
  • Follow up post-event to make sure each guest has a clear opportunity to make a significant donation.

The goal is to keep it low-pressure and fun. Use the time with donors to find out what is important to them by asking icebreaker questions like:

    • What’s your background? Have you always worked in <sector>?
    • Have you always been interested in <your organization’s sector>?
    • Tell me about your first philanthropic donation. What other charities do you support?

It’s important to set out your objectives before the event. Also, be sure to conduct a post-event debriefing with your team.

An event like this won’t break the bank but should raise funds and gather critical insight about key donors. It can also help build a culture of philanthropy within your organization by humanizing donors and empowering board members to get involved in fundraising.

3. Find low-cost human resources

One of the best ways to get more work done is to outsource and delegate. Big organizations do this, but small organizations can do it, too, with volunteers.

Volunteers can bring valuable skills, a willingness to work hard, and energy. Look for people who love what you do and feel invested in your success. Some places to find such people:

  • Local colleges and universities.
  • Community groups such as Rotary and Soroptimist Club.
  • Your vendors and suppliers, such as your bank.

Volunteers will need guidance and leadership from you—it’s not a “set and forget” situation. But when you match the right people with the right tasks, volunteers can be an important part of your team for organizing and working at events.

Professional volunteers can do things like:

  • Advertising and design work.
  • Writing business and marketing plans.
  • Public relations.
  • Other professional help such as legal, accounting, and regulatory compliance.

Nobody ever said growing a nonprofit would be easy. But there are ways to speed up and facilitate the early stages of your growth.

This material is excerpted from the Moceanic online workshop, “Elbow Grease,” available only to members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

Want more practical tips for raising funds even if you’re starting small? Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll get the tools, the information, and the supporting community that will take you to new places in your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!

Related Blog Posts:


Previous Post
How to Keep Your Fundraising Strong in an Election Year
Next Post
How to Tell the Donor’s Story in Your Fundraising

Related Posts

No results found.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.