hands with coins and a chit of make change

Fundraising is almost synonymous with nonprofit organizations. It is an important income source that makes the big picture mission come to life and allows the day-to-day business activities to function as intended. In other words, it isn’t an isolated activity. Allison Quintanilla Plattsmier, executive director of a Nashville community organization and owner of a nonprofit consulting firm, says this:

[Fundraising] is highly correlated with programming and the outcomes and objectives that guide the programming. It is integrated with the messaging of the organization, its brand and reputation, and how [it] communicates with constituents…decisions within fundraising are heavily tied to both revenue and expenses and are, therefore, an essential aspect of financial management. Ultimately, the best and most successful organizations can cohesively integrate these departments to build off each other and create synergy versus operating in silos. [1]

Fundraising, therefore, needs to be an intentional arm of a larger framework for cultivating a positive culture of philanthropy. Those who know their communities well, understand what organizations do for friends and neighbors, or have experienced those services firsthand have a greater sense of ownership and accountability in helping continue that good work.

A case study by the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) highlights Katherine Rowlands’ leadership at the Bay City News Foundation in San Francisco. [2] She led the charge to raise $200,000 in 2020, which included both annual pledges and one-time gifts. Here are a couple major reasons for this success: 1) Participation in a training and coaching program specifically designed to help build support from major donors (generally $5,000 or higher); and 2) Prioritizing relationships – focusing on the long game by nurturing relationships in your network will make it not about money, but about value sharing.

Messaging also shouldn’t look one way for everyone. Develop focus areas with unique messaging that makes sense for each of the projects that will benefit from funds raised, or for components of your mission you choose to feature.

All that said, perhaps your fundraising events or methods need a little tweaking in light of continually changing health recommendations about groups gathering in person. Don’t fret. It just requires a bit more thoughtful planning – a bit more creativity. Strategies will also vary based on the source (companies or individuals). Here are some ideas to jumpstart your creativity:

Mail postcards. While email campaigns still have their rightful place, print mail pieces help you stand out. Engage the recipient with great quality visuals and clear copy that includes how she can donate. It should come across as an invitation, rather than an obligation.

Host a Give-it-Up Challenge. Ask people to forgo a daily or weekly expense (such as a to-go coffee) and donate it instead. This gives the donor freedom of choice regarding the item and duration.

Start a membership program. Determine what your supporters would find valuable and share your expertise and resources. Then host small events to encourage continual feedback as well as referrals.

Of course, all of these can’t run without the help of donor management software and a team that consistently lives out the cause. As author Roy T. Bennett puts it, “Consistency is the true foundation of trust. Either keep your promises or do not make them.”

Bonus: The National Council of Nonprofits has a helpful article that addresses fundraising ethics that’s also worth the read. [3]

[1] Association of Fundraising Professionals Member Spotlight
[2] Bay City News Case Study
[3] Council of Nonprofits: Ethical Fundraising