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Not all nonprofit fundraising strategies are created equal. Are your strategies doing what you need them to?

In nonprofit fundraising, strategies are everything. Take the right approach, and you can do wonders even with limited resources. The flip side is that if you use a fundraising strategy ill-suited to your organization, you could lose money. And that’s a scary proposition. 

Here’s the bad news and the good news. 

A report from global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, in conjunction with Guidestar and SeaChange Capital Partners, makes it clear that the nonprofit sector is financially fragile. 30% of nonprofits in the U.S. have lost money over the last three years, 7-8% are “technically insolvent,” and around 50% of U.S. nonprofits “have less than one month of operating reserves.” Yikes!

But there is good news. The Millennial Impact Report points out that 84% of millennials contribute to nonprofits, and 70% give volunteer time to nonprofit organizations. Forbes even says they may be “the most generous generation in history.” 

And many corporations are looking for ways to support their communities and nonprofits as well. So there is money out there. Now, how do you get it?


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nonprofit fundraising strategies

Nonprofit fundraising strategies that will help you thrive

Strategy is about planning, and nonprofit fundraising strategies are no exception. Unfortunately, too many nonprofits go haphazardly into fundraising with no real vision of how to achieve their goals (assuming they know what their goals are in the first place). 

In the book, Nonprofit Fundraising 101: A Practical Guide to Easy to Implement Ideas and Tips from Industry Experts, Darian Rodriguez Heyman offers a concise approach to nonprofit fundraising strategies:

  • Always maintain multiple, diverse sources of revenue. 
  • Work in conjunction with your finance and marketing teams.
  • Create a budget. Without a budget, you don’t know what your nonprofit fundraising strategies need to achieve.
  • Outline your process, including touchpoints and objectives, and share it with your team.

Here’s what some parts of that might look like in practice and how it will benefit your nonprofit fundraising strategies no matter what size your organization is.

To begin, set your goals.

That’s simple enough on the surface, but this might be the most crucial step of your strategy, and it can get very in-depth. Look at your yearly expenses, and be sure to include unique expenditures like an upcoming facility repair or a big move. Review your sources of recurring income. Figure out how much fundraising you can do throughout the year. Your plan will look much different if you have a full-time fundraiser than if you have a volunteer-run funding drive three times per year. The bottom line here is, well, the bottom line. How much money do you need to operate? Remember, a map doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have a destination. 

Distribute responsibilities.

Again, the size of your organization will factor substantially into what this looks like. However you divide the responsibilities of fundraising, it’s essential to know who is in charge of what. This distribution accomplishes several goals, not the least of which is helping people understand the overall plan and how each part fits together. 

The more of the big picture people can see, the more they feel like their part in it serves a higher purpose.

And of course, the more organized your nonprofit is, the more efficiently you can reach your goals. Beyond that, when we are accountable to another person (rather than a number or an idea), we often feel a greater sense of determination to accomplish our tasks. By fulfilling our duties, we are also helping our coworkers. 

What about specific strategies? Try adding these to your repertoire and track your results. 

1. Get active on social media.

There is some evidence that nonprofits who are active on social media have a greater fundraising potential. In fact, nonprofit organizations that work to cultivate relationships with followers tend to have even higher engagement levels. And that, of course, means more potential for funding. 

2. Be specific when you fundraise.

To the extent possible, give precise numbers when you fundraise and provide a reason for that number. When you tell people you’re trying to reach a goal of $10,000 to create produce gardens for ten public schools in your community, that’s a very tangible result that your audience can feel part of. 

3. Remind donors of your impact.

Donors want to know where their money is going. And, while naturally, you need funds to pay employees, lease your space, and cover all those general expenses, you are also using donations to make an impact. Don’t be shy about sharing that information. How many trees were you able to plant because of donor contributions? The trees will remove how much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? What species of birds will those trees provide homes for? Will they increase property values? Reduce crime?

This is the kind of information you can be proud to share, and it helps affirm your image as an organization that makes good use of its funding.

4. Promote online events.

Since the future of large events is questionable, take advantage of resources like Facebook Live to host online fundraising events. Even though these events may not have the excitement of an in-person event, there are many upsides to hosting something online. You can invite non-local viewers, get help from entertainers that wouldn’t usually be able to attend in person, and the outlay of cash is significantly lower. 

Host a virtual wine tasting with an educational component provided by your local specialty wine shop or your favorite restaurant’s sommelier. Host an online concert and ask some of your favorite musicians to take part. Offer an online baking class, yoga class, or piano lessons. There really are countless ways to engage and expand your online community. 

5. Pick up the phone.

We live in such a busy world that we often forget how powerful a simple phone call can be. When your fundraiser is over, call your donors to thank them for their contributions. It doesn’t take much time, and it is a very overlooked way to let people know that you appreciate them, and they aren’t just a once-a-year check to your organization.

Your options for nonprofit fundraising strategies are only limited by your imagination. And you don’t have to do anything big. Even small efforts, when done the right way, can result in big returns.


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