As the number of nonprofit organizations in the US continues to rise, so does the need to raise money for those organizations. From large, multi-national organizations to small local organizations, money is a critical need to ensure that programs get delivered and all regulatory and reporting requirements are met. So, as a board member, committee member, or volunteer for a nonprofit organization the questions remains: “how are we going to raise enough money?”
First it is important to determine how much money you need to raise, and for what purpose. The obvious answer is “as much as possible,” but it can be helpful to drill down a bit more. Depending on the purpose and the amount, different strategies may be in order. For example, if you are an organization that is trying to raise money to send 10 children to summer camp, and it will cost $300 per child, you need a strategy to raise $3,000. On the other hand, if that same organization is seeking to raise $30,000 to purchase a bus to transport the kids to camp and other places, that may warrant a different strategy.
The best strategy is going to involve asking people with whom you are acquainted to make a gift. Upwards of 75% of all money donated to charity in the US each year comes from individual donors. Your chances of success are much greater if you focus on people who can make a cash gift. Create a Top 10 List of people whom you think care about your cause and prepare to reach out to them. The best way to go about soliciting these funds is in person, however that is sometimes logistically difficult – especially if your contacts are spread across the country and your day job is not very flexible. If it is not possible to solicit your contacts in person, a letter campaign is the next best thing. In this case, US Mail is better than email. Include a 1-page flier that discusses the project, why it is important, how the funds will be used, and the outcomes that the project will achieve. Ask the person to consider a gift in a certain range, such as $25-$250. Explain what your organization can accomplish at each giving level. Tell them that you will follow up with them in 2 weeks by phone to obtain their response, and follow up with them.
Another means of raising money is crowdfunding. Essentially you are doing the same thing as above, reaching out to people whom you know, explaining the need, and asking for their support. We read in the news about the campaigns that raise $100,000 dollars from people across the country who have no connection to the organization, but that is very much the exception. Typically crowdfunding campaigns are successful because the donor is giving in response to someone that they know. The crowdfunding platform simply makes it easier to share the information quickly and collect funds using a credit card. Keep in mind that the fee for this convenience can be 10% of the campaign revenue so plan accordingly. There are multiple platforms available for crowdfunding, I recommend that you do your research to determine which works best for your organization.
Lastly, grants can also be a good source of funds for a specific project. There are a number of foundations that would consider a grant to help buy a bus to transport children to activities. Foundations typically have a more formalized process for accessing money – there is an application, supporting documents are required, and the organization typically needs to have a track record of successfully operating their programs. Foundations are comprised of people, so relationships can be helpful. If you know someone on the board of a foundation that gives money in your line of service, talk to them or a program officer to get their feedback on your concept. And remember that, like people, foundations appreciate being acknowledged for their work. Be sure to submit your final report if one is required, otherwise you are unlikely to get another grant from that foundation when you have another project to fund.
At the end of the day, you just need to ask. One of my professors in grad school, Richard Male, told us that many organizations do not have enough funding because they fail to ask. There isn’t enough room in this article to address all the different methods that you can use to raise money, so be creative. There are many organizations who believe that if they simply do good work, people will see it and send money. Actually, studies show that one of the key reasons people give to an organization is that they were asked. So whether it is in person over coffee, using a personal letter, or through a grant application, it is important that you convey how much money is needed, why it is needed, and how you will utilize the funds and give the prospect an opportunity to respond. You will be amazed at how much money you can raise when you ask for it.
Have a great week,
* Published in the September, 2015 issue of The Modern Gladiator.