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It takes more than good intentions to create an impact in your community. In addition to dedication and support from your staff and volunteers, your nonprofit will need to secure funding to pay for its programs and daily operations, as well as build your capacity to grow sustainably.

The following fundraising guide is a brief overview of how to get started raising the funds that your organisation will need to support its mission.

Set Goals

Before you start, it’s important to have a firm goal in mind of the amount that you want to raise with your current campaign. While prior targets can give you a good idea of where to start, you will also want to include room to account for changes in your donor list, and, the needs of your organisation. Try to set a target that is both reasonable, but a bit challenging as well.

While it might seem counterintuitive, setting a high bar can inspire affluent donors that want to make a significant contribution to causes they believe in and organisations that they think are serious about making a genuine impact.

When setting your goal, be sure to include benchmarks to help you measure your progress and the success of your event.

Create a Plan

Once you have a target in mind, you will need to decide on what type of campaign you will host. Will it be a special fundraising event, such as a gala or auction, or, will you be conducting an online campaign? How long will your drive last, and, finally, what steps do you need to take to make sure that this fundraising drive goes off without a hitch so that you reach your targets?

Recruit a committee to help you plan the event. The committee should make a list of every resource and item that is needed, along with assignments for who will be responsible for gathering the resources and putting into play at the event. Include such things on your list as VIPs, entertainment, catering for refreshments, the venue, items to be auctioned, publicity for the event, seating, transportation and so forth.

Set Your Budget

Once you have created a plan for your drive, you can then create a budget of estimated expenses for the campaign. Include a cushion of 10 to 20% of estimated charges to make sure that you will have enough funds to cover the costs before you make final preparations and publicity releases for the event.

Fund Your Plan and Put it into Action

Do you know how much you can reasonably expect to earn from your planned fundraiser, and, is this amount worth all the effort you are putting into the event? The total amount of donations that you reasonably expect to receive should far outweigh the total costs. Otherwise, it might be better to pare down your event or host a different type of fundraising campaign altogether.

Once you have decided on an event, created a plan and set the budget, it’s time to approach your board for approval and funding. Once approved, you can decide on a final date for the event and make arrangements for it to take place.

Get the Word Out

Publicity is an essential part of making your fundraising drive a success. In addition to any flyers, and direct invites you make to your list of donors and other supporters, make sure you utilise as many tools as possible to get the word out. Post on your website, and your social media channels. Send reminders via email, and text alerts on Twitter and elsewhere as the day draws near to encourage as many as possible to attend.

Evaluate Your Results

Once you host your event, it’s time to take a good look at what went right, and wrong. Use analytics to evaluate your results and point you in the right direction for ways that you can improve your processes before you host your fundraiser. The information that you uncover during this review will help you to create a strong foundation for your next fundraiser!

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For generations, NFPs have placed their focus on raising funds from individual donations, endowments and grants to finance their operations and the services that they provide. This traditional approach could be holding your nonprofit back from being able to maximise its potential for growth.

Don’t Rely on Fundraising Campaigns Alone to Pay for your Operations and Goals

Fundraising will always be a crucial source of funding, but it shouldn’t be your sole source. The challenges faced by nonprofits today require more funds than what a few donations and grants can provide.

Rather than relying on fundraising campaigns alone to fund their mission, NFPs are better served by looking for a multitude of ways to finance their ability to serve their communities over the long-term. The following ideas can help your nonprofit to expand its sources of funding.

Cost Effective Campaigns

Many NFPs cycle through dozens of fundraising activities throughout the year, with very little downtime in between each fundraising activity or event. Holding several events during the year can literally wear out your staff and volunteers, not to mention your regular donors and other supporters!

When NFPs start to look for new sources of funding, they begin to move away from the mindset of, “What can we do with the amount that we’ve raised from our latest fundraiser?” They begin to see things from the perspective of, “How much must we raise to accomplish our goals, and, what are some different ways that we can secure the funding necessary to accomplish our short and long-term goals?”

Rather than focusing on the number of fundraisers to host in each year, the focus moves to how much net revenue is generated by each fundraiser. If a fundraising activity is costly in terms of time, money and other resources, and produces very little in terms of revenue or other benefits, then it’s discarded for activities that offer a higher net return.

Do Your Supporters Understand Your NFP’s Impact?

When fundraising, nonprofits typically place a great deal of emphasis on messaging, and, understanding the needs and values of core supporters and the intended audience. Targeted messages remain important.

Rather than focusing solely on answering your supporters’ questions and fulfilling their needs, however, NFPs need to do a better job with their messaging and make sure that supporters understand why the mission is important and how they can help your organisation create positive change in the community.

Just Because You’re a Nonprofit Doesn’t Mean that You Should Avoid Generating Revenue

A lot of nonprofits worry that charging for some, or all of their services, will be too complicated to get into, or, will distract them from achieving their overall mission. If your nonprofit lacks the monies that it needs to fund critical infrastructure, such as training and the appropriate software and other tools it needs to be effective, it may be time to rethink this strategy.

Just because your organisation is in the not-for-profit sector does not mean that you shouldn’t seek to raise revenue. Many nonprofits can increase their capacity and encourage greater growth by charging membership and rental fees for items such as equipment and storage. They might also charge for some, or all of their services. Others even sell products to help finance their overall operations as well as specific projects.

To increase the chances of success, nonprofits should look at their overall financial condition before they enter into activities designed to raise money for the cause. They should take steps to ensure that the activity that is generating revenue doesn’t interfere with their ability to provide critical core services while meeting their other financial obligations.

Should Your NFP Borrow to Finance its Goals?

Due to the unpredictability of any given fundraising campaign’s success, most nonprofits avoid debt. Taking on a loan might be a good move for your nonprofit, however, if it allows your NFP to expand its capacity to provide services, fund infrastructure and other capital improvements, and support long-term growth. As an alternative to loans, your NFP might want to consider earmarking funds in the budget specifically for projects and improvements that support long-term growth, as well as hosting specific campaigns to raise money for capital improvements.

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A successful fundraising drive can mean the difference between being able to finance service projects that benefit the community and advance the mission forward, and, losing the ability to make an impact for your cause. A growing number of nonprofits now receive a substantial amount of their donations online, but, the results of these campaigns can be hit or miss.

Often individuals that are interested in your nonprofit’s work can easily be distracted as they navigate between pages. This is especially true if they are following a link in a social media post to reach your site and donate.

The more clicks that your supporters need to make before they donate makes it all too easy to get sidetracked and click away. No matter how urgent and emotional your call to action may be, it’s just too easy for followers to surf on to something else instead of following through and making a donation.

A Better Fundraising Toolkit

Now, Facebook is offering nonprofits a way to improve their ability to fundraise directly on their site: Facebook Fundraising Tools. In the past, supporters that connect with you on Facebook would need to see and read your post, and click on the correct link, assuming you included one, to reach your site and learn how to donate.

Prominent Donation Buttons Prompt Supporters to Take Action

With these new tools, you can collect donations directly from your Facebook page, and, within your posts. In addition to being able to add a donate button to your page and posts, you can also add one to your live video, and, the ads that you place on Facebook. This allows you to more directly control where supporters go when they click, directing them to the specific web address that you designate.

Tools Allow Supporters to Make Fundraising Personal

Perhaps the best feature is that the new tools allow your supporters to create and share their own fundraising drives on Facebook. This allows your supporters to share just how your nonprofit has made a difference in their life and improved your community. These personal appeals help to raise awareness about your cause, and, maybe more successful than some other types of fundraising since it allows supporters to share your nonprofit’s story with their family and friends.

Allowing your supporters to personalise their fundraising efforts on behalf of your nonprofit adds a genuine human touch to their fundraising appeal, which should increase its chance of success. Their connections can then share the fundraiser on their own social media, which further boosts your reach.

There are some requirements that nonprofits need to meet to qualify, but since the tools are free for nonprofits, and hold the promise of dramatically increasing your fundraising results, they are well worth the few moments it takes to learn more about the eligibility requirements and apply.

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Fundraising campaigns are one of the most significant sources of funding for most nonprofits. Most fundraising events are not without cost, however.

Preparing a budget for special fundraising events helps nonprofits avoid overspending, especially if their event does not raise an amount equal to or greater than its fundraising goal.

The Importance of Setting a Large Enough Fundraising Goal

When making plans for your nonprofit’s next fundraiser, it’s important to set an appropriate amount as your fundraising goal. This goal should be realistic; it should be an amount that your nonprofit can reasonably expect to raise during the event.

Your fundraising goal should also be for an amount that is large enough to cover all of the costs and expenses associated with the event. In addition to this amount, you will want to add a net sum that is left over after all of the costs are paid. This net sum should be large enough that it justifies the time and effort that is put into hosting the event.

The Importance of Creating a Detailed Budget Specifically for the Event

You should create a separate, completed budget that lists each expense that will arise as a result of hosting the event. This list should be thorough, and highly detailed to help you avoid under budgeting.

When creating your budget, look at the history of past, similar fundraising events held by your nonprofit. Look at the types of costs that were incurred, as well as the amounts that you have raised during these events. Can your nonprofit reasonably expect to spend a similar amount, or, have costs increased in one or more categories? Determining the answers to these questions can help you avoid underestimating the actual expenditure.

At the very least, your budget should include the cost to rent the venue for the event, as well as unique items related to the location. For example, will your nonprofit need to rent extra tables and seats or other items and equipment to hold the event at the designated location? Be certain to include realistic estimates for these items in your budget.

Catering, staffing, creating and sending invitations, security, transportation, VIP accommodations,  entertainment, ticketing, fundraising software, marketing materials, promotional and gift items/event swag are all typical expenses associated with special fundraising events, so be certain that you include these and any other costs in your budget.

Don’t Forget to Plan for the Unexpected and Include it in Your Budget

It’s also a good idea to include a built-in “cushion” in your budget to help your nonprofit be able to cover the cost of unforeseen events to help you make certain that your nonprofit has enough funds to cover the cost of the event.

Use Caution When Attempting to Cut Costs

Many nonprofits are still feeling the pinch from the global economic downturn of a few years ago, and remain short of funding, especially given the resulting cuts in Federal monies in the form of grants that many nonprofits relied upon. If your nonprofit is struggling financially, it can be tempting to cut corners to reduce spending. While reining in expenses is important, it’s equally important to avoid cutting quality.

For example, you don’t want to skimp and not spend enough on marketing, and word fails to get out about your event. You also want to make certain that you choose reliable vendors for the venue, catering, and so on. Just because one vendor offers a lower price, doesn’t mean that you can depend on them to deliver on time. Make certain that you still check references and look at past histories in addition to price when comparing services and creating your budget.

Accurately budgeting for your special event is an important part of ensuring your nonprofit’s financial stability. Don’t forget the traditional fundraising metrics such as net revenues and costs to raise when hosting your event, and preserve this information to help you more accurately forecast the budget for your nonprofit’s next special event.

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donorsMany nonprofits place the focus of their fundraising efforts on broadening their base of support, and increasing the reach of their messaging in order to recruit new donors. Retaining your current donors, however, is just as important as attracting new ones.

Generally, it’s easier to convince an existing donor to donate again than it is to convince individuals that are unfamiliar with your organisation to donate to your cause. This is because your current donors are likely already acquainted with your nonprofit’s mission and the important work that your NFP does to help its community.

While existing donors are already aware of the good work that you do, that doesn’t mean that you no longer have to put forth any effort if you want to receive additional contributions. In fact, it can require a great deal of follow-up and interaction to retain an existing donor and encourage them to continue to donate on a regular basis.

Maintaining the relationship and encouraging donor engagement is critical, the following are a few tips to improve your relationship with your existing network of donors so that they are more likely to want to continue to support your cause.

Show Gratitude

One reason way some donors choose to not make repeat donations is that they do not feel as though their contributions are appreciated. On your organisation’s website, make certain that you are expressing a heartfelt thank you to all donors, regardless of the level of their donation. Ensure that your online donations send an automatic expression of thanks at the moment that the donation is made.

To encourage repeat donations, especially to contributors who make larger contributions, or re-occurring payments, use a more personal touch to show your thanks. A handwritten note sent by post, a telephone call, or even taking the time to thank the donor in person all require extra effort and show your donors that your organisation truly appreciates their support.

For regular donors, and large donations, you might even consider sending complimentary free tickets to your nonprofit’s next gala, ball, auction or other event to show your appreciation and gratitude. Offering donors, perks, awards and other forms of recognition goes a long way towards building a relationship with your donors and keeping them happy and engaged with your nonprofit.

Keep them Updated

Donors are more likely to continue to contribute to your nonprofit when you keep them updated and informed about your latest, news, events and projects on a regular basis. Ensure that your website has a page that is devoted to interest stories that show the impact of your non-profit’s work.

Use social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to keep donors updated as well as to offer recognition for their efforts by giving individuals donors a shout out when they participate and give during special drives and other fundraising events.

Make certain that you post updates on items of interest to your donors in all of your nonprofit’s publications, including newsletters, emails, podcasts, and videos. Donors normally contribute because they want to make a difference and they are more likely to contribute on a regular basis when they can “see” the progress that your nonprofit is making towards fulfilling its mission.

Be Transparent

Donors are more likely to give to nonprofits when they trust them and the individuals that are involved with the day to day operations of the organisation. Take steps to increase your NFP’s transparency. Publish financial updates that show the status of your nonprofit’s financials. Devote a specific page to financials on your nonprofit’s website and update it frequently. Include staff pages and short biographies for board members, administrators and other employees or volunteers so that donors can learn about the backgrounds and personalities of those who are integrally involved in your organisation.

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approved-29149_640With only a limited number of grants available, most nonprofits face significant competition in getting their grant applications approved. Limited funding is not the only reason why some nonprofits are declined when they apply for grants and other sources of public money.

Sometimes, organisations themselves may be their own worst enemy when it comes to getting their request approved. The following checklist can help your nonprofit increase the likelihood that their application for funding will win approval.

Does Your NFP Follow the Rules?

Most organisations and institutions that offer grants and endowments have a list of instructions for the applications, as well as specific reporting requirements and deadlines. A surprising number of NFPs fail to take the time to read, understand and then comply with these instructions which can frustrate program advisers, grant committee members and others involved with the approval process.

Even something as simple as failing to reply to a request for additional information, to complete a survey, or to provide other feedback can decrease the likelihood that your grant application will be approved or renewed, so be certain to follow all of the rules and instructions and submit all materials in a timely fashion.

Did You Use All Prior Funds Before Applying for a Renewal?

Since available funds are indeed, limited, your nonprofit is less likely to be approved for a renewal of funding if your organisation has not already used all of the funds from your last grant before you apply for renewal. It’s also important for nonprofits to be able to show in their application how any funds from other grants have been spent, and how these funds directly impact their ability to deliver services and fulfil their mission.

Do You Take time to Build Relationships with Program Advisors?

Most organisations that offer grants, endowments and other similar types of funding provide a program advisor or officer that acts as a liaison between the grant bearing entity and nonprofits that apply for grants. Make certain that your nonprofit promptly responds to any requests for information from the program advisor on a timely basis, and always follow up with the designated advisor whenever you have questions about the grant process.

It’s also a good idea for nonprofit’s to follow up with their advisor throughout the year to strengthen their bonds as well as to ensure that they stay abreast of any upcoming changes to the grant making process.

Do You Proofread and Provide Complete, Accurate and Honest Information in Applications?

Finally, it’s always a good idea to go back over your application, as well as any other supplementary information that you provide, before you submit your nonprofit’s application. Take the time to proofread to check your spelling and grammar for mistakes. Make certain to check that all of the facts, data and other information that you have included in your application are complete, relevant, and correct! It’s very important that your organisation be honest in the application and give honest, fair opinions, evaluations and details about the nature of your nonprofit, the challenges that your nonprofit faces, and your specific plans for the money if funds are granted.

Before submitting the application go back over the requirements provided by the entity that is accepting applications and make certain that this grant, and the organisation that is providing the grant, are a good fit for your nonprofit. Also, it’s a good idea not to wait until the last minute to file, but try to submit your grant proposal and application as early as possible to show that your organisation is responsible, and is planning ahead.

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Some people find it hard to ask other people for money, even when it’s not for personal gain, but when it comes to not for profit organisations, the responsibility to stay financially viable partially rests on the shoulders of the board.  There are however creative ways to create income without ‘fundraising’.

Neil Edgington from Social Velocity has practical and nonthreatening suggestions on his article 9 Ways Board Members Can Raise Money Without Fundraising.

Edgington strongly recommends using the personal networks of board members in a variety of ways.  Well connected members may have access to information that can add weight to a submission, tender or contract, or be in a position to arrange a meeting with a contact in a targeted business partner or customer.

Board members who are business leaders or entrepreneurs are also of great value in accessing extra income, as they may be able to help create or assess a business plan in relation to an earned income venture, highlighting opportunities and strengths, as well as potential risks.

Also discussed by the author and according to Penelope Burk’s annual donor survey, 84% of donors would “give again if they were thanked in a timely manner”.  A personal visit by a board member, and an explanation of why they are committed to the organisation might be just the catalyst the donor needs to dig deeper, or recommend a donation to another potential benefactor.

Another avenue worth considering but not discussed by Edgington, is whether your organisation has underutilised infrastructure or skills that are worth a premium to other parties.  For example, you may own buses or offices that can be used out of hours on a fee for service basis, or be able to offer consultancy, advice or audit type services in your area of specialty to organisations starting out or experiencing a period of change or review.

In an uncertain and less buoyant financial climate than one seen for many years, the responsibility of boards to assist in maintaining financial stability for their organisation is stronger than ever, but need not be confrontational or uncomfortable.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

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