A fundraising plan contains the fundraising activities your organization will implement over a set period of time. These activities will have specific, measurable goals. The end result will be a sustainable fundraising program that provides the necessary funds to fulfill the nonprofit organization’s mission. The fundraising plan is a powerful tool for any nonprofit. Before proceeding to Part 2 in our Writing a Fundraising Plan, please review Part 1: Planning to Plan.
Part 2 of our series on Writing a Fundraising Plan discusses the strategies for reaching out into the community. There are numerous ways to reach into the community to raise money. It is important to look at the various avenues and select the ones that best fit your organization. Not every opportunity will lead you to your organization’s goals. You need to take into consideration the resources, such as time, money, and people, at your disposal.
As you are writing your fundraising plan, consider if the following areas should be a part of your plan. If they are going to be part of the plan, determine the activities and goals to realize each area.
Implementing Special Events
Special events are a great way to create brand recognition and let the community know that you are out there providing services. Events can range from a bowl-athon to an elaborate dinner to auctions to golf tournaments. A special event is an opportunity to involve the community and to secure new volunteers and donors to your charity.
There are two aspects of events that are not always addressed – the volunteer leadership and a budget. Special events should be volunteer driven, not staff driven. The executive director or the development officer should never chair the event committee. Staff will still be intensely involved; however, volunteers with staff direction need to do the planning, help secure sponsorships and in-kind items, and finally sell, sell, sell tickets and tables. The volunteers are the host/hostesses for the event.
The budget is a huge issue, especially if this is a first time event. The organization needs to be realistic about income and expenses, specifically income. If you do not want to break even, or even worse, lose money, a budget will at least put you on a firm footing. Also confirm that your board is in support of the event. Secure their ticket or table sales upfront and secure sponsorships. Before the invitations go out to your mailing list, you should have some idea if the event will have a modicum of success.
If an organization is inclined to do special events, then having one signature event and one other smaller event is sufficient. A sustainable fundraising program will not rely upon a plethora of events. Events take way too much time and effort for the dollars raised. No one ever accounts for the full cost of putting on an event, such as staff and volunteer time. Make special events a facet of the Fundraising Plan, not the Plan.
Raising Money from Civic/Community/Religious Organizations
Another source of donated funds is civic/community/religious organizations. Most of these groups have a pool of funds and an application process for nonprofits to receive funds. These groups include Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, the local ad club, and church affiliated groups. It is important to understand which groups would be open to your nonprofit’s mission. Your nonprofit mission has to align with their mission and goals.
One of the best ways to access these groups is to offer to be a speaker at their meeting. Board members and other volunteers belong to numerous groups and they can introduce you to the community organization. You have a great opportunity to tell your organization’s story and to make your organization’s case for support to an audience of potential individual donors as well as the group as a whole. Have brochures readily available to share with the members. When visiting with the community organization’s membership find out if the organization has a grant application process.
Some of these groups may even adopt your nonprofit as a favorite charity for the year and implement a 3rd party fundraiser for you. A common example of this is when a civic group runs a golf tournament with your organization as the recipient of funds raised. They do most of the legwork and at the conclusion hand you a check. 3rd party fundraisers do not just happen. You have to be out in the community creating awareness about your organization and developing relationships.
Corporate support covers the gamut of businesses in your community. Again, your board members and other volunteers are great links to these businesses and can help open doors for you. Depending upon the size of the business there may be as many as six pools of charitable gifts: charitable dollars, marketing dollars, corporate foundation giving, employee giving, matching corporate dollars and in-kind gifts. The size of the business entity will determine how many of these income sources are available to your nonprofit.
- Charitable cash gifts are the most common source of corporate funds. Businesses of all sizes can and will make charitable gifts of cash to your organization. It is critical in approaching them to treat them like individuals, not a soulless edifice. Although they are corporations, they are made up of people just like the employees of your nonprofit and like the clients you serve – they may even be clients. Find out if they have an application process or will a letter be acceptable. Again having a board member or volunteer who has ties to the corporation can make a big difference.
- Another pool of money within a corporation is marketing dollars. Corporations will often use these marketing dollars to sponsor your golf tournament or to support a program that their name can be attached to. These dollars help support your nonprofit, but also market the good name of the corporation in the community.
- Larger corporations like Medtronics or Wells Fargo have separate foundations for charitable giving. These corporations will have an application process with very strict guidelines for the application and if you receive funds for reporting results. These foundations most often give where they have a business presence. It is important to take the time to research these corporate foundations, to cultivate relationships with their staff and to steward them upon receipt of a grant.
- Within large corporations there may be an employee giving club. These clubs are made up of and ran by employees. They pool money and once or twice a year distribute the money to nonprofits within their community. They act a lot like an in-house United Way. The employee giving club may have an application process or it may be a closed process in which the employees determine which nonprofits they want to give to.
- Matching corporate dollars are funds set aside by the corporation to match gifts made by an employee to a nonprofit. The corporate employee first makes his/her gift to the nonprofit, and then the corporation matches that gift with a check to the nonprofit. There are hundreds of businesses that provide corporate matching gifts. It is the corporation’s way of supporting what their employees think is important in the community. It is important to let your donors know that if they work for a corporation that does matching gifts to work with you to help secure the matching dollars.
- Businesses are a great source of in-kind gifts. When a nonprofit is developing its budget, it needs to determine if there are items in the budget that could be supplied by a corporation as in-kind. The result is that the budget item is covered rather than having the need to raise money to pay for it. It is sometimes much easier for a business to provide in-kind items rather than cash. Nonprofits need to plan for these gifts and not let them be happenstance.
Foundations come in many stripes from small family foundations to community foundations to mega national or international foundations. Some foundations only give to charities named by their founders and they may or may not have an application process. Most foundations have guidelines and an application process. The size of the foundation will most often determine the size of grants. Foundations may be local, regional, national and even international in their giving.
Nonprofits should research a foundation prior to approaching it. In large cities there will often be resources at the public library. Research can also be done through nonprofit publications and of course the internet. A great source of information is other nonprofit professionals. Ask your colleagues what has worked for them. It is not unusual to find a foundation that may not work for you, but works for another nonprofit.
Besides doing research, if possible, the grant/fundraising professional needs to talk to the foundation. Find out if your great idea has a chance of being funded. You may think your proposal is a fit, but it may not be. The foundation people might even give you ideas to strengthen your proposal. The key, like working with corporations, is to work with them as individual people, not as a cold, hard money machine. Cultivation and stewardship are important as you reach out to foundations of any size for support.
The Next Step
Part 3 of our series on Writing a Fundraising Plan examines the importance of engaging your board in fundraising.