Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Fundraising for Your Nonprofit
Maybe you want to start a program to encourage girls to pursue degrees and careers in science, build a shelter for older animals that need homes, or create an art program for seniors in nursing homes. These are all wonderful, worthwhile ideas. But it takes more than enthusiasm to make an idea a reality. The truth is you need money.
The thought of fundraising might seem intimidating, but if you’re well prepared, it can be a positive experience. As you become more comfortable and experienced in fundraising, you’re likely to become a more effective fundraiser—you might even discover that you enjoy it! But first, be sure that you can legally fundraise.
First: Set Up Your Fundraising Recipient
Regulations for nonprofits can vary by state, which is why it’s important to know the state requirements. Nonprofit organizations should be set up as registered 501(c)(3) organizations in order to receive financial donations and for donors to receive a tax deduction for their donation. Many nonprofits are required to register with a state agency prior to legally soliciting donations.1
However, there are other ways to raise money without forming a nonprofit organization. You can partner with an established nonprofit and provide the funds you raise to that organization. Some nonprofits even have affiliate programs for this purpose.
You can also host a crowdfunding campaign online or a donation drive of physical items without being an established nonprofit organization. You just need to be very clear about what you’re seeking funds or donations for and where the money or items will go.
Once you’ve ensured that you’re legally able to raise funds, you’re ready to prepare to solicit donations. Review the five fundraising questions and develop your answers. Then you’ll be better prepared to raise money!
Next: The Five Fundraising Questions
Why are you fundraising?
That’s easy: to raise money! Right?
Well, yes, your goal is to raise money. But this question is really asking: for what cause are you raising funds? Make sure that you can explain where a donor’s money will go and why funds are needed for this organization, program, or issue. Don’t just assume that a potential donor will understand why your cause is important. You must be ready to succinctly—but passionately!—explain why funds are needed and how they will be used.
Who are you asking for funds?
The most important element of fundraising is relationships. Even if you happen to know the wealthiest person in your community, you can’t just walk up to them and ask them for a donation. Nobody wants to feel like an ATM! You need to get to know your donor and help them understand your organization or cause. This process is known as cultivation. When you’re cultivating a donor, you’ll get to know them personally, understand what their philanthropic goals are, and develop a relationship with them. Examples of cultivation include going to coffee with a prospective donor, giving them a behind-the-scenes tour of your organization, or inviting them to attend an event or program as your guest.
How are you asking for funds?
Once you’ve gotten to know your prospective donor, you’ll know the best way to ask for a donation. Will they want you to make a presentation? Would they prefer to meet at their home or your office? Should the executive director of the organization ask for funds or should you? Make your request in the way that will make your donor feel most comfortable.
What are you asking for?
Once again, this is easy, right? It’s money! Right?
Yes, of course, you’re requesting money. But how much? And what for? When requesting a donation, it’s best to be clear, direct, and specific. Don’t just say, “We could really use your support.” Ask for a specific amount of money for a specific initiative. An example of a good fundraising request is: “Would you consider donating X amount of dollars to X project?”
What will you do when a donor says “no” … or “yes”?
After you make your request, stay relaxed, calm, and quiet. Give the donor a chance to consider your request. And know how you’ll handle their response, no matter what it is.
If they answer yes, thank them, and ask them when and how they would like to contribute. Then thank them again. Continue to cultivate the relationship so that your donor understands how their donation made a difference. Ensure that your donor remains connected to your organization. Ideally, they will become an ongoing supporter.
If they answer no, let them know that you appreciate their honesty. If possible, gently ask if they are willing to share why they’ve made that decision. You may also ask if they are open to future discussions about giving opportunities or other opportunities for involvement. You might learn that they would prefer to donate to a different project in your organization. Or perhaps they need more time or information before deciding to donate. In that case, you can follow up with details or other opportunities to connect with your organization. Even though your prospect said no today, if you continue to cultivate the relationship, they may donate in the future.
All nonprofits need financial resources, so fundraising is both necessary and critical. Luckily, fundraising skills and strategies of fundraising can be learned. In a degree program such as an MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership, you’re likely to take a course in development, fundraising, or resource development. In such a course, you’ll discover how to identify funding sources, learn methods for cultivating and educating prospects and donors, and study strategies for soliciting donations and recognizing donors. You can also create a nonprofit resource development plan to help fundraise for any organization, project, or cause.
Walden University offers an online master’s in nonprofit management and leadership degree program. The curriculum blends academic theory and hands-on experience to help students gain the skills needed to manage and lead nonprofit initiatives and organizations. In the program, you’ll learn about organizational management, human resources, board governance, volunteer management, strategic planning, evaluation, resource development, and more.
If you’re ready to become a nonprofit leader, choose Walden, an accredited university. Walden’s master’s degree program for nonprofit professionals, offers a General Program as well as specializations in Global Leadership, International Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs), Local Government Management for Sustainable Communities, Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and a Self-Designed option. Get your graduate degree … and get ready to change the world for the better.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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