If you’re starting a new nonprofit, you already know that you need to raise money. What you might not know is that the right fundraising plan can make the job much easier.
In the beginning you may self-fund your nonprofit, as many founders do. You may ask your friends, coworkers, and family to donate to help you get off the ground. But long term, you can’t run an entire organization from the generosity of a handful of people in your inner circle. And unless you’re independently wealthy with an endless revenue stream, you can’t self-fund forever (nor should you – more on that later).
Over time, as your organization begins to take on legs of its own, your fundraising approach needs to change and evolve to meet your growing needs, avoiding broken funding models that just don’t work. You need a fundraising plan – one that outlines goals, actions, and the specific results you want so you can raise the money you need to fully fund your mission.
The Challenge of Fundraising for New Nonprofits
Established nonprofits have the advantage of historical data. They have an idea of what has worked and what hasn’t. They can build on the lessons they have learned in previous years. When you are starting a nonprofit, you don’t have these benefits. But fear not – you can use this to your advantage! Since this is your first year, you can start with a clean slate and build the fundraising strategy you want.
Remember that in the early months of your nonprofit, you are essentially “training” your supporters about what they can expect from you. That makes this a great opportunity to purposefully decide how you want your new nonprofit to be seen.
Even if You Can Self Fund, You Shouldn’t
Fundraising can sound like a lot of work. And it is.
Forming a fundraising plan for a new nonprofit takes time and effort, plus if you’re not really a people person, you may want to just skip all the unpleasantness and pay for everything yourself. If you’re fortunate enough to have the resources to support your nonprofit, that’s wonderful. It might be your only option in the early months. But it’s not a good long-term strategy.
You’ve heard the term “There’s no I in team”. That means that there’s only so much you can do by yourself. You NEED the support of people who are excited about the work your nonprofit will do. And the more of those people you have around you, the more revenue you’ll have and the more lives you can change. Plus, you’ll experience less stress because you’ll know you have financial supporters who always have your back.
People want to help and they want to feel like they’re a PART of something that matters. Self-funding and just sharing results with your followers is robbing them of the opportunity to be a part of the team! It’s only allowing them to watch the show, and not take part in it themselves. You’re basically taking away the opportunity for them to invest both emotionally and financially.
Many supporters feel a real connection when they send that donation. Their gift helps fulfill their personal philanthropic goals. So, by all means, find people who are most likely to care about your cause and give them the chance to give.
Let’s Build Your Plan!
Okay, it’s time to draft your nonprofit’s first fundraising plan. While no two non-profits are exactly alike, the process of planning fundraising strategies is pretty consistent across the board. There are three basic steps in planning your fundraising.
Step 1: Set a Fundraising Goal
This seems so obvious, but many times, we get lost in the big picture and forget to focus on the details that really matter. Posting an open request for donations just to help your organization may work a few years down the road once you’ve developed a strong support base, or it may even work in the beginning if you’re lucky, but as a new nonprofit it won’t garner much results. It also doesn’t work to blindly ask people to give when you can’t tell them how the money will be used.
Don’t try to raise as much as you can then figure out how to spend it. That’s backwards.
Start by mapping out what programs and services you plan to offer during the year. You need to figure out:
- What service or offering are you trying to provide?
- How many will you serve?
- What will be the impact?
- How much will it cost?
You need to plan your programs for the year before you set your fundraising goal. When you figure out your fundraising goal down to the penny, you can build a plan to help you reach that goal without guessing.
Step 2: Choose Your Fundraising Strategies
When your nonprofit is new, it’s easy to grab at any opportunity for some quick cash. And a LOT of these “opportunities” will come your way. You will find yourself inundated with folks who want to host restaurant nights, candle parties, voting contests, pizza sales, or any other number of fundraisers.
Be careful. Your organization is new and the name you build now will stick with people for years to come. You don’t want to attach your name to every product, party, or person. In many of these cases, your organization will spend more time promoting this person’s business and driving traffic to them, than any small amount of money you will make.
And yes, sometimes there is a place for these types of fundraisers, especially when they’re planned and executed well, and when they align with your mission. (Example, an animal rescue shouldn’t have a fundraiser that involves a steak dinner). These are called “transactional fundraisers”, and here’s why they shouldn’t be a large part of your overall fundraising strategy. They do nothing to build a relationship with your donors.
In fact, when people participate in these fundraisers, they’re not really donating at all. They’re just eating at a restaurant or purchasing something for themselves, and it happens to benefit your nonprofit.
There’s a difference between a fundraisER and fundraisING. As a young non-profit, yes you may have a need for an occasional fundraisER just to raise some quick cash, but your focus should be on fundraisING.
Focusing on fundraisERS will guarantee that you’ll need quick cash quite frequently in the future, because you aren’t doing anything to earn loyalty or build any lasting relationships with people who want to support your cause. It’s better to balance your fundraisING with the right kinds of strategies. Here's the difference between holding fundraisERS and doing fundraisingING:
|One-off activities||Part of larger overall plan|
|All about the money right now||All about long term donor relationship-building|
For a new nonprofit, the most beneficial strategy is to think about the long game. Think about the kinds of fundraising activities you’ll need in place to create the revenue you must have to fund your nonprofit on an ongoing basis when everything is up and running. That way, you won’t NEED to scramble to put together quick transactional fundraisers!
Step 3. Write It Down and Map it Out!
Once you’ve chosen the fundraising strategies you want to use, it’s time to get everything in writing. Because if the plan isn’t in writing, it’s not real.
You need two main pieces for your fundraising plan: a yearly calendar and a 90-day action plan.
Yearly calendar: This can be a simple calendar or spreadsheet listing every fundraising effort you want to make, including things like Giving Tuesday or another giving day in your state, year-end fundraising, an annual event, or a specific effort at a certain time of year. Once you have your year of fundraising mapped out, each fundraising effort should have its own 90-day action plan.
A 90-day action plan allows you to break your year down into smaller segments of time that feel much more manageable. It also helps you to think through the tasks that need to be completed for each fundraising effort — further breaking things into smaller bites that are easier to plan for and that you can hopefully delegate or get help with. Plus, life changes FAST, and you’ll need to be able to adjust quickly.
In your 90-day action plan, identify each separate task to be completed, a due date or deadline, and who will get it done. That will help make sure you stay on schedule for getting things done on-time.
Patience is Required
Good fundraising is built on relationships. Relationships are built on trust. And that takes time to develop. It’s not realistic to expect to raise $50,000 in 2 weeks as a new nonprofit. You need to give people time to get to know you and understand that the work you are doing is important. Give them time and reasons to fall in love with your mission, and the support will follow!
About the Author
Sandy Rees is the Founder of Fundraising TV and Chief Encouragement Officer at Get Fully Funded. Sandy shows founders and leaders of new and small nonprofits how to fully fund their dream so they can make the difference they want to make in the world. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 figures to their bottom line.
Sandy shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Find out more at www.GetFullyFunded.com.