Most successful fundraising models for nonprofits start from humble beginnings. East Harlem’s own Youth Action YouthBuild is a classic story of rags to riches. Victor Ortiz is one of the founding teenagers of YAYB, a nonprofit dedicated to giving young adults the skills they need to succeed in life and become leaders in their community.
In 1981, as he stood In front of a gathering of 300 other hopeful, bright-eyed teenagers—he laid out a vision for the future, “There’s a lot of love in the Youth Action Program and we’re going to spread it around the world!”
YAYB made good on its promise. Today YouthBuild receives over $1.3 billion of support and they’ve empowered thousands of young adults in New York City.
Avenues of Revenue to Pursue
The majority of nonprofits rely on donors for funding but competition is stiff with so many nonprofits out there backing the same cause. Other times nonprofits are so bogged down in bureaucracy that it’s too hard to innovate.
The right strategy and the right tactics are at the heart of any successful nonprofit fundraising strategy. Although all nonprofits approach fundraising in a similar way, it’s all relative. Test drive different ideas to see what works.
An advocacy campaign run by the ACLU to bring awareness to immigrant rights would rely heavily on private donations because a government contract may be too restrictive if their cause challenges government officials.
How Much Money is On the Table?
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that the nonprofit sector brought in $1.3 trillion in 2016, 5.6% of the gross domestic product in the US. There’s an ocean of revenue out there but fundraising for nonprofits isn’t easy, especially for a newer nonprofit.
How can you stand out from the crowd? How can you keep people coming back for more? One sure-fire way is to give them meaningful experiences. Simple, direct, and visceral engagement can generate a strong response.
Let People Get Up Close and Personal
If you build it, they will come (if they want to). Make it easy for individuals to drop in and check out your operation. If you have a physical location, invite people to stop in for a visit. Open your doors on certain days or give a weekly tour.
The Prison Yoga Project helps inmates recover with a focus on healing rather than punishment. They allow potential donors to sit in on classes to see what they are all about. If inviting people to your workplace isn’t an option, go to them. Attend gatherings at churches, offices, homes, fundraising events, etc.
Throw a Fabulous Fundraising Event
Planning the perfect event is like winning the lottery when the sales start rolling in. But events are sort of like children. They are costly, time-consuming, and a lot of work! But having them is one of the most rewarding things that life has to offer. Not to mention that it’s one of the best ways to get the community involved.
You may want to plan a one-off event or an ongoing series of events. You’ll want to get creative so people come to your event. You’ll want to be even more creative to get people to come back to the next one.
Habitat for Humanity gives people a chance to get directly involved by building houses. The American Museum of Natural History holds sleepovers so you can spend a night at the museum.
Many other events involve food. From baking competitions to five-course gala dinners at fancy hotels. There are also walkathons, local tasting events, wild and crazy mud runs, beer fests, paint parties, bingo night, barbecues…the list goes on and on.
Social Media and The Internet
Cyberspace (as we used to say) is a great place to mount virtual events. Popular social media sites might be the best way to generate engagement. People spend all their time on the internet nowadays. Well, maybe at least half. A Fidelity Charity study indicates that 27% of donors trust social media over traditional ads.
Throw Virtual Events on the Digital Stage
Citi Foundation sponsors the LA Art Show, which gives proceeds to charities like St. Jude Medical Center. LAAS Gallerist Talks Present is a running series of live, internationally broadcast events where gallery professionals share their insights.
Since people aren’t exactly ready to rub elbows again—virtual events have become the latest craze. Learn how to use the tools you need to run a virtual event in advance. Zoom is the most popular live event software and you can find plenty of places to learn about how to put on a virtual event online.
Crowdfunding for Nonprofits
This can be a good way to quickly raise funds. It’s become a standard fundraising model for nonprofits to pair social media with a donations platform. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon are a few of the biggest sites.
Do you love watching other people get soaked? The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the most viral crowdfunding campaigns in history. It raised hundreds of millions of dollars for ALS by teaming up with big celebrities like Oprah and Bill Gates.
Start a Video Challenge: What makes a video go viral? A new Tik Tok dance? At this point, larger companies with more resources have an easier time going viral. Hiring mid-range influencers is one affordable way for smaller organizations to generate interest in their cause and a buzz around their nonprofit.
Private and Individual Foundation
Every nonprofit leader dreams of winning a huge grant from a wealthy private organization. The Bill and Melinda gates foundation donates billions to global health organizations.
The truth is, only a handful of smaller organizations win big grants from major private donors each year. It takes inside connection and serious viability to win big grants from a major private foundation.
Finding Your Match
Every foundation has different priorities for funding. Some give exclusively to a certain field or cause. Many family foundations will give based on geography, only donating to certain cities or locations.
Start by making a shortlist of prospects. The Candid’s Guidestar Search is a good place to find foundations in your city, state, and internationally. Take a look at your prospect’s average gift. Is it $500? $5000? $500,000?
Pro Tip: Read the annual reports of the other nonprofits in your field or region and scan their list of donors for potential leads.
Types of Nonprofit Private Donors
The path to the road to success starts with relationships. And, the steps to obtain grants from the following types of foundations are essentially the same.
- Private foundations (The Bill and Melinda Gates and Citi Foundation)
- Community Foundations (The boys & girls club, and YAYB)
- Corporate Foundations (The Ford Foundation and McDonald’s Corporation Contributions)
- Family Foundations (The Kaiser Family Foundation and The Lebron James Family Foundation)
Writing the Grant
Before you start writing take the time to make sure the foundation is the right match. After you’ve found the ideal donor, find out how complex the application process is.
Once you’ve decided which grants to go for; it’s time to begin the writing process! There are a ton of good resources on grant writing online. Above all, your submission needs to be compelling and error-free.
Government Fundraising for Nonprofits
As the government cuts funding to important social services and a number of nonprofits across the board—the scope of nonprofit services has increased to fill in the gaps.
Government funding can be volatile but the constant flow of revenue can be a big help, even with strings attached. Build relationships with government leaders just like you would with private or individual. For instance, get some face time by attending an event they are speaking at.
Don’t expect to win a grant on your first try. It’s a complex process and you might have to take a few shots at it. If you don’t succeed, apply, apply, again!
Tip: If you’ve ever seen Survivor, you know that forming an alliance is the only way to win. Check out the annual reports of organizations in your area that have already won government contracts. Set up a friendly meeting to discuss ways you can collaborate.
Fundraising for Nonprofits by Selling Services and Products
Some people have some strange notion that nonprofits shouldn’t make money and if they do, something fishy is going on. This is totally bogus! There are plenty of legitimate, successful fundraising ideas for nonprofits that sell products or services.
Goodwill sells donated goods, nonprofits for women’s shelters may open a small bakery that employs homeless women. The National Breast Cancer Foundation sells teddy bears, face masks, and bracelets among other things. Let’s not forget, the Girl Scouts have been dominating the cookie game since 1912!
While selling will most likely make up a small portion of the pie, it can make you enough dough to make a difference.
Tip: Do your legal homework if you want to open up a for-profit division to raise funds. There are always new legal forms. Do you want to launch the business as an LLP? B Corp? Pick an option that gives you enough flexibility to fulfill your purpose and meet your financial goals.
Sponsorships typically make up a small percentage of a nonprofit’s total revenue but that doesn’t mean it’s not an avenue worth exploring. Don’t make the mistake of looking at a potential sponsor as a goose that lays golden eggs. Dollar signs in your eyes can scare potential prospects away.
Look beyond the grant. Companies can do so much more than donate money. Trusted businesses offer opportunities to network and make important connections. If you decide to take this path, make sure it’s worth the time and effort.
Why Ticketing Should Be a Part of Your Nonprofit Fundraising Strategy
“The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one.” – Joan Baez
In conclusion, ticketing platforms are your best friend when it comes to managing customer relationships. A little understanding goes a long way and keeping track of customer data can help you find ways to get to know your supporters as individuals as well as a collective.
For example, say you want to nurture loyal supporters. To calculate the lifetime value (LTV) of an annual subscriber—divide the annual subscription cost ($500) by the expected duration of the subscription (7 years). This comes out to $3,500 over 7 years.
Tip: Give new attendees an incentive to come back. Follow up the next day with thank you emails and with news and information on upcoming events.
Thank You Very Much!
We’d like to thank all people who work for nonprofits that make the world a better place. All those wonderful citizens dedicate their time to assisting others even though they are often overworked and underpaid.
When it comes to ticketing Ticketstripe gives you the power to do it yourself. Our platform provides nonprofits with all the tools and the information they need to come up with successful fundraising ideas, build better relationships, and unlock a lifetime of attendance. Discover an easier way to sell tickets online!