Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Organizations


Fundraising activities raise money for a specific purpose. To best understand and get the most out of this activity, it is important to understand what a nonprofit organization is and the various fundraising options that are available.

A nonprofit organization operates in a capacity that is beneficial to the community, either as a whole or to a specific group or cause. These organizations are often charitable, educational, religious, artistic, or scientific. For example, churches are religious organizations that are usually classified as nonprofit organizations. Certain colleges and schools are nonprofits, as are some scientific research groups. They are not meant to make a profit and any money that is received goes toward maintaining the organization or toward the purpose for which it was created.

nonprofit-organization-classifications

Financial Accountability for Nonprofit Organizations

In this respect, nonprofits are different from for-profit organizations; however, this is not the only way in which they differ. They must also have a board of directors that governs the actions of the organization and is tasked with ensuring that the organization is using its funding properly. Non-profits may apply for tax-exempt status provided they meet the necessary requirements set by the Internal Revenue Service section 501(c)(3). Because they are accountable to the public, nonprofits must file an annual form with the IRS that reports information regarding their finances, including how much was paid in salaries for the top five highest paid non-officers in the organization. This information must be made public either at the nonprofit’s office or website. Check out these resources for more information about how nonprofits work.

  • Not-for-Profit Organizations: Community Benefits, Efficiency, and Quality: Click this link to open a PDF document that discusses not-for-profit organizations. In the context of this document, not-for-profit and non-profit are used interchangeably. On page seven, the difference between nonprofit and for-profit organizations is reviewed.
  • How Do Nonprofit Organizations Work?: Click this link to read how a nonprofit organization works. The article is broken into categories that review the facts, significance, fundraising, programs and services, and considerations.
  • A Primer on Nonprofit Organizations: This PDF article provides an in-depth look at nonprofit organizations and answers key questions associated with them. Readers will learn what they are, what 501(c)(3) means, why nonprofits are tax exempt, their importance in the community, and more.

Successful Fundraising for Nonprofits

Nonprofits depend heavily on outside contributions, grants, and fundraising efforts. Fundraising efforts are a great way for companies to directly interact with the communities that they serve while raising the money that they need. In order to have a successful fundraising campaign, the organization must first identify its target audience and create a goal.

1. Target Audience for Fundraising

The target audience is the people who are most invested in, or have a strong belief in, the type of services that the organization offers. These are the people who are most likely to participate in the fundraiser and pay for the service or item that is being offered.

fundraising-target-audience

2. Fundraising Goals

The goal is the basis of the fundraising effort. In establishing a goal, the organization must consider its needs and the amount of money that is required to meet those needs. Need some help setting your fundraising goals? Check out these helpful resources.

  • Fundraising Goals: Download our free eBook for a better understanding of what the fundraising goals are, about their importance, and how organizations may determine what their goals should be.
  • Setting a Fundraising Goal: This link opens up a page on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. The page discusses the importance of setting goals when fundraising. It also discusses the two important pieces of goal setting – making it realistic and making it public.

Creating a Fundraising Plan

A fundraiser is just one piece of successfully raising money for your organization. Long-term success revolves around building relationships with donors so they don’t just give once, but keep coming back. This is called donor relations and involves regular communication through mail, email and personal contact. It is helpful to track your communications with donors and know how they donate, so many nonprofits choose to use a donor management software. You can raise money at events, but you can also do online donations and attract major donors through donor relations. All are important pieces of a comprehensive fundraising plan. Want to learn more?

  • Donor Retention Key to Fundraising Success: This is an article we wrote on the three strategies to increase donor retention. It’s something special when you find someone who believes in your cause enough to relinquish their hard-earned cash. But, how do you plan to maintain a high donor retention rate?

Examples of Fundraisers:

There are countless fundraising ideas that an organization can put into use; therefore, it is a matter of finding which idea or event is best suited to the organization and its purpose.

  • Nonprofit organizations may consider selling food items such as cookies, pies, cakes and other baked goods.
  • Another food-related option is to prepare and host dinners, luncheons, or breakfasts and sell admission tickets to people living in the local area. Spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, and crab feeds are popular options for fundraising meals.
  • A silent auction is another fundraising activity that may be suitable for certain nonprofits. Items that are auctioned are typically donated by local businesses. Many times, auctions are held on the same day as a fundraiser dinner or luncheon.
  • Some organizations may hold craft shows as fundraisers, or sell items such as t-shirts.
  • Offering services such as car washes are also viable fundraising options.
  • Already prepared fundraisers are also worth considering and include things such as the selling of coupon books, candy, or even movie tickets that national companies make available for the purpose of selling to raise money. The nonprofit sells these items and retains a certain percentage of the sale.

fundraiser-promotion

Promoting your Fundraiser

After reviewing the various fundraising ideas and selecting which is ideal for the organization, the next crucial step is promoting the fundraiser. Getting the word out to the public is critical to getting the necessary funds.

  • Word of Mouth: Word of mouth is the classic method of promoting the organization’s fundraising efforts, but submitting a press release to local newspapers and contacting area radio stations can be as, or more effective.
  • Internet: The Internet is also a medium that is useful in spreading the word about the fundraiser with a post on your website and local event calendars.
  • Social Media: Social networking websites, and sites such as Twitter, can spread the word quickly and can reach people who may not live in the local area, but who are interested in making a contribution.
  • Celebrity Recruitment: Recruiting local celebrities, such as the mayor, musicians, a popular news anchor or business person to host an event, can allow organizations to attract wealthy donors.

For these events, organizations should sell tickets and arrange an event that includes dinner, giveaways donated by local businesses, or even an auction. Depending on the type of fundraiser, it is important that it is promoted early enough so that people may make plans to participate. The success of the fundraiser is determined by the number of sales made, cost required to host the event, and if applicable, the turnout. Ultimately this will affect how closely the organization comes to meeting their monetary goal.

Easy Fundraising Ideas

Nonprofit organizations are an important part of the community as they typically provide services that help community members, as well as the environment. Like any business, they require money to function as well as continue providing the necessary services to the communities that they serve. This is why fundraising efforts are so crucial to the continuation of these types of organizations. When done properly, a fundraiser not only helps the organization meet its financial goals, but it is often a way for people within a local area to interact for a common cause.

For more information about nonprofit organizations and fundraising ideas, please review the following list of links.

  • Catalog of Fundraising Ideas: This is a PDF document that lists a number of ideas and ways that people can plan a fundraiser.
  • Fundraising Ideas: This link takes the reader to a page that lists different types of fundraising ideas. The reader may then click on each of the individual ideas for further details.
  • Fundraising Ideas for a Nonprofit Organization: Read this page for four fundraising ideas that can help nonprofit organizations raise money. Ideas on this page include tournaments, galas, entertainment, and campaigns.
  • Potential Fundraising Ideas: On this page the reader will find a list of fundraising ideas. The ideas are presented in a bullet-point format.
  • List of Fund-Raising Ideas: This page lists a number of already prepared fundraising ideas such as candy and discount card sales. Interested readers will also find ideas and instructions on how to raise money with auctions, dinners, donations, food, games, and more. The ideas presented on this page are meant for colleges but are also useful ways for other nonprofit organizations to raise money.
  • Steps to a Successful Fundraising Event: This PDF document lists the necessary steps that lead to a successful fundraising event. From start to finish, the article lists nine steps.
  • Fundraising Ideas – Information and Suggestions: Click this link for a PDF on fundraising ideas. The document was prepared for CSUF Club Sports; however, a majority of the ideas represented on the page are suitable for any organization looking for fundraising activities. Each activity lists the time required, the risk, and potential profit.
  • Fundraising Ideas and Tips: On this page readers are given several ideas on fundraising. Each idea is broken down into categories that include several variations on the main fundraising idea.
  • Do-It-Yourself Fundraising: How to Get Money for Your Nonprofit: The article associated with the link talks about how to get the necessary money for one’s nonprofit organization. The acronym R.E.A.L. (Research, Engage, Ask, and Love) is used to describe this process.

If you got this far down the article — congrats! We hope you gained some great insight into the world of fundraising and nonprofits.

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Eric Burgess serves as Aplos’ Marketing Director and is passionate about all things digital media. When he’s not writing searchable content for churches and nonprofits to find online, he’s likely spending time with his family or out riding his downhill mountain bike in the Sierra Nevada mountains somewhere. Oh, and he's deathly allergic to tree nuts.

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