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Non-Profit News

Focus on Fundraising
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Grant Writing 101
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Focus on Fundraising
Non-Profit Forum
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In this issue...


Without a doubt, fundraising is one of the main concerns of every non-profit organization.  When the word is mentioned, it brings to mind special events like New Vision Gallery's "Fun d'Arts," the annunal rummage sale for Ministry Health Care Hospice, or the United Way's "Golf Outing."  It also brings to mind car washes at Hiller's True Value Hardware and the "brat barn" at Festival Foods.  And what about all those church and school fundraisers?
The mention of 'fundraising" also brings to mind two concerns:  1) fundraising is hard work and it takes a lot of time and volunteers to make it happen, and 2) with every non-profit organization and group in Marshfield doing fundraising, how can all of these fundraisers be successful?
The process of planning a unique fundraiser for your organization is overwhelming enough, without thinking of the time and volunteers needed to make it successful. However, there are several things that can give your organization an advantage when it comes to fundraising.

Develop a fundraising team. The annual fundraising responsibilities should not fall solely on the shoulders of the executive director and other staff members. The Board of Directors needs to be active in fundraising, as well as several volunteers who support the mission and goals of your organization.

Set a goal. Determine how much money you need to raise and also why you need the money or how it will be spent. There is a big difference between raising $5000 to cover a budget shortfall in operating expenses to "keep the lights on" at your office and in raising $5000 to support a new or expanding community-based program or service.

Choose a strategy. Based on your available resources of budget, staff time, and reliable volunteers, determine a fundraising strategy appropriate for your organization and fundraising goal. Are you planning a capital campaign or is your goal to develop an annual fundraising event? Generally, the more money you seek to raise, the more information you will need to provide to your donors. A capital campaign to raise $300,000 will require a written case statement and pre-printed pledge forms, as well as extensive training for your staff and volunteers. An annual appeal to raise $10,000 could be a direct or targeted mail campaign, which requires a well-written letter, brochure or fact sheet with information about your organization and a reply card or return envelope for donations. Or, your annual fundraiser might be a special event that includes a dinner with a guest speaker and a raffle or silent auction. This type of fundraiser requires advertising and printed invitations, programs, and a lot of volunteers to secure donations for the raffle or auction. So, weigh your resources against the amount of funding you seek to raise, and develop a fundraising strategy that best suits your organization and your need.

Develop a fundraising budget. There is a saying in business along the lines of "you need to spend money to make money!" That holds true for fundraising. There is a helpful article "Creating a Budget for Fundraising" in the featured online resources listed at the bottom of this web page!

Develop a work plan. A work plan is a necessary tool that will organize the details of who, what, how and when: who will do what, how will they do it, and when will it be completed. Also include a chain of accountability and check points along the way so that the responsibilities of staff, board members and volunteers are clearly defined and monitored.

Celebrate your success. After your special event or successful fundraising appeal, you'll want to celebrate. But also, celebrate the smaller successes along the way to your goal. Recognize individual staff members and volunteers who went "above and beyond" expectations. Encourage, motivate and offer incentives.

Evaluate. Give yourself a break (at least a month after your special event or fundraising appeal) before starting to plan for next year. Allow staff and volunteers to assess the process: what worked, what didn't? How can things be done better? Was your goal reached? Did the benefits of the event or appeal outweigh the amount of resources (time, money, volunteer power) that was put into the fundraiser?

Never stop fundraising. Non-profit organizations that are most successful make fundraising an ongoing process, not just aone-time annual activity. Fundraising has to be conceptualized as part of your program activities and has to be built into the rest of the work you do.

Use available resources. The remaining articles in this issue of Non-Profit News will provide your organization with tips, ideas and resources to help with fundraising. Contact Advantage Consulting Services to arrange a free consultation, or post a question or offer some advice in the Non-Profit Forum. And of course, check out the resources available online or at the Marshfield Public Library. There is a lot of information available that will give your organization the fundraising advantage.


The number one reason that people donate to worthy causes is because they agree with the group's mission, according to fundraising consultant Donna M. Butts, CFRE of David G. Bauer Associates, Inc.

At a fundraising seminar at the National Leadership Forum VI in Washington, Butts noted that other reasons that people give money to charity include:

  • public relations value, especially for companies and corporations
  • guilt -- "buying their way into heaven"
  • giving makes them feel good so the donor has a personal relationship with the group
  • the donor has personal experience with the issues the group addresses
  • tax write-offs
  • they are making an investment in the future -- such as a company that donates to a group that will improve the workforce

Face-to-face meetings, with two charity representatives meeting a single potential donor, are the simplest but most effective way to raise money, says Butts. Many non-profit leaders, however, don't like to ask for money for a number of reasons, including:

  • fear of rejection. Savvy fundraisers, says Butts, believe that "a no is an entree to a yes," but conventional wisdom says that three no's mean "no."
  • fear of failure. Butts says non-profit fundraisers have to learn not to take rejection personally.
  • embarrassment. Butts says to think of the value of donating to the donors themselves. "We spend a lot of money insuring our valuables," she says. "Why not spend some to insure our values?"
  • feeling like you are begging. "You are asking the donor to become a partner in a successful, important program in their community," says Butts, "not for money to keep the lights on."
  • lack of confidence. Butts stresses the importance of fundraisers who truly believe in the mission of the program.
  • lack of preparation. "One of the best ways to learn fundraising is to go with someone who knows what they are doing and is good at it."

Once non-profit groups overcome these stumbling blocks and are set to begin a serious fundraising campaign, they must identify those constituencies that will be most receptive to an appeal for donations. According to Butts, the fundraising "universe" centers on people who already have been major donors; members of the board; and organization management. The next most promising targets for fundraising include clients, employees, volunteers ("They are much more likely to give," says Butts. "Don't think it is asking too much."), existing general donors, and members. Still further out -- but still full of potential for fundraising -- are former participants and people with similar interests to the work of your organization.

Butts advises groups to begin with a broad view of potential donors and then map out a plan to approach specific targets. "Make linkages," she says. "Set up the ideal situation to ask for support." Every person affiliated with the organization should be asked, "Who do you know" and "Who do you know that knows ....?"


Few people want to use unsuccessful strategies. If by "success," you mean most money in for the effort you have expended, personal face to face solicitation of large gifts is the best strategy. Special events are good for boosting morale, getting better known and sometimes attracting corporate gifts, but are a slow way to simply raise money, and a successful event will depend on a few people asking other people for large gifts to underwrite the event, donate products, or whatever. The short answer to this question is that no fundraising strategy will do its best for your group by itself. Fundraising has to be conceptualized as part of your program activities and has to be built into the rest of the work you do. Fundraising takes a lot more time when it is conceived as a completely separate function from program. Then several fundraising strategies have to be used together for maximum effectiveness.

Your plan should include several different fundraising strategies that seek resources from several distinct groups of potential donors:

  • Members and volunteers, (through annual dues, pledges, sponsorship programs, in-kind donations, and volunteer services).
  • Those who share your concerns, (through community outreach tables, brochures, newsletters, direct mail, door-to-door canvassing, telemarketing, news articles).
  • The public at large, (through special events, fees for services, sale of goods).
  • Businesses and foundations, (through grants, matching gifts, in-kind donations, sponsorships, partnerships).


Consider these ideas for your next fundraising campaign:

Get personal with your fundraising

Across the board, whether it's direct mail, personal solicitation, special events, grants, or telemarketing, the ASK of your fundraising message must relate to the donors or the corporations unique interests. Consider how you can personalize each Ask in your fundraising message.

Answer key questions in your fundraising message

Your fundraising message should answer: Why you need the funds, what the funds will be used for, and when the funds will be spent. A good "rule of thumb" for fundraising is that the more you ask for, the more information and education you need to provide potential donors.

Ask for the Right Amount

Dont ask for so much that its an embarrassment. There is nothing wrong with stretching a donors financial limits when asking for an upgraded or larger gift. Yet, its important that the stretch not be overwhelming. If you cant afford the prospect research to determine a giving level for an individual, consider providing two or more financial levels to choose from.

Provide Multiple Opportunities to Give

Repeat the ask. You dont need to be a broken record, just gently repetitive and creative. Make the Ask a part of the newsletter, the website, the annual meeting, the special fundraising event and more. This communication should be more than an Ask, as stated above. Create stories and statements in your fundraising message that are emotional, funny, rewarding, and inspiring. How can a donor resist?



"I have tried raising money by asking for it, and by not asking for it. I always got more by asking for it."

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.




1. Ask for a gift, don't wait. Another will ask if you don't.

2. Be professional and look professional.

3. Be accountable - personally, and for your nonprofit.

4. Be honest. Listen to your heart; it's more honest than your mind.

5. Speak with conviction for your cause.

6. If you can't, recruit someone who can.

7. A prospect is simply a donor without motivation. You provide motivation.

8. A donor is a fundraiser who has yet to share their conviction with a friend. Ask them to.

9. A good fundraiser, then, is a friendly motivator. It's that simple.

10. A successful fundraiser has thick skin, a soft heart, exceptional hearing, a quick mind, a slow tongue and no shame - at least when it comes to asking for a gift!


by Kimberly Reynolds

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
- Anonymous

Fundraising is both an art and a science. If your fundraising revenues are static or declining, your organization is probably making one or more of these common mistakes:

  • Lack of planning
  • Repeating the same old fundraiser
  • Not recruiting enough help
  • Weak internal communication
  • Lack of publicity
  • Continuous fundraising
  • Bad timing
  • Picking the wrong fundraiser

Lack of planning
Things haven't been thought through. Deadlines produce a crisis response. Nobody knows exactly what to do. Everything is a haphazard fire drill. Does any of this sound familiar?
Usually only a few people have the prior knowledge needed from the year before, so there's a bottleneck on information. That often produces the suffering martyr syndrome" where the person in charge, who should have had everything planned well in advance, instead spends their time moaning about how overworked they are. Admit it, you know that person! All of this can be avoided if the right preparations are made ahead of time.

Repeating the same fundraiser
The same old fundraiser is done over and over again because that's what you've always done. The roles and responsibilities are well known, so it's a safe comfortable solution. Unfortunately, your supporters are probably sick and tired of it. Your volunteers probably feel the same way. The typical result is flat to declining total revenue, not to mention all the missed opportunities. The root causes of this fundraising inertia are lack of knowledge, fear of change, unwillingness to upset the status quo, etc. If you will take the time to expand your knowledge base, then you will increase your success.
Remember that your goal should be to maximize your revenue and increase your net every year, not to maintain a breakeven position. After all, the items and services your funds raised purchase have definitely risen in price over the years! Even if it's just inflation, the things your funds will eventually buy get more expensive each year, so your net proceeds need to grow as well. Don't let your fundraising efforts achieve less than they could because they lack better direction.

Not enough help
Overworking your core volunteer group is a recipe for disaster. Good people who are willing to help your cause at no cost are hard to find. Why chew them up and spit them out?
Increase your volunteer base by defining all the roles and responsibilities. You should have written descriptions of what's expected from each support role. Make sure that it includes an accurate estimate of the time that position requires. Break those volunteer time blocks into two, four, or eight-hour chunks. By defining how much time a support position requires, you increase the likelihood of a match with potential volunteers. Allow job sharing; that is, allow two people to sign up for one function and coordinate their own efforts. Another way to avoid burning out your volunteers is to recruit for all positions at the beginning of the year. This requires having your master project plan for the year mapped out ahead of time. Offer signup sheets for this year's positions at your first group meeting. That's when people are the most receptive to the idea of pitching in, particularly if it's for a clearly defined amount of time. Circulate flyers at every meeting for the remaining open positions. If necessary, include a call for additional help in your newsletter.

Weak internal communication
This manifests itself in many ways and severely hampers your fundraising efforts. Not giving clear direction to your volunteers and staff equals a lack-luster performance. Here are some examples: There are no individual or sub-group goals given at the start of your drive. The group's specific goal isn't communicated clearly to the volunteers. No feedback is given to your participants or to your supporters about the results. Nobody knows how well the fundraiser did or whether it was worth the effort. These kind of communication problems create a strong drag on profits. Revisit how your group passes along information. Design a system with multiple paths of communication. Eliminate bottlenecks in the flow of information. Leverage your website as a great source of specific data on everything your group is doing.

Lack of publicity
Advertising works. That's why you see so much of it. Put it to work for your organization by getting the word out in every possible fashion. Use flyers, posters, signs, media contacts, etc. When was the last time your group sent out a press release?
Publicity increases community awareness of your non-profit organization and pays untold dividends. It will motivate additional participation, increase your volunteer pool, provide feedback, and give a method for communicating results.

Continuous fundraising
Another common mistake is doing too many fundraisers. The result is burnout of your volunteers, your participants, and your suportors. You know your group is in trouble if you belong to the "Fundraiser of the Month" club.
Limit your group to two or three main fundraisers each year. Take the time to design the right approach that will maximize the results of each fundraiser. A well conducted fundraiser can double the results of one that is poorly planned and executed. If you absolutely feel that your group has to raise money year round, move it to your website. Create a silent fundraiser there via a store, set up a click-through sales commission program, provide a gift certificate/scrip program there, etc.

Bad timing
Problems that fall into the category of bad timing include conflicts with holidays, poor weather, competition doing same thing, lack of interest due to another event, overlapping school exam time, etc.
Avoid planning anything that spans major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, July 4th, or Labor Day. Those are wasted time slots within your calendar due to the lack of availability of participants and supporters. Poor weather means not doing a candy fundraiser for a youth sports group in August when the candy is likely to melt. For the same reason, don't offer special handling merchandise like cookie dough, cheesecake, or pizza kits at those times either unless you plan everything very carefully. Stay alert to what other fundraisers are going on in your community. Having a pumpkin patch sale on the school lawn two weeks before Halloween isn't a good idea if there are three other ones within a mile. Offer something different and stay in touch with the leaders of other groups. Scheduling an event-style fundraiser is a bad idea when it conflicts with another major community event that will draw away most of its customers. Check the schedules for sporting events and community functions. Don't be like the group that promoted a Saturday car wash at a site only to find that all nearby traffic was blocked off that morning for an annual running event!

Picking the wrong fundraiser
Sometimes a fundraiser is just wrong for a group. It might be because that particular one works best for a larger sized group. It could be that it requires a longer time period than is available. Others might not fit because it was picked for its higher percentage payout rather than the quality of the offering. The poor value of the merchandise ends up lowering sales instead of generating profits.
A fundraiser might have pricing that is wrong for community. Higher priced merchandise or gourmet food items aren't a good fit in some areas. Put "best practices" in place within your organization. Design a decision matrix that weighs the various factors to help you make the right choice. 

from "Fundraising Success! - Common Mistakes"
Copyright 2002 - All rights reserved



Download samples of fundraising letters, pledge forms, and other tools to help your organization get the fundraising advantage.
A listing of fundraising companies in Wisconsin that can provide traditional, unique, and even bizarre fundraising products and ideas for your next fundraiser. There are over 1200 independent fundraising companies in the full directory, which can be accessed by removing "wisconsin.htm" from the web address.

Creating a Budget for Fundraising

The Board and Fundraising

Fifty-Five Ways for Board Members to Raise $500

Fundraising Ideas

Fundraising for Dummies

Interested in a FREE consultation?  Our team of non-profit development specialists can help your organization or group acheive fundraising success!  Click below to send an email, or call Doug Seubert directly at (715) 384-5184.

Doug Seubert
Non-Profit Development Specialist
Advantage Consulting Services, Inc.
PO Box 504
Marshfield, WI 54449-0504