Experts say that the number one reason people make contributions to non-profit organizations is not that they believe in the mission, that giving to charity makes them feel good, or that they're looking for a tax deduction. It's because someone asked them. That is why fundraising experts say that the absolute best tip for fundraising for non-profit organizations is to ask, ask, ask. Accomplishing this may involve setting up a fundraising team and gathering volunteers to man telephones, design campaign mailers, research donor histories and write grants.
Non-profit fundraising can generally be broken into two main categories: government fundraising and private fundraising. Government funds typically come to a non-profit from the local, regional, or national government through grants, line items in the budget, or special programs. Private funds often come from businesses, non-governmental organizations that make grants, or from individuals. Fundraising experts suggest maintaining an appropriate balance between these two sources of money. That way, a crisis in one sector or the other won't cause the organization's cash flow to dry up completely.
Professionals who work in fundraising for non-profit organizations often specialize in working with one or more of these groups. The skills required to navigate the governmental bureaucracy differ from those necessary to write a successful grant proposal, build a philanthropic relationship with a company, or recruit a wealthy socialite to the donor roster. For that reason, it may be a good idea to create a fundraising team, rather than relying on lone individuals to do all fundraising for non-profit organizations. A grant writer, a corporate fundraising specialist, a major donor officer, and a general development officer are common players on a successful non-profit organization's fundraising team.
Regardless of who is asking whom for money, experts normally agree that fundraising for non-profit organizations should be done strategically. A fundraising plan typically takes into account the frequency of the ask, the amount of money asked for, the medium used, and whether the ask was successful. Other considerations often include how much money has been given historically by the donor and the state of the donor's finances. Finding a formula that successfully incorporates all of these variables can take a while and requires tracking each of them over time. If a non-profit organization does not have the ability to collect or interpret this data and use it to hone its fundraising strategy, it may be a good idea to hire an outside agency to do so.
Understanding donors' giving patterns can highlight the differences between them. Some may make a small monthly contribution while others give a large sum every year during the holiday season. One person may make a one-time donation in honor of a friend or event while another has a deeper connection to the non-profit organization and might want to fund a new program or building. Researching a donor's giving history and capacity can inform the approach used to ask him or her for money in the future, and many fundraisers recommend creating different versions of the same donation campaign to target these different groups. That way, someone who has only made small contributions will not be scared away by a request for a major donation, and money won't be left on the table by asking a wealthy corporation for too little.