Think of fundraising as your nonprofit's diversified investment of time and resources. Like your 401k, a mix of funding streams will bolster your organization's long-term financial health. Here are four distinct fundraising areas to consider:
Submitting grant proposals to foundations: One of the most conservative forms of fundraising because it's low-risk/low-cost (usually just your grant writer's salary and postage--travel expenses are generally not necessary). The financial return can range widely, from four to six or even seven-figure grants. Conservative does not mean easy, however; for every 10 proposals submitted, only 2 or 3 are likely to be funded. Invest in an experienced grant writer to maximize all of the time and hard work that go into foundation solicitations.
Targeting high net-worth individuals: Gifts from wealthy individuals often comprise the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. On average, 10% of donors give 90%--yes, 90%--of a nonprofit's philanthropy. It's easy to understand, then, why nonprofits should identify, cultivate and solicit individuals with significant means. Depending on your mission and geographic reach, this so-called Major Gift fundraising can require a moderate to aggressive investment, including staff salaries, travel, stewardship events, thank-you gifts and more.
Engaging with the masses: From good ol' fashioned direct mail appeals to Kickstarter and Facebook campaigns, raising money from the general public is a staple of many mature fundraising offices. Connect successfully with lots of people who each give a little money--their collective dollars will make a big difference to your nonprofit. This type of fundraising often has a grassroots feel and relies on hundreds or even thousands of people to help you reach your goal. In addition to mail or online outreach, it can include events (examples: Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl, Project Bread's Walk for Hunger) or big TV/online marketing campaigns (St. Jude Thanks and Giving). As such, fundraising from the masses can be inexpensive (e.g., Kickstarter campaigns are free) or very expensive--but the return can be tremendous in both cases.
Holding a gala: Ironically, fundraising galas tend to cost the most and raise the least, yet many nonprofits often gravitate toward this idea when beginning their fundraising efforts. Galas can absolutely work wonders for an organization--take the MGH Storybook Ball--but require expert staff, volunteers, and sponsors to seamlessly pull off all of the financial and logistical pieces. I consider fancy events to be on the riskiest side of fundraising. Don't proceed unless you're confident that you won't lose money on the event.
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