No matter how long your organization has been around, whether you are just starting down the nonprofit path or were founded 100 years ago, fundraising is a constant issue. People love the idea of what you are doing and want to support you, but with so many competing causes, what can you do to stand out?
Below are a few simple tricks to help ensure you are successful.
Make sure your organization has a compelling purpose.
Obviously, you wouldn't have started doing what you do without one but make sure you can clearly articulate it and share your excitement about what you are doing with others. No matter what it is that your organization cares about, there is an affinity group out there to fund you.
The organization looking to help save an endangered mosquito species is going to have a harder time finding funders than one looking to help rescue baby pandas. Both organizations are worthy, those mosquitos play an important part in the ecosystem, but one has a much broader appeal.
Help people to imagine a better world
Instead of focusing on your needs, give people an idea of what it is you have and are accomplishing. Tell stories related to what and how your donors and prospective donors are making a difference by showing up to your cause.
For instance, scientists are using mosquitoes to create better anticlotting drugs to more effectively treat cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of humans worldwide. Or one of the best ways to slow encroachment into wild habitats is ensuring a healthy mosquito population. No one wants to live too near a mosquito-infested swamp.
Focus on your accomplishments
Tell people, individual donors, and grantmakers alike what it is you have accomplished. People want to be part of a winning team, so focus on your wins. By saving that endangered mosquito, you have ensured that other animals have plentiful food sources, protected the rainforest, propelled medical science forward, and saved countless human lives.
Show people you are good stewards of their money
On your website or in your newsletter, publish any accolades or certifications you may have gotten.
GuideStar offers a free "Seal of Transparency" program to all nonprofits. Their research shows that organizations that publish their seal receive 53% more contributions than those that don't utilize them.
Publish your 990s on your website. This ensures people understand your organization is committed to transparency.
Use testimonials, both written quotes, and videos from supporters to emphasize the work you are doing.
"If you think you're too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito "
-The Dalai Lama.
Does your organization require any sort of certifications or licenses to do the work you do? If so, publicize that fact. Most people won't understand that this is the minimum you need to do your work but instead will see that you have the full confidence of government regulators or certifying bodies.
Get your board and staff involved
Granting agencies love to see that the board and staff are financially committed to the organization. Having 100% board participation in your fundraising efforts signals that your organization has people who are working hard to accomplish your goals.
Even donations as small as five dollars from your staff prove to funders that you are on the right track.
And make sure your board is doing the hard work they signed up for. When joining a board, people know they will need to give time, talent, and money to ensure the organization's success. They may need some coaching, though, and if that is the case, take the time to train your best ambassadors to do what is needed.
Don't be afraid to ask
The worst thing that happens when you ask is that you are told no, in which case you are in no worse a position than when you started.
Don't be afraid that people will be offended when asked for time, talent and money. In most cases, people are happy to know about your organization and glad to know you thought of them; they will often give a small donation simply because you asked.
Strength of mind pays off
There is no substitute for hard work; most nonprofits are successful because a small group of people cares a lot and are willing to do the hard work to make it a success. You have taken on the mantle of leadership, and that will get you far. So roll up your sleeves and get to work to make sure those mosquitos get fed.