Successful Fundraising for Nonprofits Requires Creative Thinking

In today’s overcrowded marketplace, everyone from corporations to government organizations is vying for attention. How are nonprofit groups able to compete for attention and funding without the capital and resources available to big business?

Nonprofit groups serve many different functions, as some seek to raise funds (gain something tangible) whereas some seek to raise awareness or share a message (aimed at something intangible), and some do both. The unavoidable bottom line is that capital is needed in order to carry out the task, whether the task is gaining funds or gaining awareness.

However optimistic an organization may choose to be, realistically, relying on the mere goodwill of others is not an effective means to gain capital. If you have created or belong to a nonprofit group, and want to have a fighting chance against the goliaths in your industry that can afford costly promotional campaigns and operations, you must start to think strategically and get creative.

Because nonprofit groups often suffer financial disadvantages, they must make up for this in strategic planning and be intentional in all of their dealings. Again, simply relying on the goodwill of others to donate is not a very effective strategy when trying to gather funds. Something nonprofit groups rarely consider is how much planning goes into targeting and approaching donors. According to authors Joyce Young, Ken Wyman, and John Swaigen in their book Fundraising for Nonprofit Groups, this planning process will include:

• Deciding if you will be approaching individual or corporate donors.
• Researching what other groups you may be competing with (e.g. multiple fair trade advocacy groups in the same area).
• Researching industries that may be affiliated with your group and which of these may have an interest in supporting you.

As mentioned, the key to finding these sources is to plan well and get creative.

For true visionaries, another option for your nonprofit group or organization is to capitalize on fundraising activities that actually incorporate and demonstrate your values. According to an article in the September 26, 2010 edition of The Herald-Sun, The Scrap Exchange is a primary example of this. As a nonprofit organization, whose core values include “creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse,” it has implemented all of these into its practices and fundraising strategy, as its operations include collecting, reusing, and reselling industrial materials. Even more commendable than this is that the organization donates materials to community groups and provides workshops and classes on how to create art from reusable items. This organization is an example of taking what you have and, along with some thought and innovation, using it.

However, if an idea like this is not practical for your nonprofit, an often untapped resource is government funding. According to Young, Wyman, and Swaigen, the government sets aside more money for these types of donation than what is commonly expected. However, they warn that some of the strings attached to this type of funding can be:

• that the application process may be lengthy,
• that you will have to provide detailed records of your activities,
• that you may have to match a certain funding program description, and
• that groups that most likely receive funding are those related to current day societal issues.

If you are granted entrance through these various gates, then the payoff can be quite reasonable. After all, some funding is better than no funding. Taking the time to research what you are eligible for is part of being strategic and creative, as you are exploring further options than what you may have initially.

Rather than sitting around, wondering why donations are not pouring in, be proactive and seek out less conventional or obvious sources of funding. At the end of the day, it is well worth the extra effort if your group is able to carry out its mission and perhaps even impact the world in its own way.

About fundraising-for-nonprofits-cover-large For more about fundraising for nonprofits, see Fundraising for Nonprofit Groups by Joyce Young, Ken Wyman, and John Swaigen.

The book is available in our Web store, where you can preview the initial chapters and read the table of contents.

Click cover image to enlarge.

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