Person sitting on top of a mountain

The Small But Mighty Fundraising Department

Capacity for any nonprofit is a challenge.  For the small nonprofit, it can be daunting. However, there are tools that the bigger organizations use that even a one person department can also leverage.

In an article posted by The Fundraising Authority, five tips can help you and your nonprofit reach successful fundraising goals, even with few resources.  Here are just a few suggestions:

  • It Takes A Village – By creating an affinity group, you will expand your giving circles of influence. It multiplies your fundraising capacity by engaging a group on a specific fundraising goal.  For example, rally your event volunteers to help push out social media posts and campaign information to help raise awareness and money.
  • Get to Know Someone – Fundraising is not a purely transactional event – it is relational.  Investing time in cultivating a relationship with your donors will lead to their investing in your nonprofit’s work in the community. A good start is to invite them in for a tour or to volunteer at a special event.
  • Look to the Future – Planned giving programs can be started simply by asking donors to include your organization in their wills. The importance of having such an opportunity is substantial as gifts received in this way are often some of the largest donations your organization could receive. 

What can often be overlooked is building awareness about your nonprofit and its work in the community.  It is imperative to be active in the ‘digital sandbox’ in order to keep your work front and center. A basic approach is to be engaged on one channel and dedicate your time to it as opposed to spreading yourself out on as many digital spaces as possible.  Build awareness by building relationships.

There are many things you can pursue but if you are a one person fundraising team, you must be selective with regards to what those activities will be. Blue Avocado suggests a few basic and easy-to-do tasks to help be a strong foundation:

  • Reach out to your donors – After identifying your top donors and creating a list, call two of them each day to check in, say ‘hello!, and thank them for their support. Setting aside a lunch, once a month, to visit with a major donor helps steward a strong relationship.
  • Build relationships with your board – As board members are settling in for the start of the meeting, ask them to sign thank you notes for donors and foundations. Perhaps doing a board member spotlight every other month on social media and your e-newsletter is a great way to publicly thank them for their support as volunteers.
  • Send handwritten notes to donors – Alternate your daily phone calls with a weekly or monthly mailed note to your supporters.  Build into your budget one additional direct mailing that is simply a midpoint note of appreciation, not one asking for money.

As the professional hired to manage a big job of developing strategies to fundraise for your nonprofit, it is key to map out specific activities to leverage over time. Investing in using your time wisely we multiply successful outcomes. It is important to recognize that you cannot be all things to all people but you can be a leader dedicated to focused efforts that will lead to impactful opportunities for your organization. To see a list of 100 tips and tricks to help you grow your fundraising department, see my free download here.


People celebrating at an event

Events 101

If you want to host an event solely to raise money, you are wasting your time. Events are the least cost-effective way to raise money, but hosting a fundraising event for your nonprofit is a fantastic way to raise both awareness and tap into financial resources that might not otherwise be available through other avenues.  This type of activity typically requires a lot of front end investment but you can generate a high amount of revenue if you do it properly. offers a plethora of resources to assist you with executing a successful event.  

Planning your event properly is key.

There are several pieces to the planning portion of the process and one element is your event budget, which is an estimate of costs:

  • You need to know your financial goal and with it, projected revenue and expenses. Not only is a budget important as a road map, it can help you calculate your overall goal. It includes both actual income and expenses, but also in-kind donations.
  • The value of donated items requires an FMV – fair market value – in order to properly provide the information for a tax-deductible donation to your donors.

There are different types of income for your event. Listed below are those types of activities and a suggested percentage for a revenue goal:

  • Sponsorships – Target: 35%

    It is optimal to have an existing relationship with potential sponsors before asking them to support your event, so create a prospect list of those businesses you wish to develop a connection with and start working on creating a rapport well before the event. Do not forget your own vendors.

Be sure to start your solicitation of sponsorships early. Businesses take longer to make decisions than individuals. They also typically have a budgeting cycle to consider. Your sponsorship is likely to be higher if taken into consideration at the time the budget is being created. Ideally you will finalize your sponsorship packet in September to properly approach those making budget decisions in the last quarter

  • Ticket Sales – Target 20%

    Be certain to count all costs associated with this line item.  For example, always check the cost per person provided by your caterer.  This is not just the cost for the food but the labor, supplies, corkage and gratuities that are part of the quote.

  • Auction – Target 15%

    By working with your board members and businesses, you can secure items like vacation homes and packages that contain fun items for donors to bid on. Volunteers are a great help in reaching out into the community for donations. Seek the assistance of a benefit auctioneer. This may seem like a large expense, but having the guidance and talents of a true professional is likely to dramatically increase revenue and cover any costs of the auctioneer.

  • Paddle Raise – Target 20%

    A great practice is to use a story conveying your mission and a successful outcome just prior to the paddle raise. The moment before the paddle raise should be the emotional highpoint of the event. It is also helpful to include a donor’s matching donation for this portion of your event. Once again, a professional benefit auctioneer can make all the difference in reaching goal.

  • Other activities – Target 10%

    This can include your raffle prize, program ads, games, and miscellaneous donations received in response to the event.

Each event will have individual and unique expenses associated with it. A recommendation is to use ticket sales and sponsorships to cover the costs of the event and then all other funds raised become the net revenue raised. 

For example, here is a breakdown of potential revenue targets to reach an overall financial goal of $100,000 with expenses projected at $55,000:

  • Sponsorships – $35,000
  • Ticket Sales – $20,000
  • Auction – $15,000
  • Paddle Raise – $20,000
  • Other activities – $10,000

This could lead to a net revenue of $45,000. As long as you have the expenses covered, all funds raised become your net profit.

In closing, knowing what your ultimate destination is (aka your target financial goal) helps you create a road map of options to reach that goal. By doing the work of mapping out the plan at the start, you can focus on executing a successful event that will please your guests while supporting the important work of your nonprofit. Of course, you will not be in auto-pilot mode but it will certainly open up some much needed mental space so you can engage with your guests so the ultimate success is a fun event.


We can. Just imagine.

The Board Retreat

The retreat is one of the most important activities the board of directors can leverage to assist in fostering a sustainable, successful future for a nonprofit.  However, making it a successful one requires a bit of effort and intention. Do your board members feel inspired and excited after attending your retreat?  If not, here are some tips to make it more fun and productive. 

In an article by Joan Garry, there are three things a board retreat should be:

  • Valuable
  • Memorable
  • Actionable

The question is, how do you hit all three points? Here are several goals to help you create a successful board retreat:

  • Determine your end goal.  Knowing what your desired outcome for the retreat is will help you back engineer the path to get there.
  • It takes teamwork.  The executive director and the board chair co-create the scope of discussion and work for the retreat. 
  • Make it personal.  Convening a group of dedicated volunteers to help define the path of your organization will benefit by knowing a bit about each other.  Include an activity to help set the mood for the day.
  • Go Big.  Retreats are not about troubleshooting operations but are an opportunity to suss out the big issue your agency is currently navigating.  Use this time to take a deep dive into one or two of those matters.
  • You need a driver.  Hire someone to facilitate the session so the board and staff can actually do the work and not be timekeepers.

Joan Garry has put together a handy ‘how to’ when it comes to creating a retreat agenda. Board retreats are about creating a space for level up thinking. It isn’t a meeting arranged to review operations but one to fan the flames (or relight, for that matter) for the passion for the mission of your organization. 

Some ideas for your retreat:

  • Review the mission statement. Does your work match your mission and vice versa?
  • Check in on your strategic plan.  A status check and update on your strategic plan to celebrate reaching benchmarks and planning for the next cycle of activity keeps it front of mind.
  • Location is everything.  The last place you want to have your retreat is in the office of your nonprofit.  Perhaps a board member might open up a vacation home to host the retreat.
  • Be prepared. By taking some time planning for a successful retreat allows for a stronger likelihood it will be successful. For example, prepare some group agreements around using devices during the retreat.
  • Have fun! Board members are volunteers using even more of their precious free time to attend the retreat.  Granted, there is business to attend to, but it is very important to also include some lighthearted enjoyment during the retreat to help keep those creative juices flowing. offers this handy guide to create a successful retreat.  The site is free to join and provides access to nonprofit educational resources.

In closing, if you are going to dedicate a significant amount of time aside, make sure it is worthwhile. Check in with your board members to find out what they would like to experience on the retreat. Your retreat should be well planned and properly facilitated to spur your organization to success.


Person writing notes on paper

Creating a Fundraising Plan as easy as 1-2-3

As Amy Einstein covers on her website, the pieces of a fundraising strategy consists of several pieces and when you assemble those pieces in a thoughtful way, you will have a road map for raising money.

According to her article, there are several activities to do this:

  • Build a foundation
  • Define your goals
  • Identify your course corrections
  • Write it out and live the plan

Like building a house, you do not purchase a couch if you do not have a living room to put it in. As with a fundraising plan, you have to start with the beginning and create a solid foundation to build upon.  Evaluate what you have done in the past and keep in consideration what external events were part of those fundraising cycles. Also make a note to do an immediate evaluation of each activity so you do not have to scramble to find that information when it is time to assemble your plan.  

As you determine your overall financial goals, I encourage you to establish both actual and stretch goals.  We have just experienced an unprecedented world event with the global pandemic and although the nonprofit sector has experienced both an explosion, as well as, a loss in support, using your organization’s historical performance with other possible influences will help you craft another strong method of keeping track of your course.

Of course, not every effort is the best one and now is the opportunity to determine whether or not a ‘tried and true’ event makes sense to continue, for example. There are also ample opportunities to explore new ideas.  Perhaps your organization has yet to launch a major donor program and this year may be the year to do that. Or, perhaps your board has not been engaged in as many fundraising efforts as you had hoped.  Now may be the time to include some board training around how to use social media to build awareness about your nonprofit.

After all the evaluation, a plan that stays in your head will not do the organization any good, so write it out. Review it with key stakeholders, like your executive director, to ensure there is buy in for the goals and support for needed resources. Be sure to refer to the plan and check in on it on a regular basis.  Make adjustments as needed in the event of unexpected changes. 

Keep in mind that a majority of your donors will research your nonprofit’s online presence to get a sense of stability and community impact. Not only do you need an engaging website, you also need to be active on social media. Investing in this foundational communications infrastructure is the start of your fundraising efforts.

When crafting your digital presence, keep these things in mind:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is key to having donors find you on the internet.
  • 70% of people living in North America have a social media account.
  • Understanding who uses which social channel helps you focus on your own presence.
  • Email lists are a direct link to your donors and is one of the most effective ways to connect.

In closing, your development plan should be crafted as part of the budget development cycle of your nonprofit as your fundraising goals tie into your operational budget. It also informs your work plan for the year. By doing the evaluation and due diligence at the front end, you will have focus and strategy to reach your goals so your nonprofit can do the work it does in the community.


Beginners Guide to SEO

Beginners Guide to Successful Email Marketing

How to Create a Fundraising Plan

Woman holding a wrapped gift

Get a Jump Start on Your Yearend Giving Plan

Your Year-End Appeal Plan of Action

With the end of 2021 a mere six months away, now is the time to map out your plan to execute your most successful year-end giving efforts to date. And as is the case for any successful outcome, there are several key pieces to a fundraising campaign.

Network for Good offers these seven steps to keep you on track to reaching your goals:

  1. Figure out what you are trying to do and do it with laser focus.  Sending out a general letter to your donor base is not a best practice.  It is important to know who your donors are and segment your communications.  This includes your direct mail piece and all of your e-communications.
  2. Tell a great story.  Once you know who you are going to connect with, what heartfelt story will you be sharing with those individuals?  Donors give when a story captivates them.
  3. Determine which tools to use. Back in the day, you had one way to connect with donors: through a mailed letter. Now, there are various digital tools to make that connection ranging from e-newsletters to social media to video.  Where does your audience spend time?
  4. Resources. One key misstep is having a website filled with inaccuracies or broken links.  It is imperative that this ‘digital front door’ be interesting and functional.  It also should have an easy-to-find entry into making a donation.
  5. The team.  Determine who will oversee all the efforts of your year end campaign activities. This will be your fundraising staff but it will include the engagement of your leadership as well, especially with your digital communications.
  6. The timeline.  Another missed piece of a successful year end fundraising campaign is setting up a calendar of activities to strategically execute all of the tasks in order to meet the target goal.  Reverse engineer from your last activity date in order to figure out your start time.
  7. Evaluation. In order to understand how successful your efforts were, it is important to take some time to reflect on how things went so you can understand your lessons learned and potential improvements for next year.

You can also have a little fun with unique ideas such as these:

  • Special thank you videos from your staff, board, and program participants add a personal touch of appreciation. The content can be used on your e-newsletter, social media, and your website.
  • Ask your board of directors to do a thank-a-thon phone call effort in October or December to call major donors.  It is a great way to get your leadership involved with fundraising!
  • Send a general update communication to your donors a few months before the end of the year to say thank you and provide an update on your nonprofit’s efforts over the past year. 
  • Ask donors to come on board as fundraising ambassadors by giving them the tools to share out on their social media about ways their friends and family can give back. You can also encourage them to look into employer matching programs at their jobs.
  • Ask one of your favorite restaurants to host a holiday cocktail hour with portions of the proceeds being donated to your nonprofit.
  • Ask your corporate partners to also share the good word about supporting your nonprofit on their company communications. The business can also do a special year-end drive for items appropriate for your program participants.
  • Spotlight your volunteers on social media and other e-communications by sharing their stories behind becoming involved with your organization. 

Many nonprofits received about half of their donor dollars at the end of the year and it is an excellent opportunity to also thank those who dedicate time and money to support your mission.  With ample planning and clever approaches, you can help your nonprofit stand out and meet your fundraising goals.


Looking down a country road during the fall

Planned Giving Sustains Your NonProfit

Planned giving – also known as legacy giving – is a program that cultivates long-term donor engagement in the sustainability of your non-profit. It is a donation that is set up in the present but not received until a future date.  It is most often a gift designated in a donor’s will and often given to the organization when the donor passes away.

The importance of having a planned giving program is a big one as gifts received in this way are often some of the largest donations a non-profit will receive. Interestingly, many non-profits do not invest in staff or other resources to set up such a program.  As a result, the organization misses out on receiving substantial donations that can help sustain the non-profit in the years to come.

Granted, there are challenges in knowing definitively if a donor will include your organization in their will.  However, there are things you can evaluate to better understand the opportunity that may be present.  For example, does a donor consistently support your agency with financial gifts and actively participates in helping bring awareness about your programs to the greater community?  If so, these ambassadors may be possible leads for a planned gift.

These types of gifts are typically large ones and the opportunities should not be overlooked. In an article by DonorSearch, there are different phases of the process:

  • The Intention – when a donor of your organization advises that they wish to make a gift but it isn’t a binding agreement. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the generosity of the future gift.
  • The Expectation – tracking all the potential gifts helps your organization look at future goals. Many nonprofits use an average amount for a ballpark figure.
  • The Notification – when a donor sends word that a gift has been designated in their will. In many cases, you will not know the amount and it is important to keep in touch with the donor. 

Types of Gifts

  • Real estate, savings, retirement, etc. can be a planned gift and bypass the probate process as the donor can directly give the gift to your nonprofit.
  • Securities, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or real property.
  • Land, additional property on that land (such as buildings or machinery)

As we move into more in-person ways to connect, there will remain many opportunities to leverage the virtual space to create and build your planned giving program. The strategies remain the same, but the method is different.

With any donor relationship, it is all about communication. By keeping your dedicated supporters updated on how your nonprofit is transitioning into a post-pandemic world, you strengthen that relationship. Perhaps surveying your donors about a variety of topics that are related to your organization’s work in the world and their thoughts on the future of the nonprofit. Here are some other ideas:

  • Record a personal video using your phone. Keep it real and personal!
  • Set up a special visit with your donor, not a business appointment.
  • Tap into your donor’s wisdom – ask for their advice.
  • Get to know your donor on a personal level.

As your nonprofit navigates the new terrain of philanthropy, you can still tap into tried and true approaches to create a long-term strategy to keep your biggest supporters engaged in perpetuity through your planned giving program. Start with your strategy, develop authentic relationships, and you are on your way to lasting investment in your nonprofit.


top of dinner table at a party

Tips for Successful Fundraising Events

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller

In years past, the fundraising event has become more important to nonprofits as organizations strive to diversify funding streams.  The COVID-10 pandemic provided ample opportunity for those organizations to reinvent how to convene their community in order to raise much needed funds to support programs.

One of those new ventures was the virtual event.  Now that we have a year’s worth of time to reflect upon, here are several tips to help your virtual event be as successful as possible. As we see the world open up to returning to in person events, there will still remain an opportunity to use the virtual space to convene others and generate revenue for your nonprofit. In either case, these tips apply to both types of events.

By spotlighting special guests and supporters, you can leverage social media to amplify these VIPs in a way that they, too, can share the good news about their participation in the event.  You can record short interviews using an app like Zoom to share on all of your channels. 

People at an event enjoying the party

It is imperative to keep the registration and donation process as simple as possible and this includes how you collect the contact information about your guests. By collecting both email addresses and phone numbers, you can reach out to your guests as you approach the event date with important reminders. You also want to offer an easy to navigate donation portal.

Engage with your guests by making the event interactive.  Include a poll, offer opportunities for food delivery, or provide a swag bag filled with sponsored goodies.

Consider hosting a ‘live’ performance for a short amount of time to generate buzz and a sense of urgency to witness something special. You can also provide access to a pre-recorded event so your guests can view it at their leisure.

Some additional ideas for events:

  • Cooking competition – partner with several local chefs and charge for a livestream of the cook-off.
  • Book group – find celebrities to host a book group and charge admission
  • Scavenger hunt – devise both a digital and a physical sleuthing game to include both your local and your long distance supports.
  • Art Show – local artists can produce a series of pieces based on a theme that can then be auctioned off for your non-profit.
  • Community Talk – Invite supporters of your mission to view an interview with a top stakeholder in your area of service.
  • Wine Tasting – Work with a local distributor to provide a sampling of wines to conduct a virtual tasting or do a vineyard tour.

Events are an excellent way to engage your board members in fundraising for your nonprofit. There are several strategies to help your organization’s leaders take an active participation is this important facet of their work:

  • Recruit new board members – it is often an uphill challenge to motivate folks to change but if you bring in new members with the knowledge and know how, they can start things off on the right foot.
  • Goals – involve the board in determining the financial goals for the event and name their role in meeting those goals.
  • Event Committee Chair – be sure to select someone who will champion and motivate other board members to be actively engaged in the event planning and execution.
  • Recognition – be sure to use social media and the event to recognize your board’s hard work for your non-profit.

Speaking of social media, you can use your channels to convey excitement and engagement for your event.  By creating special hashtags and jumping on the bandwagon of related hashtags, you can build a community and momentum about your event. It is also a fantastic space to showcase your event sponsors.

There are many reasons to host a fundraising event ranging from building connections to your community to building awareness about your mission to bringing in new supporters.  By using a plan and engaging the key people in your organization to assist, you can create a special experience for all involved.


Capital Campaigns – Building A Bright Future For Your Nonprofit

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

  • Jonathan Swift 

When a nonprofit begins, it is in response to someone seeing a need for a service.  As the life of that nonprofit grows, so does its infrastructure. This is where the capital campaign comes in. It could be a much-needed renovation to your existing place of business or it could involve breaking ground on a new building.  In either case, there is a need for big resources to bring that vision into being.

Before you venture down the capital campaign path, it is critical to make certain your organization is ready for such a big project.  Keep in mind that it takes between six and twelve months to create your plan before it is implemented.  Perhaps the timing may not be best to launch a campaign but it is certainly a perfect time to do all the planning.  It is also critical to identify and establish your people power for the campaign.  Yes, having key volunteers as part of your committee to help identify and connect with donors is important, it is also important to have an experienced capital campaign manager leading the implementation of your well-thought out plan.

As mentioned above, the first step is creating your plan. As mentioned in this DonorSearch article, there are several steps to get that process going:

  1. Assemble a capital campaign committee.  It is never just one person running the whole show at a nonprofit and that is the case with a capital campaign.  Collaboration with your board leadership, team members, key volunteers, and dedicated donors can be the jump start to success. 

  2. Conducting a feasibility study. Knowing if it is a viable direction is also a cornerstone issue when you are embarking on a potential capital campaign. A feasibility study includes a survey of key stakeholders to determine the viability of financial success.  The study also looks at your internal readiness for a campaign. You’ll get feedback on brand awareness of your work in the community along with a temperature check on your nonprofit’s reputation. It is a bit of a testing ground to see if the time is right for your campaign.

  3. Pre-qualify your potential donors – Investing time in looking at your existing donor pool to understand the viability of contributions will save you from a steeper climb later in the campaign. Knowing who your donors are and why they invest in your nonprofit is a critical component of a successful capital campaign. This information will also help you develop the gift chart that breaks down the gift levels to reach your ultimate financial goal. 

  4. Setting a deadline and a timeline. As with any good plan, a destination is important to have as is a deadline to reach it. A great way to create it is to back engineer the step by step process of the campaign.  It must also be realistic. In many cases, capital campaigns span three to five years in duration. Using your target end date, you can also craft your timeline from start to finish. 

  5. Establish your financial goal and budget. Understanding all the costs of the capital campaign is needed so you know how to create your gift chart and know the overall costs for the project. Be sure to not only note the obvious costs but to also research any potential hidden costs like unfulfilled pledges. You will need funds to cover costs to ‘live’ the plan.

  6. Evaluate your previous successes and failures in raising funds. There is no better lesson than 20/20 hindsight and assessing your ‘wins’ and your challenges will help inform strategies for this big campaign. You will know how your donors prefer to respond to calls of support and what does not elicit a response.

  7. Create a Plan B. It is important to keep in mind that unforeseen circumstances can stall your project.  Be certain to know how the organization will respond in those cases by keeping the communication channels open and having a few options on the back burner.

  8. Create a gift chart. This tool is a breakdown on the number of gifts and levels of gifts that will lead you to your financial campaign goal.  It breaks down these factors along with knowing how many prospects you need to lead to the gift. Here is an online gift chart calculator to help you create your chart.

  9. Creating your road map. Assemble your findings into a document that outlines your target end result, the participants, and the timeline. You will also need to articulate various approaches to securing the donations.

  10. Prepare communication assets. You will need letter templates and email templates to request meeting time, solicit for donations, and acknowledge gifts. These communication tools should all be branded using your slogan and visual identifiers established for the campaign. You may want to create a special page on your website when the campaign goes public.

  11. Your Case Statement. It is also known as the case for support. This document shares the reason for the campaign, answers key questions about the project, and sells your campaign to donors.  Out of all the materials you complete, this is the cornerstone of a successful capital campaign.

In summary, there are many moving pieces of the capital campaign puzzle. Make sure your board of directors is well versed with the scope of the campaign as they will be authorizing the funding needs for it.  Establishing regular meeting times for your planning committee and creating thoughtful timelines will help you align expectations with the intentional outcomes. It is a very specific fundraising campaign that is intense and executed over multiple years. It starts out with the ‘quiet phase’ to secure a large portion of the overall financial goal. 

By hiring a professional consultant who recognizes the key components of a successful campaign, you will significantly ease your stress. Your consultant can manage the entire process for you so you don’t have to.


Coffee cup on calendar

Development Audits – Successfully measuring your fundraising capacity

How can a nonprofit successfully measure its fundraising abilities and help secure funding?  By using a development audit as a barometer.  It is an internal review of what your development department is doing and invites an opportunity to evaluate your development functions. It provides you with a fresh look at your department processes and functions. 

An audit can also help you confirm the philanthropic focus of your nonprofit by seeing how board, staff, and overall operations are helping solidify that intention. An audit determines your organization’s feasibility to grow, launch a capital campaign, or begin your strategic planning process.

The development audit helps you move your mission forward.

The basic premise of an audit is to work with someone who is not on staff in order to provide an objective point of view on the status of your development department workings. The consultant reviews your foundational documents and policies, examines your promotional materials, explores external views of your organization and interviews key stakeholders to gather both an internal and external view of your organization and its impact. Ultimately, this process prompts internal conversations about how to best streamline and improve your fundraising infrastructure. The final report includes a clear development plan with goals, tactics, identification of the responsible party and a timeline for implementation.

Using both quantitative and qualitative findings can help an organization develop benchmarks for improved fundraising capacity. Some of the areas an audit covers can include the following:

  • Do we have sufficient staff to support the financial goals?
  • Are we performing at the best of our ability?
  • What tools and resources are missing?
  • What are we missing?
  • What are we very good at?

The development audit helps you move your mission forward. It offers you the opportunity to evaluate the following cornerstone issues:

  1. Your nonprofit’s purpose.
  2. Creating solid planning.
  3. Understanding your donors.
  4. Leadership opportunities.
  5. Effective brand awareness.
  6. Efficient operations.
  7. Leveraging volunteer engagement.
  8. Strong systems development.

The development audit succinctly connects the dots between where the holes are and what opportunities are available. With this knowledge, you can thoughtfully and strategically build rock solid fundraising infrastructure so you can provide the community you serve the services they need.


People sitting at table for a meeting

Boards Training | Fundraising

Since a large portion of nonprofit revenue comes from fundraising, the board of directors play a major and specific role in that activity. One of the board of directors responsibilities is assisting with the development of an assortment of resources that ranges from people power to donated services to cash donations.

According to an article published by Non Profit Pro, there are several components to doing this:

  • Commitment
  • Embracing the role and setting up processes that enhance it
  • Vetting candidates
  • Training
  • Consistent support

Board members are volunteers who are dedicated to a nonprofit’s mission and donating their time to support it. They also share wisdom and specific talents that support the vision and intention of the nonprofit. For example, a lawyer may not want to serve as a pro bono attorney but rather, steward the organization to ask questions on how to find legal advice. As a board goes about the process of identifying new members, it is imperative that there is a front-end conversation about roles and responsibilities.  This will avoid confusion and misunderstandings as you decide to move along with the process. A key part of this is having honest and open conversations about how money is raised for the nonprofit and the board’s established role in it.  Many nonprofit boards require a ‘give or get’ policy for all members.  This is a very important conversation for the board to have to understand the place for such a policy.

Many people do not like to talk about money, let alone ask for it! Board members are people too so setting them up for success in fundraising is critical. Bloomerang recommends finding opportunities with a solid likelihood of a ‘yes!’ as an approach to build confidence and comfort. Other approaches include using the Kay Sprinkel Grace AAA Way to Fundraising method: Advocates, Ambassadors, and Askers. Basically, every board member is at least one of these and is assigned the role.  The Askers are ‘matched’ with donors that have been pre-qualified by staff as very interested in investing in the work of the nonprofit. Eventually, each member should be comfortable with taking leadership in all three categories but starting with just one and taking an incremental approach makes all the difference.

Perhaps a board member may not enjoy making an ask but there are other ways they can be part of the collective effort:

  • Write three thank-you cards
  • Make phone calls
  • Forward an email
  • Share on social media
  • Invite someone for a tour or to volunteer

Another way board members can help with fundraising is with sharing their stories.  By sharing why they volunteer for your nonprofit, they are conveying a passionate testimonial for the work you are doing in the community.  In turn, this can be leveraged to use in your fundraising messaging to encourage others to donate. 

Although it is the executive director’s job to lead many discussions about fundraising with the board, it is best to tap a designated board member as a champion of that message.  This can be done with the creation of a development committee with very clear roles established as far as areas of responsibility. The chair of that group can work closely with the staff on communicating with and motivating the board to do their individual and collective parts in helping raise money for the organization. 

Finally, recognize board members’ work.  Check in with the chair to do some sleuthing on how each member wishes to be recognized for a job well done and be sure to take the time to recognize those wins on a regular basis.

The bottom line is this:  in order to motivate your key volunteer leaders to do the important work of helping with fundraising, you have to set them up to succeed. Open discussions, access to tools, and accountability are key to that success.

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