PHOTO by Jaime Lopes of people raising their hands

Crowdfunding 101

Leveraging a Critical Mass of Supporters

I shared a previous blog about peer-to-peer fundraising.  Today, I will share some key insights about how crowdfunding is a different approach.

Crowdfunding started as an approach used by entrepreneurs to raise start up funds. Now, nonprofits are using the tool and it usually includes smaller donation amounts given by individuals. Basically, the campaign has a finish date and a specific financial goal. A purpose for the campaign is also provided and a link from the platform can be shared on social media and email messages. Donors can include messages of support and also share out the link to their circles.  Your nonprofit can keep all of your donors up-to-date by sharing messages, photos, and videos right on the platform dashboard.

Merchant Maverick assembled this list of popular crowdfunding platforms:

  • GoFundMe – The charities program will be ending December 31, 2021 but nonprofits can utilize their regular services.
  • Mightycause – Rebranded to serve small to mid-sized nonprofits and offers additional wrap-around services.
  • FundRazr – Holds the best reputation in the field and offers an assortment of resources.
  • Indiegogo – A popular platform for arts-oriented organizations and entrepreneurs.
  • Panorama – Also provides support for auctions and corporate partnerships.
  • Donorbox – Works with smaller nonprofits and includes a donation form pop up feature for your website.

The Council of Nonprofits recommends that organizations consider the following when it comes to using crowdfunding for fundraising efforts:

  • There are platforms that are geared to specific purposes: creative projects vs. nonprofit fundraising.
  • Platforms offer different fee structures. For example,  if you don’t reach your goal, you pay more while others don’t charge any kind of fee but you can’t get access to your donations unless you hit the goal.

According to Donorbox, use this criteria when considering crowdfunding for your fundraising:

  • Have a small staff;
  • Have a large audience of engaged followers on your social media channels;
  • Want to keep it simple;
  • Don’t have much time;
  • Have a moderate fundraising goal for a specific goal or campaign.

Here is a list of a few books about crowdfunding that may be excellent resources:

“With the emergence of social media, smartphones, and the web, opportunities for budding nonprofits are finally opening up. What were once tried and true methods to engage donors are quickly becoming archaic and ineffective. Believe it or not, you are living in the golden age of fundraising. A handful of nonprofits have caught on and are absolutely crushing it online. They’ve harnessed the power of technology to run massive online giving campaigns and reach thousands of supporters across the web.”

“This practical workbook takes the often overwhelming brave new world of crowdfunding and breaks it down into a step-by-step process, grounded in (memorable) theory-so working through the book not only helps you plan your first campaign, it builds a foundation for many successful, strategic campaigns to come.”

Be sure to confirm your state’s laws and regulations when it comes to using this kind of fundraising approach as some jurisdictions require that you register your nonprofit in order to fundraise. The National Council of Nonprofit recommends:

Charitable solicitation laws in most states do not specifically address solicitations via the internet or mobile technology, or crowdfunding – yet. Until they do, charitable nonprofits have the obligation to treat crowdfunding like any other fundraising activity – which means that charitable registration requirements in up to 39 states are likely.

In closing, another benefit of using this approach to fundraising is it will put your nonprofit in front of many other people who may not be aware of you – an excellent marketing tool to boot! As nonprofits wrestle with changes to technology and how donors connect with nonprofits, it is wise to keep an open mind to the assortment of opportunities to innovate how you fundraise.


Tips for the Small Shop: Finding Your People

Seek Opportunities To Expand Your Usual Approaches to Connect With More Donors

In August 2021, I shared a blog post about the opportunities for small fundraising departments to level up by using the same practical tools that bigger organizations use. Today, I will take a deeper dive into the area of donor acquisition and cultivation.

Donor acquisition is connecting people with your nonprofit through outreach or marketing. It is about thoughtfully building relationships. Some activities include:

  • Make It Easy – visitors to your website or social media channels should easily find your donation portal.  If not, you will lose them. Make this important call to action a prominent message on all of your communication tools.

  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization is the driving force to get visitors to your website.  Using keywords and other strategies to put you front and center in the digital space will help people find you. Last month, I shared a blog post about enhancing your digital doorway.

  • Build Your Email List – create a fun or informative download that is available at your website for visitors to access in exchange for their email address.  This is known as a lead magnet and can grow your email list quickly.

  • Transparency – share how donations are used by your nonprofit to make the impact your mission strives to achieve. Always communicate the status and outcome of your campaigns.

  • Understand Your Donors – Create a persona or avatar of who your donor is by identifying demographics, preferences, and interests. Feature donors on social media spotlight posts by highlighting their reason for supporting your organization and how their support made positive change.

  • Segment Your Data – As you are updating your database with an assortment of record-keeping efforts, be certain to capture key data points for easy segmenting:

    • Gift levels.
    • How they connected to your nonprofit.
    • Preferred communication methods.

  • Set Goals – Know your destination so you can create a road map to get to it. Take a look at your data for the past few years and note your efforts to acquire and retain donors. A special campaign to re-engage previous donors can lead to financial support. Also include a timeline for each activity. And with any project, measure your outcomes and note your lessons learned.

  • Finding the audience – Each year, ask your board of directors to provide a list of potential donors whom they will contact or make an introduction to the executive director. As the saying goes, “Ask for advice, you get a donation. Ask for a donation, you get advice.”

  • Leverage your digital presence – There is no getting around it: nonprofits must engage in the digital space to build awareness and connect with potential donors.  Although social media cannot be a primary fundraising source, it is the space that provides you an opportunity to strike up a conversation with community members and build a relationship that could lead to volunteer engagement and donor support. You can also recruit these social fans to assist with fundraising by leveraging their own digital space to conduct peer-to-peer fundraising events.
  • Online Auctions – You can build your database by hosting a virtual event that offers anyone in the world an opportunity to bid on an item and you can add contact information into your database for future cultivation.

  • Engage a Younger Donor – Millennials want to be actively supporting their nonprofit of choice by volunteering as their initial connection point before investing financially.  Create an advisory council to welcome younger generations into your organization.

  • Share Your Outcomes – In a study conducted by Root Cause, results showed that 75% of the respondents are looking for concrete evidence of impact, so set up methods of tracking those outcomes so you can share the impact with your community.

In closing, a key step towards successfully building your donor list is to step out of your usual approach to find clever methods to connect with the people who are likely aligned with your nonprofit’s mission.  Experiment with each of the tactics to see if they resonate with your community.  It is also important to assess how things are going after implementing the activity.  Monitor impact and celebrate the successes.  Remember, Rome was not built in a day.


Group of people sitting on wall

Peer to Peer Fundraising

Why not engage your family and friends in raising funds for your nonprofit? This approach to fundraising multiplies not only building awareness of your mission, but also raising money to support your programs. It can also be a fantastic tool for donor acquisition and retention.

Peer to peer fundraising is a version of crowdfunding but it is a multi-tiered approach to fundraising. It is really about engaging your biggest fan in leveraging their circle of influence. Crowdfunding typically is calling for small level donations from a large group.  It works well when trying to raise money for a special project.  Whereas peer to peer networking is led by individual leaders in raising money for a nonprofit by having their own campaign.

In a crowdfunding scenario, there is one donation portal where everyone donates. With peer-to-peer fundraising, individuals have their own page to share with their network to seek donations. This approach helps build social proof and trust because donations are generated in response to a familiar person’s request. In most cases, your nonprofit’s website holds the donation portal so donations come directly to you.

A peer to peer approach can either be year-round or time-based. 

The process is easy to set up:

  • Determine what the focus of the campaign is.
  • Recruit team leads.
  • Train team leads as fundraisers for the campaign.

Of course, making certain that you have all the materials and assets required to properly execute the campaign is important:

  • Set your financial goals.
  • Steward your relationships with your volunteers and supporters to identify potential team leaders.
  • Brand a special page for the campaign on your website.
  • Determine what software you will be using.
  • Use compelling photos and videos.
  • Create templates and assets for use on various social media channels.
  • Updates on the campaign maintain the momentum.
  • Recognize and celebrate your team leaders’ efforts once the campaign is completed.
Image Source:

Using peer-to-peer fundraising requires more planning but the impact of donations will multiply in different ways that typical campaigns.  When considering this unique approach, consider the following:

  • You need enough staff to support your team leads.
  • You have a pool of dedicated ambassadors willing to serve as team leads.
  • You have time to properly plan.
  • You have team leads who are comfortable working online.
  • You invest in strong donor retention activities.

In closing, peer to peer networking is about multiplying impact. By engaging your biggest supporters in rallying their individual communities, you can generate interest and funds for your nonprofit. Even if your fundraising department is just being set up, keep track of those rock stars you can later engage in this important work. This approach can yield very favorable results.


People and sunset

Tips for Treating Your Donors Right

Even if you are a small shop, developing relationships with the people who support your nonprofit’s work is critical for a sustainable future. 

Joan Garry has assembled the perfect ‘recipe’ to help you be successful with your year end giving campaign and it starts with knowing your donors:

  • The List – The first step is to review both your email and your snail mail lists to remove donors who require a more personal ‘ask’ then a generic one through your direct mail letter and e-newsletter.
  • The Calendar – November or December may seem quite a long way off, but have your calendar of activities set sooner rather than later.
  • The Follow Up – as you set about connecting with your donor whether it be with check in emails or donation requests, be sure to be hyper-vigilant in your timely responses.
  • The Appreciation – As donations come in, refer to your plan to delegate special thank you calls and emails in response to your appeals that were distributed in November and December.
  • The Reflection – As with any project, take some time to review your efforts to determine what worked well and what was missed. Also be sure to note your planning efforts for next year on your calendar now.

As Amy Einstein covers in her post, it isn’t just about the staff member who is responsible for fundraising to cultivate a happy relationship with a donor. It is beneficial to connect these supporters with various members of the nonprofit for a holistic connection with your organization’s mission.  You often hear of a lost donor because the relationship was solely with the development director.  By having touch points with various people, you avoid that situation.

Your executive director is the ‘go to’ person to share ideas about the future of your nonprofit while the development director’s role is to ensure that donors are connected in many ways. There are several ways to do that:

  • Keep in touch – set aside time to make phone calls, send personal notes in the mail, and personal emails to your donors.

  • Engage, engage, engage – it is said that a meaningful way to really connect your donor with your nonprofit’s work is to invite them to volunteer.  That can range from an event, to serving on a committee, to help with a special project.
  • Honor and celebrate – host an annual donor and volunteer appreciation event to share how much you appreciate their support.

  • Tap into their wisdom – since donors will engage in an assortment of professions, why not tap into their expertise for guidance on a matter you are managing?

  • Send them your well wishes – sending donors cards about unique holidays with handwritten personal messages goes a long way.

Bloomerang offers a list of opportunities to ‘show the love’ in an inexpensive but meaningful way.  Sharing your appreciation shouldn’t break the bank! Here are a few ideas from that list:

  • Create a donor stewardship plan.  Rachel Muir offers a fabulous template that highlights suggested activities and frequency. As FreeWill suggests, having such a plan increases your donor retention and builds meaningful relationships.
  • Have staff and board members record a ‘thank you for your support’ video using their smartphones that can be posted on social media or sent to specific donors using email.
  • Create a donor-specific landing page. Show your appreciation and share a hearty thank you each time someone donates using your online donation portal. Include an optional form field requesting information as to why they decided to donate to your nonprofit.

As with any new initiative, be certain to build in evaluation in order to determine if the work you have determined as goals is the work that is meeting the overall intention.  Take your lessons learned through the process of the experiment to build a solid, sustainable approach to serving your donors.  As a result, you will build a culture of connection and investment in the well-being of your organization.


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.


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.


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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.


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.