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Fundraising 101: The Ultimate Guide to Fundraising Basics for Beginners

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Getting the basics of fundraising down as a beginner can seem as daunting as being asked to eat an elephant! There's so much to do and it's hard to know where to start. But if you take it one small bite at a time, it starts to feel a lot more doable. Just like with anything big, breaking it into smaller pieces makes it much easier to handle.

The phrase “accidental fundraiser” gets thrown around the nonprofit space a lot. You probably didn’t choose to get into fundraising – you became a fundraiser out of necessity. So remember, you’re jumping into something new. A great fundraiser isn't born overnight.

This guide aims to help you get started on your journey as a successful fundraiser for beginners in nonprofit organizations. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry, we’ll break down the basics of fundraising to make it more approachable for your nonprofit. Let’s take it one piece at a time.

Table of Contents

  1. Creating a fundraising plan
  2. Building a donor base for beginners
  3. Campaigns, Appeals, and Funds
  4. The basics of crafting your fundraising ask
  5. Choosing your fundraising channels
  6. Fundraising event planning 101
  7. The basics of grant writing
  8. Conclusion
  9. FAQs

Understanding the Basics of Fundraising 101

Fundraising is a crucial aspect of any non-profit organization, charity, or even personal project. It's the process of gathering voluntary contributions of money or other resources, by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies. Let's delve into the fundamentals of Fundraising 101.

Key Elements of Successful Fundraising

Successful fundraising isn't just about asking for money. It involves a strategic approach that includes several key elements:

  • Clear Goals: It's important to have a clear understanding of what you're trying to achieve. This could be a specific monetary target or a broader goal such as raising awareness for a cause.
  • Target Audience: Identifying who you're asking for donations is crucial. This could be individuals, corporations, or other organizations.
  • Compelling Story: People are more likely to donate if they feel connected to the cause. Sharing a compelling story can help create this connection.

Understanding these elements can help you create a successful fundraising strategy.

Common Fundraising Methods

There are several methods you can use to raise funds. Here are some of the most common:

  1. Direct Mail: This involves sending a letter, postcard, or brochure directly to potential donors.
  2. Online Fundraising: This includes using social media, email campaigns, and crowdfunding platforms to reach potential donors.
  3. Events: Hosting a special event, like a charity run or a gala, can be a great way to raise funds and awareness for your cause.

Each method has its own advantages and challenges, so it's important to choose the one that best fits your organization's needs and capabilities.

But successful fundraising is about more than just requesting donations - it involves creating connections, understanding your donor base, and communicating your mission in a way that resonates.

Successful fundraising plan 101

Fundraising success doesn’t come from cold calls or mass emails alone. It requires strategy - an effective fundraising plan tailored to the needs and interests of potential donors. It takes time and data to understand what resonates with your donors. A successful fundraising plan isn't an accident, it's a product of strategic thinking and diligent execution. The basics for your nonprofit include setting clear fundraising goals, building your donor base, crafting compelling fundraising appeals, and understanding the best ways to connect with potential donors.

Because your infrastructure is the foundation of your fundraising, let’s start by looking at how to build a strong fundraising infrastructure.

Build your fundraising infrastructure

To set yourself up for success, you first need to build your nonprofit’s fundraising infrastructure. To build your infrastructure, let’s start with setting fundraising goals and defining your nonprofit brand, and defining your donor base.

1. Set your fundraising goals

Your first step should be setting your fundraising goals. Before determining the best ways to reach potential donors, consider what you want to achieve with your fundraising efforts and how much you need to raise. This will give direction to all your future efforts.

By having a clear picture of your fundraising goals, you can be clear and transparent concerning what you're requesting, the reason why it's essential, and how gifts will be used. Transparency builds trust with potential donors and helps them feel comfortable giving to your nonprofit.

2. Define your nonprofit brand

It might seem strange to think of your nonprofit branding. You’re not trying to sell anything, you’re trying to change your community. Shouldn’t branding be reserved for businesses and for-profit organizations?

The truth is that branding is an essential part of your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. Branding helps you hone in on the identity of your nonprofit and communicate clearly with your audience.

Donors want to know what to expect from your nonprofit. When they receive an email or see a social media post, they want the messaging to clearly be in line with your organization.

Like transparency, consistent messaging builds trust with your donors.

Now that you know your fundraising goals and have defined your nonprofit brand, you can start growing your donor base.

3. Define your donor base

Is your nonprofit trying to appeal to everyone or do you know your ideal donor? It might seem foolish to not view every person as a potential donor, but the hard truth is that there are some people who will never connect with your nonprofit’s mission. And there are others who would take significantly more effort to convert into donors than others.

Who are those likely interested in supporting your cause? If you’re opening a pet rescue, you don’t want to solicit donations from someone who hates animals. Likewise, a person who has firsthand experience with cancer is much more likely to donate to a nonprofit supporting people with cancer.

Other things to consider like age, income level, interests, and location can help you identify potential donors. If you already have a pool of donors, look at the data to see what things your donors have in common with each other.

If you don’t have donors yet, research similar organizations or causes to gain valuable insight into who might support your cause. This isn’t about pulling donors from other organizations, it’s about seeing the commonalities that their donors have, so you can reach out to similar people in your community.

Now let's break down how to grow your donor base.

Growing your donor base

Your fundraising success hinges on a strong donor base. But how do you get there? The answer lies in smart outreach and nurturing lasting relationships. Your donor base is the collective group of individuals and organizations who support your nonprofit.

How to build your fundraising prospect list

Building your prospect list is one of the first steps toward successful fundraising. Since you’ve already defined your donor base, you’ll be prepared to create a prospect list tailored to your specific nonprofit. A well-curated prospect list can be powerful for small nonprofits with limited time and resources.

Creating a donor persona

The first step to creating an effective prospect list is understanding who your target audience is. To help you focus your fundraising efforts, create a donor persona. A donor persona is a fictional representation of your ideal donor. This is the person or people to whom your nonprofit aims its marketing.

Image of a donor and volunteer persona. Creating donor personas is one of the basics of fundraising because it helps you target your nonprofit's fundraising efforts.
Check out this free editable copy of our donor persona template, and start building your own nonprofit donor personas!

Finding potential donors

Once you have defined your target audience, it's time to start looking for potential donors. You could begin by leveraging personal networks - reach out to friends, family members, and colleagues who may be interested or know others who would be. Another great tool for discovering prospects is social media. This is where understanding your ideal donor comes into play. If your mission resonates with Gen Z, TikTok is a great place to get started, but if your ideal donor is a middle-aged professional, then prioritizing TikTok would likely be a waste of time and resources.

  • Social Media: Use social media platforms not only to promote your organization but also to identify people showing interest in related causes.
  • Email Lists: If you've collected emails through sign-ups on websites or events (with permission), they make a good starting point.

Outside of internet connections, it’s important to be engaged with your community. Are there local businesses that you could reach out to and find a mutually beneficial way to collaborate? What about other nonprofits who you can serve alongside? It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the work you’re doing and become inwardly focused. But it’s important to remember that the best relationships are mutual. You want people to get involved in the work you’re doing, so what are the ways that you are engaging with others?

Maintaining your growing prospect list

Managing your donor data is vital to your fundraising efforts. You need to keep your information up to date while being able to easily add in new contacts. Because they are free, many new nonprofits start off using spreadsheets to manage donors. If that’s the route you’re planning to go with, check out our free donor management spreadsheet.

On the other hand, what spreadsheets save you in dollars, they cost you in time and complexity. When was the last time your spreadsheet helped you turn your donor data into actionable steps to increase donor outreach?

A donor development platform like DonorDock combines online giving, a nonprofit CRM, and donor outreach to simplify how you manage and engage your donors.

Using a nonprofit CRM to manage your prospect list

A nonprofit CRM (Customer or Constituent Relationship Management) system is software designed to help nonprofit organizations manage their relationships with donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. It serves as a central database that stores and organizes information about individuals and entities connected to the nonprofit.

Here are some key features and functions of a nonprofit CRM:

  1. Donor Management: It tracks and records interactions with donors, including donations, communications, and engagement history. This helps nonprofits understand donor behavior and preferences.
  2. Contact Management: It maintains a comprehensive database of contacts, including donors, volunteers, members, and other stakeholders. This includes their contact information, demographics, and communication preferences.
  3. Online giving, Fundraising, and Donation Tracking: It helps in managing fundraising campaigns, tracking donations, and generating reports on fundraising performance. This may include tools for online giving and event management.
  4. Donor Outreach: It often includes features for email marketing, text message outreach, newsletter distribution, and social media integration. This helps nonprofits stay in touch with their supporters and keep them informed about their activities.
  5. Volunteer Management: It allows nonprofits to track and manage volunteers. This helps in efficiently organizing volunteer efforts.
  6. Reporting and Analytics: It provides tools for generating reports and analyzing data related to fundraising efforts, donor behavior, campaign effectiveness, and more. This information helps in making data-driven decisions.
  7. Grant Management: Some CRMs include features for managing grants, including tracking applications, reporting requirements, and grant outcomes.
  8. Member Management: For organizations with membership models, the CRM may include features for managing memberships, renewals, and benefits.
  9. Integration with Other Tools: A good nonprofit CRM integrates with other software solutions, such as accounting software, marketing platforms, and event management tools, to streamline operations.
  10. Security and Compliance: It should have robust security measures to ensure the safety and privacy of your nonprofit’s data.

Cultivate meaningful relationships with donors

You're not just asking for donations; you're fostering relationships, sparking conversations, and building a community committed to your mission. Fundraising is about relationship building, and relationships should be mutual.

If the only time you heard from someone was when they needed money from you, how long would that person still be in your life?

Valuing the individual

You might be thinking, “I have so much to do. I don’t have time to know all of my donors personally!”

It's important to build a mutual relationship with your donors, and that means you need to know them. Yes, part of knowing your donors includes understanding their giving habits and their communication preferences, but it should also include taking time to know many of them personally.

There’s so much value in taking time to call or meet up with your major donors or consistent supporters. But even a quick note, email, or text can be meaningful to growing donor relationships.

It lets them know that you are thinking about them and reaching out, not just when you want something from them. Take note of milestones like the anniversary of their first gift or their birthday, and use those milestones to mark times of outreach. A good CRM can notify you of these milestones and prompt you to reach out.

Fostering that relationship shows your donors that you value them. When they feel valued, they are more likely to engage with your nonprofit. And, an engaged donor is more likely to continue giving over the years.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you make sense of your data and reach out to donors, look for a donor development platform that acts like a virtual fundraising coach–activating your data by serving up actionable donor engagement tasks.

Fundraising outreach that nurtures

Regular updates from your nonprofit to its supporters serve as a vital connection point, keeping everyone in the loop about the progress, challenges, and achievements of the organization. These updates not only inform donors and volunteers about how their contributions are making a real impact but also foster a sense of belonging and trust.

Regular updates show that you value your supporters and considers them integral partners in their mission. Additionally, consistent communication builds a strong foundation for long-term relationships, encouraging continued support and engagement. By sharing updates, a nonprofit doesn't just report on activities; it nurtures a sense of shared purpose, turning supporters into true advocates for the cause. In short, helping donors understand the impact of their contribution is key to building long-lasting bonds.

Donors get exhausted from feeling like they are constantly being asked to give. They need more communication than just fundraising appeals.

They also lessen the likelihood that your constituents will experience donor fatigue. Donor fatigue is a hesitancy in responding generously to fundraising asks due to the frequency of those appeals.

Key takeaways:
1. Building your donor base requires focusing your efforts on your ideal donors. Take time to understand the commonalities of your current donor base or research similar organizations, so that you can target your marketing to your ideal donor.
2. A Donor Management system helps your nonprofit understand and activate your donor data, so you can have effective marketing and outreach.
3. Relationship building is paramount to growing your donor base. Your outreach should include more than just appeal letters. Donors want to connect to get updates throughout the year, as well.

Now, let’s look at the difference between campaigns, appeals, and funds.

Fundraising campaigns, appeals, and funds, what’s the difference?


A fundraising campaign is a strategic, organized effort to raise a specific amount of money within a defined time frame for a particular cause or project. Campaigns can be inspired by specific needs, such as launching a new program, constructing a building, or responding to an emergency. For instance, imagine a campaign to build a community center in a neighborhood. The campaign would have a clear target, a set timeline, and a variety of activities and channels (like events, online promotions, and direct mailings) to engage potential donors and supporters.


An appeal is a targeted request for financial support that is sent to a specific group of donors or potential supporters. They can be part of a larger campaign or stand-alone. For example, after a natural disaster, an organization might send out an appeal for emergency relief funds to help those affected. These appeals are designed to mobilize quick responses from supporters who are empathetic to the specific situation.


Funds are like specialized bank accounts within a nonprofit organization. They are designated for specific purposes, ensuring that money is used for its intended use. For example, a scholarship fund might be established to support underprivileged students in pursuing their education. These funds help maintain transparency and accountability in how donations are allocated and spent. They act as a way to guarantee that each contribution serves the purpose it was given for, be it program operations, scholarships, or other vital initiatives.

In summary, fundraising campaigns are well-organized efforts with specific goals and timelines, appeals are targeted fundraising asks, and funds are designated accounts ensuring donations are used for their intended purpose within a nonprofit. Together, they work in harmony to support the overall mission and objectives of an organization.

The basics of crafting an effective fundraising ask

When it comes to fundraising, the ask can make or break your efforts. A great ask isn't just about requesting money - it's about inviting donors to be part of something bigger than themselves. The basics of good fundraising asks include clear messaging, a compelling story, and a strong call to action (CTA).

Whenever possible, personalize your approach. Donors appreciate feeling like you are reaching out and speaking directly to them, not viewing them as a collective group. Address each donor by name in emails, letters, or texts.

The basics of clear fundraising messaging

First, you need to be clear on what you need and why. Clear messaging builds trust and allows you to honor donor intent. Donor intent is what the donor hopes is achieved with their giving. Donors often have implicit (or sometimes explicit) expectations around the gifts they give.

Your messaging needs to be clear, so donors know what they are giving to. If you write a compelling story that leads donors to think their donations are going to do one thing, but you actually use those donations for something else, you’ll break trust with your donors. They won’t want to give again in the future and would likely tell others not to give to you.

So, prioritize clarifying your messaging. Then, you can use storytelling to illustrate how donations will be used and who they will help.

Mastering the art of storytelling in fundraising

A compelling story can make a world of difference when it comes to fundraising. Your donors want to feel like they are a part of something greater. Highlight powerful messages that paint a vivid picture in people's minds, helping them understand why your work matters.

Describing the before and after of your nonprofit’s work and making it personal are key elements of effective storytelling. You want to appeal to potential supporters by sharing stories that resonate with their values and emotions.

A powerful nonprofit story will include four main parts:

  1. The Hero
  2. The Problem
  3. The Solution
  4. A Call to Action

The Hero

The hero of your nonprofit’s story is the community you serve. It’s important that your donors feel connected to your hero without othering them. You want to inspire empathy, not pity. Donors should want to cheer them on as they succeed in overcoming the obstacles before them.

While there might be instances where it's important to portray your hero as a collective, donors generally tend to resonate more with individual stories. Individual stories have more impact because it's easier for people to relate to the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of a single individual. And personal connections can create a stronger emotional impact.

Also, when a story focuses on just one person, it can dive really deep into their feelings and understand their motivations. Plus, stories about individuals usually have a clear and simple path. It's like following a trail in the woods instead of a whole maze. This simplicity makes it easier for us as humans to remember and connect with the story later on.

All of these factors combine together to create a more compelling story when it is focused on a specific individual.

Because storytelling narratives that connect with your nonprofit’s donor base tell an individual’s story, you’ll likely have multiple heroes as you continue to reach out to donors. While you’ll share different stories, their “problem” and solution will be the same - even if it looks a little different for each story.

The Problem

Great stories feature both a protagonist and an antagonist. Yet, in the narrative of your nonprofit, the antagonist isn't typically an individual. Instead, it's the issue you've identified - the systems and structures working against your protagonist. This could be limited access to resources, hardships they are facing, or another way their needs aren’t being met.

When your nonprofit's storytelling places the community at the center as the hero, and external forces as the adversary, it weaves a compelling tale that still upholds the dignity of those you're serving. It shifts the narrative away from an 'us versus them' mentality, where one party is a victim and the other a savior. It’s a reminder that you and your donors are partners and collaborators with those they’re serving.

The Solution

While you aren’t framing your nonprofit as the hero, you do get to frame it as the solution. How are you helping the hero battle their adversary? The climax of your storytelling is how the hero wins their battle with your nonprofit’s help. Take the time to showcase the good that your nonprofit is doing in the community. Celebrate your impact and the impact of your donors.

A strong CTA

Your CTA is the time to invite your constituents to join you as part of the solution! Describe how your donors can join the story by listing clear ways they can help solve the problem, and connect it back to the original story and people.

As an example: imagine a nonprofit dedicated to helping kids with disabilities have a summer camp experience. They paint a picture of David, a young boy who attended their camp for the first time, how he struggled with social settings and this camp experience helped him be more confident. At the end, they include the CTA “Give more children, like David, the gift of their first summer camp experience. Donate now!”

The magic lies in showing how individual contributions have made an impact. Let donors see their role in bringing change to their community - because they truly do. By tying your CTA into your storytelling, you’re not only asking for financial support, you’re inspiring change.

Remember there are different types of asks too: financial donations aren’t everything; people’s time or skills are also a valuable part of supporting your nonprofit.

Use this storytelling checklist to simplify storytelling for your nonprofit.

Find examples of strong storytelling and learn from them

The work you are doing is important! But it takes effective storytelling to help others see and understand.

Find nonprofits who do storytelling well and learn from their example. Pay attention to how they craft their stories. What parts draw you in? Find what resonates with you and inspires you to give.

CCRI-Moorhead does a great job clearly explaining its mission, sharing the before and after impacts of its work, and highlighting real-world examples so donors understand exactly where their contributions are going.

Key takeaways:
1. Fundraising asks should be personalized and segmented to your donors.
2. A strong fundraising ask tells a story where those you are serving are the heroes, you show the problems they are facing, and then demonstrate how your nonprofit is the solution.
3. Follow your storytelling with a CTA that asks as an invitation for your donor to join you in the story as part of the solution.

The basics of different fundraising channels

There are so many ways to reach out to your constituents. So how do you decide which channel is best for your nonprofit and its supporters? Let’s look at the different platforms and how they might serve your mission. And remember, while you might be spread too thin to use every channel, a combination of methods helps cast a wider net and reach a more diverse audience.

Your nonprofit website

In today's connected era, online fundraising is an essential tool in your arsenal. And the first place to start your online fundraising journey is your nonprofit’s website.

Your website is often the place where potential donors, volunteers, and those passionate about your cause come to discover more about your organization. The information should be relevant and timely, so visitors to your site know that you are still an active organization.

Your homepage is the digital face of your organization. It needs to captivate site visitors and make them want to learn more about you. If you only have the time or budget to give to one part of your website, let it be your homepage. You can even embed your online giving donation form directly onto your website.


Nurture emails are also a great way to connect with your constituents. Emails allow you to easily share longer stories and include pictures while keeping the outreach personal.

It’s important to share updates about your nonprofit organization and the impact of gifts through monthly or quarterly emails. If you’re short on time, keep them short and simple with a few images of your nonprofit in action.

With emails, you can also track the open and click-thru rates to better understand how your constituents interact with and respond to your outreach. This gives valuable understanding and can help you shape your outreach in a way that resonates more with your audience.

For better or worse, emails also have a very targeted outreach. On the one hand, this is great for sending messaging that is targeted at specific constituents. Your messaging to a major donor should look different than your outreach to a lapsed donor. This type of targeting is convenient to do through email.

On the other hand, it’s less likely that someone will be sharing your email with their friends and contacts. This means that your reach is more limited than other channels. Additionally, many people feel like they are drowning in emails. So, it’s easy for your outreach to get lost among the onslaught of other emails and may have less visibility.

Text messages

Text message outreach is another great way to reach out to donors. Because texts are meant to be short, you can have an effective outreach text that is simple and straightforward. Plus, they typically have a higher open and engagement rate than emails!

SMS has a 98% open rate compared to email marketing. techjury

Using a donor development platform that offers text messaging lets your nonprofit send a personalized text message blast to your donors. This lets you reach a lot of your contacts in a way that feels personal while saving time and energy.

The downside to text messaging is that it doesn’t allow for long-form content. You have to keep your messaging concise, so there is less room for evocative storytelling.

Social media

Another channel to consider keeping up with your constituents is social media. Social media posts can keep your contacts informed about what is happening at your nonprofit, while also reaching a larger audience.

In today’s world, many people are looking for visual content, and might not give a ton of attention to long-form content. This is where social media shines. With social media, you have the option to keep your content short and let images tell your story for you. Depending on your skillsets this can either simplify your work or add another hurdle to your outreach.

While social media posts have the potential to reach a wider audience and have more visibility, they are less personal to the donor. This also means that your messaging needs to be more generalized and cannot be targeted to specific segments of donors.

To be favored by the algorithm gods, social media also demands more frequent updates. This is really great in terms of engaging and regularly communicating with your donor base, but it does add more work to your plate.

Remember to consider which social media platforms your donor base is on and focus on those channels.

Direct mail

Let’s not forget the traditional method - direct mail. Even in this modern era, direct mail is still a powerful tool for fundraising.

Did you know?
37% of donors prefer giving via direct mail.

Like email, direct mail allows you to segment your donor base and use targeted messaging. Direct mail favors long-form content, so you can share more stories around the work of your nonprofit. This approach can feel more personal compared to a generalized email blast or social media post.

However, the biggest downside is that direct mail is more costly and can be more time-consuming than sending an email.

Phone calls

Hands down the most personal way to engage your constituents is phone calls. Phone calls let you have a genuine back-and-forth conversation with your donors. While phone calls show your donors that you value them as an individual and care about them personally, they do take a lot of time.

Making phone calls is a great way to reach out to major donors, volunteers, or those who have been giving consistently for a long time. But, it is less helpful when it comes to engaging your general donor base.

Another challenge to making phone calls is the fact that more and more people aren’t answering their phones, especially from unknown numbers. There are services that let you automatically call a person’s voicemail. By using a service like this, you can reach out to individuals and let them know who you are and why you’re calling. You show them that you value them, but give them the space to reach back out to you if they’d like to.

Key takeaway:
Understanding and respecting the communication preferences of your constituents is important. Some may prefer emails, while others may engage more readily through social media or newsletters. Diversifying your channels gives you a wider reach, helping you to foster stronger connections with your audience. This thoughtful approach acknowledges that effective communication is not one-size-fits-all.

Let’s look at the basics of planning fundraising events next.

The basics of planning and executing fundraising events

If you're just starting out in the nonprofit world, organizing a fundraising event can seem like a daunting task. However, with careful planning and execution, these events can significantly boost your organization's visibility and funds. Here are some basic steps to get your first fundraising event off the ground.

1. Define your purpose and goals

The first step in any successful fundraiser is defining its purpose. Is it to raise awareness for your cause? To gather donations? Maybe you want to grow your volunteer base or gain more community support. Likely, it’s some combination of the above, but make sure to choose your main CTA (Call To Action).

Once you've defined your purpose, set specific and measurable goals related to that purpose. Later on, you’ll be able to objectively measure the success of your fundraising event.

2. Identify your audience

Determine who would be most interested in supporting your cause - they'll form the core of your target audience for this event. Knowing your audience will make it easier to determine the type of fundraiser you’d like to host.

You’ll want to tailor the event to the preferences of your target audience, while still making sure the event fits the brand of your nonprofit. It’s important that the event connects your audience directly to your mission, as this helps to foster a sense of passion and excitement around the work that you’re doing.

At the same time, just because a nonprofit serves children, that doesn’t mean it should have bouncy castles at an event whose goal is to gain major donors and the target audience is middle-aged professionals. It’s important to keep both the target audience and your mission in mind when planning an event.

3. Plan your budget

When it comes to planning a fundraising event, a detailed budget keeps your nonprofit on track. There are many great ideas out there for events and so many things you could include as part of your fundraiser. But, if your fundraiser costs more than your nonprofit can afford, then it hasn’t actually done anything positive for your nonprofit.

Be sure to factor in all potential expenses including venue hire, catering services, marketing materials, etc., while also considering ways you could save or generate additional income through sponsorships or ticket sales. Be realistic with what you can afford and have reasonable expectations for what things will cost.

Yes, there are plenty of businesses that will offer to sponsor a nonprofit event or potentially offer a discount on services, but until you have those offers in hand, you should be planning to pay full price.

4: Develop a marketing strategy

To make sure you have good attendance at your fundraising event, develop a robust marketing strategy using channels best suited for reaching out to your identified audience. In addition to the channels listed earlier in this article, consider writing a press release or reaching out to your local press for coverage of your event. Also, research what local, online community calendars are available in your area. Put your event on any of these that are applicable at least three weeks before the event.

5: Execute and evaluate

Finally, it’s time to execute your plan! Make sure everyone within your organization knows their role in making this event happen. This includes staff, board members, and volunteers.

After the event is over, take time to evaluate its success against the goals you set at the start. This will help you see what areas need improvement in future events.

In this journey of nonprofit fundraising remember that every successful event starts with a well-thought-out plan. With these steps as your guide, you'll be on track to hosting an impactful fundraiser that helps propel your mission forward.

Key takeaway:
Planning fundraising events can feel overwhelming, by breaking it down

Securing grants for your nonprofit

A well-crafted grant proposal can be a game-changer for small nonprofits. Grant writing may seem daunting initially, but remember that every successful grant writer started somewhere - persistence is key!

There are also organizations like the American Grant Writers' Association that offer resources for grant writing and help connect nonprofits with freelance grant writers.

Finding grants for your nonprofit

The first step in your grant-seeking journey involves identifying potential funders whose mission aligns with yours. There are numerous databases available online that list thousands of grant opportunities across various sectors and regions. Websites like Grants.gov, Foundation Directory Online (FDO), or GuideStar offer extensive searchable listings that you can filter based on your specific needs.

Besides these platforms, consider looking into local community foundations, government agencies, companies offering corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, or even family foundations as they often provide grants to organizations operating within their geographic area or field of interest.

Research potential funders before applying. Look into their past grantees, focus areas, and application guidelines. If you’re asked to pay an application fee, then it is more than likely a scam.

The next step after identifying potential grants is crafting an effective proposal.

Writing effective grant proposals

Create a calendar

It doesn’t matter how well-written your grant proposal is if you don’t get it in on time. So first, create a calendar to help you keep track of all the deadlines. While there are many ways to track your grant progress, like creating a to-do list or adding it to your physical or digital calendar, you can also simplify the process through your nonprofit CRM. Stay organized with a nonprofit CRM and donor development platform like DonorDock. DonorDock not only offers grant management, but you’re also able to add to-dos directly in the ActionBoard and assign them to different members of your team.

Define clear objectives and outcomes

Before you write your grant proposal, your team needs to clearly outline your project's goals, expected outcomes, and how you plan to measure success. Now, go back over the grant requirements to make sure that your objectives are in line with the funders. If you don’t have clear objectives in mind or they don’t align with the funders, then it will be difficult to successfully write a grant proposal.

Once that plan is established, you need to share it in your grant proposal. Transparency is key. This gives funders confidence that every dollar they contribute will be invested wisely and purposely. This level of detail not only instills confidence but also sets the stage for a fruitful partnership, where both parties are aligned toward a shared vision of positive change.

Demonstrate alignment

You might be wondering “what makes one grant proposal stand out from the others?” It all boils down to understanding your nonprofit’s mission clearly and being able to tie it to the funder’s goals.

Think of a grant proposal as a compelling story that brings together your organization's goals with the aspirations of the funder. It's like finding common ground with a new friend, where you share your goals and dreams, and discover how they beautifully sync up.

A successful proposal not only outlines what you aim to achieve but also highlights why it's in perfect harmony with what the funder deeply cares about. This connection, this resonance, is what truly makes a grant proposal shine. It's a testament to the power of collaboration and mutual understanding, ensuring that together, you can make a meaningful impact on the causes that matter most.

Showcase impact and need

Backing your proposal with concrete data is like providing a solid foundation for a building. It's not just about what you want to do, but why it's urgently needed.

By incorporating data-driven evidence, you're presenting a compelling case for your project's significance. You're showing the funder the real-world issues and challenges that your work is poised to tackle. This evidence serves as a powerful reminder that there's a genuine, pressing need for the services you offer in the community.

This not only invites trust but also signals to potential funders that their investment is directly addressing a vital issue, making it all the more impactful and meaningful. It also shows funders that you’re willing to do the research to make sure your organization is taking the right steps to solve the problems facing your community.

Solidify your budget

A well-constructed budget is the financial roadmap that transforms ideas into actionable plans. It's more than just numbers; it's a narrative that tells the story of how every dollar will be used to bring about positive change. When you present a clear and detailed budget, you're providing a transparent view of the inner workings of your project. Each expense is accounted for, justified, and tied directly to a specific aspect of your initiative.

This level of detail instills confidence in potential funders and showcases your organization's fiscal responsibility. It's akin to saying, 'We've thought this through, and every cent has a purpose.' Solidify Your Budget: Present a clear, detailed budget that justifies the funding request.

Demonstrate organization capacity

Highlighting your nonprofit’s capacity to manage funds and execute projects assures funders that they're supporting a capable and reliable partner. Showcase your team's expertise, track record, and dedication to the mission. It's about proving that you have the skills, experience, and infrastructure in place to not only secure the grant but also to use it effectively. This dual assurance — of both a meaningful cause and a capable organization — is what truly sets a grant proposal apart.

Stay aligned with grant objectives

Once you receive a grant, it's crucial to keep your objectives front and center. These were the driving force behind the funding, and funders will want to see how you lived up to your objective. When the time comes to report on your progress, a clear understanding of these objectives will empower you to articulate your achievements effectively. So, keep them close at hand, and let them guide your path forward.


What a journey we've had! From understanding the basics to crafting compelling asks, you're no longer in the realm of Fundraising for Beginners.

You've seen how building your donor base is essential. It's not just about raising money; it's about lasting relationships and helping donors understand your cause.

We've explored diverse channels, from direct mail to online platforms. Remember: where there are people, there are potential supporters!

Nurturing those donor relationships is key. Regular communication keeps them engaged while appreciation increases future donations.

Leveraging technology can make all these steps simpler - a great fundraiser knows when to use smart tools effectively.

In conclusion: keep learning, stay strategic, and remember why you started this journey. Fundraising success isn't overnight but with perseverance and passion – it’s within reach!

Are you using a donor development platform that fits your needs and serves up actionable steps to help you cultivate better donor relationships?

Nurture your donor relationships with DonorDock. An easy-to-use Donor Management Platform built for nonprofits like yours.

Fundraising FAQs

1. What is Fundraising?

Fundraising is the process of soliciting and gathering voluntary contributions as money or other resources, by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations or governmental agencies. It's an essential activity for any nonprofit organization since it provides them with the funds needed to carry out their mission.

2. Why Is Fundraising Important?

Fundraising is vital because it helps nonprofits generate necessary revenue and fosters relationships with donors who can provide ongoing support.

3. How Do I Start a Fundraising Campaign?

To start a fundraising campaign:

  • Create clear goals that align with your organization’s mission
  • Determine your target audience
  • Select a fundraising method (e.g., online donation page)

4. What Are Some Effective Fundraising Strategies For Small Nonprofits?

The most effective strategies include building strong relationships with donors through personalized communication and stewardship; leveraging social media platforms for outreach; organizing engaging events like fun runs or charity auctions; applying for grants from foundations and corporations; developing monthly giving programs among others. Read more here.

5. How can I effectively manage my donors?

DonorDock is a nonprofit CRM that helps organizations streamline their fundraising efforts by managing donor data, automating communication tasks, and providing insights to improve strategies.

Elisha Ford
Content Writer
Written by
Elisha Ford
Content Writer

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