5 Best Fundraising Practices for Your Nonprofit Startup

Today’s post is from John Killoran.

John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. 

Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.

Starting a nonprofit might seem overwhelming. Between establishing yourself within the sector, growing your team, writing your bylaws, and gathering community support, you have enough on your plate — and that’s without adding fundraising to the equation. 

Depending on where you are with starting your nonprofit, you might have already set fundraising goals for the year or you might be brainstorming different ways to reach your audience. Either way, you’ve started thinking about how you’re going to raise money to sustain your nonprofit and support your cause. 

The fundraising world is huge. There’s a lot to know, a lot of connections to make, and a lot of strategies to try. But remember, there’s no one right way to fundraise. The best strategy to follow is the one that is uniquely designed to fit your nonprofit. 

If you’re feeling intimidated by the fundraising process, don’t worry! We’ve put together our best fundraising tips for new nonprofits: 

  • Have a clear mission.
  • Establish consistent branding.
  • Offer multiple ways to engage.
  • Get online.
  • Be flexible.

Starting your fundraising journey off right is essential to building up a strong donor base to support your nonprofit in the long-term. With these 5 tips, your nonprofit will be up and running in no time. 

(And if you’re not quite to the fundraising stage yet, check out Snowball’s checklist for starting a nonprofit to help get you started!)

1. Have a clear mission. 

The most fundamental way to garner support for your nonprofit is to have a clear mission. If you’re a new nonprofit, most people probably haven’t heard of you or your work. With a straightforward mission statement, you can quickly and easily convey exactly what you do. 

Your mission statement can also be used as a guide as you’re building up your nonprofit. For example, if you’re trying to make a decision about what projects to work on or who to hire, you could return to your mission statement to see which choice best aligns with your stated purpose. This way, you don’t lose sight of why you started your nonprofit in the first place.

Having a mission statement is great, but you might find that writing one is quite challenging. It needs to be succinct while conveying everything that your organization does. It needs to sound professional, but also easily understandable. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re working on your mission statement: 

  • Who or what am I trying to help? Centering your mission statement around who or what you will be helping will show donors the beneficiaries of their contributions.
  • What type of work will I be doing to help? Are you educating the public? Providing a service? Creating community? Classifying your work is one way to quickly explain what you do.
  • What tools do I need for that type of work? Identifying the tools, or what you’ll need to complete your work (e.g. educational materials, healthcare supplies, canned goods), not only shows you what you should prioritize in your fundraising efforts, but it will also invite supporters to see how you achieve your goals.

In the long run, your clearly defined mission can also help you as you’re designing your fundraising plan. Donors want to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Your mission statement is the most direct way to get them to care about your cause and contribute.

2. Establish consistent branding. 

Donor trust is especially important for newer nonprofits. Unlike big names such as Habitat for Humanity or UNICEF, you don’t have the same name recognition or reputation. Well, not yet. Establishing strong and consistent branding for your nonprofit is one of the best ways to get there.

Branding makes your nonprofit memorable. With an eye-catching logo or a noteworthy color scheme, donors are more likely to remember your organization and to trust that you’re who you say you are. 

You should build your brand around a story. People naturally gravitate toward stories, so situating your branding around one or two storylines is a great way to get potential supporters interested in your work.

Of course, branding also has a lot to do with the visual elements of your organization. Some of your most important visuals include: 

  • Logo: Your logo will likely be the most widely shared image in your arsenal of graphics. Make sure that it captures your organization, and bonus points if it somehow ties back to your mission statement. 
  • Tagline/slogan: A catchy tagline or slogan can quickly convey what your organization is all about. 
  • Brand colors: Pick a color scheme and stick to it. This way, when supporters see your colors, they know it’s you.
  • Identifiable images: Use your images as a way to forward your message and the story that you’re trying to tell. This way, donors see how you’re putting your words into action.

Once you’ve decided on your brand, use your designs and images in all of your marketing materials and especially online. In the early stages of establishing your nonprofit’s reputation, consistent branding is your key to building trust and visibility within your community.

3. Offer multiple ways to engage.

The best way for new supporters to learn about your nonprofit, meet your staff, and contribute to your mission is to get involved! As a new nonprofit, you probably need some extra hands to help out anyway, so offering these opportunities to potential donors can begin to build the sustainable and long-lasting relationships that any nonprofit needs.

Ultimately, it’s more cost effective to retain your donors than it is to constantly attempt to bring in new donors. Inviting the people who have already expressed interest in your organization to get involved can help to solidify these budding relationships. Here are some ways that you can get these donors involved:

  • Workplace giving: Try asking your supporters if they’d be interested in setting up a workplace giving program to spread the word about your cause. According to 360MatchPro, between $2-$3 billion is donated through matching gift programs each year, so there’s a lot of fundraising potential here!
  • Volunteering: As one of the most common engagement strategies, volunteering can give potential donors a meaningful, hands-on experience with your organization. They can see the inner workings of your nonprofit while also being able to give back.
  • Events: Hosting a fundraising event can go a long way to help you connect with your community. A meet-and-greet, an auction, a walk-a-thon, or something else can bring your community together while also contributing to your fundraising goals.

Using engagement opportunities as a way to reach potential donors can go a long way for your fundraising efforts. You’ll find the most fundraising success by focusing your efforts on building relationships — your donors will feel appreciated and will hopefully continue to come back. 

4. Get online.

Having an online presence is essential for any nonprofit organization, but especially for startups. Getting online can connect you with supporters outside of your community and can provide donors an easy and convenient way to engage with your organization. 

There are lots of different ways to determine your digital fundraising strategy and you should design this strategy to fit your organization’s goals. However, there are some musts when it comes to getting online:

  • Build a website: Your nonprofit’s website will be one of the first touchpoints that donors have with your organization. Make sure it fits your brand and is easily navigable.
  • Go mobile: Nowadays, most people engage with the internet through their mobile devices. Ensure that your online presence is optimized for mobile use.
  • Use social media: Having a presence on social media is essential, and it makes it easy for potential supporters to quickly learn what you’re all about.

As virtual fundraising has become more and more popular, you have to give your supporters the option to donate online. A robust online presence reassures your donors that they are giving their money to the right place and gives them an easy way to share information about your work.

5. Be flexible. 

In these early stages of starting your nonprofit, you will learn as you go. For this reason, it’s important that you remain open-minded. You should adapt your strategy as you gather more information about your audience and beneficiaries to better fit their needs.

With fundraising especially, you should actively adjust your strategy as you figure out what is effective and what isn’t. For example, you might find that direct mail works really well for your campaign while social media is less effective. Rather than stick with your predetermined plan, it would be worthwhile to invest more in direct mail than in social media. 

Here’s one last tip: As you begin fundraising, remember to keep track of your fundraising metrics, as these will be the best indicators of which of your strategies are the most effective. Having the numbers to back up adjustments might also give you more peace of mind as you experiment. 

Fundraising might seem like the hardest part of starting a new nonprofit. This phase of your startup is going to have its ups and downs. But sticking to your mission, being open to change, and building relationships will eventually help you reach your fundraising goals and forward the social good. Good luck!

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