How to Get Public & Private Donations

by Aaron Gifford

Nonprofit agencies are largely funded by state and federal allotments, but there's rarely a guarantee the amount will increase or even remain the same each year. Charities, institutions and nonprofit agencies should not limit their fund-raising activities to one sector. A conservative approach is to assume the vast majority of those who are asked to make a donation will decline, so with those odds it makes sense to cast as wide a net as possible. The tricky part is determining how much to spend on fund-raising efforts and minimize the risk of spending more than you take in.

Evaluate your budget to determine roughly how much money you need to supplement the guaranteed revenues for the year from funding sources that have already committed to a contribution. Use a spread sheet to itemize how much money is available for a fund-raising effort using available figures from the previous years. Identify previous contributors, from both the public and private sector, on the same spreadsheet.

Contact marketing firms that assist in capital campaigns, conduct phone solicitations or publish brochures for direct mail solicitations. These companies can determine if your agency's mission would appeal to certain demographics that could be targeted for donations. If the company can guarantee a minimum return, it may be a viable option, but don't limit the entire fund-raising effort to one component.

Establish a web site for your organization and add a component for accepting donations online, whether through Paypal or a similar arrangement. Provide testimonials from people or groups of people who have benefited from your services, which may put visitors in a giving mood. Look for discussion forums on topics related to your agency's work, join in the discussions and provide links to your agency's web site. Add your agency to Facebook, Gather, MySpace and other social networking sites to potentially inform thousands of people of your fund-raising activities.

Search for private foundation grants and public agencies that provide grants, whether at the local, state or federal level. All grant opportunities should be discussed with a board of directors or volunteers, and it's wise to include someone on that board with grant-writing experience. If not, the fund-raising budget should be reviewed and you may have to choose whether to hire a grant writer or marketing firm.

Organize a community event like a walk-a-thon, marathon or rummage sale that doesn't require a lot of money to put on. Set a date for the event several months in advance so a sufficient number of volunteers can be recruited and the proper parade, gathering or park use permit can be obtained. You also need enough time to publicize it in local newspapers and on television and radio stations. Solicit corporate sponsors as well (bot not for rummage sales). According to FastTrack Fundraising, it is important to be courteous, gracious and respectful to everyone you approach for donations, even if they decline. Making a good impression pays off, and some people may change their mind later or make a donation the next time.

Tip

  • Check with the state finance department and Attorney General's office first to learn the rules and regulations for fund-raising. Telephone solicitations may require public registrations where the company that is hired must disclose their share of the revenue collected.

Items you will need

  • Excel spreadsheet software
  • Board of directors

About the Author

Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.

Photo Credits

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