Fundraising for New Nonprofits: 4 Strategies to Get Started

Avatar photo
Posted on September 17, 2019 by Snowball Fundraising in Fundraising and Grants.

Nonprofit fundraising is already difficult enough, but when you’re a new nonprofit, the job is much harder.

People like to see a track record of success before they invest their hard-earned money in your mission. Without an established brand and recognition within your community, you might struggle to raise the funds you need right out of the gate.

With fundraising, there are several measures you can take to boost your potential for success. To raise the money and support you need as a new organization, try the following strategies:

  1. Find supporters who are passionate about your cause.
  2. Connect with complementary organizations.
  3. Kick off with a launch event.
  4. Find what works best.

When you’re new to the nonprofit world, fundraising can be intimidating. Consider these strategies, and you’ll establish a strong fundraising system. 

1. Find supporters who are passionate about your cause.

A nonprofit can only be successful with an engaged base of supporters who are connected to your cause. Starting a nonprofit can be challenging with little support on your side. After you’ve launched your new organization, establishing and growing your support system can seem overwhelming at first, so start with a strong foundation by turning to your friends and family.

You already have well-developed, positive relationships with them, so you’ll already have their support. Plus, people have a hard time saying no to their friends, especially when it comes to lending some support to a worthy cause in their community.

From there, you’ll want to grow your support system with a passionate and connected board. You want your board members to have powerful relationships, so seek out community leaders who have passions and experiences that align with your nonprofit’s mission.

When word starts to get out about your organization, your supporter base will surely grow. That’s when you’ll need to implement the following best practices:

  • Cultivate relationships. Spend time forming relationships, not just looking for donations. Take the time to get to know your supporters and why they’re passionate about your cause, and in turn, their dedication to your organization will grow.
  • Be transparent. Trust is hard to earn, easy to maintain, and nearly impossible to get back. Be truthful with your supporters. If you’re falling behind on your fundraising efforts, tell them. They’ll appreciate the honesty and trust you more. They’ll probably feel even more compelled to help you reach your goals, too.
  • Keep in touch. Don’t just reach out when you need a donation. Keep them in the loop on important milestones, and if they contributed to one of your events or campaigns, let them know the end results. As always, thank them for any contributions they make.
  • Make relationships mutually beneficial. Your organization obviously benefits from its supporters, but how do your supporters benefit from you? Learn why each individual supports your organization, and match your efforts to align with that. 

When you create a powerfully passionate supporter base, you’ll find fundraising much easier. Passionate supporters will drive your organization and make its dreams a reality, so make them feel valued in all of your messages and communications.

2. Connect with complementary organizations.

Some well-established nonprofits may have a vested interest in seeing your new organization succeed. Identify who they are and take advantage of this opportunity. 

Grantmaking foundations and organizations are a great place to look for initial funding, but remember that other nonprofits like yours would probably be eager to partner on a new project. Start with your own community and slowly work out from there. There’s a multitude of other nonprofits out there. You just need to find those that are willing to support you.

For example, if you need support for a new homeless shelter, chances are a local church, an anti-poverty group, or a homeless advocacy group would be eager to help. Don’t limit yourself to just one or two groups. Reach out to anyone with whom you would like to form a professional connection.

If your new nonprofit is a chapter in a larger organizational structure, leverage your association by networking with your local and national counterparts. In other words, connect with your parent or sister organizations or contact your regional director. They may have some tips for getting started, and you can share and compare your objectives and processes with them.

Communication is a two-way street, so if an organization doesn’t reach out to you first, contact them. Just because they don’t contact you doesn’t mean they’re not interested. They just may not be aware your nonprofit exists yet!

Don’t be discouraged if an organization doesn’t want to form a relationship with your nonprofit. Your mission may not align with theirs to the degree they want, or they may not be in the best financial position to donate to you.

As you get started with fundraising campaigns, larger organizations can also be a good source of publicity. Have them reach out to their supporters personally or share your campaign announcements on social media, and offer to do the same for them by posting about your partnership, too.

Form strong and communicative relationships with organizations in your community as they may become some of your most impactful supporters. They can be a great source of advertising, helping you to reach your fundraising goals and grow a stronger supporter base.

Establish relationships with other organizations instead of viewing other nonprofits as competitors. When you connect with like-minded organizations, you increase your resources and can learn from people who have already learned the tricks and tips of the nonprofit sector.

3. Kick off with a launch event.

Throwing a kickoff event as your first fundraiser can be a great way to get the word out about your nonprofit and raise those necessary startup funds. You’ll also connect with people you wouldn’t normally cross paths with otherwise.

People who wouldn’t outright donate $50 to your nonprofit might be more interested in a $50 ticket to an exclusive or unique event. When planning your launch event, consider the following ideas:

  • A dinner party. Sell tickets and invite guests over for a catered or home-cooked meal. Pick the venue wisely to match the theme of the dinner. Maybe it requires a rented venue or maybe you could have the event at a generous volunteer’s home.
  • A 5K race. You can have a walkathon or race year-round. To increase your profits, don’t just charge an entry fee; ask registrants to conduct their own peer-to-peer campaigning so that they’ll raise money from registration up until the day of the event. Create a fundraising goal, prepare incentives, and encourage participants to reach out to their own networks of friends and family.
  • A sports tournament. Throw an event where participants raise money for entry into a tournament, like football, basketball, or bowling. Choose a sport or game that best suits your community and its interests. You can also team up with local businesses by asking them to sponsor the event.

Make use of any social media platforms you have to make announcements about your launch event. Rely on your existing supporter base, which is likely composed of your friends and family, to spread the word by sharing your announcement posts with their own social networks.

If you find your launch event is a major success, consider making it an annual tradition. Just remember to keep in touch with all your participants or attendees. They’ll want to know how much your launch event raised and may return each year if you advertise it to them.

4. Find what works best.

This takes a bit of trial and error. Every nonprofit is different, so where they find success will be different. For example, some organizations raise more with online campaigns instead of in-person campaigns. It all depends on your organization and your supporters.

Getting to know your audience takes time. Be sure to record any information you learn about them like demographic markers, and as you spend more time with your organization, your knowledge about who your supporters are will grow. 

Segmenting your donors is helpful in identifying who might be the best audience for your campaigns as well as help you more effectively target your messages to particular segments. This way, you can learn which audiences are responsive to certain types of fundraisers, and you can put more time and resources into marketing it to those individuals. 

For example, smaller audiences may not be able to support campaigns that are simply asking for financial donations, so find a more engaging alternative like a walkathon or a shoe drive fundraiser that aligns with your organization’s mission. That way, you fulfill your purpose and cater to your existing base of support.

Your organization could also expand its audience with an online fundraiser if it aligns with your goals. If you think your organization could benefit from an online fundraiser, Re:Charity’s guide to online donation tools can help you get started with picking the right platform.

Today, using online donation tools is vital for nonprofits. There’s no way a nonprofit could succeed today without doing some or even most of its fundraising online. As a new nonprofit, start by setting up online donations through a donation page or Snowball’s text-to-give tool.

Once you’ve held a fundraiser, analyze it. Find what you can do better and what you should do the same. If it didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, don’t be discouraged; learn from it!

To learn more about nonprofit fundraising, click here.

When you’re starting off, remember to find passionate supporters, connect with complementary organizations, kick off with a launch event, and find what works best for you. 

Whatever fundraisers you host, make sure they meet any state charitable solicitation requirements. You’ll increase your supporter’s trust by showing how serious you are about protecting them and will protect yourself legally.

Planning, promoting, and hosting fundraisers as a new nonprofit is no easy feat. You might not see the donation base you’d like right off the bat, but be patient. Fundraising as a new nonprofit can be taxing, but when you stick to it, you’ll be rewarded with a successful, well-established organization.