If you are a not-for-profit community based organization/group that provides support services to foster/adoptive families you may be overlooking one of the simplest ways to raise money for activities and projects – just asking people to help. A good deal of the groundwork has already been done for you. Most people in most communities already have an awareness of child abuse and neglect issues and have a concern for children in foster care. All you need do is provide them with a opportunity to feel they are making a difference in abused and neglected children’s lives and a mechanism for receiving well deserved community recognition of their concern and contribution.
Solicit donations for specific projects/expenses – Contributors like to fund things or events instead of organizations, the more tangible the better. Think about events your organization holds on a regular basis (social events / training seminars) or expenses such as newsletter/brochure printing that can offer sponsors a promotional opportunity. Local firms like to see their names/logos on things, such as flyers advertising an event, websites, or durable goods such as T-shirts, books, pencils etc. Be creative – before deciding to spend money on something such as renting a tent or buying food for a foster family picnic, think about organizations that would appreciative having their name associated with the event. Consider everything you do/produce as an opportunity for local organizations to gain recognition for their contribution towards helping kids.
Set your sponsorship targets – Aim high, what may seem like a lot of money to you (i.e. $500) may be only a small portion of a successful local firm’s advertising/promotion budget. Provide potential contributors with several funding options/levels and be prepared to explain the promotional benefits sponsors will receive from their contribution. Let sponsors pick the amount and the attendant publicity that accompanies their donation.
Develop a list of potential donors/sponsors – Target local firms and organizations first. National chain outlets (i.e. Wal-Mart or Target) usually have corporate giving protocols that local store managers must adhere to. Locally owned/managed businesses, (who depend on community goodwill to stay in business) have more flexibility to decide causes and organizations they want to be associated with, and the motivation to fund local grass roots initiatives. You will probably be more successful in receiving a $100 cash donation from a locally owned business supply firm than your local Staples outlet. But don’t ignore the big guys, they can provide you with great discounts on purchases and promotional opportunities – just don’t depend on them for cash.
Obtain lists of local businesses and contacts from your local Chamber of Commerce and/or Merchant Association. Research local firm giving via your local United Way and Community Foundation (at a minimum get a copy of their annual reports and visit their websites.) Read your local newspaper daily and pay attention to articles about community projects/initiatives funded by local firms/individuals. Think about how your project would fit in with their other community support initiatives. Go through old donor lists or volunteer lists and see if any are still prominent in your community. The reason they may have not given recently may be as simple as they haven’t been asked.
Don’t limit your fundraising efforts to businesses – Unions, service clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis) and social clubs (i.e. Eagles, Elks, etc.) and churches are all good sources of donations and they don’t ask for anything in return other than a thank you and recognition. Social clubs such as the Eagles or American Legions generally conduct some type of ongoing gambling/lottery games on their premises and are required by law to contribute a portion to charity. Many of these groups are actively seeking community service projects to become affiliated with and will appreciate the opportunity to be associated with a project they don’t have to plan or manage.
When thinking about unions don’t forget law enforcement organizations such as the PBA and correctional officers who generally already have concerns for prevention of child abuse and neglect and child welfare issues in their community. Other types of groups to consider are health care providers (especially pediatricians) and the legal community (especially family law firms).
Identify/create personal relationships with target funders – Consider everyone working for, volunteering for, or receiving services from your organization as a potential fundraiser.Members of your board have a particularly import role in fundraising. Identify people affiliated with your organization who do business with, or are members of, potential sponsor firms and organizations to approach them on your behalf. This is particularly effective when soliciting donations from local service/ social clubs and churches. Existing donors who have made a commitment to your mission can also be effective ambassadors within their own communication and business networks, i.e. lawyers can challenge other lawyers to match their donation.
Offer to speak at civic meetings area churches or worship centers and offer a trifold information brochure about your nonprofit group complete with a “tear off” donation pledge card or newsletter sign up form on the final third portion. Groups like Kiwanis or Rotary clubs are always looking for speakers to present brief 15 minute program for their weekly meetings. You’ll be doing them a favor and most will reward you with at least a token cash donation. If you can, bring along a slide show or video with pictures of kids/families who benefit from your services. Identify someone who belongs to, or join, your local Chamber of Commerce to spread the word. Most Chambers hold frequent social and networking events that will provide you with opportunities to develop personal relationships with member organizations.
Solicit donations early in the calendar year – Many firms/organizations plan their community donation budget as part of their annual budget process. Send out fundraising letters or requests during December or January at the latest. Start fundraising for an event or project as soon as you set the date.
Develop a means to provide sponsors with recognition for their donation – Think beyond thank you letters, what kind of tangible recognition can you offer potential sponsors? Include sponsor names/logos on brochures, event flyers, your website, newsletters; or items you provide to assist families or kids such as backpacks, school supplies, advocacy guides or service directories. Provide firms with tangible items such as framed certificates, plastic tent cards, or stickers identifying their sponsorship to display in their place of business. Send out press releases and/or write letters to the editor to your local newspaper thanking sponsors and, if possible, include pictures of representatives presenting you with their donation.
Maintain records of sponsor donations and ensure that your list reflects those who have paid and those who have still to give you their contribution – A pledge is only a pledge, sometimes people genuinely forget what they have promised. Place a friendly phone call or send a reminder thanking them again for their pledge and providing an update on plans for the event/project they pledged to support.
Don’t overlook in-kind contributions or donations of volunteer time – Lots of firms find it more cost effective to donate product rather than cash; for instance printing services, paper products, food, free advertising space, or discounts on purchases. Buy one, get one free deals can save you significant funds and still provide sponsors with a small or break-even profit margin. Big Box firms (i.e. Target), local colleges, and youth organizations are a good source of volunteers. Don’t forget to solicit volunteer consultant services such as accounting, legal, technology, advertising, or graphic design services.