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How to fund your nonprofit startup

You’re inspired to make a difference. To give back to your community. To support those in need. You could launch a nonprofit.

Whether you have already started your nonprofit or are considering taking on the task, we’re here to support you in your endeavor with tips on getting started and sustaining your new organization through online giving.

Before you start, do your research.

Ensure you have proof of concept that shows you’re able to make a difference in the community or communities you wish to serve. These will be important factors in showcasing need (and how you are overcoming that need) to potential funders. Think about what you’ll need to raise in order to be sustainable and make an impact (your business plan and marketing plan come into play here). Document all of this and create leave-behind materials for recruiting and fundraising efforts.

Before making too much headway, you’ll need to have your 501c3 status/documentation filed with the IRS. If that isn’t something you’ve worked through, you can find guidelines for that process here.

Establish strong leadership

Even if it is small to start with, it’s important to build a strong nonprofit board of directors; these are your confidants, thought leaders and experts that provide support to help you succeed. Your board will also play a significant role in helping to get the word out about your new nonprofit and may already have established connections in the community you wish to serve.

You’re ready to start taking donations. Now what?

Once you’ve worked through the above, it’s time to move into preliminary fundraising efforts. As you work through these ideas, monitor the success of each. Knowing where it’s easiest (and hardest) to generate funds will provide you with intel for future planning. The types of donors, donation amounts, and where those initial donations come from will also help guide future fundraising initiatives.

1. Pull from those who are closest to you

Family and friends are a great place to start. You can kick things off on a personal level by inviting them to a house party (or private Zoom call) to introduce your new cause and ask for initial donations or investments.

2. Engage your board

As mentioned above, your board of directors will have connections you may not. If they are willing to serve on your board, they should also be willing to give. Encourage all board members to become monthly givers; even if they can’t commit to a large sum, recurring monthly gifts are dependable and will help even out your annual budget for planning purposes.

Having your board become the first monthly givers will also provide you with metrics and examples for the community at large. Another way to engage your board in giving: provide each board member with a peer-2-peer giving page or other tools (content to copy/paste on their social media feeds or personal emails) to make it easy for them to fundraise on your behalf.

3. Get online

Invest early donations into online systems that will make it easier to spread your message, provide donors online giving options and be found by more people. This includes tools such as a website, CRM (customer relationships system/donor database) and even video tools. Build a website that showcases your stories, demonstrates the need (and your impact) and provides the capability to take online donations. It does not have to complex. Start simple and build from there.

4. Establish a social media presence

Start with the channels where you are most active to reach connections you’ve already established. Then, seek out/learn about channels where it makes sense to engage with potential donors. These may or may not be the same channels. Find like-minded people who would support your cause. Start conversations and engage before asking directly for money. Tell your story. Share information. Create a sense of trust. Once you have established relationships through these social media channels, then you can start to ask for donations.

5. Network within the business community

If you haven’t already, seek out professional groups and other organizations where business leaders connect. Think about how your mission aligns with local businesses. Could there be opportunities for them to sponsor your cause? Network, engage and make yourself known. Keep tabs on community events and opportunities that your nonprofit can be a part of as well.

Continue to spread your message

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t raise a lot in the initial months of establishing your nonprofit. Remember, your story is key. Many will need to hear about, read about and see your story many times (in different formats) before they decide to give. Your story showcases your nonprofit’s personality and creates common ground. How do you change lives? How do you create change? How will donations impact the lives of others?

As you continue to spread your message, consider the following. Participating in these activities can not only expand your reach but can provide you with more opportunities to ask for support and from that support, continue to showcase the impact donors bring to your organization.

Email your contacts

This can be personal or professional contacts and can be done through your individual email account if you don’t yet have a third-party email system established. Invite them to learn more about your cause online with a link to your website.

Connect with similar organizations

Connect with comparable organizations (though not competing organizations) and ask for a brainstorming session—how were they able to gain funds initially? What advice can they give?

Leave promotional materials

Leave materials at church, libraries, community bulletin boards or other high-traffic areas. Always provide links to your website and social media channels for more info.

Find a donor who will fund a matching gift

As an initial way to solicit funds, communicate that all funds received by ‘X’ date will be matched at ‘X’ percent by another donor (or company).

Host virtual get-to-know-us chats or live streams

Use Facebook Live, LinkedIn Live, Vimeo, Zoom, etc. and host a free session where others can learn about your organization, ask questions, etc. Don’t forget to provide links to your website in closing!

A note of caution: Be wary of large kick-off events. Unless you have quite the backing of seed money to pull this off, fundraising events, even with the best intentions, many times end up costing more than they’re worth. At the get-go, you want to enlist the help of those with the capacity to give year after year or month after month; think sustained giving as you kick things off.

You’re doing great things. People like you are why we see change in the world. Keep up the great work!

If you need added support and would like more information on how our online fundraising services can help, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

At the time of this blog post, we were at the height of the COVID19 pandemic. If you’re hesitant to start a nonprofit during a down economy, this post from Foundation Group is a helpful place to start.

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald is the President and Founder of 4aGoodCause, the fundraising CRM that makes recurring, monthly giving a breeze for small nonprofits.

For over 25 years, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves, building online solutions that make a difference in the world. He’s helped raise millions of dollars online for small nonprofits across the country. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn.

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