Most nonprofits face a dilemma at some point in their existence. They are supposed to focus on a positive goal without being driven by profit, yet funds are always necessary to continue operations. Grants are increasingly competitive and the market is crowded with other nonprofit groups, so it is difficult to stand out.
Also, there are pitfalls along the way: Organizations that devote much of their time and efforts to fundraising can raise eyebrows. It’s hard to take an organization dedicated to feeding hungry refugees seriously when they blow a portion of their budget on paying for Bono to fly out and promote them.
Luckily, it is possible to fundraise effectively without needing to dedicate half of your staff and time to the cause. Strategic use of social media and crowdfunding can help fund your nonprofit, in addition to connecting you to power donors and corporate sponsors.
1. Find great volunteers
Volunteers can play a crucial role in any nonprofit organization. They benefit not only the nonprofit with their skills and time, but also themselves by gaining valuable experience. In an increasingly tech-savvy world, it is easier than ever before to have volunteers work remotely on projects of direct interest. They can program apps, manage social media accounts and organize crowdfunding campaigns from halfway across the globe if need be.
Online fundraising is particularly suited to volunteers. Volunteers can have a meaningful impact without needing direct oversight by management or field staff, which allows staff to faithfully complete their jobs in saving or transforming lives through charity without having to worry about spending their time online fundraising.
When posting a volunteer position, it is important to explicitly state the organization’s aim in overseeing a volunteer — specific goals and deliverables with due dates. A flexible schedule will respect the volunteer’s time constraints, while allowing the organization to receive results by concrete deadlines.
Finding volunteers is easy through the following jobs boards:
2. Use social media to start a buzz
There are an endless number of worthy causes in this world, so yours needs to make an impression. Social media is a key multiplier when it comes to financing. A well-made video highlighting an important problem, like starvation or children with HIV/AIDS, can go viral on YouTube and raise massive amounts of awareness about your organization.
It’s especially important to make sure the video isn’t too slick or expensive: Donors can tell if you just blew thousands of dollars on a PR agency to shoot your latest fundraising ad. Better to hire local staff and beneficiaries to tell their own story on camera, and pay local journalists a fair wage to produce it. Don’t forget that social media exposure can be a liability as much as an asset — remember the disastrous Kony 2012 campaign?
3. Crowdfund to bring your work to individual donors
Finding a corporate sponsor may sound like the easiest way to secure lots of funding, and I guess it’s a more likely scenario than winning the lottery for your nonprofit. Corporate sponsors accounted for only 5 percent of all donations in 2016. Compare this to the potential of individual donors — a study this year by the Marts and Lundy, a philanthropy consultancy, found that 71.1 percent of charitable donations came from individual donors.
Technology has enabled unparalleled access to the masses today. A donor could provide a gift using only five minutes of her time and a few swipes on a smartphone.
Give it a shot and start funding a project. The following crowdfunding platforms are great ways to generate individual donations and spread awareness of your cause:
You can crowdfund for specific projects, but what do you do when a different project ends and your organization is left with a trove of laptops and extra medical supplies? Online auction spaces are playing an increasing role in fundraising efforts for nonprofits. You can sell used equipment or even event tickets, sometimes at a premium, at market value or more to reduce your costs and free up cash for new projects.
4. Know your donors
Your method of communication should be tailored to your desired demographic.
You need to be selective in the types of donors you approach away from social media. Some corporations may already have designated philanthropic interests, and if you are a woman’s health organization pitching your cause to a company that wants to decrease global warming, you will have an uphill battle ahead. Ask your contacts in advance if the company is likely to have a serious interest in your nonprofit.
It is also important to realize that donors have specific objectives they are trying to achieve as well. They are driven by profit – how will donating to your nonprofit increase their bottom line? Outline your pitch so you can show executives exactly how you would do that. Maybe you have a huge, positive social media presence and their donation would end up increasing their brand awareness.
At the very least, your organization should obtain 501(c)(3) status so donations to your nonprofit are tax-exempt. It exempts you from most state taxation schemes and allows your donors to receive a tax break. Aside from the desire to improve the world, tax exemption can be one of the most compelling reasons to donate.
Striking a balance has never been easier in fundraising
Funding is almost always the most difficult part of running a nonprofit. It doesn’t matter how great and effective your project may be – without the funding, it’s a no-go. At the same time, however, it’s important not to focus too much on fundraising, which could lead to criticism that your charity is more about the money than actually helping those in need. It’s, therefore, important to strike a proper balance and ensure you stay grounded to your nonprofit’s real mission. If you are truly passionate about your project and can prove that it actually works, getting funding will come far more naturally. Saving the world just got a tiny bit easier.