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How to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit with a $0 Budget (yes, $0!)

Every fundraising plan should include various strategies that allow you to minimize risk and maximize your results. With fundraising, no single plan works best for everyone - it’s trial and error until you determine what works best for your organization. The best fit for you is going to be a mix of in person and virtual tasks, depending on your personality and strengths and those of your team members, as well as what resonates best with your donor base.

Determine a few fundraising tactics from the list below that are you and your non-profit will commit to trying over the next few months:

  • Field visits: If you live near where you work, put out a call to invite your network to see the work you do. Host a half day experience on the weekend, bringing people to see the work that you do and meet your beneficiaries. If they are moved, follow up to ask for a donation and see if they know other people who might like to join for the next field visit. It’s critical to always keep expanding the amount of people who know you and the work you do.

  • Parlor fundraiser: This is an intimate fundraising event where you gather a small group of family, friends and new potential donors together for a night of socializing, learning more about your work, and directly supporting you with donations. Find a friend or family member who would be happy to host the event at their own home, or alternatively, you can find a donated space at a restaurant, church or temple. Contact local vendors in your community to get food and drinks donated. You and the host should make a list of 20-30 people to invite, and you’ll speak about the work you’re doing. End the night with an ask. Collect emails and follow up with attendees to see if they are interested in donating or getting involved in any other way.

  • Facebook fundraisers: check Facebook and make a list of people who you think may be interested in your work, or would like to personally support you. A month before their birthday, ask them if they have an interest in running a Facebook Fundraiser for you. If they do, make sure you recognize them on social media and send them a hand written thank you note. These are people you can later re-engage with your work.

  • Crowdfunding campaigns: arrange a campaign on GoFundMe or Donately with a concrete fundraising goal and tie it to an upcoming day, anniversary or event. You may consider running this campaign in conjunction with publicly recognized days such as World Water Day, International Women’s Day, or Giving Tuesday, the largest give back day of the year. Contact friends and family and see if they’d like to donate or join your campaign with a fundraiser of their own.

  • Email campaigns: Do you love creating content and writing? Create a series of emails to share the story of why you are doing this work and why you need others’ support right now. Share a moving story of how your work has impacted others. Each email should include an ask or a call to donate with a specific, targeted goal.

  • Online auction: Host an online auction, featuring donated products, experiences and services. Recruit your friend who is a pilates instructor to donate an hour-long session or your friend who works at a beauty company to donate a gift basket. Message local hotels to see if they will donate a weekend stay. Aim to get 15-20 products and experiences lined up, and create an auction so people can bid money for the prizes.

  • Corporate partnerships: Determine what industry or product you’d like to partner with. Make sure your mission aligns with their business values (i.e. if your work employs single mothers and they are a female led business who promote empowering women through their product, you have aligned values). Lead with what you offer as a value add, i.e. high quality professional photos or videos they could use or 1000+ followers and strong engagement on posts. Reach out to the potential partners through a direct message on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook messenger. Engagement tends to be highest via Instagram in comparison to other social media platforms.

  • Social media campaigns: You can use your social media platforms to start a ‘challenge’ which benefits your organization. For example, Young Minds (a mental-health non-profit) encouraged young people to run 5K, donate £5 and tag 5 friends to do the same.

  • Advisory board: Find 10 people in your network who might be interested in going the extra mile to support your mission. Ask them to be a part of your advisory board. Give them some recognition: put them on your website, interview them for your blog and take the time to find out what their unique strengths and skill sets are that you can best utilize for your organization. Ask each one to make a minimum contribution for the year, or become a recurring donor.

After you’ve spent 6 months trying a few of these methods, regroup with your team and assess, using the following questions:

  • Which of these brought in the most money?

  • Which of these brought in the least amount of money or no money at all?

  • Which of these had the highest engagement? Most people reached?

  • Which of these did we enjoy doing and which of these did we not enjoy?

At this point, your organization should have determined two to three go-to strategies for fundraising for the next year. Prioritize those that bring in the greatest results for maximum dollars with the least amount of work.


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