September 25, 2023

Fundraising Planning – A Vital Key To Nonprofit Success

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 059

As a professional grant writer and consultant, I am often amazed at how few nonprofit organizations actually have a fund development plan beyond a vague idea of applying for a few grants and sending out an annual appeal letter. Recognizing that lack of planning, I am not amazed at how often these same organizations have rounds of emergency budget cuts when they realize that they have no assured streams of income.

Very typical is the agency that has received a large grant to run their programs for one year. Then, in the tenth month of the grant period, comes the realization that they have no idea how they will fund the next year’s programs. With less than two months of money left in the bank they go into emergency fundraising mode.

Their first impulse is to start applying for another large grant. But at most foundations, the process – from letter of inquiry to proposal to acceptance – typically takes at least three months, and often six to eight months.

Their next idea is to turn to their individual donors with a panicked letter that essentially says, “Send us money now or we might go out of business.” That, of course, is the least effective fundraising letter you can write. Donors want to invest in your successes, not bail out your failures.

So, how do they avoid these situations? The answer is to plan. Through the planning process, you will achieve the following:

  • Limit crisis fundraising: This, as the example above illustrates, is our primary reason for creating a fund development plan, but there are others as well…
  • Diversity builds in flexibility: Changes in other sectors of the economy can have a major impact on nonprofit funding. A cut in the state budget can be passed down as fewer contracts for local service organizations. The dot-com bust of a few years back cut foundation endowments, reducing the funds they had available to grant. Agencies that had become comfortable relying on one or two sources of funding found themselves struggling to survive these changes. Those with plans and diversified funding bases had the flexibility to adapt and survive.
  • Planning for diversity brings in more opportunities: Through the planning process you come to identify funding opportunities you never knew existed. Further, when you stop having to scramble to pay next month’s bills, you will be able to devote more time to developing new sources of income for your agency.

[Read more…]

Eight Reasons All Non-Profits Need a Website

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

A nonprofit organization can take advantage of the Internet for at least eight purposes:

  • publicity
  • public education
  • fundraising
  • volunteer recruitment
  • service delivery
  • advocacy
  • research
  • communication

Let us look at brief examples of each of these uses in turn.


Good sites gain attention. Attention or awareness is exactly what all non-profits need… it accelerates fund-raising efforts, and enhances all the following essential needs:

Public Education

There’s a fine line between grabbing the public’s attention and educating the public about an important social problem or cause.Whatever the mission statement of your non-profit organization is, it needs to be presented with clarity to the various “publics” that all non-profits must influence if they are to be successful. All organizations have several different “publics” which they must influence in a positive way in order to achieve their organizational goals. [Read more…]

Are The All-Volunteer Groups Taking Over?

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard

Twenty years ago there was something of a mystique about raising funds for a nonprofit organization. Getting 501 (c) (3) status from the IRS was a difficult matter. The process was long and confusing. There were few sources of information about the process available and most of those were complicated and confusing. Even if an organization obtained 501 (c) (3) status, therefore making it possible for donors to make tax-deductible donations, most fledging nonprofits did not have someone on staff who was fully versed in any but the most rudimentary fundraising techniques.

Quite often “fundraising” was synonymous with the annual campaign letter. Only those in the “big leagues” of nonprofit operations seemed to be involved with such sophisticated techniques as “planning giving” or extensive grant writing.

According to the IRS there are twice as many 501 (c) (3)s today as there were 20 years ago. No doubt many of the small nonprofit groups (those making less than $25,000 a year) are all-volunteer groups. Even some with larger incomes (who, therefore, must file returns with the IRS) operate only with volunteers. And guess what? Some of these groups are doing a fantastic job of fundraising! They are writing successful grant applications and raising large sums of money for their nonprofit endeavors. Just nine miles away from the offices of The 501 (c) (3) Monthly Letter, an all-volunteer group was recently awarded a $65,000 grant to use in the restoration of an historic ferry house near Lewis, Iowa, population 600. Even closer to home, in Atlantic, Iowa, (7,000 population) volunteers are conducting a campaign to raise $7 million for a town recreation center . . . and it looks as though they will be successful. This is happening all over the country.

There is a new breed of volunteer out there toiling in the trenches . . . dedicated, educated, and resourceful. They have passion for their mission and are willing to use the information age to achieve their objectives.

As many as 90 percent of the e-mail inquiries to the editor at are from neophytes wanting to know how to set up a nonprofit organization.

So, how long will it take for the number of 501 (c) (3)s to double again? We are willing to venture that it will be closer to five years than twenty.

Do these emerging groups pose any competition for donor dollars? You can bet they do! So, remember that the mystique of fundraising is gone. Others are willing to take the time to learn how to be successful fundraisers. They do this on their own time, at no pay, and they love doing it.

So, beware, professional fundraisers. In order to do a better job of attracting donors than the “amateurs”, the professionals among us must keep honing their skills. Just as importantly, they need to keep their mission vital.

Look back at the founding days of your own nonprofit organization. Did it begin with a small group of dedicated volunteers? Were these same people able to engender enough support so that the organization could eventually have paid staff? Do you, perhaps, owe your job to the efforts of such people?

While you are at it, take a look at the volunteers that presently serve your organization. If they come “to work” with more eagerness and dedication than your paid staff, it may be time to start “tuning up” your internal communications for your own “most important audience”.

Excerpted from 501 (c) (3) Monthly Letter and written by Marilyn Miller.

Found in the Energize Website Library.

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