Header image alt text

How to Do Fundraising

Proven methods for Fundraising success

Can You Do a Fundraiser at a Networking Event?

I was recently asked what a Veterans service group could do to raise money at a networking event. This gathering is being put on by a local magazine that is featuring the nonprofit and their great work in the July issue, as well as putting on a customer/advertiser appreciation vendor networking event at a local business. Our Veterans service group is being offered a free table and were given some publicity to coincide with Independence Day.

I spent some time thinking about what would work well for them, and realized that it would be a good plan for any nonprofit to be ready to take advantage of an opportunity like this. Here is the information I shared with them.

Outreach for nonprofits is a vital part of creating a vibrant and growing organization. Participation in trade shows, vendor events, networking groups, community events and such are good ways to:

  1. Increase awareness of your nonprofit and its programs,
  2. Share information about upcoming fundraising events, and
  3. Provide an opportunity to collect donations.

Each trade show or event has its own set up requirements. Some provide tables and chairs – others only give you the space. If it is being held indoors you don’t need to worry about the weather, but if it is outdoors you need to think about wind, rain and sun.

In preparing for the wonderful networking opportunities, here’s a list of items you may need:

  • Table
  • Linens
  • Decorations
  • Signage
  • Awning (especially if outside)
  • Weights to hold the awning down in wind
  • Chairs
  • Literature (brochures, rack cards, business cards, flyers, etc.)
  • Flyers about upcoming events

Putting together a trade show table is not that difficult, if you haven’t already done it. It seems natural that a patriotic theme would be appropriate given the nature of the charity and the event in July. An 8 foot folding table from Home Depot or Costco is an investment that will pay off over time. It is also a good idea to invest in a clear plastic bin to put all the decorations and supplies in. The clear ones work best because these items can be stored for a while between events and they are easily found because you can see wclip_image001hat is inside them.

I have found a great online store to get all kinds of flags and buntings, not just American. Discount Decorative Flags has a large choice of inexpensive flags and bunting to choose from and the table would look nice with one or two of the buntings pictured.

Another inexpensive vendor is Oriental Trading Company. Links are included later in this article. Party supply stores are also another great local resource.

Product Sales

Sales of small items are a natural for any charity. Some items to consider are:

Wrist Band Sales – Silicon wrist bands are a big item among young people and they love stacking them up to show the various causes they are supporting. Most fundraisers only ask for $2-3 minimum donation .

Raffle Basket – gather donations from businesses and dress them up in a pretty basket to raffle off. Make sure to collect email addresses for every entry and add them to your email list to let them know how they can support you at upcoming events.

Logo Products – t-shirts, mugs, anything with the charity’s logo on them help people to share their support for your organization.

Survival bracelets – Para cord survival bracelets are growing in popularity, and when made a little larger make great dog or cat collars. Check out these instructions on Instructables to see how easily they are made. You could even have some of the service men/women and their families make some for sale, returning a portion of the profits directly to them.

Bake Sale – a bake sale is great at most locations and you can learn a lot more about them on my website Bake Sale Central (www.bakesalecentral.com).

Flag Sales – this seems a natural fit for a Veterans organization and could be small flags or flag pins. A good resource is Oriental Trading Company – prices today are:

  • Small American Flags – 6” x 4” – $8.50 for 72 pieces = $0.12 ea.
  • USA Flag Pins – $14 for 72 pieces = $0.19 ea.

American flags just feels like a good item to have on hand – requesting a minimum donation is a good way to increase income. Because the organization is around military service, the patriotic theme work s for them year around so an investment in the product by quantity is good idea. It’s easy to have a vase or Mason jar on a table with the flags standing up in them, and a paperboard display of the pins is easy to set up. Even after you add in shipping costs the investment is minimal and so easily transported to various events.

The small flags come with a stick which is very easy to personalize. Print a message, logo or tag line on just under half of a shipping label. Fold the label over the stick bringing the two ends together away from the stick so all the sticky is covered with the other half. Instant personalized flag!

The flag pins can be mounted on a business card, or a piece of card stock with a message printed on it. Both methods are great ways to increase awareness for the cause.

Change Collection – Another way to always be collecting money is with a change jar. A clear jar with a little seed money in it is all people need to get the idea to empty their pockets. It always amazes me how quickly all the little donations add up.

A unique way to do this is to take a military boot (I’m picturing a well-worn one) and shellac it – put a sign on top saying something like “Your change will make a difference” with a quarter on it (visuals always help) so people get the idea to drop their change in.


These are just a few ideas and you can start with one or two and add on for future events. Take every opportunity you can to get the word out about the great programs you have and also to collect donations whenever possible.

I have loved fundraising from when I was a small child selling my older sisters’ Camp Fire candy (when I was too young to join the club.) I would sit in the lobby of my Dad’s office with a box on hand and offer candy to anyone that came in.2013-08-13 08.58.28

I remember being very happy doing this. My sisters loved it, too.

Those that really know me find this quite surprising. You see, I am an introvert (do not confuse that with being shy). I would rather be by myself than anywhere else, and people have a hard time really getting to know me. I’ve learned to be assertive and that is the public front most people are familiar with. I have always enjoyed raising money for good causes, and I had to learn assertiveness to be effective at it.

So why could I, as a little girl, sell candy to strangers? Because it makes THEM happy. It wasn’t until I read this article by Arthur C. Brooks in the New York Times that I got why fundraising makes ME feel good. Like most people, I am a mirror. If someone else is happy, so am I. If I make someone else happier, I get happier, too.

As Brooks says in his article, “When people give their time or money to a cause they believe in, they become problem solvers. Problem solvers are happier than bystanders and victims of circumstance.” Making a donation or volunteering for a cause they believe in actually improves their lives, they are more satisfied and happier.

Fundraising can make all of us happier. Knowing this, does it make it easier for you to ask someone to support a cause you believe in?

Get Support

Posted by Kelly on April 7, 2014
Posted in Uncategorized  | No Comments yet, please leave one

You hold a fundraising event expressly for the purpose of raising funds – that is why you should make every opportunity to bring in as much as you can to support your cause. I have seen so many charities leave money on the table by not taking advantage in every avenue that they can.


Getting sponsorships for your event is just one of the many ways to maximize your efforts.

When I attend a dinner, auction, fun run, seminar, or any event that is put on by a charity, I always feel sad when I do not see any sponsors. Truly a missed opportunity.

Think of sponsors as your underwriters – the people who pay the bills so the event can happen without worrying about how to pay for it all. Think about NASCAR – all those logos on the cars, on the driver, covering helmets, walls on the tracks, even their car trailers. Just look at the graphic above to see all the organizations supporting the event featured.

I attended a Best of Broadway show in my local community yesterday, and they presented us with a lovely program that includes all the actors in the production, as well as some background information about the production. A great keepsake from attending, as well as wonderful coffee table fodder for the not so distant future to impress any house guests.

The program includes multiple ads – full page ads for a steakhouse at a local tribal casino, a car dealership, a credit union, a morning news program, a shopping mall, a bank, a hotel chain, an event photo booth business, a grocery store, another bank, a weekly newspaper, and a medical group. Smaller ads include the local hospice, a second ad for the hotel chain, a cosmetic surgery business, the local civic theatre (with sponsors listed in their ad), and two restaurants. There is even a page devoted to the restaurants and bars located near the event location offering services after seeing the show.

A Broadway production is not a charitable organization, and they have some very high costs they need to cover in order to bring very high quality shows. As we entered the venue, a photo booth was available to snap shots with props including full size cut outs of the actors, silly hats, glasses and scarves to dress up with. Up one level was a sales table with t-shirts, music and other memorabilia. Also available in the lobby was coffee, wine, beer and food.

There are wonderful lessons to learn from the for-profit world.

When a Broadway production comes to town it most certainly is not a non-profit event.

Compete or Consolidate?

Posted by Kelly on March 7, 2014
Posted in Board ManagementDonorsOp EdResources  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Is it time to reduce competition and consolidate nonprofits?

The competition for advocacy, donor and foundation support is getting tighter and the public is feeling the pinch. According to an announcement for the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington DC, the nonprofit sector has grown more than 60 percent in just 10 years in the United States to an estimated 1.5 million organizations.

I can just imagine the average supporter’s inboxes being stuffed with action alerts and e-newsletters as the pros are telling everyone that frequent contact is free, easy and important. The drive to stay front of mind could be numbing the donors. Mailboxes are also being stuffed with more and more direct mail appeals. The drive to stay front of mind could be numbing the donors.

One of the subjects they will be discussing at this conference: “If we are going to truly solve the world’s toughest social problems and obtain the necessary resources to do it right, we need to examine how the nonprofit sector can evolve to create more innovative and efficient organizations. This involves disrupting the nonprofit sector as we know it today.”

I’ve always advocated for smaller nonprofits to work with other complementary nonprofit organizations to do fundraising together for better use of resources and potentially higher returns. Perhaps as competition continues to increase, it is time for them to consider the benefits of actually consolidating their resources to be more efficient organizations.

The conference will be held on March 12-15, 2014. It will be interesting to see what new knowledge we can receive from it.

Would you like your board to help spread the word on the great work you are doing? Want them to be jazzed about raising more money? Want to attract quality board members that increase your credibility?

dreamstime_m_23271329 (2)In Part 1 we covered some basics regarding the responsibility of board members and how to get them knowledgeable about what you are doing. Contrary to what many believe, just because someone has served on a board already does not mean that they know how to be an effective director.

They may be enthusiastic about your cause, they may be devoted to the clients you serve, but without an intimate knowledge about your business and fully understanding their role as a director on your board they will either be unproductive or ineffective in serving.

Part 1 covered giving them basic information about your organization and their responsibilities as a board member. Use this information to train them so that they are knowledgeable and better able to represent your nonprofit. Training is key to helping them to help you. On many boards, there is one or two directors who are very enthusiastic but have a tendency to micromanage. They focus on small details like what color the chairs should be in your reception area – rather than how to attract more clients to enter the lobby. It’s about what they are comfortable about contributing – and training is key to help them to help you.

A thorough orientation to your organization and industry is key in helping them to fulfill their responsibilities as outline in Part 1. Their orientation to the board should occur early in their relationship with you, yet it can be done at any time. If you have a board that is inefficient, holding an orientation for all of them is a good way to start off on a new footing.

Give them a tour of your facility, help them to understand how the financial reports are put together and what is key for them to zero in on to oversee the flow of money into and out of your agency. Educate them on your industry, funding sources, and regulatory requirements. Arm them with enough information that they can help you make the tough decisions that keep your nonprofit moving forward.

Once they know what their role is, and are intimately knowledgeable about your organization, it is much easier for them to step up and TALK about your organization.

After their orientation, each board meeting becomes a great opportunity to share with them information they can use when they are out in the community. Much more than just talking about the Mission, they need to be armed with stories they can repeat.

You could fill them with statistics about how many you are serving, the overall finances, and all those statistics about your industry. You should do that (especially during their orientation), but that’s not what is going to be easy for them to share without whipping out the board manual you gave them. What they will remember is the story about that ONE client or that one family that was strongly impacted by your program.

Studies have shown that people are more compelled by stories of individuals – something that they can picture themselves having an impact on. When you talk about the needs of an entire city, no matter how small, people think “That’s just way more than my small donation can have an effect on.” But, talk about that one child, that one family that has received a significant benefit by your organization, and it is easy for a donor to picture their contribution having an impact. They will be more compelled to help out.

During their orientation try to have them meet one or two clients that you serve. Share the story about what you did to help them and the impact it had on their lives. During board meetings, include stories about individuals that they can take to heart and then share with others. This is something they can easily remember and retell, not having to pull out your brochure or a report to fumble for statistics that will fall on dead ears.

Your newsletters and social media like Facebook are great places to share these stories. Think about the things that newspapers like to report – I’m not talking about the Wall Street Journal where they like to cover industry trends, but more like your local community section of your daily or weekly newspaper. This is where the stories of individuals and families are covered – and you are more likely to remember them. Your directors are no different. Hook them into what is happening on your front lines and they will be able to remember them and share when talking about your organization out in the world.

It is a very rare board of directors that manages itself. Leadership in the organization needs to provide information and oversight that helps the board to be effective and efficient. Training your board and arming them with the information they need to focus on what is important is key to an effective board. Make the investment at each meeting to help them focus on what is important and to be able to be the best representative they can.