4 Common Fundraising Tactics – Are They Right For You?

A common mistake development professionals make in creating a fundraising plan is spreading themselves too thin.

To avoid feeling like the jack of all trades, master of none - when deciding the HOW of your fundraising plan choose fundraising strategies and tactics that make the most sense for your fundraising team (staff, volunteers and board) and your organization.

Then, stay focused on the strategies you’ve chosen and leave the rest behind. In fact, saying “no” to all of the other ideas and “opportunities” that come up during the course of a year may be the toughest challenge of all—but the smartest.

To help with your rigorous decision-making, here is a quick analysis of 4 popular development tactics, what they’re good for, and what they’re not.

Major Gifts

Pros: low cost, high return. The activities involved in major gift fundraising are considered the most effective in all of fundraising – relationship-building and face-to-face solicitation.

Cons: Building relationships takes a long time. There is no way to rush it. We are talking years. Anticipate 3-4 years to get a bona fide major gifts program up and running.

In short: The Ladder of Effectiveness bears out the effectiveness of asking face-to-face for major gifts and the potential upside for your organization. To get started, check out 5 Must-Haves for a Starting a Major Gifts Program.

Online Fundraising

Pros: low cost, low barriers to entry, possible to reach large numbers of people.

Cons: impersonal, easy for donors to ignore, may not resonate with older, less tech savvy donors.

In short: There’s no question that your organization should have an online presence. Most of us have a website by now, and we have figured out how to accept donations through it. How much deeper you choose to go into social media, YouTube campaigns, crowdfunding and/or an email component of your year-end appeal depends on the nature of your organization, staff time, and who your donors are.

Grants from Foundations

Pros: Potential for large gifts. Foundations exist to give money away – it’s their job.

Cons: Time consuming to write. You may have to wait 4-6 months for a decision. Managing and reporting on grants once they come in the door is no small feat, and can be just as challenging as winning the grant in the first place.

In short: It can take the same amount of time to write a $2,500 grant application as it can to write one for $25,000. Like everywhere else, be strategic and say “no” to opportunities that aren’t a great fit. And remember that relationships matter in the grants world too – get to know your program officer.

Fundraising Events

Pros: Gross revenue can be high. Guests usually have fun. Events are good for friend-raising, and for introducing new people to your organization.

Cons: Cost of production can also be high, up to 50% of revenue or more. Events are a lot of work and they will eat up staff time at a quick clip.

In short: I believe the nature of nonprofit special events is changing. People have less time these days to attend events. We are all tired of the sit-down dinner/auction format.

But bringing like-minded people together under one roof in support of your mission is powerful. There is a place in fundraising for impactful events that don’t break the bank or send staff sprinting for the hills. I hope to see and be part of some creative new events in the future.

What tips or advice do you have about choosing tactics for your nonprofit? Please share your ideas, successes or challenges in the Comments box below!

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