5 things first-time fundraisers need to do now

Posted: Jan 14th, 2021 Updated: Jan 14, 2021

If you’re running a nonprofit, sooner or later you’ll have to contend with fundraising. So unless you’re a billionaire crime fighter or the God of Thunder, this article is for you!

Running a small nonprofit has many struggles, but fundraising might be the most important. Larger organizations, already stretched for time and resources, often have teams of people and the ability to reach out to donors through large scale programs and lean on the donors from last year to renew this year.

Needless to say, there’s a better way. 

What you need is a strategy and a detailed plan. While investing in a strategy may feel overly time-consuming, it actually uses resources more effectively, helps you understand what’s working and saves time in the long-run. 

So how do you get started? Here’s what you need to know to become a fundraising superhero!


1. Collect historical data

If you don’t know where you are, it's unlikely you’ll be able to predict where you’re going. Begin by gathering as much data as possible on past fundraising efforts, donors, fundraising sources and pretty much anything related to how your organization raises funds. Take a look at industry benchmarks to see where you compare.


2. Start talking

If you haven’t used a fundraising strategy before, chances are you might not have essential information recorded. Set up conversations with fundraising teams (or individuals) and ask what’s worked in the past, ideas for the future and record everything. It’s also helpful to speak to a few key donors or investors to get their perspective on what made them donate - including any pain points they encountered. 


3. Set SMART Goals

Once you have all the information, it's time to set a goal. SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Creating goals using this technique will help you monitor progress and understand failures better than setting a goal that is vague.


4. Segment your donors

Understanding your donors is key. Invest in a donor management system or create a spreadsheet that tracks donor behavior and preferences and use this information to target segments of donors. For example, if someone has given you an annual donation for three or more years in a row, you might ask them to increase their gift and/or become a monthly donor. Or maybe if a supporter gave you a large gift a year or two ago, but nothing recently, it might be time to rekindle that relationship. Finally, segmenting donors according to their giving capacity will also boost revenue - blanket asks make smaller donors feel like they can’t help or cause you to lose out on larger amounts from bigger donors.


5. Experiment!

Running experiments and trying different approaches is the most important part of fundraising - and the most ignored. While many fundraisers come up with great ideas that work really well - what’s often missed is measuring success. Approaching new fundraising initiatives as experiments will help you build metrics to track and understand why (or why not) something worked, which is key to building future strategies for success!


Think of your favorite superheroes - what you (and the rest of the world) see is an action-packed drama of fighting crime and destroying villains. What’s less interesting, but equally key is the everyday training - the hours put into refining and perfecting the supersuits or the research that goes into developing the gadgets to be used exactly when you need them.

Put these strategies to work and the outside world might see your nonprofit “effortlessly” gaining supporters but you’ll know the secret to success lies as much in the time you invested planning as the fundraising campaigns themselves.


Need even more help? Download FundHero’s template non-profit annual finance plan below.

Rachel Rao

Rachel is a marketing and communications consultant based in Mumbai, India. She focuses on conceptualizing brand identities and digital media campaigns for social businesses, non-profits, and startups. Her work is set in contexts of public education, corporate social responsibility, philanthropy, rural research, and social conflict mediation. She is passionate about effective and impactful storytelling and good coffee. Rachel has an MA in English Literature from the University of York and a Diploma in Communications for Development (C4D).