Grassroots fundraising 101

I’ve been working on a presentation to my Board on the fundraising strategy we use at Rain City Rock Camp for Girls. We’ve been a very DIY organization, fueled by volunteers and generous donors who took the leap of faith to fund us in our earliest years. While we are now in a time of expansion, we want to keep our grassroots, DIY beginnings close at hand. Our strategy is still largely grassroots, with the addition of some corporate and grant proposals.

This is probably a boring post for most people, but it will give you an idea (for those of you who haven’t nodded off already) what I do with all that spare time that I don’t actually have!

Here is my idea of what grassroots fundraising looks like for my organization. It’s a moving target and is constantly growing, and is different for each organization. At its core though, it’s about relationships.

As a small organization with a small annual operating fund, we have been able to survive on very grassroots fundraising practices. Now that we are in the position of supporting an employee, we have to step some of our fundraising efforts up and expand out sources of funding to include corporations and businesses.

In large part though, our fundraising efforts will continue to be very grassroots, as a reflection of our organization’s nature and our DIY ideals. These are some of the ways we go about our grassroots fundraising:

  • For us, our money comes from friend-raising. *roll eyes here* We strive to have friends supporting friends and people supporting the organization who care about what we’re doing.
  • We strive for more involved donors, not just more donors.
  • We make solicitation personal.
  • We use small events for fundraising – things like hosted house parties, donation-based events like the yoga class, dinner for a cause, etc.
  • We keep in communication with our donors, with camper families, and with people who are invested in what we’re doing.
  • We invite friends to join us in supporting something we care about, and we give them the opportunity to make a difference in the community. We strive to create meaningful opportunities for support.
  • All of our donors are major donors.
  • We try to use social media meaningfully, to inform & inspire, and we try to not be visible without being relevant. (avoid the “hide” button)

Most people give because they were asked by someone who they care about. That being said, not everyone who is asked gives. As a rule of thumb, you need to make 4 requests for every gift that you need.

Donors are not ATMs. We thank them and keep them posted, and try to limit our requests. In an attempt to maximize the relationship, I would like to have 2-3 communications for every ask. People want to know what we’re doing with their money and how it’s working, or even mistakes we’ve made and what we’ve learned from them. They are giving because they want to be involved – our donors don’t just write checks, they are part of the family and want to know what we’re working on.

We thank donors in a meaningful way, offer “success” stories and talk about new ventures.

We should continue to empower volunteers to be fundraisers.

  • Set goals with each volunteer
  • brainstorm to create a list of their prospective donors.
  • provide sample text for social media, emails
  • celebrate success often
  • be in touch and offer support to make sure they are on track and feel confident
  • break down the possible ways to meet goals so it was less daunting.

Accept group gifts and challenges.

Events – especially those that volunteers can do the majority of the organizing for.

Provide diverse methods of communication, and vary the message/context for different groups of people. Camper families have different interests and different reasons for supporting the organization than our Board members’ friends.

Opportunistic fundraising – talk about what you care about, always mention you work with an amazing non-profit, and you’d be surprised who wants to support it.

Create your own “elevator” speech. Know the mission, but say it in terms of your involvement with the organization. People want to hear WHY you are passionate about the organization. They can read the mission statement on their own – it’s your passion that they will sign their checks with.

Be able to leverage gifts and interest that we have.

Communication, communication, communication. People what to know what we’re doing with their money AND what we’re up to in general. They’ve supported us because they care about us, and they want to hear about our successes, our challenges, our ideas, and who else is supporting us.

The idea of grassroots fundraising, for me and this organization, is inviting our friends to have a meaningful relationship with an organization and a mission that makes a difference in the lives of others. It is through this relationship that programs are developed and funded. It is through this relationship that we are able to make a difference, and create a culture in our society where our organization is ultimately no longer needed.

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