Fundraising Basics


Fundraising Basics


Individual Donor Benchmark Project
Fundraising report for organizations with budgets under $2 million

This project is designed to give you more information about your fundraising program. There are many surveys and reports on nonprofit fundraising, but most only look at large organizations. We focus on the small and mighty organizations – those with budgets under $2 million

You can read the full data brief by visiting here. For bonus data and insights, visit here to learn even more about this data set.


Website Donations and Their Impact on Charitable Solicitations Registration
What about a donate now button on the website?

Prior to the widespread availability of broadband internet, you rarely saw website (e-commerce) donation capabilities.  That’s all changed now.  With the advent of template-based website hosting like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, or GoDaddy’s website builder, even the smallest nonprofit can have a professional looking web presence.  Many of these website hosts include basic e-commerce tools at little or no cost.  Throw in a credit card merchant account or Paypal, and you have everything you need for people to donate through your website.


The Current and Future State of Nonprofit Philanthropy
This infographic sums it up

No doubt about it, these are challenging times for nonprofits. Revenues for most organizations are flat, government support for the safety net has been singled out as something we can longer afford (or are no longer willing to pay for), competition for limited resources is increasing, and demand for services continues to grow.


Online Giving Trends
Data dashboard from the Chronicle of Philanthropy

Follow important developments in online fundraising with The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s data dashboard.


Measuring Fundraising Effectiveness
A Free Toolkit for Board and Staff Leaders

This free toolkit created by BoardSource, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, GuideStar, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance offers a formula to help a nonprofit discern whether it has a good balance of money raised, risk, and expenses. 


3 Scientific Studies That Can Help Your Fundraising

My career in the nonprofit world has largely been driven by desire and emotion. Compelled to try and make a difference, help others and live out what I believe. But it’s been the ‘knowledge’ where I’ve had to force myself to grow. And one area where I’ve found a lot of value is in looking at scientific research on donor behavior – why do people give?

Here are 3 of my favorite scientific studies on giving and what they mean for your cause.


Five Useful Tools
For compelling and competitive grant proposals

The Grant Readiness Assessment & Check-up Tool to help your organization assess if you are grant ready in the big picture organizational sense before you begin evaluating whether or not to go after individual grant applications.

The Decision Matrix  to help organizations make the difficult “go” or “no go” decision about individual proposals here.


2016 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report
From the Fundraising Effectiveness Project

This report, the latest in an annual series, is based on fundraising data collected from over 9,900 organizations that have collected data on gifts received. These organizations reported gains of $4.7 billion in gifts from new, upgraded current, and previously lapsed donors. However, these gains were offset by losses of $4.2 billion through reduced gifts and lapsed donors.


Money for Good 2015 Report
Revealing the voice of the donor in philanthropic giving

This report identifies the segments of donors most likely to increase and/or shift their giving, strategic interventions to change those segments’ behavior, and opportunities to use three giving channels—workplace giving, point of sale giving, and donor-advised funds—to further increase, shift, and improve giving.


Stories Worth Telling
Designed to build storytelling capacity among small nonprofits

Stories Worth Telling: A Guide to Strategic and Sustainable Nonprofit Storytelling—a comprehensive set of research and best practices designed to build storytelling capacity among small nonprofits—is now available from Georgetown University Center for Social Impact Communication and the Meyer Foundation.  Download your free copy.


Science of Philanthropy Initiative
Evidence-based research on charitable giving

The Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI) is a research and outreach project that utilizes rigorous quantitative methods and partnerships with the philanthropic community to explore the motivations behind charitable giving.

Funded by The John Templeton Foundation, the overarching goal of SPI is to develop a deeper understanding of the types of social preferences that shape philanthropic giving and to apply this knowledge to both practitioners and policymakers interested in philanthropy and the private provision of public goods.


Beyond Fundraising
What Does It Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy?

What is a “culture of philanthropy” — and why does it matter?


8 Fundraising Tools to Watch in 2016

2016 is going to be a big year for mobile and digital wallet payments. Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, PayPal, and Amazon are scrambling to be your chosen first choice and while this is predominantly playing out in the consumer market, in 2016 we will finally start to see mobile and digital wallet payments impact online fundraising in the nonprofit sector.


New GuideStar Nonprofit Profile

In this blog post, Jacob Harold Guidestar’s President and CEO outlines the completely redesigned GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles.  The redesigned profile offers:

  • Enhanced presentation and clarity of information
  • Increased focused on information that matters most
  • Turning snapshots into stories

It’s time to update your Guidestar profile.


Charitable Giving Report: How Nonprofit Fundraising Performed in 2015
From Blackbaud

The 2015 Charitable Giving Report includes overall giving data from 5,379 nonprofit organizations representing $18.2 billion in total fundraising from 2015. The Report also includes online giving data from 3,983 nonprofits representing $2.2 billion in online fundraising from 2015.


Gift Acceptance Policies

Should your nonprofit accept every gift that comes its way? It’s hard to say ‘no thank you!’ to donors, but sometimes…that’s the more prudent path.

There some kinds of gifts (think horses, houses, and hospitals, as just 3 examples) that your nonprofit simply may not want to – or should not – accept. Some gifts may result in more hassle and expense than benefit to the organization. This is where a well-considered “gift acceptance policy” can be a help.


World Giving Index
Charitable behavior around the world

The CAF World Giving Index, now in its sixth year, offers a simple, easy to understand picture of  charitable behavior around the world by averaging the percentage of people in each country who donated money, volunteered or helped a stranger in the previous month.  145 countries were surveyed, representing around 96% of the world’s population.


Giving in Retirement: America’s Longevity Bonus
A Merrill Lynch Retirement Study, conducted in partnership with Age Wave

While people of all ages give, retirees lead the nation in donating and volunteering finds this latest research report, Giving in Retirement: America’s Longevity Bonus. 

This study, the latest in a series exploring new retirement realities, takes a close look at the priorities, rewards and challenges of giving in retirement, as well as the benefits of giving back in retirement — for retirees, their families and society at large.

Key insights from the study also include:


How Stories Change the Brain
And impact giving

Research is uncovering how stories shape our brains, tie strangers together, and move us to be more empathic and generous.

In this video, Paul J. Zak, Ph.D.,author of The Moral Molecule: How Trust Works, and Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University explains how it works.


Anatomy of a Fundraiser
A Legal Guide for Charitable Fundraising In California

Fundraising is a crucial part of sustaining a nonprofit organization, but the process of raising money raises myriad legal issues which, if unaddressed, can subject a nonprofit to legal liability and impact an organization’s tax exemption as well as donors’ ability to get the benefit of a tax deduction.


Fundraising Research
Reports covering all aspects of donor giving

2014 Individual Donor Benchmark Report

The 2014 Donor Benchmark Report expands on the work started in 2012 to help grassroots organizations strengthen fundraising efforts.  Small nonprofits often operate in a vacuum, with no way to compare their goals or results to similar organizations. The goal of this project is to take a small slice of the nonprofit universe and create a useful set of metrics.


Diversity in Giving
The changing landscape of American philanthropy

As the United States continues to grow and become more diverse, it’s more important than ever to consider whether the nonprofit playbook is due for an overhaul. Do current fundraising efforts have the cultural competency to reach all Americans who might support nonprofits?


Charitable Solicitation Registration
Tips when fundraising in multiple states

Your nonprofit may be aware of its obligation to register for fundraising purposes in its own state (38 states and the District of Columbia currently have this requirement), but did you know that if your nonprofit is asking for donations from potential donors in other states the nonprofit may be required to register in those other states as well? Here’s why charitable solicitation registration in multiple states may be in your nonprofit’s future, if it’s not already part of your nonprofit’s annual filing routine.

First and foremost, we live in a mobile society. People move.

Resource For MembersFor 3 day trials

Fundraising Compliance Guide
Compliance with State Charitable Solicitation Laws

States oversee solicitation of their citizens. Before your nonprofit seeks donations, it must register in each state where it will be fundraising. Failing to do so can results in fines and other penalties.

44 states and the District of Columbia have charitable solicitation laws. Remember that solicitation occurs when you ask for a contribution (by any medium), regardless of whether or when you receive it.

Compliance with state charitable solicitation law requires:

  • initial registration/licensing (in 40 states + D.C.)
  • annual registration renewal
  • filing annual financial statements
  • including disclosures on donor materials (in 24 states)
  • appointing and maintaining a registered agent (in 4 states)
  • obtaining a certificate of authority (in 6 jurisdictions

The laws, documents, procedures, and costs to obtain the legal authority to fundraise are different in each state. See the information on each states’ requirements.

Helpful link

Endowment Funds

An endowment fund is created when a donor or the Board of Trustees specify that a gift is to be invested and only the income earned on that gift may be spent for a specific purpose. The gift amount is referred to as the principal or corpus and is held in a fund.  There are two basic types of endowment funds — true endowment and quasi endowment. A true endowment is defined as an endowment in which the donor stipulates that the corpus must be held inviolate and in perpetuity and invested to generate income to be spent for a specific purpose.


The Road to Results
Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences

Based on case studies of 10 arts organizations that undertook audience-building projects as part of the Wallace Excellence Awards initiative, this guide pinpoints nine practices that successful efforts had in common — from identifying a target group that made sense for the organization to determining what barriers needed to be removed for that target to join the audience. Filled with examples of successes and challenges from the work of museums, opera companies, a theater and other institutions, the report can serve as a guide to audience building for all arts groups.


New Mobile App Will Change the Way Donors Give and Nonprofits Fundraise

Partnering with Guidestar and Network for Good, donors can now give to their favorite nonprofits and manage their giving portfolio in one simple, very smart mobile app called the Give App.

Click here for a nice summary of how this new app works for donors and how your organization can sign up to participate.


How to Empower Your Nonprofit Fundraising Strategies with the Wonderful World of Data
By Heather Yandow, Third Space Studio

I get these kinds of question all the time: “How much money should I be raising from individual donors?” or “Do you think I can raise $50,000 from individuals next year?”


Those are hard questions with many answers that depend on many factors.

To make answering those types of questions a little easier to answer, I started working to create a set of metrics for small and mighty organizations—those with revenues under $2 million. Over the past three years, this data has helped draw a picture of individual donor fundraising.


Choose the Right Donor Management Software
With help from these resources

Choosing the right donor management software for your organization doesn’t have to be complicated. TechSoup has put together a handy chart so you can compare and contrast features.


12 Question to Ask When Applying for a Fundraising Job – and Answers the Nonprofit Should Know

I have several long-term clients who are looking to change jobs. What a surprise: development staff on the move.

I also have clients who are looking for employees. Some have written job descriptions that are more thorough and complex than they would be for the CEO of General Motors.

One lists 26 areas of responsibility and pays $35,000. They want me to find someone. I want to weigh 112 and eat 5,000 calories a day. That isn’t going to happen, either.


UBIT: Advertisements vs. Qualified Sponsorship Payments

Unrelated Business Income Tax or UBIT can be a confusing topic.  Here’s an article that helps clarify the distinction between advertisements that trigger UBIT and qualified sponsorship payments that don’t.  Click here to read the article.

Helpful link

Grassroots Institute for Fundraising

A fantastic source of fundraising support for grassroots organizations

GIFT provides training, resources, and analysis to thousands of groups each year. Their programs include:


Investing for Impact
Indirect Costs Are Essential for Success

Investing for Impact: Indirect Costs Are Essential for Success a new report from the National Council of Nonprofits shares substantial research for board members and funders about the need to invest in core infrastructure to have a stronger nonprofit.


The Proper Way to Thank Donors
What the IRS requires

IRS Publication 1771 says that for any gift over $250, the giver must have written documentation of the gift. That written documentation, according to the Tax Court, must comply with the requirements outlined in Pub 1771:

Helpful link

The Fundraising Authority
Tools and information for nonprofits of all sizes

The Fundraising Authority offers new fundraisers a beginners guide and many other useful resources.


Donor Stewardship
How to do it well

Association of Donor Relations Professionals

The article Donor Relations and Stewardship Defined, from the Association of Donor Relations Professionals, outlines the four elements of donor relations: gift acceptance and management, acknowledgement, donor recognition, and reporting.


A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising

The newly released study UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising reveals that many nonprofits are stuck in a vicious cycle that threatens their ability to raise the resources they need to succeed. A joint project of CompassPoint and the  Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the report found high levels of turnover and lengthy vacancies in development director positions throughout the sector.


Insights into Donor Engagement Behavior and Preferences
Why it's important to be your donor's #1 charity

The Nonprofit Donor Engagement Benchmark Study from charityDYNAMICS and NTEN reports on a survey of the self-reported behavior of 1,022 people who donated to a nonprofit in the past 12 months. Participants were asked how they prefer to engage with the nonprofits they support. The study probed deeply to understand how people preferred to donate, volunteer, and support nonprofits across traditional and digital media.

Helpful link

Capital Campaigns
The online capital campaign resource

Capital campaigns are generally considered to be fundraising efforts for major capital purposes, usually to the tune of millions of dollars and, on occasion, a billion dollars or more.

This capital campaign website is dedicated to the discussion of capital campaign fundraising for nonprofit organizations.  It includes sample materials, training guides and articles all related to managing a successful capital campaign. 


How Giving Contests Can Strengthen Nonprofits and Communities

The Case Foundation sponsored a study on how giving contests can promote donor engagement, skills development, and new online marketing opportunities for nonprofits. Read about the results from Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, and learn tips for giving contest organizers and nonprofits that participate.

Helpful link

Eye on the Giving Pledge
Tracking the 81 individuals and families that have signed the Pledge

The Giving Pledge is an effort launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 to encourage the wealthiest Americans to commit the majority of their assets to philanthropic causes. So far, 81 high net-worth households have joined the pledge, making public declarations that are shared on the Giving Pledge web site.


Four Simple Ways to Get Out and Ask
So why don’t you get out and ask more often?

Have you met with any donors this month?  If not, Four Simple Ways to Get Out and Ask will help you do just that.

Helpful link

Find Your Asking Style
Asking Style Assessment

Are you extroverted or introverted? Do you think analytically or intuitively? Take the Asking Style Assessment and find out your Asking Style. Just 30 true/false questions that you can answer in 2 minutes, and you’ll be on your way to understanding your fundraising style and how to be much more comfortable and effective asking for gifts. 

Helpful link

What’s the Best Way to Raise Money?
Guidance from an expert

If you are new to fundraising or just want to check your organization’s fundraising strategy this article from Blue Avacado offers some excellent guidance.

Helpful link

State Charitable Solicitation Statutes
Registration required to raise funds in many states

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have charitable solicitation statutes that generally require nonprofits soliciting contributions and, in most cases, their for-profit fundraising professionals to register prior to soliciting contributions or providing fundraising counsel services.

Helpful link

Online Donation Engine Providers
Compare the options

by Marc Lee, CFRE of Affinity Resources LLC

There is a wide variety of options when it comes to obtaining donations online.


Ethical Fundraising

In the for-profit world, people are hired on commission all the time.  In other words, they are paid a percentage of what they bring in.  In the nonprofit world, this is considered unethical.   These resources explain why.


Vehicle Donation Programs

Here are two IRS booklets for organizations considering a vehicle donation program.

A Charity’s Guide to Vehicle Donations Publication 4302

A Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donations Publication 4303