How to Analyze the Fundraising Potential of Your Nonprofit
Different approaches to raising funds work best for different kinds of nonprofits. When you make a fundraising plan, you have to be both ambitious about your goals and realistic about what’s likely to work for you. As you try to estimate how much money you can glean from each possible funding source, answer the following questions:
How far do your services reach? Do lots of people understand, care about, and benefit from your organization’s cause? Do you focus on a small geographic area or work at a national or international scale? The answer to this question tells you whether your nonprofit should be casting its net close to home or all over the country or world.
Are you one of a kind? If you’re unique, you may have a more difficult time explaining to potential donors who you are and what you do.
How popular is your cause? Regardless of what’s happening in the world, the focus of your organization’s work will go through times of gaining and losing media attention and broad-based donor support.
Does your cause elicit strong feelings? A hot topic that a small number of people strongly believe in can attract major gifts. A limitation faced by organizations that focus on potentially controversial topics — such as abortion, use of pesticides, or incarceration of juveniles — is that corporations and businesses may be uncomfortable with having their names associated with the cause.
How well-known and highly regarded are your leaders? Most people feel better about supporting an organization if they believe in its leaders. Your organization’s leaders are equally important in both corporate and private fundraising.
How well-known is your organization? Do news stories often feature its services? Or is it the type of agency that works quietly behind the scenes? If it’s the behind-the-scenes type, it may be wise to focus on funding sources that know your organization’s field well and understand the quality of its work and the key role that it plays.
Who do you know? Your nonprofit’s contacts are important to its ability to raise money, especially when seeking funds from individuals. Knowing somebody who may write a big check to an organization is great, but knowing a lot of people who may write small checks is just as good.
What can you give back to a donor? Many donors appreciate when they benefit from their gifts to you, so look at what your nonprofit can provide.
Individuals have a wide variety of preferences when it comes to receiving personal recognition for gifts. Corporations may consider their contributions to be cause-related marketing, so they may want their involvement to be visible to the public.
Do you have the money you need to cover fundraising costs? Special events and direct mail are expensive forms of fundraising. Grant writing takes time, but its cost is relatively low.
Do you have expertise? Do staff members, board members, or volunteers have experience with raising money? If not, can your organization afford to hire expert help? Working with an expert also may be a good idea if you’re undertaking direct mail fundraising, telemarketing, and special events. Professional grant writers may help you identify foundations that you haven’t considered in the past.
How does this year’s fundraising climate compare to last year’s? Apart from the value and importance of your wonderful organization, donors give money according to their abilities, and those abilities change with the times.