Though the work is demanding, it’s also deeply rewarding. Here, we include helpful information to help you raise money when you’re just starting out and apply for e-grants.
Fundraising resources for new nonprofits
New nonprofit organizations have the hardest time convincing potential corporate and foundation grant makers to give them the funds needed to start up a new 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
In fact, it’s rare for a new nonprofit to score a large grant that pays all the operating bills. So, where will you find the money needed to turn your dream into reality? Don’t fret. New nonprofits can raise money in many ways.
Here’s a list of fundraising resources for new nonprofit organizations:
- Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP): AFP is a membership nonprofit organization that requires a membership fee to join. Joining an international association for fundraisers comes with benefits. Although you’re new to fundraising, you’ll have joined the ranks of over 30,000 fundraising professionals. Meeting with potential donors and saying that you’re a member of AFP elevates you above other new nonprofit organizations knocking on potential donor doors for contributions.
- BoardSource: Your board of directors plays a critical role in the organization’s fundraising efforts. The BoardSource website is abundant in information to help you understand the role of your board members.
Don’t make the mistake of forming your first board of directors with your friends and family members. Why? Although they love and support you in all endeavors, friends and family members aren’t the best candidates for fulfilling a working board’s many responsibilities.
- Donorbox: Your website must have a donation tab. If your funds are limited, just create your home page and a donate page. You can add the rest of your pages later. It’s important to let the public at large know that the new nonprofit exists, what it does, and how to support it with donations. Donorbox is a great website for giving your donors a seamless donation experience.
- Qgiv: Potential donors need details when deciding whether to give or not, which is why you need an ask letter that may seem long and full of a lot of unnecessary details. But you’re trying to tap into the memories, emotions, and empathy of the reader. Qgiv is a great go-to website to help you with your fundraising letters with many templates.
- Springly: Crowdfunding works really well for new nonprofit organizations. Your job is to spread the word to everyone you know by giving them your crowdfunding website link. Once you’ve done the upfront work, crowdfunding can result in passive revenue for your new nonprofit. Springly is one of the crowdfunding websites we recommend.
- DonorPerfect: Planning a successful fundraising event requires assembling a dream team to pull it off. You need to have goals for what you plan to achieve, consider the venue, decide whether you’re going to allow sponsors to have a vendor area to promote their nonprofits or businesses, and how you plan to get the word out about your big event. DonorPerfect has published an ebook, How to Plan a Nonprofit Fundraising Event (on a budget).
- Bloomerang: Peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the core avenues through which individuals donate to and advocate for the nonprofits they support. This type of fundraising is a strategy in which your board members, volunteers, and individual stakeholders organize one-on-one campaigns to raise money on behalf of a nonprofit organization. Bloomerang provides ideas for several types of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
- Personify WildApricot: When challenging economic times hit, individuals may be more hesitant to contribute to their favorite nonprofits. To maintain a steady flow of incoming revenues, it’s essential that you look at corporate sponsorships. Personify WildApricot offers a plethora of information on corporate sponsorships. Their FAQs are worth sharing with your board members.
- Double the Donation: Consider creating a membership program, a means of incentivizing giving and involvement. Members pay monthly, quarterly, or annual dues in return for special benefits that aren’t available to nonmembers. Double the Donation specializes in setting up nonprofit membership programs, and their website has a wealth of information about the benefits.
Today, e-grants are the norm for most funders. Unfortunately, grant writers and others working in e-grant limitations tend to have the misconception that e-grants are a piece of cake.
The reality is that e-grants aren’t any harder or easier to write than other formats. In an e-grant, you often can’t even see all of the application’s instructions or text box limitations until you complete a full login and start populating information in the text boxes.
This list provides some tips to stay on top of the e-grants game and reduce common errors (and stress!) when the grant application submission time rolls around:
- Log in and set up a password immediately for online submissions. The first step in writing an e-grant application is to log in so you can see what the requirements are. Read over all the questions and note how many characters you’re allotted for your answers. As you work on your application offline, you can make sure that all your answers fit. (Do not try to write your grant application on the fly in the online system.)
- Fill in routine organizational information. You must generally immediately fill in routine information about your organization. Before you log in again, assemble all the following:
- Your organization’s name
- The year for IRS 501(c)(3) incorporation
- Your organization’s physical address
- Your organization’s mailing address
- The name of the contact person and that person’s job title
- The contact person’s telephone and fax numbers and email address
- Your organization’s employer identification number (EIN)
- Your organization’s D-U-N-S number
- A copy of your most recent annual operating budget
- Review the entire online application template. It’s likely that you’ll be viewing one page of instructions at a time from a multipage grant application template (a set of questions that you must fill in the answer for online). In some e-grant systems, you can’t advance to the next screen until you fill in the requested information on the current screen. In other e-grant systems, you can advance and see every page remaining in the online template without entering anything. Review as much of the e-grant application template as possible. Take notes on the information you need to assemble to complete the rest of your grant application.
If you can’t advance to the next screen or page until you fill in the information on the current page, stop and log out. Call the funder to see if you can get a Word or PDF copy of the entire blank application template via email.
- Copy and re-create the template in a word-processing program. When you access the first page of the e-grant application template, copy and paste what you see on the screen onto a blank word-processing page. Save your word-processing file early and often, in case your power goes out or the computer freezes up. When you’ve copied and pasted everything required in the online e-grant template, log out and get ready for the next step.
If you’re timed out of the grant application website, you can always log back in. Any information that you’ve entered and saved will remain intact.
- Adhere to writing limitations in online grant e-portals. Look at the instructions for each information field box and note limits on the number of words, characters with spaces, or characters with no spaces. As you type your responses in the same word-processing document, monitor or track what you’re typing so you can make sure you’re fitting within the space allowed.
Stop your writing at about 50 characters or characters with spaces less than what’s allowed. That way, you have a little wiggle room. Also, check with the funder’s staff via a phone call or email to see if your understanding of the formatting requirements (spaces and characters) is correct.
- Convey without traditional graphics. When you work in an e-grant application template, you can’t insert graphics. You’re going to have to ditch your use of tables, maps, charts, and figures. In the coveted space that you’re allowed to respond, everything will need to be in narrative format. The first few times you create your narrative for this type of limited uploading environment, it may be challenging to communicate your point with words alone. But after you have a few e-grant applications under your belt, you’ll know the true meaning of the term plain and simple.
- Convey without traditional formatting. Many e-grant submission systems aren’t so good about special formatting — bold, italics, underlining, and different font colors. You just have to settle for plain text. Typically, the font doesn’t matter either, because when you paste it into the e-grant system, it’s all the same.
Convert your text into RTF format before pasting it back into the online application. This will prevent formatting issues that can come up with Microsoft Word and the HTML interface. You can do this by saving your text into a simple text-editing app such as TextEdit or Notepad.
- Recheck the funder’s website daily for modifications to the guidelines. Just like the federal funding agencies that post endless modifications and amendments to their initially posted grant application package, foundations and corporations that use e-grant application systems can also post changes. If you’re registered and you’ve started your grant application by entering the organizational information, you’ll likely receive an email notification of any changes that are made. Still, we recommend you develop the habit of logging on every day to look for notes or changes posted and follow their instructions accordingly. That way, you don’t have to change your narrative content or find out that you’re missing another required financial document at the last minute.
- Confirm the due date time and time zone. Your funder could be located out of state across three time zones, so be sure you know what date and time the application is due in your location. If you want to be safe, plan to submit your application a couple days before the deadline, to reduce your chance of problems.
- Hit submit. You’re ready to submit your online e-grant application. If you’ve followed the funder’s instructions, read and reread and reread (yes, read your text three times or more) your entries and edited them, you’re ready to hit Submit. Just do it!
Make sure to look for a receipt confirmation in your email or in the viewing window after you submit, indicating that the application was received by the funder.
If the confirmation appears in your viewing window, take a screen shot and add the photo to the grant application folder inside of the client’s folder. Yes, always keep everything!