“I need donations for my new non-profit!” I hear that often. Funding your organization and your programs are so important. When programs aren’t funded, the people you want to help can’t be served. It’s frustrating and can keep you up at night. The problem is that your organization is so new that it doesn’t have any donors or contacts to ask for donations. So what is a new nonprofit to do?


First, it’s time to get individual donors. (If you aren’t ready to receive donations with your systems, check out the 9 Action Step Guide to a Successful Nonprofit.)


“But Alesha, why individual donors and not an event? Events can gain awareness! We need people to know we are here!”


Events have their place in an overall Fundraising Plan and can help you get new donors and raise money. Events can be expensive though. They take money and time – things you and your Board are short on.


Donors are an overall cheaper way to go. When asked right, they are a warmer audience and easier to persuade to give. Also, understand this is a process and Donors take time to build. You may get five or fifty people who actually give you money the first time you try this. Celebrate that! Then try the process again in a few months with different contacts.


Who do you ask?


Start From Within.

Get your board members together and ask them to bring in five to ten names of family and friends. Write a letter to those names requesting gifts for your nonprofit. Your message is, “I’m asking you to support a cause I’m involved with”. This is an activity I would do once a year with the Board after new members have joined. You will expand your reach this way. Get the SWIPE file here of a board letter I’ve used before. Modify this file to suit your organization.


Now, Move Outward.

Ask volunteers to write a letter (or modify the SWIPE file once again to suit your volunteers). Use the same technique you used for your Board.


Move Out Further.

Ask your Board what businesses they use regularly. Ask these businesses for donations on behalf of the organization. Use the same process as with family and friends of the Board. Tailor the SWIPE file if you need help. Remember, you are talking to business owners and may need to add in some business benefits for them. This letter can also simply ask for in-kind donations.


You should now have a list of donors that have given. Yay! You are on your way now.


Once you’ve done the letters, here are some other ideas to build your list and make the next ask even more successful:

  1. Find ways to capture names and email addresses at events.
  2. Use Lead Magnets on your website.
  3. Rent a list for your next appeal letter to branch out.
  4. Create a friend campaign once you have a list asking your current list to send a letter or forward an email to 5 friends introducing your organization to them. DO NOT ASK FOR DONATIONS in this letter or email. Your goal is to add contact information to your donor list. Ask the next time you send out an appeal.


When Do We Ask?


There is no better time like the present! If you need funds now, use a letter as an intro to your organization and an ask for a specific project. If you don’t do any other time, make sure you send a letter at the end of the year. Giving is always the highest during November and December. Avoid January to send a letter. People have spent their money in November and December and have a little donor fatigue. (Note: Your donations should peak about two weeks after sending out your initial letter).


No matter your timing, I recommend you send letters twice a year at a minimum. Don’t forget to download your SWIPE file and get started with your Board.

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