Many nonprofit organizations struggle to engage their board members with fundraising, especially the act of asking another person for money.
It is tempting to allow board members to skip fundraising, but this useful list is designed to give board members a wide range of tasks they can choose from to support the financial growth of your organization, and only a few involve directly asking for money.
The list created by Sean Kosofsky of Mind the Gap Consulting can be used by an executive director, board chair, or any individual board member to consider their contribution to your organization’s financial health. Some individual board members may want to start with “easier” tasks like thanking donors, but eventually, they should be directly helping raise thousands of dollars annually.
The term “call to action” (CTA) is used multiple times in the list. A CTA is an invitation to take action, such as donating, volunteering, signing up for something, signing a petition, pledging to do something, etc. Creating a page with 3-5 CTAs on your website could be a great tool for engagement. For many tasks below, sending a link to a CTA page feels less like a solicitation and more like an invitation.
1. Make a one-time or monthly financial contribution to the organization.
2. Make a “stretch gift” that is very generous and is outside your normal giving pattern. This could be done annually or just one time.
3. Pay for the admission or ticket fee for people who you think should attend your nonprofit’s events with the hope they’ll donate on-site or in the future.
4. Give in-kind support to the organization in a way that actually helps. Donating airline miles, stock, stamps, furniture, a vehicle, or even heirlooms or other items that can be used or easily liquidated into cash.
5. Be familiar with important information on the organization’s website, social media sites, YouTube channel, and other assets.
6. Be familiar with the organization’s case for support, annual reports, theory of change, and other collateral materials.
7. Be familiar with every fundraising program, event, campaign, and activity so you can tell others (sustainers, major gifts, events, direct mail, giving circles, etc.).
8. Be aware of key accomplishments, metrics, testimonials, and milestones.
10. Spend two hours googling “creative fundraising ideas” to get inspired.
11. Take free or paid classes, courses, or webinars to learn how to fundraise.
12. On behalf of your organization, investigate ways to receive money that the organization may not have in place already. For example, accepting gifts of stock by opening a brokerage account, accepting Venmo donations, accepting cryptocurrency, and accepting donations from Alexa (Amazon devices). Then help implement these tools.
13. Help maintain membership hygiene by ensuring donor records are accurate, spelled correctly, and that bouncing emails are cleaned, etc.
14. Help the organization get authorized for receiving donations on Facebook.
15. Staff the organization’s general email inbox and provide support and pre-written or customized solicitations for support with a link to the donation page.
16. Staff the organization’s social media account inboxes and repeat the above.
17. Staff the organization’s social media accounts by monitoring follower activity (shares, likes, and comments) and ping those individuals with a way to volunteer or donate (or some other call to action).
18. If your organization has offices or on-site services, offer to do tours for new, major, or recurring donors. People who feel connected to the organization are more likely to stay involved.
19. Offer to support the development director, development committee, board chair, or ED in their fundraising tasks.
20. Show up at fundraising events and help before, during, and after with tasks.
21. Offer to help write short updates to keep donors informed.
22. Sort through online organizational data (Google analytics, email open rates) to see if there are insights, trends, and patterns that could be used to improve operations. For example, if the most popular page on your website is your “About” page, does that page have adequate calls to action to donate?
23. Sort through organizational fundraising data to see if there are insights, trends, or patterns that could help. For example, could people who donate every year be cultivated for a larger or monthly gift? Is the donor renewal rate low? Can you survey nonrenewing donors to see why they didn’t renew?
24. Help edit or review grant proposals and grant reports.
25. Offer to write letters of intent or grant requests for the organization and possibly even submit them to foundations or companies.
26. Offer to draft, edit, review and improve the acknowledgment emails or letters the organization sends to donors.
27. Offer to help write (or edit) fundraising emails or letters
28. Stay in regular contact with newsrooms and pitch stories to help the organization reach a larger audience.
29. Help disseminate news releases or produce news events to get coverage.
30. Help uncover compelling or creative stories of impact to use in fundraising.
31. Help the organization break down its budget or donations into units of service delivery (e.g. “$50 helps us feed one child for a week.”)
32. Help find testimonials or endorsements to be used in fundraising.
33. Join others on fundraising calls/visits to watch, support, and learn.
34. Learn how to speak publicly and eloquently about the organization and offer to speak to community organizations, mutual aid organizations, clubs, coalitions, or commissions. This can become a speakers bureau or a service for which the organization can charge. For example, many charities like churches and synagogues will pay a stipend for educational programming.
35. Donate your skills (graphic design, strategic planning, human resources).
36. Offer to review organizational materials and offer feedback on how it could adapt or improve its talking points.
37. Research the steps needed to create a direct mail fundraising program (e.g. bulk mail permits, rules and regulations, mail houses).
38. If there is a key campaign or event happening for the organization, ask the organization if you can forward information to:
- businesses or other organizations you are involved with
- your neighbors
- your family members
- other people in your network
39. Generate a list monthly or quarterly of current donors or volunteers and call or email them to thank them for their current or past support.
40. Do the same with a list of major donors.
41. Do the same with a list of sustaining donors.
42. Do the same with a list of in-kind donors.
43. Do the same with a list of supporters who have contributed through AmazonSmile or another digital giving program.
44. Do the same with a list of donors who contribute through workplace giving programs like United Way or the Combined Federal Campaign.
45. If your organization has benefitted from generic Facebook Fundraisers or donations on your Facebook Page, you could be made an administrator of the organization’s Facebook page and thank those fundraisers and donors. Do this weekly or monthly.
46. If your organization has benefited from Facebook birthday fundraisers, you can be made an administrator and thank those fundraisers and their donors.
47. If your organization has benefited from any other peer-to-peer campaign from GoFundMe, or a walk/ride event, thank those fundraisers and donors.
48. Help the organization apply for, qualify for, and manage its Google for Nonprofits.
49. Handwrite notes on all thank you letters that go out. Offer to print and mail them from home if that makes more sense.
50. Handwrite notes on all fundraising letters that go out to existing or lapsed donors. This really works.
Engage Lapsed Supporters
51. Create a list of donors who have not donated in 18 months and thank them for their past support. Soon thereafter the organization can solicit them.
52. Create a list of donors who have not donated in 18 months and invite them to participate in some calls to action (CTAs).
53. Create a list of donors who have not donated in 18 months and point them toward an upcoming event, or other activity.
Download this Board of Directors Fundraising Worksheet to help your board members execute their board pledges to raise or give donations. Many boards have policies requiring the full board (or each member individually) to hit a fundraising goal and this worksheet helps get them organized and on a path to success.
54. Go through your personal list of friends/contacts/followers on 1 or more social media platforms and commit to creating a list of (10, 50, or 100) people who you can reach out to about the organization’s CTAs.
55. Go through your personal list of friends/contacts/followers on 1 or more social media platforms and commit to creating a list of (10, 50, or 100) people who you can directly invite to donate or volunteer.
56. Constantly be on the lookout for personal and professional connections who may want to learn more about the organization. Offer to connect your acquaintances to the organization and vice versa. It need not be a solicitation. It could be an email or postcard about a regular meetup the nonprofit hosts, or about its services. People like knowing the charitable activities of friends, family, and neighbors.
57. The organization can create a “Call to Action” (CTA) page with 3-5 ways to get involved. Board members can say/write “Hey I am hoping to get you involved with this nonprofit I love. It doesn’t have to be a gift. You can sign a petition, forward info from the site, or more if you are so compelled.”
58. Help line up meals or meetings with donor prospects identified by the organization. The solicitation can happen by the staff or board chair.
59. Identify key influencers with audiences on social media, email, or via the news media and spend time cultivating the relationship with the goal of eventually seeking promotional support or a collaboration on a project.
60. Ask any businesses you know with an email newsletter or other marketing budgets to promote the organization 1 or 2 times a year.
61. Help grow the organization’s email list by posting a landing page (email harvesting form for a freebie) everywhere you can online.
62. Certified public accountants (CPAs) and financial advisors have many wealthy clients. It is very common for wealthier folks to need to donate money at the end of the year to help with taxes. Build a network or list of CPAs and advisors in your state and do outreach to keep your charity top of mind, especially in December.
63. Help the organization by researching and compiling information on foundations in your area or state.
64. Help the organization by researching and compiling information on government grants that may be available.
65. Help the organization by researching and compiling information on small and large companies in your area or state that support nonprofits. This can include large Fortune 500 companies or even local law firms, smaller companies, business-to-business suppliers, or retailers.
66. Build a relationship with the staff and board of your local community foundation. Community foundations sponsor many donor-advised funds (DAFs) which are like mini-foundations but they are not public. By maintaining a relationship with the community foundation’s staff it may unlock opportunities to connect with DAF holders during the year.
67. Use the Foundation Directory at the library or a university to find foundations out of state.
69. Research the renting or purchasing of mailing lists for direct mail campaigns. Contact list vendors to find lists of similarly sympathetic groups.
70. Be the person always encouraging the organization to do list-building. Anything you can do to get new names, emails, and addresses on your list will increase the pool of people who are solicited and who will donate.
71. Work with the organization to create a list of all the in-kind resources that would be useful to the organization. These could be items the organization currently spends money on (travel, rent, printing, gift cards, stamps) or something new.
72. Approach companies to help donate the above items or services.
73. Approach area businesses to donate items that can be used as tokens of appreciation for volunteers.
74. Approach area businesses to donate items to an online or offline silent or live auction. You would have to run the auction, of course.
75. If the organization does not have pro-bono legal support, you can approach law firms in your state for help.
76. Sell things you own or invite a bunch of people to give their stuff to you to sell at a yard sale with all the proceeds going to the nonprofit.
Solicitation (Passive and Active)
77. Add a link to your organization’s donation page to your electronic signature.
78. Turn on your automatic email responder as if you were on vacation and have the responder point people to a call-to-action or donation page for the organization. Do this all year or several times a year for a week.
79. Consider directly soliciting other board members for contributions.
80. Consider directly soliciting volunteers for contributions. This works.
81. Directly solicit the companies with which your organization does business.
82. Directly solicit the companies with which you personally do business.
83. Write emails, letters, postcards, or social media posts with requests for support with a direct link to a way to give.
84. Set up face-to-face meetings or phone calls to ask contacts to donate.
85. Consider matching board members with a more experienced board buddy or even creating a board team to hit a collective goal instead of individual goals.
86. Find a donor to offer a matching gift of $500, $5000 or more for a campaign.
87. Do a raffle, sweepstakes, contest, or giveaway in your community. Check your state laws to make sure you are in compliance.
88. Canvas door-to-door. Create a sign-up form and a way to take donations and ask people in any given neighborhood to help out. This can be particularly effective when there is an urgent or highly publicized need. Grassroots and environmental organizations do this all the time.
89. Canvas in a high-traffic area and do the same at a farmer’s market, beach boardwalk, or other busy area. Don’t be pushy, it can backfire.
90. Ask an area restaurant if you are able to leave donation envelopes at every table or with every bill one evening – or one evening a month!
91. Engage really well-funded organizations you have a relationship with and ask for suggestions about how to find funding. Or better yet…ask them to collaborate on a fundraiser or to directly give you a mini-grant.
92. Print business cards that say “Your business was just patronized by someone who supports (insert cause here). Please consider donating at (URL).” You can leave these everywhere you go.
93. Talk to political candidates and parties. In most states, when a candidate decides to no longer run for office, they are allowed to return funds to donors or give them to a charitable organization. If a candidate won’t run again or if a political committee for a ballot measure or some other effort is winding down, approach them about distributing some funds to your charity. There are literally hundreds of opportunities across the state from local, county, state, or even federal campaigns or political committees.
94. Offer to use your own home for an upcoming event or meet and greet.
95. If you know a venue owner, ask if they can host events for the organization.
96. Invite people to your home for an “info session” to learn more about the organization or one of its campaigns.
97. Truth or Dare: If you are particularly bold, you could advertise an in-person or online event where, for a donation, you will do anything people ask. This could be as innocent as people asking you to sing, or asking you to try to stand on your head, or as dramatic as shaving your beard. For the “truth” side, you can handle this as an “ask me anything” event and encourage participants to keep it respectful or classy. Tell everyone in advance how far you’ll go for your charity. If this isn’t a good fit for you, maybe it is a good fit for a daredevil or bold friend? This can be fun, but set ground rules so you don’t disappoint.
98. Help identify event sponsors, media sponsors, or other support for an event.
99. Host a recurring or one-time game night with friends and make each round a split prize with the organization
100. Host a recurring happy hour (or meetup or salon) in your town, or online, where everyone pays $5 or $25 for the chance to network, meet new people, and/or hear presentations or educational programming.
101. Engage houses of worship or other community organizations to see if you can piggyback on one of the services by speaking or asking for support (pass the plate) at the end of their program.
102. Do you have some talent or know someone who does? I know a cabaret singer who livestreamed on Facebook every Friday during the pandemic and took requests to play songs. Viewers could pay him using Venmo or Paypal for every song performed. All the payments are donated to charity. This can work for other talents too.
103. Offer to help with any of the organization’s needs for galas, special events, recurring events, online events, or other events.
104. Zoom game night: Players pitch in $10 and host a virtual game night. There are many game options. My favorite is Jackbox. Investigate before you promote it. Spectators pitch in $5. Make it a recurring event.
105. If events are really your thing, here are a TON of ideas.
106. Create or sell merchandise with the organization’s brand on it.
107. Find an expert on anything and turn that expertise into paid online or offline classes. This could be expertise in law, wine-making, crocheting, or really anything.
108. Find an odd job or offer services for hire (consulting) to turn your time and talent into a paycheck that you donate.
109. Does your organization send a lot of referrals or online traffic to a business? Inquire about affiliate marketing. You could make passive income by using a dedicated link when people buy their services or products.
110. Perhaps you can individually evaluate the way the organization pays vendors or contractors and see if there are efficiencies to be found. For example, could the nonprofit save money by buying blocks of hours from a consultant or by paying upfront for a year of service? Having a dedicated person search for ways to save money on contracted services is a powerful way to save money.
111. Offer to be a role-play participant to demonstrate fundraising to the board.
112. Have board members look through this entire list on their own and generate additional ideas for your organization.