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5 fundraising ideas to start the year off strong

A man wrangling a money balloon

Exhale. You worked hard to meet last year’s fundraising goals, and now you’re able to look ahead at a new year filled with new possibilities.  

For many nonprofits, donation data consistently spikes in October, November, and December and declines in January and February. If this is true for your organization, don’t let a slower start to the year discourage you from getting a head start on achieving your annual goals.  

To help start your year off strong, consider prioritizing these five fundraising ideas today.

1. Start with stewardship

Research suggests that meaningful donor connections with nonprofit organizations are a key factor in determining their giving patterns. So think about how you can use this time of year to focus on donor stewardship and relationship-building. An easy way to get started on this fundraising idea: Thank the folks that gave to your cause last year and invite them to get more involved.

Consider showing your donors some love by:

  • Calling new or recurring donors (or asking your board for help) to express your gratitude for their support. 
  • Mailing thank-you, birthday, or holiday cards, signed by your staff or volunteers. 
  • Creating short, personalized thank you videos to share with supporters. 
  • Personally emailing your annual report to donors or funders and describing how their support was central to your success.
  • Hosting a donor appreciation event to celebrate your community of supporters. 
  • Sending custom receipts recapping donors’ 2022 gifts to make tax season easier.

2. Plan for annual giving

In addition to cultivating donor relationships year-round, you should also plan activities to solicit annual gifts throughout the year. This multi-channel approach not only helps diversify your funding streams. It also provides your donors with various, personalized giving options throughout the year. 
Here’s how you can get started on this fundraising idea:

  • Begin by diving into your fundraising data and analyzing the giving history of your donors. From there, seek to segment donors in your database based on their interests, preferences, and past giving behavior, like gift amounts and timing. That way, you can target and tailor your fundraising communications and activities to personally appeal to your supporters.
  • Use these insights to inform your nonprofit’s year-round fundraising activities. These can include recurring giving options; crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising; seasonal campaigns or giving day appeals, like Giving Tuesday; mission-driven fundraising events; and retention- and upgrade-driven incentives, like an invitation to join a donor club.

3. Prioritize prospect research

If you’re looking to secure more grants this year, dedicate time now to research prospective funders for the year ahead. After all, getting a grant can take anywhere from six to 12 months, so doing regular research to add new funding prospects into your annual fundraising plan is key.  
Here are some ways you can find and get in front of new funders:

  • Attend a “Meet the Funders” panel in your community or ask to take a local funder out to coffee to learn more about their organization and funding priorities. 
  • Learn what resources your local community foundation, nonprofit resource center, or library may offer to help you find and connect with new funders, including free access to Candid’s tools and resources. (Find a Candid Community partner near you.) 
  • Use Candid’s Foundation Directory to identify and conduct in-depth research on prospective funders, such as those that provide grants to nonprofits like yours, based on issue areas, geography, and/or populations served. (Find out if you qualify for a free year of Foundation Directory as part of our Go for the Gold program.) 

4. Build your social capital

Your professional network can be invaluable to your career and organization’s fundraising success. In fact, research confirms that a person’s level of social capital is often linked to their level of philanthropic activity. This means it’s a good idea to regularly build time into your schedule to stay connected with your network and cultivate relationships with new and existing supporters. 
Here are just a few ways to put this fundraising idea into practice:

  • Get involved with local affinity groups, such as Association of Fundraising Professionals, Chambers of Commerce, and/or nonprofit boards that align with your work or area of expertise. 
  • Connect with people on social media platforms, like Facebook or LinkedIn. Pro tip: Consider using Foundation Directory’s built-in LinkedIn integration to find and connect with funders who might be a good fit for your cause. 
  • Join in-person or online groups or even sign up for a social club, where you can expand your network by participating in a fun activity, like roller skating.  
  • You can also use Candid’s GuideStar to find other nonprofits in your geographic region or ones that are doing similar work as you that might make good potential partners.

5. Invest in your fundraising skills

There’s never a bad time to prioritize professional development, so start thinking about putting together a plan based on your career goals. Pro tip: If your organization offers a professional development budget, don’t let those dollars go to waste— use them. Additionally, many organizations in the social sector provide learning or training opportunities to participate in — at little to no cost.  
Take your fundraising skills to the next level by:

With a solid fundraising plan and year-long activities, you can rest assured that you’re setting your organization up for a successful year ahead.  
Please feel free to share your own fundraising ideas and stories below, and thank you for all the work you do every day to help our communities thrive! 


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  • Ma. Marisela says:

    January 2, 2024 1:55 pm

    Dear Krista,

    Thanks a lot for sharing these key recommendations in order to start the year off strong. All of them are very important and it is necessary to include them in our plan for this year.
    I am in Mexico, recently joined as part of the Fundraising team for a University, and I am knowing about Candid.
    Happy New Year!