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How to raise more money in and beyond 2021

Group of Candid staff and partners walking around inside a library

I can’t give you MacKenzie Scott’s cell phone number or any magical tips to land on her grantmaking radar. But I can share wisdom we’ve gathered during our 60 Eskin Fundraising Training Non-Profit Empowerment Webinars featuring many of the sagest leaders in the fundraising and advancement fields on how to raise more money.

Let’s start on this upbeat note: For nonprofits adhering to principles, strategies, and best practices of the art and science of fundraising: there is plenty of private money being given away. Giving USA reported a record $471 billion was donated in 2020. Look at it this way: Nearly $1 million a minute is being given away.

There are no secrets to securing the much-needed resources your nonprofit so richly deserves to fulfill its noble mission.

On the most fundamental level: You set goals; train and energize staff, board, and volunteers; craft a distinctive appeal for support; tell your story at every possible opportunity; nurture genuine friendships; and ask!

There are a variety of strategies available to nonprofits. The most successful fundraisers will harness the power of several of them. Here’s my advice on steps to consider taking to start the ball rolling.

Fundraising starts at home. Get your staff and board members to commit to annual giving at personally significant levels, which will and should vary from individual to individual. You won’t have credibility soliciting others if the innermost circle of those who embrace the mission aren’t giving themselves.

Make monthly giving easy and visible. Erica Waasdorp, who I like calling the First Lady of Monthly Giving, highlights enormous returns on minimal investment—more giving, higher retention, and doors opening to major and planned gifts, to name just a few.

Make sure donor-advised funds (DAFs) are visible on your website and marketing materials. This is the most dynamic component of American philanthropy. Donors recommended 2 million grants that totaled $9.1 billion to 170,000 charities in 2020, according to Fidelity Charitable.

Continue to be creative with special events. Last year proved that donors will support causes without being fed rubber chickens. Nonprofits were successful in live streaming small events or simply sending impact videos to donors.

Talk about planned or legacy gifts. Don’t worry about complex models such as trusts. More than 90 percent of planned gifts come from charitable bequests, pension plans, or insurance policies. A mind-numbing $68 trillion baby boomer wealth transfer is getting underway.

Talk about gifts of stock. With so many stocks at historic highs, there are extraordinary capital gains tax advantages to be obtained.

You don’t have a board member to waste. If board members prefer not to ask, that’s okay. They can contribute mightily to fundraising results by helping to discover, cultivate, and steward donors and prospects. Other board members or staff can step in when the time is right to ask.

Don’t be afraid to request unrestricted gifts. MacKenzie Scott’s nearly $9 billion gift was all given unrestricted, recognizing that recipient organizations know best how to use the funds to advance their missions. We also saw many foundations relax restrictions on grants made in 2020 and provide more flexibility.

Focus on gifts from individuals. Sure, gifts from foundations and corporations are significant and welcome, but they only represent a sliver of the philanthropic pie. Gifts from individuals, bequests, and foundations represent a whopping 87 percent of American philanthropy, according to 2021 data from Giving USA.

Ask! You’re not asking for yourself, but to champion the concrete ways your nonprofits touch, improve, and save more lives. What’s the worst that can happen? You are turned down. Who doesn’t hear “no” every day of their lives? Many times, the “no” really means not now, not that much, or not for that project. There are no recorded fatalities or even casualties from an unfavorable solicitation.

We live in a world of varied and profound challenges to our quality of life, social justice, and a brighter future. These are just some of the numerous ways you can consider to raise more money for your favorite nonprofits and causes. No doubt you have other ideas that will produce positive outcomes. The common denominator is believing in the amazing generosity of people who live next door and who are all around us and being willing to ask for their gifts of time and money because your nonprofits and causes matter.


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