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32 Ways to Reduce Fundraising Expenses

by Hope Primas

Fund-raising is a way of life in the nonprofit world. In fact, it IS life, because your programs will not survive without some form of funding.

No matter what program or service you offer, you must raise money to support it.

Think about it for a minute. How many fund-raising letters do you send? How many hours do you spend on grant writing? How much money do you spend on staff, brochures and pledge cards? Postage? Supplies? Office equipment? Donor awards? Food? Travel? How much did it cost you to run your last special event? You have the picture. Now let's get to the savings.

Reducing your fund-raising costs isn't going to be easy. Chances are that you already practice a few of these tips, feel some of them do not fit your organization, or simply don' not think it is worth the time.

The trick is to find a few that you can manage to do without too much trouble. Don't worry about whether the savings will amount to much. What is important is to lower your fund-raising costs without comprising your fundraising effectiveness. That is how you can reap the benefits.

Of course, it is important to consider that some methods will mean rethinking the way you fundraise and some will be about making a more conscious effort to save money. For the best results, incorporate some of each into your fund-raising and see which ones are helpful.

  1. Clarify your Mission: Make sure that your mission statement is simple, clear, and relevant. The more specific and intelligent you explain your mission and specifically why you need the funds, the easier it will be for you to attract the support you need.

  2. Have a fund-raising plan: Make sure your fund-raising goal is sensible and your plan is workable before you launch your campaign. Have you planned out how much money you need to raise? For what purpose? By when? How many volunteers do you need? In how much detail?

  3. Don't freeze your campaign with cold calling. If you look at many fund-raising campaigns, they approach prospects the old fashion way: cold calls. A few drawbacks of producing leads by cold calling: time-consuming, low donor rate, lowers morale, and rejection.

    However, the biggest drawback of them all is the overall high cost of fund-raising and low revenue produced from cold calling. Cold calling is the MOST expensive form of fund-raising.

    As you may already know, it is a lot easier to ask a previous donor to give than to ask a stranger. The reason is simple. People usually do not give to unknown organizations. They give to organizations that they' have given to before. They give to organization's they have heard of, communicated with before. They give to organizations they can trust. This is true particular true for foundations these days. Even when they do give to unknown organizations, they are still giving to organizations they have some relationship; for instance, someone they know asked them to give. The stronger the relationship, the more likely they will give.

  4. Know your prospects. The effectiveness of your fund-raising investment is related to targeting your campaigns. The more targeted your fund-raising campaign, the lower your cost of fund-raising. For larger prospects, prospect research is important. It often uncovers: shared values, how much they are able to give, prospective donors' friends and associates who can help get them involved in your nonprofit

  5. Top down, inside out. Start with donors closest to your organization: Start at the top with your Board members (foundations expect 100 percent participation) and work your way down to volunteers and staff. Then, work from the inside: current and former donors, parents, vendors, and those who have benefited from your services. Next, work your way outside your organization: neighborhood businesses, community foundations, corporations with local headquarters, local leaders and politicians, those that should give, but were never asked, and local, state, and federal grant makers.

  6. Clean your donor list. The number one ingredient to successful fund-raising is the quality of your prospect list. Keep the addresses and phone numbers up-to-date. Remove the names of the deceased and bad addresses. Don't wait for a fund-raising drive to do this.

  7. Stop following up on prospects who do not return your phone calls. You have done your follow up three, maybe five times and nothing s happened. Don't waste your time on prospects who don't intend to give. It is not that they're bad people, in most cases prospects don not want to hurt your feelings by telling you something that might disappoint you. Instead, they give you the runaround. Give them and you a break. Move on to the next prospect.

  8. Enlist volunteers you can count on. A volunteer with name recognition is not enough. You need volunteers who will do what they say they will do. If you have a volunteer who doesn't show up for meetings and isn't asking for money, that volunteer is costing you money. Make sure you have a job description that you review with every volunteer and they understand the commitment. And, emphasis how important their commitment is to the cause.

  9. Train your staff and volunteers. The bottom line is this: a well-informed and educated board member and volunteer asking for donations is your most important resource for effective fundraising.

  10. Make Yourself Newsworthy. A mention of your nonprofit in the right media can help deliver your fund-raising message in a low cost manner.

  11. Explore joint fund-raising efforts. Joint fund-raising efforts are too powerful for nonprofits to ignore. Forging an alliance with a group of small organizations or a large organization can give your fund-raising and marketing plan the ultimate bang for the buck. A joint fund-raising effort will lower your costs, enabling you to find new donors and create new volunteer opportunities.

  12. Maximize Referrals. The most cost-effective method of reaching new donors is by referrals from current donors and clients. A satisfied client telling others about your program is more effective than any fancy ad campaign. Spend time to get donor and client referrals weekly.

  13. Network. Try networking your organization with other nonprofits whose client base is similar to yours. You could trade leads or mailing lists. This will cut down on your marketing and advertising costs.

  14. Ask for in-kind donations. Donating can give companies a federal income tax deduction plus free up warehouse space and avoid damage to the brand, says National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that has collected and redistributed over $2 billion worth of donated supplies since 1977. If you run a nonprofit, you should be asking for in-kind donations. Asking businesses for in-kind donations usually need little or no money.

  15. Wholesale/Bulk. You will save money buying your fund-raising supplies--stationery in bulk quantities. Coordinate buys with other departments. You could get a membership at a wholesale warehouse or buy them through a mail order wholesaler.

  16. Free/Discounted Stuff. You should try visiting the thousands of freebie/used sites on the internet before buying your nonprofit's supplies. You can find free software, graphics, online nonprofit's services etc. For instance, Craigslist, a national internet site, posts hundreds of ads for various goods and services every day.

  17. Borrow/Rent. Have you ever bought equipment you only needed during a fund-raising campaign or for a small period of time? One example is a Power Point projector. You could have just borrowed the equipment from someone else or rented the projector from a rent-all store.

  18. Online/Offline Auctions. You can find lower prices on nonprofit's supplies and equipment at online and off-line auctions. I am not saying all the time, but before you go pay retail for these items try bidding on them first.

  19. Plan. Make a list of supplies or equipment you will need in the future. Keep an eye out for stores that have big sales. Buy the supplies when they go on sale before you need them.

  20. Negotiate. You should always try negotiate a lower price for any equipment or supplies. It does not hurt to try. Pretend you are talking to a salesperson at a car lot.

  21. Search. You can always be searching for new suppliers for your supplies, goods, services, and equipment. Look for vendors with lower prices and better quality. Do not just be satisfied with a few.

  22. Standardize. The key to reducing cost is to remove complexity. Do so by standardising wherever you can. No matter what needs to be done, do it in a standard, repeatable way. By doing so, you cut out error, ensure that everything advances consistently and take control of your fund-raising costs.

  23. Outsource. We don't mean overseas. What we do mean is to consider qualified consultants and virtual assistants. Directly hiring people has expenses over and above salary and fringe benefits. Some contract agencies have experience in work that you can't afford to keep, without the long-standing costs like benefits, retirement, and office space. They can also bring experience that would take you years of heartburn to develop in-house.

  24. Be Smart with Credit Card Options. If you accept Credit Card donations, shop for the lowest rate merchant account. Your local bank or Yellow Pages may not be the best choice. Check the Internet for the Lowest Rate merchant account. You will be surprised how many good deals and reliable merchant accounts you will find. Many merchant services provide free terminals, waive set-up and application fees. You can save much money by doing quick and easy search on the Internet.

  25. Change Your Credit Merchant Options. If your website doesn't get tons of online donations, then chances are you do not need a merchant account. These can be costly, and probably will not pay for itself unless you have many online donations. But instead of losing donations by not accepting credit cards, you can use other choices such finding vendors that offer lower-priced online donation tools.

  26. Reduce Your Use of Mail. Increase Your Use of Email While the US Postal System, FedEx, and other major carriers do a grand job delivering for small businesses, these services can get quite expensive, particularly if you use them regularly or ship bulk materials. Cutting out paperwork can make filing easier, save on staff, and cut your postage costs. If you do convert your business records and transactions to virtual transactions, however, be sure to keep duplicate records. You can get accounts through sites likes Yahoo! and Google to store business emails online free. You should also create a ghost copy of your hard drive to back up critical data.

  27. Negotiate Costs with Vendors and Clients Whenever Possible - Don't Be Shy. Just because your nonprofit doesn't qualify for bulk discounts does not mean you cannot use your status as a lean and mean organization to your benefit. You may be able to get better deals on supplies by paying early, agreeing to a long-term contract with a supplier, or simply by hard-nosed negotiating. Frankly, one of the best ways to get a good deal is simply to ask. Know your market prices before you make offers - you obviously want to neither insult vendors nor overpay. To negotiate better, read books on the psychology of negotiation.

  28. Look for the opportunity to save money on phone bills, Internet Services. Find the provider, who offers unlimited local and long distance calls for flat monthly fee. For those who travel, cell phone, calling card can save a lot of money on phone bills.

  29. Change Your Calling Options. What are you paying for long distance phone calls? Depending on the company, it's possible that you could save hundreds per year if you switched to another. Because of stiff competition, you should be able to go online and find the perfect rate for your needs. And if you hold many business meetings on the phone, don't forget to check into teleconferencing or web conferencing as a less expensive solution!

  30. Change Your Internet Options. The days are gone when you have to pay a fortune for an ISP server. Besides the big boys, there are a great many smaller ISPs that will just as good of a job if not better for your business. The key is negotiation and research. Start by looking online by typing in search terms as affordable ISP, and cheap Internet Service. Once you have found a few, begin to compare rates and services.

  31. Learn From Other Successful Nonprofits. By forging relationships with other like-minded fundraisers, you will at the same time network and get feedback on key tactical issues which may arise as you move forward with your campaign plan. You may be entitled to a multitude of excellent in-kind donations. You may also qualify for discounts at bulk big box retailers like Costco and Sam's Club. Subscribe to trade journals to find discounts and tips to get around fees and other expenses.

  32. Remember, it is great when you can cut the large expenses, but that's not always possible. Do not forget the small stuff, too!

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    About the Author:

    How to reduce your fundraising expenses Copyright 2008, Hope Primas, Principal, Hope Primas & Associates-

    All rights reserved worldwide. Reprint only with permission from copyright holder. All trademarks are property of their respective owners. All contents provided as is. No express or implied income claims made herein. Your fundraising success is dependent on many factors, including your own abilities.

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