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Grassroots Fundraising:
Fundraising Tips

by Doug Nash

Keep in mind the three primary reasons for having fundraisers.

  • To raise funds (this allows you to operate and buy equipment to that end),
  • to attract attention to your message and organization and
  • to bring people together (to socialize and have some entertainment)


Where possible presell. By collecting the money (or a large portion of it) before spending it or even committing yourself to spending it, you minimize the financial risk to your organization.


Not all members can contribute financially or donate their time regularly. Another option to persue is a Members Resource List. This list is to inform the organizations executive committee what they can contribute and when. They may be able to provide professional skills, ie legal, accountancy, public relations, computer, etc.

The list is compiled by asking the members to voluntarily communicate to the executive committee what resource they are prepared to offer and in which circumstances the committee can ask for their assistance.

The executive committee holds this list in confidence and refers to it at the appropriate time.

This list can be of equal value as money and time.


Where possible try to chose fundraising activities that have the widest possible appeal. Your members will provide a base from which you can operate. However by choosing fundraising activities that attract funds from friends and the business communities you can expand your budget, operations, have a better chance of attracting attention to your message from a wider audience and have more fun in the process.


You can raise funds in three ways. Firstly with lots of small contributions adding up to the desired total, large donations or a central fundraising activity providing the major part of your annual, or lastly a combination of the two.

What you do should be based on your resources, number and type of members, your community and the enthusiasm that be generated.


Enthusiasm is your best resource, without enthusiasm everything will become a chore. The lower the enthusiasm the harder it will be to achieve even the smallest target.


When choosing a fundraising activity, remember that volunteers will perform better if they are enjoying what they are doing or feel what they are doing is successful and making a difference.

They will enjoy what they are doing if there is either an element of fun or success. People won't mind being a little put out or even bored if they can see that what they are doing is helping achieve the goal of the organization.

Donors always want something in return for their funds or time. If this is just the knowledge that they have helped a good cause: great. However this is rarely the case.

Do your homework!!! It is your responsibility, as the fund-raiser, to know what the donors will consider to be a worthwhile return for their donation or sacrifice.

Think about who you are asking to donate time, goods or money. Why are they donating and what is it they want in return? The reasons can be infinite in number and surprising in simplicity. From public recognition to a simple thank you.


At times your only goal will be to raise funds, when this is the case your best option to simply ask for money donations. You can accomplish this by donation receptacles, letter campaign, door knock or any other form of straight out request.

You should simply put your reasons why you need the money, how you plan to spend the monies raised and the benefits of spending the monies in the planned manner. Remember if the cause was good enough to attract your support then it is worthwhile enough to attract the support of others.

By a simple and planned approach to asking for money donations, you will not have the expenses of a special event. This allows you to use more of the money raised on your end project.


When approaching local businesses or major sponsors, a direct request may not meet with the desired result, so before you ask consider the alternative of asking for gifts in kind, ie ask the donor to donate something in relation to their businesses, asking an airline for free tickets or a local sports store to donate sports goods to be raffled or auctioned.


Helpers will find it easier to sell tickets in a raffle or to a good event than to ask for a cash donation.

Fundraising events can offer more than just a way to raise money.

They offer ways of building an organization no matter how small to begin with. Events bring people together socially and with a shared belief.

These events can offer people a chance to develop new skills or a sense of achievement. Friendships are born on a common cause and businesses can network while giving back to the community.


The back bone of a successful fundraising activity is the combination of two points: planning and commitment of those involved.

Copying an activity that was successful for some other group does not provide you with a guarantee of similar success if there is not the similar planning and commitment.

The decision on which activity is right for should be based on your circumstances, strengths and weaknesses not those of others.

Pick the wrong event for the wrong reasons and you could end wasting the efforts of your group and make it harder, if not impossible to enroll their support next time.


Keeping up-front costs low reduces the risk and keeping costs low overall will help the profitability of the activity. By following a few simple steps you may find it easier than you think to reduce the risks.

Make a list of exactly what you need then try to have as much as possible donated.

If you can't have it donated then next step is to borrow or rent. Buy only when you have to. When renting or buying make sure you do you homework. Find out all the places that offer what you need and at what cost. This way you will be able to make an informed choice and may end up saving quite a bit of money that you are trying to raise.

When buying, find out if your organization qualifies for a sales tax exemption or government assistance.

From commercial suppliers inquire if you can buy on consignment, ie only buy what you use and return the rest. There are many commercial companies that either cater strictly for fundraising groups or have developed ways of offering assistance.

It is up to you to ask around and find these or any other method of keeping costs, fixed and up-front, to a minimum to help the success of the fund-raiser. Be patient and don't be afraid to ask for special discounts, deals or treatment.


Another way you can help the success of the fundraising event is to ensure your time and expenses are used as efficiently as possible by running as many events simultaneously as possible.

Concentrate your efforts by having different raffles, auctions, stalls operating at the same time as possible.

By reducing the admission price, if you have one, you will attract more people, more people who will spend more once you get them to attend.

Ask other organizations to join in and share the risks as well as the profits.

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About the Author:

Doug Nash lives in Logan City in Queensland, Australia. He has graciously consented to share a fundraising idea with us every month. Although many of the ideas aren't new, each of them has a unique flair that comes from being developed and refined half a world away from ours.

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