Revenue ABC’s – Ask to Individual Giving


Raising revenue is getting more and more confusing. In fact some colleges are now offering courses on fundraising strategies and opportunities. It is easy for leaders to feel overwhelmed. Let’s start at the very beginning with some ABC’s.

Ask-no matter what kind of gift you are seeking, or who you are approaching you will not receive any money unless you ask. Even the most dedicated donor does not know what the organization needs if leaders don’t have a concise and informative ask. Sometimes the first ask is not successful, but that does not mean leaders should stop asking.

Bequest – A bequest is a gift from a will. There are other kinds of planned gifts. Many are complicated, but the majority are bequests. There are two essential elements of a bequest: Identifying a donor that has a passion for the organization and whose family situation makes a planned gift realistic AND a will. Surprisingly, the best planned gift candidates are usually not major donors.

Corporate Giving– The Great Recession hit corporate giving hard but many gifts are flowing again. Corporate giving often begins in the corporate responsibility department or foundation. Many nonprofits are also finding funds in the corporation’s marketing department. Although these funds may look the same the donor’s goals are very different. Successful nonprofits build connections to the corporation’s employees and shape their ask depending on which type of funds they are seeking.

Donor Advised Funds– Community foundations and investment firms offer donor advised funds as part of their investment portfolios. Many donors are opening donor advised funds instead of creating family foundations. Unlike family foundations, it is much harder to research the gift history of donors using donor advised funds. This lack of knowledge requires nonprofit leaders to build stronger relationships that allow conversation to flow.

Endowment– One of the first earned income strategies, an endowment can mean stability but it can also tie leaders’ hands. Interest from endowments can fund yearly expenses but the principle is usually saved for large capital projects.

Federal, state and local government revenue– Many nonprofits receive government grants to fund services and programs once offered directly by government departments. Although the checks may be in the hundreds of thousands, these grants rarely cover supervisory, administrative, and fundraising costs. Additionally, the landscape is littered with nonprofits unable to continue services due to the delay in payment or once the grant is concluded.

Gala/special events– Many leaders think of the large event or gala as a revenue stream but it is really a tool to develop individual giving and corporate gifts. A gala may look successful until leaders consider staff planning time and other direct and indirect gala expenses. A smaller event targeting major donors often raises critical funds using less staff resources.

Heart-In this age of increased need and limited funds, it is easy to expand the mission rather than diligently search for the right grant or gift to fund essential programs. Many organizations have ill-defined missions that leave leaders with little direction. The goal of a strategic plan is to identify the organization’s niche building a pathway to the programs defined in the organization’s heart.

Individual giving– Many, many leaders mistakenly believe that the source of the majority of nonprofit revenue is government, corporate or foundation grants. In fact, 75% of all revenue flows from individuals. Additionally, it is not just wealthy individuals who make essential donations; many with smaller incomes donate a larger percentage of their wealth. These gifts rarely require a long grant application or limitations on how the funds are allocated. 

Next blog post, Jewelry, Kept secret, and the LLLC.


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