Revenue ABC’s- Jewelry to Relationships


In the last post we started our Revenue ABC’s with A is for Ask. We covered a lot of ground from planned giving to galas. The middle third of the alphabet is also full of tips and best practices. Let’s get started:

Jewelry– Gathering in-kind gifts for a silent auction is tricky. Often the gift does not appeal to many people leading to the final bid being substantially less than the retail value. Jewelry is one example, art is another. Accepting these donations can lead to an angry or hurt donor. Strategically asking for desirable items and developing gift acceptance policies before the gift is offered creates cover for the leader forced to say “no thank you.”

Kept secret – Many leaders refer to the nonprofit they lead as the best kept secret. Marketing is not just for corporations. Nonprofits need a strong brand and strategic marketing program focused on the organization’s mission. After all, donors support organizations they are aware of and believe in. Additionally, clients have few resources and cannot afford to spend them on an extended search for services.

Low-profit limited liability corporation (L3C)- The gap between for profit and nonprofit is shrinking as more and more states are passing laws creating L3C’s. Once an L3C is formed, it can provide services across the country. Often a nonprofit develops a L3C to take advantage of new revenue streams like foundation generated program related investments (PRI). An L3C can make a profit as long as it remains connected to its nonprofit mission, but it can not receive traditional grants or tax deductible charitable donations like 501(c)(3)’s.

Major gifts– One of the first questions leaders ask is what is considered a major gift. The answer is it depends on the organization. Instead of focusing on how to categorize it, leaders should develop a campaign to support client’s needs, meet with long term donors, and ask them to increase their gift to fund these essential services.

Numbers– More and more donors are asking nonprofit leaders to provide them with numbers to measure the return on their investment. For direct service, the number of people served is not enough. Instead, begin with the number of people needing services and end with the number of people succeeding thanks to the services the organization provides. Advocacy or social change is harder. If there is not a successful bill, begin with the number of people affected and end with the increased number of legislative leaders supporting the change or an expansion in the size of the coalition fighting for change.

Overhead– Some expenses are associated with the operation of specific programs, others are general and apply to the organization as a whole. Overhead and supervisory expenses should be allocated to each of the programs and services run by the organization. A program can not run without electricity for example. Some grants will not cover certain overhead expenses or only a certain percentage depending on the size of the program. Organizations need to allocate all of the program’s expenses even if a specific grant will not support them.

Private and public foundation-Foundations can be connected to a family, corporation, or group. A minimum of five percent of the foundation’s assets must be donated to charities every year. Many foundations determine the total amount to donate by averaging their assets’ value over three or five years. Foundations are required to file tax documents annually outlining where and how much they donate. Researching their activities at and tailoring your grant application to the foundation’s guidelines leads to more dollars for programs.

Don’t Quit-Successful leaders know that fundraising takes time and builds off of previous gifts. The hardest part is getting starting. Once the campaign is in gear, stay on track and continue talking to potential donors. Know that these efforts take time and don’t quit.  

 Relationships– Fundraising begins and ends with the relationships leaders build with donors and volunteers. Although a donor may believe in the mission, they are connected to the people. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is asking for money before they build the relationship.

Next post: Stocks, Thank you, and United Way.


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