Some nonprofit and charitable organizations rely solely on grants, while others rely on donations from generous supporters. Most, however, create budgets that rely on both while focusing specifically on fundraising. Fundraising events, donor solicitations and business partnerships or sponsorships are all an important part of a nonprofit’s success.

Before Starting to Raise Money

All states have charitable registrations that regulate fundraising activities. This may be a part of a state-governed agency or a statewide network of charities and foundations. Many states require charitable nonprofits and fundraising consultants to register before the nonprofit begins to solicit money. Another law to keep in mind is whether or not the organization already has tax-exempt status or needs a fiscal sponsorship. The difference mostly lies in filing financial reports and keeping different financial records.

There are many different ways to raise money. Depending on the nonprofit’s audience, the organization may want to focus on different demographics when asking for donations.

Involve Children

A charity or nonprofit that focuses on children, for example, can have events like carnivals, street fairs, talent shows, dance-a-thons, holiday-themed events and more. These organizations can immediately show the difference they make in the community. Partnering with other similar organizations to collect data and “success stories” is key.

Major Donors

Other organizations may find better success in targeting an older crowd, holding events like silent auctions, small dinners and cocktail parties, galas and other similar social occasions. Successful community leaders and stakeholders can often act as “major donors” for an organization. The first step in engaging these people is to identify them, research their motivations and interests and then start building relationships with them.

After establishing a relationship with a potential major donor, start the “ask.” The best way to do this is to show donors what their money, time and support can achieve through the organization. Numbers are important for this. It is key to be able to say: “This amount of money will be able to do this amount of good.” A large component of the organization-major donor relationship is trust. These people must trust that the organization will achieve what it promises. Follow-up is also key to success concerning major donors. Following up after they have made the donation with a thank you gift, card or phone call will keep them “warm” to the organization and hopefully compel them to keep giving in the future.


Like any fundraising relationship, cultivating corporate sponsors starts with relationship building. Find businesses and corporations that are local to the organization. It’s an easier sell when talking about “their own backyard.” Also, know what kind of business fits best with the work that the charity or nonprofit does.

Personal relationships are key to success in this area. Members of the organization or board may have personal relationships with bigger companies that would be more interested in giving because of their personal connection.