Thyonne Gordon

  Thyonne Gordon


Every organization wants a stream of regular income. To get to that level of growth, nonprofits must rely on sustainable fundraising platforms. These allow organizations to bridge the gap from more traditional methods of fundraising, like special events and grants, into a progressive world of major gifts, taking their financial future into their own hands.

Achieving long-term sustainability in fundraising takes a plan of action, time, and hard work. Here are five important tips to get you started with sustainable fundraising.

Choose a Team

Who will work your plan is just as important as what the plan is. Include staff, board members, volunteers, and donors, as each brings expertise and perspective to draw from.

The leader of the initiative must understand team value and how to leverage the team’s variety.

Begin with the End in Mind

Know the direction your organization is headed in order to get there. A plan is simply a roadmap to take you to a certain destination. Ask questions to figure out your end goal.

What will people say about you in three to five years? How many constituents will you serve? What will it cost? What’s your ideal revenue map – one big donor or several smaller? How do you want donors to give? What are alternative funding methods?

When you’ve figured out your end game, you are on the way to your destination.

Define Your Point of Entry

Every plan must start somewhere. There is no right or wrong way to start. The best entry point is one that will have prompt and efficient action. This doesn’t always mean starting with what’s familiar; you may get more action venturing into the unknown. Don’t discount starting something new.

How and what you choose is not as important as deciding to do something. There will be plenty of mistakes but, certainly, the biggest mistake is not starting at all.

Adopt a Know Thy Donor Mantra

Blanket your plan with knowing your donors. Donor cultivation is the key to sustainable fundraising.

Big and small donors keep the organization alive. You probably send them massive amounts of information on you, but what do you know about them? Do they like what you’re sending? What is their learning modality: print, video, or audio? Would they prefer a large event or personal tour? Why are they interested in your work?

If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time to learn about your donors. Every donor is an individual campaign, so you must know as much about them as possible. This is the crux of sustainable fundraising, so make it a priority.

Think about your personal friends. The person who remembers your birthday, favorite color, likes and dislikes, is probably one of your best friends. You’d do just about anything for best friends. That is how you build a loyal donor base: know them and care for them as best friends and they will become your best asset.

Integrate the plan into the organization

Get everyone involved by making the plan a part of the daily workflow. Let everyone know they’re part of the plan. Communication is key to getting support. Everyone wants to be included when a winning proposition is presented, so make sure your team knows you’re launching a winner!

These tips should give you a great start to sustainable fundraising. One final tip: Document everything. Store your data in a secure database program that allows you to keep track of successful and failed campaigns and connections with donors and volunteers. When you know what works, do more of it. When you see what’s failed, tweak, change, or eliminate it completely.

There are many paths to sustainable fundraising, just as there are many ways to receive these gifts. As you seek funding – unrestricted, major gifts, capital, or endowment funds – know that with a plan of action and a little help from cultivated relationships, you can achieve great things.

Dr. Thyonne Gordon is an accomplished social profit management expert, writer and producer. Her work with nonprofit organizations and youth development has empowered hundreds of organizations nationwide by creating growth-oriented businesses, strong board governance, productive teams and sustainable fundraising strategies using her proven technique of the S.T.O.R.Y. Accelerator™.

This article is reprinted from Issue #8 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!

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