Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits
It’s no secret that every nonprofit needs funding. When your organization has ample resources, you can develop strong programs and pay staff competitive salaries. You can build the reserves you need to get through emergencies, invest in new initiatives, respond to opportunities, and continue to make an impact for your community long into the future.
Our consulting team here at NFF specializes in financial management and strategy. While we aren’t fundraising specialists, we do know that there are many places where finance and fundraising intersect. In that spirit, we’ve collected a set of resources from NFF and beyond in a new Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits, which we hope will be helpful to you in building a fundraising strategy that supports your financial goals.
With ample funding, nonprofits can invest in the staff, leadership, technology, programs, and impact evaluation they need to provide the vital services that support thriving communities. Yet one of the most consistent challenges nonprofit organizations face is raising enough money to sustain their work and cover their full costs.
NFF offers support to nonprofit leaders navigating this system, with a focus on financial management and strategy. While we aren’t fundraising consultants, we recognize that fundraising and finance intersect in many ways, including:
- Navigating highly restricted funding requirements
- Forecasting revenue in the face of high levels of uncertainty
- Telling your financial story
- Advocating for funders to provide unrestricted funding and fund the full costs of your work
Nonprofit leaders, we hope you find these resources useful as you plan your next fundraising campaign, build your next budget, or prepare for your next funder meeting.
Topics on this page include:
- Getting ready for fundraising
- Advocating for the funding you need
- Resources for funders
- Resources for grant seekers
- Resources for individual giving
- Other ways to raise funds
- Incorporating fundraising into your budget
Getting ready for fundraising
These resources can help you plan your fundraising strategy so you're set up for success before you even begin fundraising.
- Setting and Executing Nonprofit Fundraising Goals: A Guide (Boardsource)
- How to Apply for Grants in Simple Steps (Love to Know)
- Gift Acceptance Policies (National Council of Nonprofits)
- Budgeting for Restrictions (NFF blog)
- What You Need to Know About Quid Pro Quo Donations (Classy)
- Glossary of nonprofit finance terms and concepts (NFF)
Advocating for the funding you need
Nonprofits don’t just need funding for programs; they need to pay staff salaries, build net assets, and invest in the infrastructure they need to serve their communities long into the future. Yet advocating for this funding can be challenging in a system that has long perpetuated the myths that nonprofits shouldn't have surpluses and that “overhead is bad.”
These resources can help nonprofit leaders identify and advocate for the funding that will support the full costs of their operations.
- Full Cost: naming and claiming the resources you need to run a successful organization (NFF webpage)
- Telling Your Financial Story (NFF webinar)
- Best Practices for Nonprofit Financial Health (NFF blog)
- Is Diversification of Revenue Good for Nonprofit Financial Health? (Nonprofit Quarterly)
- How fundraising can be truly, authentically joyful (Nonprofit AF)
Funders, when nonprofits advocate for the funding that they really need... how will you respond?
Visit our Resources for Funders page to hear directly from nonprofits – and find easy actions you can take today to make the nonprofit sector more equitable.Resources for Funders
Resources for grant seekers
Grants are a primary source of income for many nonprofits. But acquiring them isn’t easy – especially for nonprofits that don’t have full-time grantwriters on staff. Whether you’re writing a grant application for the first time or seeking ways to streamline your process, these resources will help you find opportunities, write strong proposals, and get the funding you need to achieve your missions.
- Grants Space – Sample Documents (Candid – create a free account to view or download)
- Grantwatch (nationwide grant opportunities)
- Grant tracker for women, non-binary, and trans, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ leaders (Funding for Social Change)
- Grant Search Tools and Writing Resources (California Grants Portal)
- Five Tips for Reading a Foundation’s 990 (Fractured Atlas)
Resources for individual giving
Whether you’re planning a year-end campaign or thinking through how to make individual giving a key part of your fundraising strategy, these resources can help you bring donors into your mission.
- Start with an internet search. Search your potential supporter’s name in quotes and add “donation” to see who they have supported in the past and at what level. This will help you determine whether they could be interested in supporting you!
- Check the FEC database. Seeing the political contributions a prospective donor has made can also help you figure out whether their interests are aligned with your mission.
- Leverage LinkedIn. LinkedIn is another great tool for figuring out how many connections you and your board have to a particular donor.
- Explore donor databases. Databases like Donor Search collect useful information about potential supporters in one place. But they can be expensive! One workaround: use the free tools above to assemble a list of prospects, then use a free trial or demo period to do more substantive research at little to no cost to your organization. Another option: check with your local library to see if they have any research database licenses you can access through them.
- Introduction to Individual Giving (Candid webinar)
- FAQ and application: Nonprofit Marketing Mail (USPS)
- Discounted services for payment processing (TechSoup)
- Giving Tuesday Toolkit for Nonprofits (Giving Tuesday)
- Smart Guide to Strong Year-End Giving (Classy)
Other ways to raise funds
Beyond grant capital and individual donors, there are many ways to raise revenue for your organization. While not every nonprofit needs a diverse revenue stream (this article lays out some of the pros and cons) it's always helpful to know your options. Here are some resources about other ways to raise funds for your organization.
- Best Practices for Nonprofit Boards: Collaborate When Addressing Finances and Think Full Cost (NFF videos)
- Fundamental Topics of Board Service (BoardSource)
- Corporate Sponsorship (National Council of Nonprofits)
- Employee matches, in-kind gifts, and government grants (Candid)
- NFF note: Government grants, which are often paid to nonprofits after they run programs, are particularly tricky to plan around. Our cash flow planning webinar and supplementary tools can help you track when government funding comes in and goes out of your organization.
Incorporating fundraising into your budget
Your nonprofit’s budget can serve as the backbone of your organization and a compass for its future. These resources are meant to help you identify where fundraising fits into your overall financial picture.
Audits vs. Reviews vs. Compilations
Blog post for for nonprofits that wish to verify their financials through a CPA
Board-Designated Reserves vs. Endowments
Blog detailing the benefits of board-designated reserves for greater flexibility and control
Nonprofit Budgeting Scenario Planning Tool
Excel tool to predict risks and plan for scenarios beyond your current budget
Managing through Economic Uncertainty
Articles and practical tools to help you navigate a turbulent economy
Nonprofit Budgets: How to Get Started
Mini video series about building your first budget, including a sample budget template
Place-Based Partnership Toolkit
Resources for building, staffing, funding, and maintaining place-based partnerships