Raising Money

As election results sink in and so many are asking what now, one answer is to support those nonprofits that work in the areas likely to be most affected:  health care, immigration, gay rights, racism, sexism, real news, and so on.  But the list is long and one cannot support every worthy group.  As too often happens, inertia sets in. I don’t know what to do, so I do nothing.

Then, I get an email asking me to support the work of this or that organization.  A good untitledorganization.  One I’ve considered supporting, but somehow haven’t.  This isn’t the first ask from the organization—it may not even be the second or fifth.  But this time, I click on the Donate button and become a supporter.

They get my support because I do believe in their cause; and—mainly—they made it very easy for me to do what I wanted to do.

That last is really important.  Too often we (and especially our board members) caution against asking too often.  A one-time ask, however, often ends up at the edge of the desk, the bottom of the email list.  All good intentions aside, too often that means that the prospect never becomes a donor and the donor never re-ups their gift.

It’s no secret that the single largest reason for not making a charitable gift is that no one asked.  But a very close second is the fact that no one asked often enough.

Beyond asking, of course, an organization has to give you reason to support them. An ask should not just be a request with your palm up, it should also be a handshake showing the prospective donor what their gift will do. How well an organization does this often depends on their size.

It is hard for small nonprofits to raise money.  They don’t have the visibility, the prospect pools, the staff or board to go out and ask people to support the work they do.  Too often, because of that, giving to a small organization is hard work.

Large organizations, on the other hand, are often in the news, highlighted in the lists of organizations to support, have the resources—cash and staff—to reach out in a variety of way, and have board members with long tentacles that they are willing to use. And so, each year, they raise more money, become stronger and more likely to increase their fundraising results.

The rest of us, the more than 80% who have operating budgets of under $1,000,000—and especially the almost 70% of all public charities whose budgets are under $500,000—struggle to stay open and impact their communities in measurable ways.  And yet, they do.

If you work at a small organization, know that making it easier for your donors to give will, in turn, make it easier for you to make a difference for your cause and/or your clients.

Making it easier for them, no doubt, will at the start make it harder for you.  Saying you are too busy to do anything different will not allow for the change that more than ever is needed.

When you feel like despairing, about the world, the problems your clients and your organization face, don’t fall into the trap of letting inertia take over.  Think how you can make it easier for those who know about you to make a gift; and what you can do to make more people know about you.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping to move them from mired to inspired.  She can help you make supporting your organization easier for donors and to increase your fundraising results.  Go to www.janetlevineconsulting.com to learn more or email Janet at Janet@JanetLevineConsulting.com.