In the eternal pursuit for funding, it is tempting for community groups to rely on just one or two fundraising methods to bring in all or most of their funds. But groups that fail to diversify their funding base are ignoring one of the most important keys to sustainability. Ensuring that you obtain funds from several sources means that you reduce the damage done if one of these sources falls though or dries up.
Below we've listed the top 10 methods you can go about fundraising. Think about these methods and how they fit in with your own group's strategy. Are you doing all of these things? Could you be doing them better?
Tip 1 – Grants
Grants are ideal if you have a project you wish to get funded. Tens of billions of dollars in grants funding is provided each year. However, you need to be clear about what you want and how the grants process operates in order to ensure your organisation gets its fair share. A common mistake is for a group to assume they can simply get a grant for that new computer or piece of technology. Grants are rarely given for objects. They are usually given to groups who agree to carry out a specific project or program. Remember this when making applications. For more information, see our grantseeking basics and writing a grant application help sheets.
Tip 2 – Get the grants scoop
Now that you understand more about grants, it’s time to go searching. The Funding Centre provides a constant updates on all the grants available for your not-for-profit group. You can search almost 3000 live grants on the comprehensive grants database, while the monthly EasyGrants newsletter and daily or weekly alerts include a customised grants listing, as well as news, ideas, and tools. There are even a number of books, including Winning Grants Funding in Australia - The Step by Step Guide that will help you lay the foundations of a sustainable and diverse fundraising program.
Tip 3 – Rotary
Rotary clubs can be a good source of funding for community projects. The catch is you need to know a Rotarian. Generally, unsolicited proposals do not succeed as you need a member to nominate your cause and support it through the approval process. There are about 1400 Rotary Clubs across Australia and most members are heavily involved in the community, so there's a good chance one of them is a member of your group or its board – or knows someone who is. When submitting your proposal, it’s a good idea to present a detailed budget, display your commitment to the cause and show how the project meets their objectives.
Tip 4 – Online donations
In this technological age, ignoring online fundraising means you are ruling yourself out of an ever-increasing slice of the funding pie. The good news is it costs your group little more than a bit of time and effort to get started. GiveNow, an initiative of Our Community, is an online donations service that is offered free to any Australian community group, regardless of size, purpose or tax status. It charges no commissions for processing donations and passes on 100% of donations to your group (less standard, typically reduced credit processing fees). Put simply, it allows any group with a bank account and motivation to take advantage of this important method of fundraising.
Tip 5 – Membership
Do you charge for membership to your group? Should you? Membership is perhaps the best regular source of income for your community group and may ensure your very survival. Members also form a database of people who you know support your organisation and can ask for a donation or invite to your next event. You should be look looking to increase your membership base by around 33% a year. If you think that's too high then you're probably not trying hard enough. It may be a good idea to run an annual membership drive – a week-long event where you encourage members, or lapsed members, to renew their financial commitment and reward them accordingly. For more information, see our membership basics and other membership help sheets.
Tip 6 – Sponsorship
Sponsorship is a win-win opportunity for both your community group and the sponsoring organisation – sponsors will provide you with money to help put on your event, while you provide them with a great advertising opportunity. To secure a sponsorship deal it is usually best to look for a local business you already have a good relationship with – what business connections do you already have among your membership base? It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as free money. Sponsorship is about both your needs and those of the sponsor, and the relationship simply won’t work if it is slanted one way more than the other. For more information, read our 10 rules for sponsorship hunters and tips for finding sponsors.
Tip 7 – Community-business partnerships
Community-business partnerships do not necessarily involve cash donations (although some do). They often involve in-kind donations of goods or pro bono services, mentoring and expert advice, or volunteer hours. Business and community groups working in partnership enjoy many advantages. Business gains points for social responsibility and the community group gains improved access to knowledge, people, skills or finances. However, it’s important to ensure the partnership is compatible with your group's core mission and values and does not restrict you from key activities or take you away from your core reason for existence.
Tip 8 – Wills and bequests
If people don't like talking about money and they don't like talking about death, they really don't like talking about wills and bequests. For this reason many not-for-profit groups shy away from trying to attract funds in this way. That's a shame because they are a constructive way for someone to leave a legacy to an organisation they were involved in during their life. You’ll need to approach the topic sensitively (don’t push the idea too often), have a loyal base of supporters, and make the case to leave a bequest compellingly (demonstrate how the bequest will benefit the organisation and how the money will be spent). We recommend that all bequests be organised in consultation with a lawyer. To determine if your organisation is ready to accept bequests, see our bequests checklist and help sheet.
Tip 9 – Tenders
In the current climate of increasing privatisation it’s becoming more common for governments at all levels to contract out community services. This has created a great opportunity for not-for-profit groups to get extra funding for things they were already doing, or to take on extra roles. Because they’re at the coal face, not-for-profit groups are often the best placed to deliver these services. They’re also typically under-resourced and under-funded which makes it understandably tempting to apply for multiple tender opportunities. Be aware, though, that by over-diversifying its services an organisation can also seriously over-stretch its resources. Be sure that tenders don’t come at the cost of your independence or divert you from your vision and mission. Be sure too that you don’t cut your quote so sharply in an attempt to secure a contract that you land yourself in the red.
Tip 10 – Sale of goods and services
Just because you're a not-for-profit group doesn't mean that you can't sell your goods and services. In fact countless community organisations have one thing or another that they sell, from food, to advice in the form of books and newsletters or seminars or conferences on their particular area of interest. You may also consider renting out your office or clubroom or other equipment. As long as any "profit" is put back into the organisation and not dispersed to your members, you are still not-for-profit. Read our overview on raising funds through earned income/sales.
Remember to constantly review your fundraising plan. You can always be doing something better and have more money at your disposal to help you to make an even greater difference.