5 ways to start fundraising when you don’t have donors [MacGyver Fundraising]

MacGyver Fundraising: A series about getting it done in the real world

MacGyver was an US action TV show in the 80s (with a more recent reboot) featuring a brilliant professional problem-solver who could get himself out of any jam with whatever random materials were at hand. He always solved the most difficult situations. Fundraisers are a lot like MacGyver.

Macgyverlogosm

Maybe you’re a startup nonprofit. Maybe you’ve been around, but you’ve just lost one big funder that flew the coop. Maybe you’ve been operating on a shoe-string and simply can’t seem to get out of the financial hole you’re in.

No money is a problem. Because raising funds requires money.

No donors is an even bigger problem. How are you going to get funds to raise funds?

Which comes first: The chicken or the egg? It hardly matters if you don’t have a chicken or an egg!

Here are some ways to bridge the gap from no donors/no money to a sustainable fundraising program:

  1. Capacity building grants. There are some smart granting organizations understand the power of funding fundraising. Find those!
  2. Organic growth. The friends and family plan. Talk to people you know. Talk to Mom and Dad. Encourage everyone you know to donate and to find other donors. Chances are your personal network is full of people who value your mission and trust you. This can only take you so far, but it can be a great start.
  3. Board fundraising. Board members can also tap into their personal networks.
  4. Social media. If you’re just collecting “likes” on Facebook, you’re not really make progress. The real job is to engage with like-minded people and give them reasons to give you their email — or better yet, their phone number. Then you can fundraise directly,
  5. Start direct mail small. Start connecting with donors by mail, even when you have few of them. This will help as you grow and transition into a higher volume.

MacGyver Fundraising


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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