Mightycause is a small business that was built to serve small nonprofits. When we first came onto the scene in 2006, giving small nonprofits an affordable, sustainable, easy way to raise funds was our company’s goal. From the very beginning, we have been focused on helping small nonprofits grow, stay funded and change the world.
To help even further, we’ve complied our top fundraising tips for small nonprofits. We hope they will help your nonprofit devise a fundraising plan that works, grow your donor base, and makes a difference for your mighty cause.
1. Plan, plan, plan!
Often, small nonprofits start as a passion project. Good-hearted people start doing work in their community for their cause, spending their own time and money. Then, the responsibility grows. And they think, Why not start a nonprofit and turn this work into a full-time gig?
But one thing that can fall by the wayside when you start a small nonprofit is planning. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in doing the work out in the field that you neglect to do some foundational planning. But it’s never too late to take a step back and plan! Here are the plans all small nonprofits should have in place.
It can feel strange to think of a nonprofit being a business, but having a business mindset is one of the the keys to running a successful nonprofit. That’s what makes the big dogs in the nonprofit sector so successful. They plan and operate just like businesses.
Here’s the lowdown on creating a business plan for your small nonprofit.
Key components of business plans for small nonprofits
These are the basic questions your business plan should answer:
- What is your vision and mission?
- How is your nonprofit structured?
- What services and programs do you offer?
- Who do you serve?
- What makes your nonprofit unique in your community?
- What are your nonprofit’s big-picture goals and how will you achieve them?
Your business plan should also contain financial information such as your annual operating budget.
There are plenty of freely available templates you can find online that will help you write your business plan, or you can wing it and answer these questions in your own way, if that’s more your style! The important thing is to ensure you have a business plan in place. And that’s because it will become essential to refer to as your small nonprofit grows.
A donor pipeline is, very simply, a road map for supporters. When your nonprofit begins a relationship with a supporter, they enter the pipeline. It is your job to move them along the pipeline. While a pipeline may seem like overkill for small nonprofits with only a handful of donors, the structure will be helpful as your donor base grows, and also help you make the most of the donors you have now.
What’s the pipeline look like?
The donor pipeline consists of these basic steps, in this order:
- Prospect – Finding potential donors
- Cultivate – Building a relationship
- Solicit – Asking for a donation
- Steward – Thanking the donor and growing the relationship
Your pipeline may have additional steps. For instance, research is a great additional step, especially for major gift and corporate sponsorship prospects. You’ll want to take care to find out about them, what moves them, what connection they have to your work. This will help you cultivate a stronger relationship with these prospects, understand what motivates them and finesse your ask.
If you’re visual, a pipeline can be a flow chart, and it can also be as simple as a column on a spreadsheet.
Examining the health of your pipeline
Your donor pipeline will be able to tell you, at a glance, how well you’re engaging donors. You’ll be able to spot “clogs” and “leaks” and take steps to improve your fundraising process.
For instance, if you have a bunch of prospects stuck at the “ask” step (known as a clog), you will know that there is something to be desired with your ask. How are you asking? When are you asking? Being able to spot this issue means you’ll be able to fix it. If a bunch of donors leave the pipeline at the “Steward” step (known as a leak), you will know that you’ve got to step up your follow-through and work on nurturing relationships with donors after you get the donation.
Volunteer recruitment & management plan
We all know that volunteers are the lifeblood of small nonprofits. Many small nonprofits are entirely volunteer-run and rely on generous people willing to donate their time and skills to stay in operation. So, while small nonprofits can end up winging it when it comes to volunteers, putting out calls for help as they need them, having a solid volunteer program is essential. A strong plan will ensure that you’re recruiting the right people, filling all the necessary roles, working to develop your volunteers and making the most of the help they can provide.
Volunteer management 101
When small nonprofits just start out, volunteer management usually amounts to just posting on Facebook or sending out an email to find help with something. And that may work for awhile. But as you grow, you will find that this model is unsustainable.
We recommend setting up a structured volunteer program from the get-go. Here’s what your volunteer plan should include:
- Recruitment – How do you plan on finding volunteers?
- Application Process & Documentation – Creating a simple application for volunteers will help you sort out each prospective volunteers’ skills, interests, availability and match them with the jobs best suited to them. You’ll also need legal documentation, such as signed waivers, in most instances.
- Road Map for Volunteer Development – Just as you would with paid staff, you’ll want a path for volunteers to gain skills, move up, take on new and higher-level duties, and feel engaged with your nonprofit’s work.
- Volunteer appreciation and engagement – Showing appreciation for volunteers is a huge part of keeping them engaged and involved; how are you going to ensure they all feel valued and stay challenged?
Learn more about volunteer management.
It’s the old “if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” riddle, repackaged. If your nonprofit has all the best intentions and a valuable mission, but no one knows about you, do you exist? The answer is no, not really.
A communications plan will help your small nonprofit find its voice, find its audience, find the people you serve, and make sure people know about the good work you do.
Get a crash course in communications planning
We’ve already written a lot about creating a communications plan, so get caught up on Mightyblog!
Planning is essential for successful fundraising. From the beginning stages of teasing out ideas to following up with donors, without a plan, you’re basically lost without a compass. An annual fundraising plan will help you think big-picture and keep your programs funded year-round.
Fundraising plan essentials
There’s no one way to create a fundraising plan for a small nonprofit, but there are some things you’ll want to make sure you include in your plan:
- Financial needs and big-picture goals
- Key fundraisers (spring, #GivingTuesday and end-of-year are good starting places!)
- Your fundraising team (who are the staff members and volunteers involved in this process?)
- Structure, goals, and methods of fundraising
Your fundraising plan can be as loose or as granular as you want it to be. Learn more about creating your fundraising plan on Mightyblog:
2. Have a growth mindset
Many small nonprofits can find themselves treading water. You’re keeping your head above water, but not moving forward. And for a small nonprofit, that can mean stagnating and not achieving your goals. So, it’s important to make growth a priority. The bigger your nonprofit gets, the more powerful your army of supporters, the biggest an impact you can make on your community.
Make growing your donor base a top priority
It’s so easy to focus time and attention on nurturing your programs and services. Those are the things that inspire you and make you get out of bed in the morning. But without donor support, none of those programs and services will be possible. The more support you can drum up, the bigger you can make those programs, and the more good you can achieve.
So, even if donor engagement isn’t a subject that revs your engine, it will need to be a primary focus if you want your small nonprofit to be successful and achieve your programmatic goals.
Build your email list
This can be a point where lots of small nonprofits get stuck. But the email list is one of the most powerful tools in a small nonprofit’s arsenal. It’s a direct line to supporters, unhindered by algorithms or red tape. Here’s how to bulk up your email list.
- Bring an email sign-up sheet with you to every event, and have one available at every touch point you have with the public
- Start an e-newsletter and promote it
- Build engaging content (and enlist volunteer help if building an email in Constant Contact is not your cup of tea)
- Learn e-mail marketing best practices and basic strategies (there’s a wealth of content and training online, available for free)
- Monitor your open rate, click-through rate and response to your emails. Do more of what works, and less of what does not.
“Networking” is something people often dread, but it’s necessary for people running small nonprofits to hustle. Making introductions, forming partnerships, hosting meet-and-greets, shaking hands and kissing babies is all part of the job.
Networking will help you find important allies who can help you reach more people in your community.
3. Invest in tools that make your job easier
We get that a fledging nonprofit just finding its legs may only be able to work with what is free. But, over time, those free tools and systems small nonprofits use to get around paying for them can become cumbersome. Managing your donors on a Google Sheet when you have 100 of them is doable; managing 5,000 donors and their gift history on Google Sheet is not. And because a nonprofit’s budget and human resources are limited, it’s important to consider investing in tools that will help your operations to become more efficient. If you’re bogged down trying to make a makeshift system work, you’re going to lose a lot of valuable hours you could have spent on your programs.
Here are tools we recommend that all small nonprofits invest in:
- Email marketing software
- CRM (or client relationship management) tools
- Automation tools (which allow you to create automated email journeys that you can set up and let fire without any effort on your end)
- Mightycause Premium
Finding the right tools to get the job done
There’s a lot to consider. Obviously, for small nonprofits, budget is at the forefront of their decisions. Evaluating what tools are cost-effective is not necessarily a matter of what is the lowest dollar amount. You’ll want to look at what services they provide, what needs they fulfill, and how well they can move with you as you grow.
Mightycause Advanced was designed as a multi-tool for nonprofits. It’s the lowest price point on the market, and offers a big bang for your buck. You can run fundraisers, receive recurring donations, manage your donors with our CRM tools, track your nonprofit’s progress with rich analytics, and more. And even better, we offer multiple subscription tiers, that allow your nonprofit to use Mightycause as you grow.
Want to find out if Mightycause Advanced is the right tool for your nonprofit? Sign up for a no-strings attached group demo to find out more.
Check out our webinar, “Small But Mighty: Fundraising Tips for Small Nonprofits,” for more tips and info!
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