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Grassroots Fundraising - How to Do It

Updated on March 20, 2013
Start planning at your first meeting.
Start planning at your first meeting.

The hardest part of fundraising is knowing where and how to start.

It takes an extra push of energy to get the ball rolling when you first start organizing, but it gets easier. As soon as your organization’s members see how successful fundraising can be, they will be more eager to help. Get your members excited, and planning fundraising events will be an easy process.

Grassroots fundraising needs to be as effective as a professional program, but it also relies on good organizing by caring about people on a personal level. The most successful organizers can teach, motivate, and understand others as individuals and groups—basically, they can work on an individual level while seeing the big picture.

Brainstorming at your meetings is a great way to plan fundraisers.
Brainstorming at your meetings is a great way to plan fundraisers.

Good fundraising is good business.

Even though you are fundraising, you still want to make as much money as you can by providing the best product most efficiently. Your product is your cause: keeping the art museum open, campaigning for an environmental measure on the ballot, or raising money for an elementary school field trip. The more efficient you are at selling your product, the more money you will raise.

Remember that there is nothing wrong with making money. Money is not good or bad. It is the choices you make in getting or spending the money that have values. The difference between your healthy grassroots organization and a greedy corporation is how you make your choices. Grassroots organizations tend to raise money as a group, then take a democratic vote as to how to spend the money.

Maximize the money you raise.

A major goal of grassroots fundraising is to make as much money as you can in the least amount of time. Making money quickly allows your members to spend more time working towards the organization’s programs, like cleaning up community parks or getting signatures on a ballot. Try to utilize your members’ and volunteers’ time as efficiently as possible. The time of your skilled members is valuable, so you don’t want to waste it.

For example, if your volunteer goes to a bank to ask for a $100 contribution when she could get $1,000, it will take this person ten times longer to make the same $1,000. If she takes the time to do some research to figure out the highest possible donation she could get from the bank, she will save time while raising more money. Research and calculate what each giver could give you, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Boldness pays off.

Another way you can increase the amount you earn per member hour is to create a detailed schedule. Prepare a timetable with specific deadlines for each step of your group’s project. The more you pre-plan an event, the more work you can get done in less time.

Make long-term goals and plans.

Business people set goals and know where they are going; and, so should your organization. An effective way to boost your earnings is to plan the kinds of big fundraisers that can become annual events. This way, you don’t have to start from scratch each year. Your organization will be able to focus on ways to improve the big fundraising event every year instead of spending time planning a brand new event. Not only will establishing an annual fundraising event allow your group to find ways to improve every year, but the event’s reputation will also gain a reputation.

Your organization doesn’t have to focus solely on a big event. Repeating smaller fundraising events throughout the year is another great way to boost the amount of money you raise.

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Keep accurate records.

It is important to keep records of all of your earnings and expenditures for legal and tax reasons. But, another important reason to keep accurate records is that it will help your organization see what it needs to do to achieve its goals. If your group knows where it stands, it will now what it needs to do next.

Records will also help you plan your next event. For example, if you begin throwing an annual banquet dinner, you can use records from the previous year to estimate the expenses and profits. As well, if you want outside organizations to offer additional funding, you will need to provide clear data that show the success your group has already had with fundraising and allocating money.

Clarity is key when keeping records. You want to be as specific as possible because this will create concrete information for others who might be gathering information from these records. So, if it costs $10 to print 1,000 tickets, write that down. This is much more clear than making a note that “printing a lot of tickets doesn’t cost much.”

Make it Personal

Each person gives money to an organization for their own, personal reasons. You can’t figure out what each individual wants, or what motivates them to contribute, but you can individualize your organization’s fundraising techniques as much as possible. If you received an invitation or letter from an organization, which of the following greetings would you most respond to?

  • Dear friend
  • Dear concerned citizen
  • Dear fellow Democrat
  • Dear Stacie

I will be interested in the one that actually uses my name because it will appear more personalized than the others. When you send out invitations or call people, add a personal touch. Ask if him if he will sit at your table or if you can offer him a ride to the event. This will be a more effective way to make the person feel welcome than simply saying, “See you there.” A lady running for Union president where I work recently went from office to office introducing herself. Not only did she encourage everyone to show up at the next meeting to vote, but she arranged rides, carpools, and provided bus schedules for everyone. She made it easier for us to plan on going to the meeting.

Don’t forget that when it comes to fundraising, people give to people. Everyone appreciates individual attention.

Check out the great energy in this video: Why Face to Face Fundraising Works

Goal Planning

Interesting Fundraising Method: More Than A Woman the Film

Set Goals

Nothing happens by accident, so if you want to successfully raise money for your organization, you need to make a plan. Start raising money at the earliest opportunity. Even if you simply pass a hat around at one of your first meetings, members will realize that someone had to pay for the coffee or room rental. Ask for volunteers for the finance or fundraising committee at an early meeting will let your members know that serious fundraising will be involved.

Whether your goal is to raise money every year to send a group of students on a week-long marine biology trip or to establish a full-service recycling center, you need to create a written plan that outlines your goals. This will help your organization stay on task, as well as offer a piece of encouragement for what your members can expect.

Involve Everyone

If someone wants to volunteer to help, find place for them. You never want to turn down someone’s offer to help. Children can help make decorations, teenagers can post flyers and posters, and older adults can put their people skills to work by acting as hosts and hostesses.

Plan some fun, raise some fun.

You want to have fun while you work to raise money, so make up your mind to have a good time. If your volunteers have fun, they will be more likely to want to work on the next project. Celebrate every victory and accomplishment. Congratulate and encourage your members for the things they do.

Planning an event takes a lot of organization and planning, but it will be a worthwhile project if everyone is working towards the same, positive goals. Create committees for each aspect of your event. Have fun, and raise money.


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