Rubies for Nonprofit Newbies: Gems of Wisdom for Getting Started

I belong to a list serve of people in the senior-services sector of the nonprofit industry, some of whom are fairly new to the world of fundraising and development. Today someone posed a question to other members of the group, seeking advice on how to get started:

My facility is considering the implementation of an Annual Fund. For those that have experience with this, would you be willing to share how you implemented this. For example, did you start with a small mailing list or did you purchase mailing lists? Do you utilize donor management software? If so, which one?

To this I responded with some very generic ideas that I hope she will find helpful:

I might assume that since you are asking this question, you are already receiving unsolicited (or random) donations. If so, you may be able to learn quite a bit from the donors who are currently supporting you without even being asked. Profiling your current donors can help you figure out where you might find other like-minded potential friends and supporters.

For example, if many of your current donors are family members of your residents, consider starting there. Build a mailing list of all resident family members and design an appeal strategy based on how you already communicate with families.

If your current donors are not related to your residents, what would you guess compelled them to give? You might even ask a few, and that may help them feel like they’re contributing even more. Use what you learn to help you find others with a similar profile.

Another idea is to create a special event that helps communicate your case for support while introducing you to new potential friends. This model of acquisition can be costly at first but could pay off well in the long run, both in terms of growing an annual fund and your community image. Just make sure to capture the names of those who participate in your event so you can invite them again next year, along with their friends. And the ripples of the pond will spread out from there.

Donor management software can help you greatly at this point, and you don’t need to invest tens of thousands of dollars to get started. There are a good number of lower-cost, accessible applications out there that will grow along with your development program. Due diligence:  I represent one of those lower costs systems, and was also a fundraiser for 20 years before moving into the world of donor management software. If you’d like more information, feel free to reply to me directly and I’ll see that you get connected.

I thought it might be motivating to share this response – hopefully you’ll find it helpful or at least mildly interesting. Since most blog readers are already customers of ResultsPlus, you’ve already figured out the value of using a donor management system to help organize and grow your development activities. If so, make sure to celebrate how far your own progam has grown since it was just getting started.


As always, we love to hear from you:  please share any advice you would give to help the organizers of a brand new development program to help them get started on the right foot.