You've got a great idea for a new 501(c)(3) organization, but there's just one problem: Where will you get the money? Unfortunately, this is often a struggle for nonprofits, as these companies are tax-exempt but otherwise subject to the same fiscal scrutiny as other businesses. How can you turn idealistic dreams into actionable reality? Here are some proven fundraising ideas for a new nonprofit.

The Basics

Before you start fundraising, make sure that you've laid the necessary groundwork. As noted by the National Council of Nonprofits, many states require that you register with government agencies before you solicit donations. Additionally, if your nonprofit will be sharing revenue from sales activities with another organization, many states require that you file with the state to disclose this fundraising activity. Affinity Fundraising Registration provides details concerning each state's fundraising registration requirements. Make sure you're aware of the rules in your area before you take action, and, if you are unsure, consult with your own legal adviser.

As the National Council of Nonprofits points out, you should also strive to adopt "ethical fundraising" practices. Essentially, this means that you are willing to go beyond what specific legislation requires of you in terms of transparency. For example, nonprofits can demonstrate ethical fundraising by making it very easy for their website visitors to find details about their recent financial activity, board of directors and donors.

Filling the Coffers

Before you consider different fundraising ideas for a new nonprofit, it's important for you to do the necessary legwork to get your name and mission out into the local community and online. If potential donors don't know who you are or what you're doing, you're facing an uphill battle. Once you have some name recognition, you can try to:

  • Solicit Donations Directly From Local Businesses
    Success here usually depends on familiarity. Once you receive a donation, you can provide the business with media assets (such as certificates or plaques) that they can display showing their commitment to your cause.
  • Sell Packaged Products
    Large companies produce a variety of products — from candy to coupon books to movie tickets — that come ready-to-sell. If you decide to sell these products, your organization can keep part of the profit while sending the rest to your supplier.
  • Host a Fundraising Event
    This option represents the food-heavy side of fundraising and includes events such as bake sales, dinner parties and pancake breakfasts. You do all the cooking and serving, while donors pay an entry fee that covers your costs and also boosts your bottom line.
  • Set Up a Silent Auction
    If local businesses can't afford to donate money, they may be willing to supply branded items or discounted services that you can then sell at a silent auction. It's a win-win as donors get low-cost advertising and the positive PR of being associated with your organization.

It's also important to consider the "mix" of your donations. As noted by Business 2 Community, "80% of charitable giving in the U.S. comes from individuals, 15% from foundations and 5% from corporations." When you're just starting out, it's typical to lean even more toward individuals, but once you're up and running, it's a good idea to aim for a more even distribution in the event of large economic or political shifts which may affect your direct funding options.

Ready to empower your new nonprofit? Make sure you're registered, get your name out there and find your funding sources.

Tags: finance