Cheap & Easy: Five Ways to Fundraise on a Dime

Holly Lillis from Changing Our World’s Sarasota office brings to FLiP another great article that I’m sure we all can relate to these days– how to keep on fundraising without adding extra costs. Holly has been instrumental to FLiP in bringing a grassroots perspective on all things non-profit. She will be hosting the first-ever regional FLiP-on-Tap in Sarasota on Tuesday, November 25th. Stay tuned later this week for details.

In an economic downturn like this, many nonprofits share the same concerns over dwindling donations, budget revisions, and the need to cut spending on even such staples as direct mailings and events. In times like this, the old adage “spending money to make money” can take on an ominous tone. Yet this is a key time to communicate to the public your organization’s focus on its mission. Your message of commitment and stability in hard times is priceless, and there are plenty of price-free ways to keep your name in the minds of your constituency. In this post, we’re going to talk about some very effective (not to mention cost-effective!) options for your events, marketing and campaigns in the coming months.

1. Search Engine Optimization – More so than any other form of media, the internet hits the sweet spot of reaching the largest amount of people for the least amount of money. However, even the people that are looking for your organization will have trouble finding it if your search result rankings aren’t very high. Luckily, you can dramatically boost your site’s traffic through some careful Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, and all it will cost you is a little bit of your time. Some of the quickest fixes? Brainstorm a list of keywords that are relevant to your site, then make sure that those phrases are well situated in the text of your various pages. Run through all your links to make sure they are in working order. And finally, see what other sites would be willing to offer a link to your site. Keeping up this simple website maintenance will help shoot your address to the top of the search results.

2. Volunteer drives – One of the most important gestures you can make to your constituency in times of economic hardship is in showing them that they are valued for more than just the amount of money they can give. Let them know that their time is an equally precious resource, and that working as a volunteer for your organization is greatly appreciated. This provides past donors a chance to still give, even if they are not in a financial position to do so, and simultaneously offers them the opportunity to see the workings of your organization up close, which is often the most persuasive case for support. You can be sure that when those volunteers are in a position to donate, your nonprofit will be the first recipient to come to mind.

3. Revamp email blasts – Though sending out newsletters can be incredibly costly, environmentally wasteful, and time consuming to prepare, an organized, streamlined schedule of mass emails make for a healthy line of communication between you and your constituency. Not only do you save money and paper, you can save yourself from the headache of layout and filling extra space- the most effective email blasts have simple aesthetics while offering brief updates and previews of news and events related to your cause.

4. Consider friend-raiser events – Another powerful and priceless form of marketing is the all-important word-of-mouth. This is one of the key ways your board of directors can help the organization raise both money and awareness. By hosting “friend-raiser” events, your board members can invite people within their social network to a low-key, low-cost event at their home. From potlucks to poker nights, the key aspect of this type of event is that people can hear about your organization in a comfortable venue from a trusted friend. This highlights the sincerity of your cause as well as the hosting board member’s belief in the mission.

5. Start a blog – In the nonprofit world, foundations and charities make differences on a daily basis that ultimately lead to a brighter tomorrow. We’re constantly tackling the big issues of our time, and finding ways to better our world. Sounds like a pretty compelling basis for just about any blog, doesn’t it? Your current donors, as well as potential donors, are going to be of the same opinion.

Blog formats are often best suited for relatively brief, somewhat informal articles on any range of topics. It’s the perfect venue for “day in the life” style pieces, as well as frank discussions of current issues that are impacting your cause. There are plenty of free blog hosting sites, so take your pick and get your word out there.

Remember with the hints listed here that when the going gets tough, the tough get creative. You might be surprised at the difference these cost-cutting tactics make in your bottom line!

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