Fundraising for your non-profit: A checklist by Heleigh Bostwick

Fundraising for your non-profit: A checklist

Fundraising is one of the most important, and sometimes most difficult and time consuming activities a non-profit organization undertakes. With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to fund your non-profit organization. Read more for a checklist of fundraising options.

by Heleigh Bostwick
updated October 27, 2016 · 3 min read

Have you ever perused the help wanted section of the newspaper and seen numerous ads for grant or proposal writers, development officers, or directors of fundraising? These jobs are always in demand. Fundraising is tough work and requires very specific skills. It's also the key to whether a non-profit makes a go of it or folds due to lack of resources.

As such, fundraising is one of the most important, and sometimes most difficult and time consuming activities a non-profit organization undertakes. With that in mind, here are some of the best ways to fund your non-profit organization:


Grants in the form of cash are given by the grantor (a foundation or government agency) to the grantee (the non-profit) to be used for specific programs or in some cases, for unrestricted use. Grants awarded by state and local agencies often carry restrictions in that they are to be used to fund cultural or recreational programs for city or state residents. Foundations usually fund specific programs and not general operating expenses, but there are some exceptions.

The first step in obtaining grant money is to identify which foundations and agencies fund the type of programs or services that your non-profit provides. Most foundations and agencies have very specific requirements about what they fund and in what format to submit a proposal. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully read the fine print before submitting a proposal and tailor it to the requirements of each foundation or agency.

There are hundreds of foundations and agencies that award grants to non-profits; however, the competition is often fierce for available funds. There are four types of foundations that give money to non-profits including corporate, private, community, and family foundations. An example of a corporate foundation is Ben & Jerry's. The Ford Foundation is a well-known private foundation, whereas the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation is an example of a family foundation, which receives an endowment from a single family. A community foundation is funded by multiple donors and is a typically considered a community service organization.


There are two types of donations, individuals and corporate. Individual donations are typically the largest source of funding dollars for non-profit organizations both large and small. Corporate donations are also significant factor in funding for non-profits. While individuals donate to give to a worthy cause primarily for altruistic reasons, corporations donate for the public exposure it offers, in addition to supporting a worthy cause.

Fundraising Events

Fundraising events are periodic events held once or twice a year, typically in the spring and fall. Examples of fundraising events include anything from a book sale to a telethon to a charity dinner or dance. Fundraising events are staffed by volunteers from the non-profit agency and attended by the general public who buys tickets for a charity ball or books at a book sale for instance.

Selling Products or Services

Some non-profits raise money by selling a product or service. An example of this would be The Girl Scouts, a large non-profit organization that sells Girl Scout cookies every year. Another example is The Salvation Army or a thrift store associated with a hospital, which sells its donations to the public to raise money.

Volunteers and In-Kind Contributions

Although not a direct source of funding in the traditional sense of the word, volunteers are the backbone of every non-profit organization. They work "for free";however, their time in number of volunteer hours always has a monetary value assigned to it.

In-kind contributions are another indirect source of funding for non-profits. According to The Nonprofit Times, in-kind contributions rose significantly in 2004 from previous years. In-kind giving includes such things as a local paper products company donating napkins and paper plates at a fundraising picnic or the local radio station providing free advertising for an hour or a day. For both of these types of funding resources, keep them abreast of the successes that the non-profit has achieved is an important factor in whether they continue to volunteer and donate in kind.

Maximize Your Fundraising Efforts

Non-profits with the most effective fundraising efforts often have a business plan in place, which guides their fundraising efforts. While fundraising may seem like a thankless job, it is vital to the health and longevity of a non-profit.

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Heleigh Bostwick

About the Author

Heleigh Bostwick

Heleigh Bostwick has been writing for LegalZoom since 2006, touching on topics as diverse as estate planning and kids, c… Read more