How to Fundraise without a Fundraising Staff

How to Fundraise without a Fundraising Staff 

Attracting and retaining capable fundraisers is top of mind for many nonprofit leaders in the current job market. And with fewer numbers of fundraisers in the field contributing to greater burnout for those remaining, these leaders may also be wondering how to break out of this negative reinforcing loop. 

Of course, there are other reasons why organizations might be short on fundraisers or lack staff members dedicated to raising philanthropic support. Some might be smaller in size and operating budget, newly founded, or in the enviable (and somewhat rare) position of having an established group of wealthy benefactors.  

While having fundraisers on staff provides a distinct advantage for nonprofit organizations, many can still fundraise effectively when this is not possible. The strategy lies in rethinking key processes and approaches to pave the way for increased support and greater gifts.  

 1. Shift Your Institutional Mindset 

Fundraising is an integral part of any nonprofit organization; unfortunately, some leaders treat it like a chore rather than an agent that empowers their mission.  

Post pandemic studies show that 68% of donors want to make a difference with their giving, and 45% plan to give more. However, many are seeking the right organization to support – specifically, one that aligns with their values.  

Institutional leaders should be able to articulate their organization’s vision and the role philanthropy plays in supporting it. They should also be prepared to cultivate long-term relationships, recruit key volunteers, and solicit critical leadership gifts. Notably, they should never apologize for the need for philanthropy, and instead, celebrate past giving while communicating the power of prospective gifts.  

Along with supporting and advancing an organization’s mission, fundraising should be used to address the following questions: 

  • What would make us better? What projects, resources, and initiatives would
    build upon our strengths, enhance our position, and enable greater success?
  • What would better differentiate us? What specific initiatives would sharpen our
    distinctives, strengthen our brand, and enhance our strategic impact? 
  • What would transform us? How can giving move us to an entirely new level of excellence?  What would reposition us in a new peer group and redefine our vision and potential impact?
2. Recognize Everyone Can Be a Fundraiser 

Senior and program staff at your organization also play an important role in fundraising. Many prospects look to program staff to expound on how programs are delivered and what outcomes they improve. Moreover, recipients of gifts can contribute by talking about how a gift, scholarship, or specific means of support had a personal impact on them. Be sure to provide fundraising training to this group, so they are familiar with the cultivation and solicitation process. 

After hosting a major event for hundreds of members, one GG+A client with no fundraising staff had program staff reach out to key prospects simply to obtain feedback on the event. The staff was coached to listen for interests that relate to the organization’s philanthropic priorities and to follow up with additional information on these areas. Remarkably, the prospects were responsive and eager to share their thoughts, and several expressed interest in supporting identified initiatives.  

While having fundraisers on staff provides a distinct advantage for nonprofit organizations, many can still fundraise effectively when this is not possible.

Likewise, volunteers – whether committee members or motivated individuals – can fundraise for your organization. This “peer-to-peer” connection is more crucial than ever, and at times volunteers with no professional fundraising credentials can be more effective fundraisers than development executives.  

Along with providing materials on programmatic impact, train volunteers and program staff on how to meet with donors using roleplay to simulate various outcomes. This prepares fundraising partners for the flow of the meeting. 

3. Engage the Board as Fundraising Leaders  

While everyone across the institution can engage in fundraising, Board members play a particularly important role, lending credibility and serving as ambassadors for the organization’s strategic priorities.  

Board members should develop their own personal narratives to share with potential donors. They can start by answering these questions:  

  • Why do I invest my time and energy into this organization?  
  • What makes it distinct? 
  • What am I most excited about for its future? 

Then, Board members can identify three to five of their connections who have an interest in the organization’s mission and objectives, and who are also philanthropic. Arrange to meet with organizational leadership to discuss these prospects and develop a strategy for engagement and solicitation.  

Each Board member should make a personally significant contribution to the organization themselves, demonstrating their commitment and confidence in its work. In fact, during Board member recruitment, organizations can communicate the expectation that all Board members make a philanthropic contribution.  

To formalize their role in fundraising, the Board may choose to create a development committee tasked with spearheading these efforts and ensuring their fellow Board members have the tools they need to succeed.  

4. Always Thank  

Past giving is the strongest indicator of future giving – that’s what makes stewardship such a critical part of the fundraising process.  

The basics of stewardship are simple:  

  • Acknowledge gifts in a timely manner 
  • Ensure that gifts are used in the manner the donor intended 
  • Demonstrate the impact the gift has had on your organization’s mission 

Stewardship also provides an opportunity to go above and beyond, and creating a stewardship plan will help you prioritize the act of thanking. 

Soliciting feedback from donors and then acting on the feedback is another way to show your donors their importance. Whether through a formal survey or casual conversation, ask donors what’s working well for them and what could be improved, then adapt how you steward them accordingly. 

5. Be Realistic . . . AND Be Bold 

When establishing goals, it’s okay (and encouraging) to dream. At the same time, set fundraising goals that are viable for your organization, given the size of your staff and your estimation of your constituents’ giving. Then, add 10% as a stretch. 

GG+A partnered with one client who had never asked for major gifts but needed to for a new campaign. Because the leader believed so much in the mission, she boldly infused her solicitation with that belief – asking for gifts at a level that were within the capacity of the prospect but were beyond what her organization had ever requested. In the end, her approach worked! 

It’s likely that no one believes in the mission of an organization as much as its leaders do. Channel that enthusiasm into asking for gifts and equipping fellow supporters to communicate the transformative power of philanthropy. 

For guidance in developing your organization’s fundraising strategy, reach out to us: 

Anne S. Kohn, Vice President has more than 15 years of expertise in philanthropy and nonprofit management. During her time at GG+A, she has worked with arts and culture organizations with fundraising goals of $5 million to $750 million. Contact Anne at akohn@grenzglier.com. 

Andrew Allred, Senior Vice President has more than 30 years of experience working with nonprofits in the United States and globally, with clients that include higher education, medical, and cultural institutions with fundraising goals of $2 million to $1 billion. Contact Andrew at aallred@grenzglier.com 

Bob Ramin, Senior Vice President has more than 30 years of experience supporting nonprofits in building organizational capacity and transforming supporters into major donors. He is especially passionate about animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Contact Bob at rramin@grenzglier.com 

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About the authors

Bob Ramin

Senior Vice President

Bob Ramin, Senior Vice President, has spent his career directing and developing institutions on behalf of animal welfare, combining his breadth of fundraising and philanthropic knowledge with his passion for wildlife conservation efforts. Bob’s more than 30 years in the voluntary sector have been focused on building organizational capacity and…

Anne S. Kohn

Senior Vice President

Anne S. Kohn, Senior Vice President and Arts & Culture practice area leader, brings to the firm more than 15 years of professional experience in the performing arts.   Since joining GG+A, Anne has worked across all sectors of nonprofits with a particular focus and passion for arts and cultural…

Andrew Allred

Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific

Andrew Allred, Senior Vice President, joined GG+A in 2012. With more than 25 years of professional experience he constantly brings development, fundraising, and management expertise to higher education, medical, and cultural institutions. Andrew has worked with clients in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia to build long-term…