The title of the text next to an illustration of people putting money in a jar, representing sustainable fundraising.

Sustainable Fundraising: Strategies for Long-Term Viability

Your mission statement is the ultimate declaration of what your organization stands for and hopes to accomplish in the long run. For instance, the American Heart Association’s mission is to “be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. As we move into the second century of our work, we are advancing health and hope for everyone, everywhere.”

This statement demonstrates that this organization is not just trying to help people fight heart disease and stroke in the present moment but is instead committed to helping people stay in better health for the long term.

When your goals are focused on the future, you need sustainable fundraising strategies that help you consistently progress toward these objectives. We’ll provide fundraising tips for how your nonprofit can achieve long-term viability.

1. Create a fundraising plan.

Before you start a fundraiser, you need a clear plan to guide you. This plan should align your entire fundraising team so everyone’s aware of your top priorities and their individual responsibilities for achieving your goals. By making your campaigns more manageable and providing a framework for future fundraising initiatives, your fundraising plan will help you achieve long-term viability.

Follow these steps to create a fundraising plan that will set you up for continued success:

  1. Identify SMART goals. Provide focus to your campaigns with both short-term and long-term objectives that follow the SMART goal framework, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, a cheerleading team may aim to raise $1500 with its three-month peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to supplement national competition fees based on its earnings of $1200 the previous year.
  2. Establish a timeline. Break down each stage of your campaign into manageable tasks with deadlines. At a minimum, include steps for planning your fundraiser, soliciting donations, and following up with donors.
  3. Develop a budget. Identify how much you expect to raise and spend on your campaign based on past fundraising data. These figures will allow you to determine your expected net revenue and better project your fundraising results.
  4. Delegate tasks. Distribute tasks needed to make your fundraiser a success to different members of your fundraising team. Responsibilities may include preparing fundraising and marketing materials, securing a venue for your fundraising event, or securing sponsors.

To ensure your plan includes all necessary information, use a dedicated fundraising plan template to keep everything organized. Once you find a template that works for your team, you can reuse it for all future fundraising initiatives to build consistency.

2. Diversify your revenue streams.

When you have multiple revenue streams, you can be more confident in your organization’s ability to reach its fundraising goals and provide for its beneficiaries, even if one funding source dries up. Examples of potential revenue streams include:

  • Individual donations, whether those come from peer-to-peer fundraising, online campaigns, product fundraisers, or regular submissions on your donation page
  • Grants from foundations, businesses, or government agencies to fund specific projects or programs
  • Corporate partnerships that result in corporate giving revenue and sponsorship opportunities
  • Events, such as walkathons, galas, and auctions
  • Earned income from merchandise sales, program fees, and membership fees

Maximize these revenue opportunities by combining them as your organization sees fit. For example, you may host your annual spring festival fundraiser where you also sell flower bulbs to earn extra funds.

3. Focus on donor retention.

According to Double the Donation’s donor retention guide, the average donor retention rate for nonprofits is 45%, meaning that the majority of donors don’t make repeat donations. The cost of acquiring donors who only give once makes it significantly more cost-effective to keep current donors around instead.

Plus, the more donors you retain, the better you’ll facilitate a community around your cause instead of a group of disparate one-time givers. Some ways you might increase donor retention include:

  • Providing multiple ways to give. Encourage donors to continue contributing to your cause by giving them a choice in the way they give. Select a payment processor that accepts a variety of payment methods, such as credit, debit, ACH check, PayPal, Apple Pay, and Venmo.
  • Offering recurring gifts. One of the easiest ways to secure steady revenue is to automate the giving process for repeat donors. When you offer recurring giving, you make it simple for those who are passionate about your cause to contribute on a monthly basis after filling out your donation form just once.
  • Showing appreciation. Thanking donors for their support goes a long way in showing them that they’re valued and entices them to continue giving back. Test a variety of donor recognition strategies, including eCards, thank-you notes, social media shoutouts, and appreciation events.

Get a sense of how successful your donor retention efforts are by asking supporters directly. Consider surveying them once a quarter to see whether they feel inclined to keep contributing to your organization, and question if there is anything else your nonprofit could do to provide them with a better experience.

4. Involve a variety of stakeholders.

When you engage a variety of stakeholders in the fundraising process, you take the pressure off your staff to facilitate all fundraising activities, making it easier to run campaigns efficiently. For instance, you may train board members and volunteers to lead donor cultivation and solicitation activities so you can better distribute your fundraising team’s work.

Reaching out to local businesses can also alleviate concerns about reaching your fundraising goals or hitting your targets in a timely manner. Many companies are willing to sponsor events, contribute in-kind donations, or promote your organization online. Look for businesses with similar values to your organization so the partnership is mutually beneficial. For example, an environmental conservation organization may work with an upcycled clothing brand.

Lastly, if your fundraiser involves kids, teach them how to fundraise on behalf of your organization. Not only can schools and student groups raise more for their causes with more helping hands, but they can also teach kids the importance of giving back. As ABC Fundraising’s fundraising ideas for kids guide states, 80% of parents who model philanthropic behavior see it reflected in their children. Set a good example for the kids in your organization, and reach your fundraising goals more quickly at the same time.

Continue supporting your beneficiaries and upholding your mission for the long haul with sustainable fundraising ideas and practices. That way, you can rest assured you’ll see a regular inflow of donations to your organization that enable you to carry out your important work for years to come.