Charity Fund Raising Tips

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What do my donations to annual campaigns fund?

Charity Fundraising: Annual Campaigns

Annual campaigns are the workhorses of the fundraising world. Best described as a campaign conducted each year for the purpose of raising money to assist in paying a nonprofit organization's regular, ongoing expenses, it is usually an organization's primary source of unrestricted contributed income and a mainstay of its fund-raising efforts.

In addition to raising funds, the campaign's regular nature also helps an organization raise awareness and acceptance of its work, to developing a base of knowledgeable volunteers, and to build a base of regular donors. Giving to annual campaigns is a great way to generally support an organization. If you are particular about how your money is used, however, you might want to have a longer conversation with the organization about how and when to make your donation (for example, if you want your money to go specifically to buying books for poor children, rather than for paying for the organization's more general operating expenses).

*Do not underestimate the value of contributing to annual campaigns –without them, most charities would not be able to exist.

What role do special events play in charities' fundraising activities?

Fundraising: Charity Events

Special events are an exciting way that charities can publicize their goals and mission, gather together supporters, recruit new supporters, and raise money.

Some events are held to raise money for specific causes (such as a capital campaign or a specific program within the charity), while others might simply support the overarching fundraising goals for an organization. Fundraising events can take innumerable forms, from dinners and galas to charity auctions to walks/runs to car washes to golf tournaments.

Basically, charity organizations try to think about their goals and the interests of their target group of volunteers and donors, and cater an event that encourages giving and participating by making it a fulfilling experience.

What is a capital campaign?

Charity Fundraising: Capital Campaigns

From time to time, charities need something that they don't need every year. Items such as computers, a new phone system, furniture, a new roof or other major maintenance are "capital" improvements. Capital improvements also include the buying, retro-fitting or renovating a building, or kicking off a new program initiative. Such specific and "one-time" needs of an organization require funds in addition to those generated by the annual fundraising campaign.

Charities conduct targeted capital campaigns in addition to other, regular fundraising activities. Monies donated to a capital campaign must be and are used specifically to carry out the expressed goals of the campaign. While many capital campaigns target large gifts from loyal donors, small gifts from loyal donors and gifts from new donors looking to support the new initiatives are always welcome.

*Talk to the charities that contact you about capital campaigns about their mission, progress, and how you can get involved.

Why do nonprofit organizations have so many fundraising campaigns?

Fundraising is One of the Primary Activities of Most Nonprofit Organizations

Because most charities have very small, if any, independent revenue streams, these organizations rely on external funding (including charity donations from individuals, corporations, foundations, and the government) to advance the charity's mission. This funding generally covers things such as:

• Employee pay.
• Rent or mortgage.
• Improvements to its facilities.
• General bills (to keep the lights on).

Charities have a diverse suite of fundraising activities to raise the money they need, including annual fundraising campaigns, capital campaigns, special events, and grant applications. This range of activities undertaken by the charities translates into opportunities for you, as a donor, to give in different ways and for different reasons, depending on what you can do and what is important to you.

Should I buy these new charity wristbands?

Charity Wristbands: Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve, But Buy Direct

One of the recent trends in fundraising has been the sale of rubber wristbands that feature a slogan or other catchphrase of the organization your purchase supports. Originally made popular by the Lance Armstrong Foundation's yellow LIVESTRONG wristbands, your purchase of the band supports the charity, and you can literally wear your support on your sleeve.

People "in the know" will know that you support the cause and curious onlookers may ask about the band, giving you an opportunity to share information and raise awareness about the cause. One word of caution about charity wristbands: due to their recent popularity, there has emerged a re-selling market. If you buy a wristband from a re-seller, you not only might pay more for it, but the money is most likely not being directed to the charity the wristband was developed to support.

*Make sure you buy from an authorized source so that the charity gets the benefit.

What is an endowment campaign?

Charity Fundraising: Endowment Campaigns

An endowment is funds that are intended to be kept permanently and invested to provide income for continued support of an organization. Organizations with an ongoing mission are smart to invest some of their money and use only the interest from that investment as part of their annual income.

If an organization either does not have enough money to set aside to invest, or if circumstances have required that they dip into the principal of an existing endowment in order to cover some expenses, they might launch an endowment campaign designed to bulk up the principal that is invested.

If you are approached and asked to give to an endowment campaign, ask questions about why they are raising the money, how the interest is used, and then if you choose to donate to the campaign you can feel good about investing in the future of an organization you support.

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Guru Spotlight
Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.