Nonprofit organizations don’t exist without consistent, generous support from their donors.
Every good deed that is done, every task completed, and every community helped – it’s all possible due to gifts from supporters.
When your organization first starts out, it can be difficult to kickstart the initial building of your donor base. However, there are a few tools and strategies you can access right now to build up your organization going forward.
How do you grow a nonprofit organization?
Small businesses and small nonprofit organizations have similar challenges when it comes to growth. On the for-profit side of things, the challenge is in acquiring customers. For nonprofits, the key (and challenge) to unlocking growth is attracting new donors.
This guide will explore the following strategies to gain new supporters and therefore, grow your nonprofit organization:
Use events to grow your nonprofit organization
Grow your nonprofit organization using social media
Activate current supporters to grow your nonprofit organization
Grow your nonprofit organization by being transparent
1. Use events to grow your nonprofit organization
Events are powerful tools to expand your nonprofit organization and raise gifts through the process. Not only do they have high fundraising potential, but they can also introduce your organization to a variety of new supporters it may not have reached otherwise.
How can events expand your nonprofit organization?
This type of fundraising is inherently associated with gathering, as in gathering groups of your supporters together in one space to raise gifts for your organization and engage with your mission. Because of this, the power of events is that they can simultaneously energize current supporters and invite new ones to partake in your offerings in a relatively low-stakes environment.
When you bring current and potential supporters together in one space, you have the perfect opportunity to provide a fun and educational experience. Aim to inspire attendees to join in with your efforts and watch your organization grow through the process.
What are some events that help your nonprofit grow?
Some of the best events to grow your nonprofit organization are those that have an expansive reach far beyond the event itself. There are plenty of ways to expand the reach of your events and boost the fundraising potential.
A peer-to-peer fundraising event
Prior to your event, allow participants to create their own personal fundraising page and share it with their friends and families to raise gifts. These gifts correspond to the fundraiser’s participation in the event. The participant’s network will be motivated to give due to their personal relationship with the participant and will be drawn into your organization because of it.
A fundraising challenge event
This type of event is accompanied by a fundraising challenge, often the number of gifts raised or the total fundraising amount. You can use this event as a kick-off, unveiling a fundraising challenge thermometer and sending supporters into their communities to rally support for your organization. A few weeks later, host another event for all supporters to celebrate successfully reaching your goal.
A family-friendly fundraising event
Hold a fundraising event that all members of the family can attend, so parents don’t feel deterred from participating. It could be something low-stress like a walk-a-thon, or something fun and community-building like a fundraising picnic, to grow your nonprofit’s support base. When you create a fun event that’s also designed to attract prospective supporters, your organization will grow as you fundraise.
2. Grow your nonprofit organization using social media
Many modern fundraisers are aware of the power of social media. Suddenly, you’re allowed to accept gifts from anywhere in the world, at any time. You’re able to spread the word about your cause locally, as well as across the country. And even better, this wide-spanning engagement tool is totally free.
How can social media expand your nonprofit organization?
When it comes to growing your social media organization, social media is a powerful tool to reach supporters new and current without expending significant resources. You simply create a free account for your organization and begin connecting with followers!
There are a few main ways that you can use to grow your organization using social media. For example, you can share information about your fundraising events. Basic information like date and time, and even ticketing and registration links, can easily be put in a social media post. Then, supporters can share those posts with their greater networks and expand your event’s reach and attendance in no time.
You can also use social fundraising tactics like crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns to amplify your efforts. Even if you’re holding a local fundraising initiative, such as a parent-teacher organization fundraiser or a local club or sports team fundraiser, you can drastically increase its reach. By accepting gifts digitally, supporters can give to your organization from near and far.
What are some best practices when using social media to grow?
Whether you’re a social media pro or just trying out the networks for the first time, there are a few best practices to follow when using social media to grow your nonprofit.
Choose a few platforms and stick to them
There are a ton of social media networks, and sometimes it feels like new networks appear every day. Choose a few networks that your supporters are most active on and optimize your presence on them
Tailor your message to the platform in use
Don’t simply share the same post across each platform you’re using – something that’s doomed to fail given the different parameters, trends, and best practices governing each. Instead, create the perfect message for each platform, whether short updates on Twitter or multimedia updates on Facebook.
Make social media a two-way conversation
Social media is the perfect platform to truly engage with supporters, rather than simply speaking at them. Encourage supporters to comment back on your posts, whether by posing questions or making an intriguing statement. Then, respond to those supporters that comment to get a conversation going.
Remain genuine and authentic
Donors are increasingly suspicious of highly-promotional content, and that’s especially true of online readers who tend to just screen out anything perceived as an ad. Ensure you’re not too promotional on your social networks by focusing on real people (e.g. your staff or volunteers) doing real work to further your cause.
Social media is a powerful tool to reach new supporters, but only if you’re using it effectively. With the above tips, you’ll be off to a great start.
3. Activate current supporters to grow your nonprofit organization
Your current supporters are one of your organization’s strongest forces to grow your organization. Find your most ardent supporters and inspire them to recruit new supporters on your behalf.
How can small nonprofit organizations activate current supporters to grow?
There are a few different ways your current supporters can champion your organization to others, including the peer-to-peer fundraising methods mentioned earlier. In addition, consider creating the following opportunities.
Volunteer program. Invite some of your most dedicated supporters to give in a new manner: their time. With the extra hands on deck, your staff’s time will be freed to complete other more pressing tasks. You’ll be able to get more done in a shorter period of time, and give supporters that are unable to give in a financial manner an outlet to show their support.
Nonprofit ambassador program. Appoint your most ardent supporters as ambassadors of your organization. These supporters will spread the word about your organization to their greater networks, often through social networks. This is especially impactful if you appoint supporters who have a large social media following and social influence in your community.
These opportunities help your organization grow by passing some of your efforts to your most ardent supporters. With their help, you’ll be able to expand your reach faster than if it was just your staff handling things.
What are some best practices when activating current supporters?
As dedicated as your most ardent supporters may be, they’re most likely not fundraising professionals themselves. That’s fine – they’re still a huge resource for your organization to draw from. However, that means it’s up to you to make sure these supporters are well-prepared to champion your organization.
Encourage your champion supporters with incentives such as nonprofit merch, social media shout-outs, and thank-you events.
Challenge your champion supporters with a fundraising thermometer or a champion leaderboard (such as if you’re challenging them with selling event tickets).
Educate champion supporters thoroughly regarding your organization’s view and cause, ensuring they only share your mission in the same ways you prefer to describe it.
The key here is incentivization and education. You want supporters to be excited and well informed when championing your organization.
4. Grow your nonprofit organization by being transparent
This entire guide discussed nonprofit growth in terms of bringing new supporters to your organization. However, it’s difficult to bring in new supporters – or retain those supporters after the fact – if they don’t trust your organization fully.
How does transparency affect your nonprofit’s growth?
Transparency becomes even more essential as your organization grows. More supporters mean more gifts to your organization, which means you suddenly have a larger amount of money to manage.
Understandably, supporters can be more suspicious of organizations the more money they’re bringing in. Nonprofits are given special allowances by the government allowing them to operate in the way they do, and it’s because of the good work that these organizations do.
If supporters don’t trust that your organization is putting their gifts to good use, furthering your cause, then your organization will get a bad reputation as you grow. Remaining transparent about your efforts, giving donors a look into what their gifts are going toward, is crucial to maintaining this trust.
What are some top tips for remaining transparent?
The level of transparency expected from nonprofit organizations is higher than that of for-profit organizations. Therefore, you have to take a few extra steps to remain transparent.
Create a strong annual report
Focus energy on developing a fortified annual report, giving supporters a look into your work. Share your story and outline the details surrounding new projects. Finally, share this with supporters via announcements and social networks.
Share a variety of media showing your organization in action
Textual accounts, while helpful, don’t always paint the full picture of all of the work your organization is doing. Share images and videos, as well, to ensure supporters trust that you’re actually doing what you say you are.
Own up to any challenges
While it’s easy to share your successes, it’s equally important to share your challenges. If your organization comes under fire, share how you plan to address the issue in a timely manner, whether that’s prioritizing sustainability in your events or being transparent about failing to reach a fundraising goal.
When you’re transparent with supporters as your organization grows, you’ll develop a reputation for being trustworthy and a responsible steward of donated funds.
Attracting and retaining supporters is key to the successful growth of your organization. You’ll be able to utilize these tips and tricks at any point in your nonprofit’s journey to grow further.
Grow your organization even more by using the best nonprofit software for your company's unique needs.
Brad Dowhaniuk is the Co-Founder of 99Pledges, which provides schools and teams with an easy-to-use, web-based fundraising solution to manage and drive success in Fun Runs, jog-a-thons, baseball hit-a-thons, and much more.