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Ask Andrea: How to Raise Money for a Very Small Organization

AskAndrea.inddHello, and welcome to the third blog post in which I answer your questions about fundraising! I’ll select interesting or frequent or thought-provoking questions each month and write my answers to them in this forum on the third Thursday of every month

Do you have a question to ask me? Email me, Andrea Kihlstedt, at for your chance to be featured in the column!

Now, let’s get to this month's important question from Aubrey who has founded a small organization but isn't getting fundraising traction!

Dear Andrea,

What would you recommend would be the best fundraising activity or strategy for a fairly new nonprofit with a budget of under a $1000? We have a nice website and are on social media, but aren’t getting much ROI from those and need another avenue we can afford to raise awareness of our nonprofit’s mission and get people interested in donating and engaging with us. I’ve read lots of books on fundraising and building a nonprofit, but few address how to start out from scratch.


Thank you, Aubrey, for your great and important question.

Many amazing people like you have founded nonprofits because they are passionate about a cause have the courage to make a difference in the world. But they soon find that money doesn't just fly in when they put up their website and get active through social media.

Don't give up hope, Aubrey! You CAN raise money. You've just got to take a different approach.

Here's a simple (though not easy) way to raise more money than you might have imagined.

Start by Raising Money Close to Home

Audrey, the money for your organization is not "out there" somewhere. The money you raise will be "close to home." I don’t mean on your street or in your town. But your fundraising should begin by asking the people you already know to contribute to your cause. Here are four steps that'll get you going.

Step 1. Make a List of Your Blue Ribbon Prospects

Start by making a list of all of the people you know personally who would have a reason to want to support your cause. They might want to support you because they love you. Or they may care about one aspect or another of the work you do. Perhaps they are family members or friends or colleagues.

Step 2. Write a Simple, Clear Description of Your Why, What and How

Write up a very simple description of why your project matters. Be sure that the story you tell captures the heart of why you are doing this work, how your work differs from others and what you are doing. Be sure to write it in that order! Why, How, What. (See Simon Sinek’s TED talk) Stay away from technical terms and fancy language. If it reads like a college professor or scientist wrote it, go back and start again...using much simpler language.

Step 3. Get Clear on How Much You Want to Raise and What For

Don't try to raise however much money you can bring in, though lots of small organizations take that approach. Rather, decide what you want to accomplish and how much money that will take. Set a goal for your fundraising and tie it to results. That'll be more interesting to donors and it'll hold you accountable too. Start with a smallish goal. You can raise more money once you've been successful with that first project.

Step 4. Here's the Crucial Step -- Ask for Gifts

And this is the step that may make you quake. Once you've finished steps 1, 2 and 3, you've got to gear yourself up ask your friends and colleagues and family for money. Don't ask in an offhand sort of way with a mass email. Instead ask people for gifts, one at a time.

You are passionate about your cause or you wouldn't have created your organization. So share your passion and your excitement and your commitment. And invite your friends and family and colleagues to join you!

To see this process laid out more fully, go to this series of short posts I wrote to help Margaret, a young artist, raise money. She followed the process step by step and it worked!

Don't Rely on Your Website or Social Media as the Engine for Fundraising

Social media, your website and special events are great for raising awareness, but not so great at raising money. So dive into real fundraising and watch your money start to flow.

As you talk to people about supporting your cause, you'll build and strengthen your relationships and opportunities you may never have imagined will come your way.

Happy fundraising, Aubrey. And thanks so very much for your important question!

What fundraising questions do you have? Send your questions to Andrea at


Andrea Kihlstedt, author and co-founder, Andrea Kihlstedt


Andrea Kihlstedt loves to give fundraising advice and has given lots of it over her 30+ years in the fundraising business. She’s a writer, speaker and trainer on fundraising. She’s has written four books on fundraising. She lives in New York City and provides training and coaching to people in the early stages of planning capital campaigns. You can find her at Capital Campaign Magic.

Topics: Fundraising