Achieving Fundraising Gold, Part I- Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Campaign

This three-part article series provides advice to help your nonprofit achieve fundraising gold by equipping your board and leadership teams, safeguarding compliance, and mining giving data. The series will cover best practices during three key fundraising phases: laying the groundwork for a successful campaign, building momentum as the campaign progresses, and concluding in a way that drives future success. Where a deeper dive is warranted, we’ve provided links for you to explore.

In Part 1, Lisa Cohen, CEO of Capital Motion, Gail Snow Moraski, Principal of Results Communication and Research, and Brock Klinger, Account Executive at Harbor Compliance, answer questions about laying the foundation for a successful fundraising program.

How can I get the leadership team fired up?

Lisa: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, to paraphrase the law of inertia. This law of physics is observably true of effective fundraising; high energy development programs tend to keep on raising money. Programs that have a tough time getting going also have a tough time keeping going. As leaders, the team — executives and board members — can help to generate the energy to put the object (the fundraising program) in motion and to continue to roll it forward.

Fundraising is a new role for a lot of board members, and it’s not always everyone’s favorite job when they first try it. One thing that can help is to reframe the activity set as “community outreach” or “ambassadorship.” This discussion might take more up-front time than just assigning everyone a goal and a list.

These tasks can help to ensure that your board and leadership team members are energized and engaged personally and able to bring their fundraising “superpowers” to the effort.

What do I need to do to prepare the leadership team?

Lisa: It’s been said, of course, and bears saying again, so here goes: be sure to cover the basics before you get started. Make sure everyone is up to speed on the history of the organization, its current mission, population served, programs, budget, and so on.

You can also equip your team by conducting a foundational financial analysis. This is a little different than an audit or routine preparation of required annual financial statements. You may require the assistance of an outside professional, or you may need to ask a member of the financial staff to conduct some financial or scenario analysis that is a bit different from some of the routine work of the office. If the work generates pictures – charts and graphs – showing the impact of major gifts – all the better. This analysis can help a leadership team and board understand and communicate the financial dynamics of an organization and answer questions about how gifts could be of significant impact to an organization’s mission and results, something all major donors and funders want to know.

With so many ways to reach out, how do I focus on the communication tactics that will benefit us the most?

Gail: Often organizations–both for-profit and nonprofit–don’t make or take the time to dig down deep to determine which, if any, of the tactics they employed as part of a past fundraising or marketing campaign were successful in generating donations or some other desired outcome. Most digital marketing platforms, such as email services, social media, and online advertising come with built-in performance analytics tools. Such research and analysis can and should be used to determine where limited marketing dollars and energy should be spent in future fundraising campaigns.

What if this is our first campaign?

Gail: The internet provides so many accessible, no- or low-cost avenues for reaching out. A typical fundraising campaign might include a mix of the following tactics:

  • A website “landing page” specific to the fundraising campaign
  • Posts on a variety of social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn)
  • Email blast specific to campaign or campaign mention in an e-newsletter
  • Online advertising, such as Facebook or Google Ads

Someone versed in these tools and your budget can help you outline the best strategy for your campaign.

Do I need to register before fundraising? What do I need to do to ensure compliance?

Brock: Forty-one states require nonprofits to register for charitable solicitation, and 25 require inclusion of specific disclosures in solicitations. In some states, you also need to get a certificate of authority to conduct operations, a process known as foreign qualification. In each state where you solicit, you’ll need to meet applicable requirements.

The first step is to determine your fundraising “footprint,” the map of states where you’re soliciting. It’s important to understand that solicitation occurs wherever the request for donations is received, not where it originates. With online fundraising, solicitations are potentially reaching donors in all states, which may necessitate meeting requirements across the board. In addition, you’ll need to consider requirements for any special activities such as contracting with professional fundraisers, conducting special events such as bingo, and engaging in commercial co-ventures such as merchandise sales and cash register campaigns.

Once you’ve determined which requirements apply to your activities, you can develop a plan to meet them. Some nonprofits simply register nationwide and begin soliciting. Others take a graduated approach, limiting donations to certain states where they’re registered and expanding their footprint as they grow.

How much time and money will registration take?

Brock: Fees are modest, in the $25 to $50 range. In many states, registration is free, and often exemptions are provided for smaller nonprofits. Yet it can take quite a bit of time to sort through the requirements and file, so it’s really important to address compliance very early in your planning process.

These tips should help you get your campaign off to a strong start by getting your leadership on board, making the most of digital platforms available for getting the word out, and taking steps to ensure a compliant campaign. In our next article in the series, our experts provide suggestions for building momentum throughout your campaign in your ongoing quest to achieve fundraising gold.

Have further questions for our experts? Feel free to reach out to them directly:

Lisa Cohen, Capital, 617-545-7937

Gail Snow Moraski, Results Communication and Research,, 781-267-6687

Brock Klinger, Harbor Compliance,, 1-888-995-5895

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