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5 Tips for Maximizing Donations

When fundraising, it's important to think outside the box. All donations - from foundations, companies, and individuals - are essential to the operations of any nonprofit, and there are many ways to donate that organizations often overlook. To maximize donations, you can let donors know about all the different ways they can support your work.

Here are five tips to consider when asking for donations:

  • Employee Matching Gifts: An employee benefit offered by many businesses, corporate giving programs match employee donations to eligible nonprofit organizations. In other words, if your donor works for a company that offers this benefit, her donation could be doubled, or maybe even tripled, through a corporate match by her employer. Corporations can typically only donate in this way to eligible nonprofits, so it’s important to let your donors know that this is an option, allowing them to initiate the corporate match process with their employer.

  • Noncash Donations: In fundraising, we’re always chasing after the mighty dollar needed to cover our expenses, but donations of property can be a great way to keep those expenses low. Donations of physical, tangible items are often considered tax-deductible by the IRS, and many donors, particularly local businesses, are willing to consider making donations of this kind. When sending out solicitations, you can let your donors know if there are any specific goods (food, equipment, supplies, etc) that you’re seeking, or you can solicit local businesses and companies for donations of their products. It’s important to note that the IRS has specific regulations about noncash donations – for example, that donations of time and services are not considered tax-deductible. Donors may still be willing to make these donations without the tax benefit, but it’s important to be familiar with the ins and outs of noncash and in-kind contributions before soliciting donors.

  • Giving Levels: A mainstay of crowdfunding campaigns, giving levels can create clarity for your donors, and can also allow you to offer something in return for their donation. These levels can act as a guide, suggesting what donations might be most helpful and why. Letting your donors know that you’re receiving donations at both the $10 and $1,000 level encourages them to donate, even if it can only be a small amount. In exchange for these donations, you can also offer benefits to your donors – for example, at the $250 level, you might offer some original artwork or an invitation to rehearsal. These benefits can be a major incentive to donate, and also directly involve your donors in the work that you’re making. Keep in mind that, if these benefits carry a monetary value, that value needs to be declared up front and the donation becomes partially tax-deductible.

  • Recurring/Monthly Donations: Also helpful in keeping your donors regularly involved in your work are recurring donations. Often, recurring donations are set up on a monthly basis, but you could coordinate with your donors to give annually, bi-annually, quarterly, or on whatever schedule works best for them. This allows your donors can give in smaller portions over a period of time, rather than in a larger, singular contribution. Because you have ongoing expenses – like rent, utilities, or wages – your donors may be willing to give on a schedule that’s beneficial both to them and to you. You can then rely on an expected stream of funding, and it keeps your donors involved, not only with your budgetary concerns but with the work that you’re making.

  • Referrals: There are many ways to contribute, and sometimes your biggest supporters won't be able to donate financially. Whenever soliciting, it’s important to let your contacts know that, even if they can't give at this time, there are other ways to help – most importantly, by sharing your work with their friends, networks, and contacts. Your supporters can be your most powerful advocates, and in sharing your work, they can widen your circle of contributors.

Donations can come in many shapes and sizes, and donors are often willing to think outside the box if you are. It's great to be open to these different kinds of donation, and essential to let your donors know that you are. When reaching out to donors, be sure to inform them of the different ways they can support your work, to help maximize the benefits that come your way.