Starting a business that raises funds for not-for-profit organizations isn't as simple as hanging out a shingle. First you must be known to be experienced, successful and trustworthy as a fundraiser. Your ability to consistently get results - in this case donations and grants - is the best asset you can have to sell your services to organizations. If you are just beginning in this field, you will need to be prepared for some lean years before you ultimately have all the business you want.
Determine if you want to specialize in one area of fundraising, such as grant writing, corporate gifts, acquiring major gifts or fundraising events.
Build your credentials as a professional fundraiser if you do not already have them. For example, Indiana University offers various types of courses through its Fundraising School in its Center on Philanthropy. After you have completed training, either intern or volunteer to help small not-for-profit organizations with their fundraising. Once you have gained experience and had success with fundraising, you will have some references for your fundraising company. If you have decided to specialize in grants, for example, take grant-writing classes and volunteer as a grant writer for a local organization. Do this for each area you wish to include in your business.
Learn what all the local and state laws are in your area for starting such a business and make certain you comply with them. Check with your Secretary of State's office as well as your local government to find out what they are. Also work with a good accountant to make certain you know about all the tax requirements involved.
Organize your office and record keeping system before you actively start seeking clients so you don't lose track of important information. Determine your pricing structure. Make a list of all funders you intend to contact, and another list of potential clients. You will need to keep track of all your expenses and income. Excel spreadsheets are a simple way to do this, but your accountant may have a better suggestion for the structure of your specific business. You will also need to keep records of every grant or fundraising effort that is pending and for which organization, a calendar of upcoming grant deadlines and appointments to do with fundraising.
Attend fundraising events of the organizations you wish to contract with. Develop relationships with the decision makers.
Promote yourself and your business. Advertise in not-for-profit newsletters. If there isn't one in your area, you may want to start one. Send a card or brochure to the executive directors and development directors of organizations you wish to fundraise for.
It takes time to develop relationships and to become known as a credible, trustworthy fundraiser in the not-for-profit community. If this is truly your passion, don't give up. Keep working at it until you succeed.
- It takes time to develop relationships and to become known as a credible, trustworthy fundraiser in the not-for-profit community. If this is truly your passion, don't give up. Keep working at it until you succeed.
Susan Miller has been a professional journalist since 1990. She edited two weeklies for a chain of suburban newspapers and has written for the "Indianapolis Star," the "Indianapolis Business Journal" and several magazines, among other publications and websites. Miller studied design, photography and technology at Purdue University and Central Piedmont Community College.