How to Get Donations for a 501(c)(3)

bizfluent article image

Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Although 501(c)(3) status allows your nonprofit organization to accept tax-deductible donations, raising money can still be difficult if not done correctly. Potential donors need to feel like they are giving to a worthy cause and that they are personally making a difference. Some of the ways to get donations include utilizing personal connections, writing letters, sending emails and exploiting online social networking.

Getting Prepared

Set up a business plan. Before you start making calls and sending out emails, you need to make sure that you have a great business plan with realistic goals. Asking for donations should be approached in the same way as selling a product in a for-profit business. Consider the donation goal, the number of people who will be working on each fund raising drive, the cost of fundraising, perfecting your core message, your marketing strategy, creating numerous multimedia tools and creating your target donor list. It is also very important to set up levels of donations that each target a specific type of donor as far as financial resources.

Set up an accounting system and a bank account. If you are a 501(c)(3) organization, it means a donor can deduct a contribution on his tax returns, and your organization is responsible for maintaining accurate records. Open up a bank account for your organization, and purchase basic accounting software to make sure there is a proper recording of each donation.

Set up ways to accept donations. Allows donors to give in any way that is convenient for them. Checks and cash can be deposited in your bank account. You can accept credit cards through an online third-party such as PayPal. Anyone with an email address and a bank account can set up a PayPal account. If you have a website, it is very easy to add a PayPal donation button on your home page.

Getting the money

Go to personal friends or business associates. It is important to start off a campaign drive by showing people that others are giving. Think of everyone you know and give them a call personally. Tell them what you are doing and ask if they can give a small amount right away to help you get off the ground. After you have asked your close friends, approach your casual friends and business associates. Tell them how much you have already raised and ask them if they can make a contribution.

Set up a social media campaign. Start a Facebook page, invite all your friends and ask them to invite their friends. Start a blog that you update with news on the organization and progress on your donation drive. Use other social media sites like Twitter, MySpace, hi5, LinkedIn and aSmallWorld.

Consider using a website that is tailor-made for fund raising. These include, and On Kickstarter, you can start a campaign in which donors receive "rewards" in return for their donation. Be careful, though, on what you give in return as a donation is not necessarily tax-deductible if the donor receives something in return. Check with the IRS about this as the rules are a bit complicated. Refer to the link to the IRS's rules on charitable organizations under Resources.

There is also an organization called MissionFish that works with eBay to allow sellers on eBay to give a portion of their sales to a nonprofit certified by MissionFish.

Approach like-minded organizations. Whatever you are getting donations for, most likely there are other organizations who would benefit from your campaign. Ask them to send out an email to their members or mention your organization on their website.

Approach local businesses. Social media will allow you to reach the most number of people, but talking to a real person face-to-face will produce a higher percentage of results. It is much more difficult to say no to a real donation request than to actively give to one online. Start out by sending them a formal letter and then follow up immediately in person.