10 Step Guide to Fundraising

Older woman standing with microphone.

Even though many dialogue to change efforts rely on volunteers and in-kind assistance to get started, it is essential to think about budgeting and fundraising from the beginning.

Raising funds is related to every aspect of your program. Your ability to raise funds will increase as you expand your outreach, involve more people in the program and tell the story of the impact on your community.

1. Develop a budget based on your goals

Revisit the goals of your program, and think about their budgetary implications: How many participants are we hoping to involve? What will it take in the form of staffing, expertise and material resources to make that happen? Will we hire a coordinator? What kinds of support will we provide for the action stage of the program? What other kinds of expenses can we anticipate?


2. Determine how much in-kind support you have

In-kind support - donations other than direct monetary support - can be crucial in the early stages of a program. Often, in-kind support comes from coalition members and their contacts.

Examples of invaluable in-kind support include:

  • Office space
  •  Staff time
  •  Printing and photocopying
  •  Graphic design for posters and fliers
  •  Photography
  •  Food
  •  Child care
  •  Transportation


3. Design a plan for your fundraising strategies

Look at your budget and available in-kind support to determine how much money you need to raise to meet your program’s goals. Decide on a deadline for raising the funds.

Once you have your target amount and target date, start planning specific tasks and timelines with coalition members who will be involved in fundraising. Enlist them in brainstorming ideas for the plan and in helping to carry it out. Ask people to commit to specific tasks.


4. Document and share your plan

Everyone who has a role in fundraising should have a copy of the plan. A written plan makes it easier to track your progress, and to remind people of tasks they agreed to take on.


5. Compile a list of possible funding sources

Ask coalition members for ideas. Check the local library or university for a directory of philanthropic organizations in your community and region. Some communities have nonprofit resource centers with local directories. State agencies that handle local affairs also provide directories of state and local funders.


6. Determine which funding sources are worth approaching

You won’t have time to apply for grants from all the funding sources on your list. Do some research to find out which grants are worth pursuing. Focus on ones that fund community building, citizen engagement, or the issue your program will address. Make sure that you meet their funding guidelines, and that their timeline works for you. Find out if anyone on your coalition has a connection to the source.


7. Develop talking points

When approaching funding sources, be prepared to talk about why the issue is important and how the program will help make a difference.

It can be challenging to talk about potential outcomes at the beginning of the program, but you can describe the impact you expect to make, and the kinds of community organizations that are committed to the program. You can also cite outcomes from similar programs across the country.

Finally, be prepared to describe how you will document and assess what the program has accomplished.


8. Set up meetings with possible donors

The most effective fundraising is done on a one-to-one basis with individuals you already know. Ask coalition member that has a relationship with potential funders to request a meeting. Or, perhaps someone on the coalition could make an introductory call about your program.

Ask funders about their programming priorities and how your program might fit. Whenever you talk with potential donors in your own community, remember to invite them to participate in a dialogue or action forum.


9. Develop written proposals

Decide who will be involved in developing the proposal; even if several people are involved in brainstorming, limit the number of people who work on the final product. If you will be developing several written proposals, create a system for keeping track of due dates and requirements.


10. Stay in touch with the funders

As soon as you receive notice that you will be awarded a grant, send a thank-you letter. Create a timeline for sending reports and stories to the funder to meet their guidelines and to keep your program fresh in their minds.


Sign Up for Email Updates!Wasn't that helpful? Sign up for more tips like this one

Connecticut Civic Ambassadors are everyday people who care about and engage others in their communities by creating opportunities for civic participation that strengthens our state’s "civic health."

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.