Across the nonprofit sector, there’s a pervasive idea that it’s best to stick with tried-and-true fundraising strategies to raise and direct the maximum amount of money toward the organization’s mission.
It makes sense to avoid taking major risks in your nonprofit’s fundraising and general development strategy— your cause depends on the funds you’re able to raise! However, if the previous few years have shown us anything (with the mass pivot to virtual), traditional fundraising methods aren’t always enough to reach great heights let alone maintain results. If you want to elevate your nonprofit’s capacity for good, you have to take some risks.
In your strategic planning for this year and beyond, we at GoodUnited challenge you to embrace entrepreneurship. Essentially, this means embracing an organizational culture that allows you to take risks and spend funds with the goal of developing your nonprofit.
In this guide, we’ll cover the topic of embracing entrepreneurship through the following points:
Before we discuss the four ways that you can embrace entrepreneurship for your nonprofit, let’s first take a look at what that mindset shift truly means.
Let’s get started.
In an article for AFP Global, Maria Clark notes “Some nonprofit leaders are so focused on gleaning success from strategies already in place that they unknowingly limit the effort and bandwidth necessary for innovation. Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to think entrepreneurially.”
She goes on to discuss how many organizations are realizing that “innovation is a necessary investment” to grow over time, raise more funds, and as a result, have a greater impact on mission. This includes activities such as:
An entrepreneurial mindset, at its core, involves investing time and resources into strategies that you think will pay off for your organization in the long run, even if they’re not actively embraced across the nonprofit sector just yet.
There are unlimited ways that you can embrace entrepreneurship for your nonprofit— any investment into your strategy that’s outside of the “norm” for nonprofit organizations would fit the bill.
However, think of how many startups fail (about 90%). Not every idea is worth hinging your nonprofit’s success on. Thinking strategically about your entrepreneurial actions is key; we recommend aiming for innovative strategies that already have some noted success for other organizations.
Here are four on-the-rise ideas to consider.
One of the best ways to embrace entrepreneurship with your nonprofit is to experiment with innovative new fundraising methods. This allows you to engage new audiences and connect with supporters in ways that they may not have interacted with nonprofits previously, creating a fresh new experience.
For modern nonprofits, this means embracing the third shift in fundraising. As a recap, the first shift was direct mail-based giving. Then, it shifted to web-based giving on nonprofit websites. Now, the third shift is to social fundraising methods— essentially, fundraising campaigns that take place on social networks, with all engagement occurring in-channel.
The best example of this is Challenges on Facebook. Challenges are a type of time-bound peer-to-peer fundraiser that takes place on the social network. While this is a newer fundraiser type in the nonprofit sector, we’ve seen a number of nationwide nonprofits (including American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen, Stop Soldier Suicide, and more) become early adopters of the campaigns with great success.
During a Challenge, participants:
To host a Challenge on Facebook, you simply need to choose an activity, choose a time span, create a Facebook group, and begin advertising the opportunity to your supporters.
It’s no secret that regular communication with supporters is the key to transforming a one-time donor into a lifelong champion of your cause. However, what’s discussed less is how challenging it can be to communicate regularly with all of your supporters, especially as the number of constituents in your database goes from hundreds of supporters, to thousands, to millions and more.
At one time, automated messaging was taboo in the nonprofit sector. With thoughts of robotic-sounding phone answering systems and clunky live chats, nonprofit professionals were hesitant to hand their communications over to technology. However, as email automation tools (like MailChimp), social posting tools, and even text messaging automation tools have risen in prominence, that hesitation has slowly faded.
The latest innovation in automated messaging is conversational messaging on social media. Your nonprofit already has supporters on social media, whether they’re following your profiles for updates or participating in a Challenge on Facebook. The biggest benefit of this is that you’re meeting and connecting with people where they are and where they already spend time.
To access this, partner with a social fundraising services provider (like GoodUnited!) that specializes in conversational messaging. This team will write a custom automated messaging sequence that’s both aligned with your nonprofit’s branding and responsive to what your supporters say in the moment.
These automated sequences can be sent to your supporters via Meta’s Messenger app. For example, the social fundraising services provider might post a thank-you note on a supporter’s Facebook post and in that note, invite them to connect with your nonprofit in Messenger. Then, the supporter will be in the automated sequence. From there, these conversations feel like a one-on-one chat between friends. This is the ideal way to grow your relationships with social supporters in a scalable manner.
We know that data is key to understanding your supporters and cause better, which allows you to provide opportunities and conduct outreach in a way that appeals to them. For the most part, nonprofits focus on data collection from the sense of making the most of the data they already have in the many software solutions they employ.
However, it’s worthwhile to consider investing in data collection efforts from outside of your nonprofit in 2022.
Consider the example of Best Friends Animal Society, which invested in creating the Pet Lifesaving Dashboard. With their regular efforts of collecting local data and updating this dashboard, they’re able to provide county-specific data to individuals passionate about the cause of eliminating kill shelters by 2025— so, those supporters are then able to find direct ways to advance the mission locally.
The goal of this data isn’t to immediately generate fundraising revenue, but rather to help the organization understand where there is need for their services across the country. They can then better allocate resources (and, precisely convey to their supporters where help is needed!). This improves their efficiency and helps them tell the story of their nonprofit more effectively over time.
We briefly discussed how one of the main reasons that nonprofits don’t embrace entrepreneurship is because they don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to experimentation. Should limited capacity hold your nonprofit back from reaching new heights?
Definitely not! Remember that it’s okay to ask for help and partner with an expert in the new strategies you’re hoping to implement. This partner will not only expand your nonprofit’s human resources, but they’ll also bring necessary knowledge to help your team implement the new strategy effectively.
One great example is partnering with a social fundraising services provider (like GoodUnited!) when you decide to embrace the third shift in giving. With our services and turnkey social fundraising solution, you access:
These services empower you to wade into the waters of social fundraising with the support of a team with expert knowledge in the topic (in fact, we’re official Meta partners!). To learn more, contact our team today.
To see true growth for your nonprofit in the new year, you’re going to need to invest in developing your organization’s capacity.
Whether new fundraising methods, ways to connect with supporters more sustainably, or data for your analysis, each of these options represents a valuable investment into the ongoing growth of a nonprofit.
To learn more about the third shift in giving, messaging automation, and social fundraising services, connect with our team at GoodUnited today. In the meantime, explore the following additional resources: