Back to All Posts

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective"

"Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective"

Lisa Schlarbaum, Director of Development


When I transitioned from the for-profit to the non-profit sector as the Director of Development for Hope House of Colorado, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. That’s probably a good thing because I might not have made the change if I had really known what was ahead!


Before I joined the executive team full-time at Hope House, I spent a couple of years on the Board of Directors. I made the professional switch because I loved Hope House and believed that helping teen moms become personally and economically self-sufficient was a great mission that I could get behind.


The goal of growing the number of moms Hope House serves and being responsible for the income needed to make that happen was a challenge that appealed to me. It didn’t hurt that as a board member, I made a trip to New Hampshire to visit an organization called The Care Center that was several steps ahead of us in this mission.


I believe to this day that God cast a vision for me during this three-day meeting that was sponsored by a mutual donor to three teen mom agencies. The chance to impact two generations of children and build a resource center where teen moms could build a better future for themselves was enough to make me leave the corporate sales arena I knew so well.


What I didn’t know was how hard the fundraising was really going to be and how much I needed to learn. I am told that roughly 96% of the non-profits in the U.S. raise less than a $1 million annually. I learned it’s really hard for a non-profit to get over the humps at $500,000, $1 million, and $2 million. Each hurdle requires its own growth plan.


Every non-profit is different and has its own set of challenges. Below I listed the questions we asked ourselves as we grew from $700,000 to $1.3 million over five years. I believe the same strategies will get us to $2 million before 2020 and help us triple the number of teen moms and children we serve.


1. Why do our donors (or champions as we call them at Hope House) give to our organization? We asked ourselves why they love our mission, success rate, teen moms, little ones, and programs. We worked to find out why were they loyal to us.


2. Do we have a robust Development Plan that focuses on this year, the past and the future by income stream? To get there, we asked ourselves the following questions:  Do we have a plan around each income stream this year? Which ones are still growing, which ones have we maxed out, where will we spend our limited resources. How much is each costing the organization? When do you pull the plug on one?


The most important thing we did five years ago was to code every gift that came into Hope House. You have to know what a gift is for so that you can decide if it’s going to be given again by that specific donor or another donor-- and how a new donor found out about you. You want to know when these gifts might stop. If you don’t know why people give or don’t keep your income sorted this way, then you can’t build plans to grow these income streams. In 2011, half of our income was not coded! Today less than 4% is not coded. We now build 1 and 5 year plans around our income streams.


3. Are you in relationship with your champions? Yes--  because they are the lifeline of our organization. Ask yourself if you say Thank You when you get a gift. Do your donors take your calls and answer your texts? Even better, do they provide counsel? In order to grow, you have to cultivate your champions and grow new ones. Are you providing the right opportunities to make this happen?


4. Are you relevant? More important questions to ask yourself:  What’s your marketing look like? Are you constantly striving to get to the next level? Do you know what that the next level looks like for your organization? I think our team is focused on this vision and the next steps, and we celebrate our accomplishments quarterly. I also read different fundraising blogs every week for new ideas. The Agitator and Future Fundraising Now are two that I recommend.


5. Do you have the right people on your team? You have to have the right expertise, experience and strengths on a team in order to scale and grow. Ask yourself if your team loves your mission. Are they utility players? Who pinch hits on your team when someone is on vacation or leave? Do they have the right attitude? I also have a mentor thru the Colorado AFP chapter who was helpful to me during our Capital Campaign. It’s great if you can have a couple of people like this around you.


6. Is there a magic bullet, unicorn, or secret sauce for fundraising? I personally don’t think so, and I’ve been looking for this for over five years. It’s hard work! You need to keep on top of changes in the industry and keep learning! Don’t be afraid to try new things or experiment.


At the end of every year I feel blessed to have contributed to the success of our teen moms. Recently I had coffee with one of our teen moms and was so inspired by her story. She was juggling school, work and her two children while trying to make ends meet. Her life is far from perfect, but she and her children are thriving! That’s enough to keep me doing my part here at Hope House!

Comments:Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective"
Post a Comment

Blog Archives

January 2018

Organizational Growth Cycles: Stages that Lead to a Mature Nonprofit - 01/23/2018

November 2017

Knowledge Share #19: Creating Unity: The Power of Mealtime - 11/20/2017

October 2017

Knowledge Share #18: The Power of Networking - 10/12/2017

September 2017

Knowledge Share #18: Engaging the Millennial Generation - 09/19/2017

August 2017

Knowledge Share #17: When the Dream Seems Too Big - 08/17/2017

July 2017

Knowledge Share #16: Personalized Learning - The Cornerstone of our GED Program - 07/18/2017

June 2017

Knowledge Share #15: Special Needs and Special Moms - 06/08/2017

April 2017

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children - 04/18/2017

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017

February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017

January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017

November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016

September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016

August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016

July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016

June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016

May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016

April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016

March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016

February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016

January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016

December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015

October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015

July 2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015

May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015

April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015

February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015

January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015

December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014

October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014

September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014

July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014

June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014

May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014

April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014

March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014

February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014

January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014

December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013

November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013

September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013

August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013

July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013

June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013

May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


Recent Comments

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home ea ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kristina Shade said: Laura, you are such a blessing in our daughter and grandson's life. I remember Kyra coming home each ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Lisa Steven said: Laura, you are an amazing teacher! You are making a huge impact in the lives of our young moms ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #14: Creating Connections through Children
Kerry Kelley said: What a great post, Laura! That was so insightful and caring! It almost made me cry! I love the pe ...   [more]

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset
Caty love said: Danielle is one of my friends back from high school and just wanted to stop by and show her how hap ...   [more]

Subscribe to our blog!