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6 ways to improve your support group’s fundraising efforts

Group of five adults standing aruond a table.
Group of five adults standing around a table.

All groups need money to operate, whether they are just getting started or plan to hold a big training or offer special services. As the group’s leader, your efforts will be the most successful if fundraising is seen as the responsibility of the entire group, from developing the strategy, to implementing the plan, to evaluating your results.

Here are some steps to help ensure that your fundraising efforts are successful.

1. Decide what you need the funds for

Before you begin fundraising, spend time with your group members creating a mission statement and identifying what you need funding for. You’ll want to identify the priorities for the group’s future projects or services and what those efforts will cost.

One of the most effective ways to determine priorities is to survey the group’s members. Are they interested in providing child care services, refreshments for the meetings, or bringing in paid trainers or consultants? Does the group plan to publish a monthly newsletter with resources for the community or create a service for the members? Is there an advocacy event or conference on the wish list? Are the funds sought for a one-time event or for ongoing support of the group? Limit your priorities to two or three so you can focus your energy, making you more likely to succeed.

You’ll also want to think about what you already have on your plate. Determine how your group can manage starting a fundraising strategy relative to what your group is already juggling.

2. Decide how much you need to raise

After you have come to an agreement on what you’ll be doing, you need to do some research to determine how much you need to raise in order to achieve it. Talk to other support group leaders who have launched similar projects. Interview community members as well to gain an understanding of what it will take to successfully meet your goals.

Once you have done research on what it might cost, develop a budget to meet your goals. A budget should include both expenses and income. Expenses might include meeting space, website operating costs, mailing costs, childcare, trainers, and paid work hours. Income might include dues, donations or in-kind services, fees for services, and volunteer hours.

When your budget is complete, you can identify what funds you already have on hand and what you need to raise

3. Assess the skills, talents, and connections of your membership

What your group does and how you decide to fundraise should come from a careful assessment of your membership’s talents and interests. Developing a membership talent and connections grid can help you design your fundraising plan and help your members understand how they can best contribute to the group.

Ask everyone in the room to share the talents they bring to the group themselves, and the talents they see in others. Your list of talents may include artist, website designer, legal advisor, medical expert, writer, chef, teacher, organizer, musician, singer, gardener, speaker, and more.

Next have everyone list the connections they have within the community. Successful fundraisers approach friends and colleagues first, knowing that they have an open and receptive audience. Your members’ connections likely already know something about their family and its unique needs. Often, they have asked in the past how they can help; here is their opportunity!

Create a system for capturing the information about members’ talents and connections. You could create a spreadsheet with members’ names in rows and a column that displays their skills, and another column that displays their community connections and what could be gained through those connections. Seeing this information in a grid will help all members see how their talents and connections can contribute to the group’s success.

Acknowledging members’ aversion to fundraising

It is important to note that some group members may be resistant to asking for money. As the group’s leader, your role is to allow people to express both their hesitation and enthusiasm, and then help each member recognize how their talents contribute to your group’s fundraising strategy. Some people may never feel comfortable asking for donations, but they may be able to contribute by decorating tables for a fundraising dinner, writing an excellent fundraising letter, or sewing a quilt for a silent auction. As members start to see how their talents can collectively advance the group’s fundraising goals, the group as a whole will gain confidence in its ability to raise funds.

4. Decide on your fundraising options

After assessing your group’s talents, interests, and capacity, you can identify the fundraising activities that are best suited for your group. A successful effort can produce new income and the added bonus of raised awareness and increased membership.

Here are some ways groups fund their work:

  • Membership dues. Where you invest your money is an indication of what you value. Dues-paying also indicates to others that members are the first line of support for the group and tells potential funders that they will be backing a valued organization. Also, for groups that decide a fundraising effort is not for them, having annual dues is an effective way to keep the work going.
  • Business donations or sponsorships. Restaurant night is one example of a business sponsorship that does not require a lot of work for you or your group. On a specific night, a percentage of proceeds gets donated to the group that has arranged to have members, friends, and family dine in or carry out from a specific restaurant.
  • In-kind donations. Many groups have successfully tapped into local businesses for free or low-cost meeting spaces, donated refreshments for meetings, printing services, and more. Additionally, college students studying education, social work, psychology, and other therapeutic specialties may be willing to provide child care for your meetings at little or no cost.
  • Fundraising events. Facebook fundraisers and Go Fund Me pages are relatively effortless. Members post a message stating that they are asking people to support the group. Their friends can opt to pledge any amount to help meet the goal. You could also consider an event that requires a little more effort, such as a yard sale or bake sale that benefits the group. To make these events more profitable, ensure that you’ve advertised them well and find a location that people frequent. Silent auctions and galas are examples of high-effort events. Groups should consider carefully if the potential income is worth the energy and expense that such events require.
  • Grants. For well-established groups, grant funding is a great option for expanding the services you provide for your community. This is a high-effort route, and one that requires a solid plan for success, but it is a great way for you to take your knowledge of what families need and translate that knowledge into action!

Check out the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) for more financial management and fundraising ideas.

5. Make the “ask”

Some people find it uncomfortable to ask for money or other support. It may feel awkward, finding the right words stops them in their tracks. Your standing in the community and your willingness to give as well as take will go a long way toward easing this discomfort. It is important to maintain strong connections in your community, offer help to others, and ask for help when you need it. Set a positive tone by being someone who welcomes the help of others, shows gratitude for the help you receive, and shares the credit for all the good things your group receives with everyone who made it happen.

Here are some strategies that may make it easier to ask for donations and help you be more successful:

  • Bring a flyer, brochure, or request letter on your letterhead. It is difficult to ask for money or in-kind services from others without giving them something in writing that explains your group and its mission.
  • Introduce yourself to community members and business owners in your area and keep them informed about what your group is doing. Let them know that you and your group are here to help other families and encourage them to spread the word.
  • Stay confident and remember that you’re asking them to contribute to a worthwhile cause. Many people willingly give to groups and organizations with clear missions that support children.
  • When you ask for support, don’t give up if the first answer is “no.” Tell them what other community members are donating to your group. If they can’t give money, ask for goods or services. Think about other ways they could support your group, like serving as an advisor. Ask if they have other suggestions for people or organizations to approach. If they have a storefront, ask if you can post a flyer about your group and your fundraising effort.
  • Leave something to remind community members about your group, such as something handmade by a child or a thank you card. If they gave a substantial donation, consider giving them a T-shirt or mug with your group’s name on it.

It can be worthwhile to look for a corporate sponsor or a philanthropic individual to champion your cause. Sponsors like these may give direct donations or offer volunteer assistance, services, equipment, or supplies. They may even host an event, such as a gala. Some corporate sponsors allow their employees to volunteer services to groups as part of the corporation’s charitable giving effort. Local celebrities or community leaders with a connection to adoption may be willing to sponsor an event.

Finally, remember that this is not a one-and-done effort. By building on initial relationships and smaller donations, you can create a successful, long-term fundraising strategy.

6. Remember to follow-up!

Always follow up with thank you notes to every person, business, or organization that helped you meet your goals within seven days. Acknowledge them in social media, newsletters, and local media. Your good will inspires more of their good will!

Evaluate your efforts

Also, remember to periodically reassess your goals and fundraising plan to see if they still reflect what the group wants to do. Make sure your fundraising plan is helping you achieve your goals and discuss changes or improvements you may want to make in your fundraising strategy. If your group’s goals have changed or you’re not raising money, you may need to change your fundraising strategies. Be open to new ideas.

Find more AdoptUSKids resources for parent group leaders, including tip sheets, articles, discussion guides, and recorded webinars.