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raise money nonprofit

9 Ways to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit

Are you a nonprofit that needs to hire that next staff person? (Growth.) Need to raise awareness for your cause? (Promotion.) Or do you simply need to keep the lights on? (Sustainability.)

So–besides collecting member dues (if your structure allows it; we use Qgiv for secure, recurring giving like this)–here are nine more ways for your nonprofit to profit:

  1. Hold a fundraising event (or two.) Add them to your annual calendar so you can plan and promote them well in advance every year. (See almost 100 fundraising event ideas here…)
  2. Send a fundraising letter to your list of donors. This may be asking for a one-time gift (is it ever only just “one” time though) or a request to commit to a gift that renews monthly or annually (if they’re not already set up for this.) More, expand this to a fundraising email sent to your whole mailing list.
  3. Apply for grants. You know who the players are. If necessary, hire a grant-writer to navigate this process, but make sure your hat is thrown into the ring. Someone is going to get that money; may as well be you. Put in the work to develop a strong grant application and submit in advance of the due date.
  4. Get added to the United Way. While the organization may keep over 20% of the donations to cover operational and promotional efforts, you’re tapping into a broader audience. Research the local United Way offerings to ensure this aligns with your core values before signing on the dotted line.
  5. Launch a board giving campaign. Often, board members are selected not only for vision-casting and decision-making, but also for their ability to fund the effort. If board members don’t have pockets deep enough to lend to your cause, they may be able to leverage other resources (staff hours, volunteer base, contact lists, etc.) toward advancing your mutual mission.
  6. Recruit volunteers to raise money on your behalf. This may look like a telethon or crowdfunding campaign, but make sure your volunteers are equipped with your story, a solid understanding of your cause, and a solid script complete with answers to frequently asked questions (phone script, email script, social media script, etc.) Some telethons lean on leveraging their volunteers’ contact lists, bringing in way warmer leads than simply making cold calls to local businesses. Smart.
  7. Ask a donor to run a hosted event. Here you’re able to come alongside one of your larger donors or partners to tap into their audience, on their turf. This is especially helpful if you have a new or under-established brand in contrast to your donor. One example of this might be a client-appreciation party/fundraiser thrown by your donor to their clientele where the proceeds go to your cause.
  8. Seek out a major donor to fund a project. Instead of the more nebulous and airy “support our great cause” approach, have an actual project the donor can apply funds to. Be sure to round back with the donor and share the success of the event so they can see what kind of impact their dollars made.
  9. Seek out in-kind donations to meet your needs, instead of asking for money. Maybe a donor doesn’t have a lot of cash but they are able to print and mail your next event save-the-date postcards at low or no cost to you. Need office supplies? Need items to donate to your clients? Ask your community to fulfill these non-cash needs.

There you have it. Nine ways to raise money for your growing nonprofit. (Actually there were ten ideas–did you see how I slipped that whole membership dues tip in there at the beginning? Tricky!)

Did I miss a fundraising idea in this list? Feel free to suggest one in the comments below!

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Garecht, J. 17 Ways to Raise $25,000 for Your Organization. The Fundraising Authority. Retrieved from http://www.thefundraisingauthority.com/fundraising-ideas/17-ways-to-raise-25000/ .

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carpenter and vagabond

The Carpenter and the Vagabond

I wrote this parable back in late 2010 as I was going through something of an identity crisis. I think it was around this year where I really began to question my chosen profession (web design). For the first time, web work was moving from something I loved to do to something I had to do. I realized I was going to need something more than a life of pumping out websites day in and day out to keep me satisfied. This restlessness resulted in a series of financial experiments and a spike in spiritual studying. This parable was spun during that flurry of questioning everything and trying to absorb larger life truths. Enjoy! Matt


After years of seeking direction for his life’s work, a young man decided upon carpentry. He found great fulfillment in the craft, so it seemed the right direction. As his skills increased, so too did the affluence of his customers. For a while, he was happy and felt certain of his path.

Having grown up with little means, he dreamed of the freedom brought by great success. He envisioned building his own workshop, in which he would employ a team of loyal carpenters who together would produce wondrous works. He held this vision in great detail, right down to even the dust motes in the sun over his future workbench. He loved his dream.

After several years, however, the young man began to feel he was going about his business in error. This troubled him, as his business was more successful than ever. He employed a small team of very talented carpenters and his clients were regularly delighted with his store’s work. His customers represented some of the most well-established in the city. Yet the young man felt there must be something wrong. After all, the freedom he sought seemed to be slipping further and further away with every new project. He found himself working longer hours, staying up later into the night. More, it appeared the business was completely dependent upon him, and were he to disappear, the business would quickly follow.

The carpenter said to himself, “This is not freedom. I have less freedom now than when I began. I understand sacrificing in the present to realize a future gain, but it seems the faster this river flows, the harder it is to reach shore.”

“My goal must be to benefit from the flow of business without being submerged in the flow of business. How do I get there?” he pondered to himself. “Even though I have a strong team under me, I and my team are still trading my time for money. More, even if I find a way out, what becomes of my team? I must not only find a way out for myself, but for my team as well.”

A passing vagabond overheard the young carpenter’s lament and stopped to inquire. “How do you earn your money?” he asked.

The carpenter, amused, thought this was an ironic question from a vagabond. He answered, “I shape wood into beautiful and useful things.”

“If you stop shaping the wood, the money stops too?”

“Yes, the money would stop. The wood won’t shape itself.”

“And your customers would go elsewhere to have their needs met, is that correct?” asked the vagabond.

“Yes, the city has other carpenters who are also very capable,” the carpenter answered. He was feeling more trapped with every answer he gave.

“Sounds to me like you’ve worked yourself into a box,” smiled the vagabond.

“That box,” the carpenter said, “Is coffin-shaped. As near as I can tell, I could work like this until I die.”

“Indeed,” the vagabond said. “Tell me, carpenter–is the money more plentiful than when you first began?”

“Oh, yes,” he said. “At first, it was just me. Now I employ a whole team.”

“What if your team were smaller? Would you earn more of the money?”

“Yes, however it would be on me to do more of the work!”

“So by giving the work to others, you have been able to work less, accomplish more and earn the same or more than when you began your shop, is that correct?”

“Yes,” said the carpenter.

“Further, you say that doing more of the work yourself would earn you more money, but you would have to work longer hours; an unfavorable trade in your mind, correct?” asked the vagabond.

“Yes, that’s right,” said the carpenter.

“Seems to me, you want to bring in even more work for others. If you cannot go back, it seems moving forward is the way to go.”

“I could raise my rates,” the carpenter said. “That would improve my margin and possibly deter smaller, more time-consuming jobs.”

“As one who believes in service, is it your goal to help as many people as you can or is it your goal to help a privileged few?”

“As many as I can,” the carpenter realized.

“Then raising your prices to deter small jobs is not for you,” said the vagabond. “You wish to remain reachable. Raise your rates when the market allows, not to deter those who would otherwise seek to pay you for your services.”

“Yes, you’re right. I agree,” said the carpenter. “If I am to bring in more work, though? I am already feeling burdened. How am I to handle it?”

“Take inventory of your current duties. Is there one on your team who could fulfill even half of them?”

“No,” the carpenter answered. “No one among them knows the business like I do, from end to end.”

“Then you would either train one up or hire new. Considering your current team, are there any who could be trained? More, are there any who would even want your job? For it’s a job you have crafted for yourself. A job without paid leave or benefits, save being commander of your own ship, able to set your own manic schedule. But even that schedule is dictated by your clients’ demands, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is!” laughed the carpenter. “No, when I look at my team, they are all hard workers, but they all also appreciate their own time. I think I would be seeking to hire from outside. It needs to be someone who understands the carpentry business.”

“Then you seek another, like you. Someone who knows your business end to end, who enjoys the work, who is trustworthy and loyal and who reflects the values you have tried to imbue into your shop.” said the vagabond.

“That’s a tall order,” said the carpenter.

“Would it be wise to settle for less?” asked the vagabond.

“I suppose not,” replied the carpenter.

“You have chosen one of the harder ways of creating wealth for yourself, carpenter,” said the vagabond. “You have raised a business from nothing. While this can be very rewarding, it can also mean much trial, much discovery and much effort. Both risk and reward can be great when taking this path. When you trade your time for money, you can rarely have both.”

“What would you have me do to provide for my family if not this? I felt working for someone else was not the path to create wealth and freedom. Was I wrong?”

“Wealth may be created when working for someone else, however building your wealth while building someone else’s dream is one of the hardest things to do in this world. Freedom seldom comes from this path. Much of your relationship with money depends upon what you do with the wealth you receive. There are other ladders to the success and freedom you seek. What you must answer is whether your current ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

“What are these other ladders you speak of? Tell me. Please.”

“Another day, perhaps,” smiled the vagabond, turning to leave.

“Tomorrow!” said the carpenter. “Please.”

The vagabond was silent for a long time. Just when the carpenter was sure the answer would be no, the vagabond said, “Yes. Tomorrow then.”

“Great!” said the carpenter. “May I ask, what is the name of my new teacher?”

The vagabond said, “Solomon.”

The carpenter said, “Thank you for stopping, Solomon. Today, your charity has helped a blind man to see.”

Without any acknowledgment, Solomon moved on. The carpenter wondered if he would truly see him tomorrow. He hoped he would.

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financial smarts

Spending on Happiness, Health and Necessities for Financial Fitness

Many people don’t understand the constituents of financial fitness that well.  They tend to think that managing your finances is about spending less, saving, being prepared for the future and having a good credit score.  These are all good things to keep in mind when you’re trying to be financially fit.  However, the most important thing is to know your priorities.  If  you try to save money by not spending in areas where spending is needed, then you’re not doing yourself any favors.  And you might have a lot of money saved up but if you did this by skipping vacations and working overtime everyday, you might have damaged your health.  So here are a few tips to understand your financial fitness priorities:

Spending on Happiness

When you spend money on something, you’re not really spending it on that thing.  You’re spending it on the happiness that that thing brings you.  For example, if you buy a dress for a hundred dollars and wear it once, it’s probably not bringing you as much happiness as those well-fitting thirty dollar jeans you wear every other day.  You need to make sure that when you spend money on things, they bring you a proportionate amount of happiness.  It may not always be possible to know exactly how much happiness is going to result from each and every thing that you buy but you can try to approximate it.

Health is Wealth

One of the things that’s always going to bring you a great deal of happiness in the long run is taking care of your health.  In the short term, things may not seem quite that way.  To get healthy, you have to quit eating all the fatty things that you like and switch to healthy options.  You also have to start working out on a regular basis.  Given that neither of these seem very palatable to someone who hasn’t been healthy for a while, you might feel as though spending on health is not worth it.  But the more you make an effort to be healthy, the happier you are in the long run.  So go ahead and splurge on that gym membership and start going to farmer’s markets.  Invest in some health-related cookbooks.  It’ll pay off in the end.

Necessities, Comforts and Luxuries

Everything you buy can be divided into three categories: necessities, comforts and luxuries.  Necessities include things that you just can’t live without, such as food, clothing and shelter.  Comforts are a step up from necessities; you don’t need them but it’s nice to have them around.  Pretty clothes, artwork on your walls and going to movies can be considered comforts.  Luxuries cost a lot more and are really not necessary to your life at all.  A hot tub feels amazing after a long day’s work but it’s expensive to buy and maintain.  So you can’t really make a case for needing it.  For financial fitness, you need to make sure your necessities are taken care of before you turn to comforts and then to luxuries.


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seo for cash flow

Improve Your Cash Flow

Last week, I received a call from one of our web hosting resellers. Seems his credit card was being declined for his monthly web hosting reseller account. He apologized and asked if we could defer the payment a couple weeks. “Cash flow problems,” he said. Money was running tight while he waited for a client payment to arrive.

Of course, I told him it would be no problem. He has been a friend and reliable client for years.

As a fellow entrepreneur, I can certainly understand “cash flow problems,” especially when clients are slow to pay their bills. Vendors, employees and contractors all still (oddly) expect to be paid even if the money for that project hasn’t come in on the front end. At the same time, I guess I was a little surprised since this marketer has been in business for many years.

It may be a little naïve of me to think some of the following business strategies can insulate small business owners from “cash flow problems.” After all, it only takes one unforeseen act of God to wipe out a budget. Still, these techniques have helped us weather the tougher times caused by recession, bad-apple clients, inflation and client attrition. I offer them to you so they might inspire you to do the same if you’re not already.

1. Establish the Rainy Day Fund

Just like you want to have three to six months of savings in your personal bank account, you also want to keep at least three to six months savings in your business savings account. (You have a business savings or backup checking account, right?)

Put aside a percentage into this savings account and don’t touch it! This is not your tax withholdings account, your marketing account or your slush fund. This is emergency-only savings designed to bring you what financial guru, Dave Ramsey, calls “financial peace.”

2. Diversify Your Clients

Relying upon one type of customer can spell trouble if something blows up, legislation changes, or the marketplace shifts. This danger is further magnified if you rely primarily upon one big customer.

Try to groom a client base that offers some diversity in its members. For instance, you may say you focus entirely upon the nonprofit community. That’s all well and good, but you may also find great clients in the government and corporate settings. I certainly wouldn’t turn them away if they are a fit for your services.

Yes, there is a benefit to catering to a niche. Absolutely. However, you can ask any automobile part manufacturer in Michigan if it’s a good idea to keep all your eggs in one basket and I’ll bet you hear otherwise.

3. Diversify Your Offerings

Want to know how to diversify your client portfolio? Diversify your offerings (and tell people about it; more on that in a moment.)

It’s likely you do more than one thing well, offer more than one great product or can fulfill more than one specific need. For example, when I first started Dreamscape Multimedia, we provided only web design services. Of course, we still needed to host our clients’ websites somewhere, so we chose a local web host in Michigan.

Unfortunately, the web host wasn’t the most reliable. About the third time our clients’ sites went down, we began shopping for a new web hosting company. It was then that we came to the conclusion we needed to host our own websites. The rest is history.

Since then, we’ve also branched into search engine optimization (SEO) and Internet marketing. After all, what good is a beautiful website if no one sees it? We now have clients of all three types: web design, web hosting and SEO. Some folks only want one service, while others want all three.

Offering three different types of web services allows us to fulfill a more complete spectrum of online marketing needs. The clients only have one web company to deal with and our relationship with them is stronger for it.

4. Recurring Revenue Streams

Another strategy that can keep you afloat during the lean times is recurring revenue. When you have subscription, membership, affiliate or other payments coming in every month, month after month, this can go a long way toward your bottom line. For us, that’s the web hosting and search engine marketing sides of our business.

Web hosting carries a monthly or annual fee, just like any telephone, cable or power utility. When combined with other renewing products like SSL certificates and domain name registration, offering web hosting service helps us keep a better handle on the health and security of our clients’ websites while ensuring a steady, predictable stream of income.

Our web hosting affiliate program is yet another way we grow our hosting business while sharing the recurring web hosting revenue with folks who bring us those same web accounts; our affiliates in the Prosperity referral program.

Finally, on the Internet marketing front, we receive a similar steady cash flow (so long as our clients continue to see their sites rank at the top of the first page of Google.)

5. Search Engine Marketing

Lastly, if you’ve been in business for a while, hopefully you’ve been investing in promoting your website. Getting to the top of the Google search engine results (SERPs) is paramount to keeping your sales pipeline full, regardless of whether you have dedicated salespeople out there selling you to the marketplace.

I’ve known small business owners to fuss over redesigning their websites every couple years. If your site doesn’t see any web traffic, the right kind of web traffic, or any conversions, what’s the point? (Well—you’re satisfying your own ego, I guess. Hopefully that form of emotional ROI makes those time-consuming overhauls worth it.)

A regular schedule of search engine marketing (SEM) activities is just what the doctor ordered to get your 24/7/365 salesperson (known as your website) working for you instead of the other way around.


Well, there you have it. There are five strategies for insulating your small business against cash flow problems. Here’s a final one:

Remember you get more of what you put your attention on. Focus on the work you have and the direction you wish to go and you’ll get more of that. Focus on your lack of business and you’ll find more lack. Feel gratitude for the clients and blessings you’ve been given. Do your best to be a wise steward of the resources and clients in your care and you’ll be trusted with more.

Employ these principles in your business and I believe you will be rewarded. Sure, you’ll still occasionally be tested, but learning and applying these tips will help you pass those “tests” with a little more ease and grace.

In support of your efforts,


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