Fundraising: An Individual and Small Group Perspective

Quick Cash
Benefit Concerts
Musicians and Personalities
Becoming a "non-profit"
Keeping track of money
Grant Writing
Hard Money
Multiply your successes

As more people come to realize the fundamental necessity of maintaining healthy ecosystems, your work will be valued and worth paying for. Until then, however, here are some suggestions to help you scrape by.

If you are lucky, you are already part of a group of like-minded individuals. Perhaps there is already a membership or some form of support. But never enough money!

Put together a budget including fair salaries and all the expenses you think youíll need to achieve your groupís goals for a year. To be safe, double this figure. You now have a fundraising goal.

Quick Cash

T-shirts can be an easy way to raise money. While printing your own is good for group identification, it takes up-front money that you may not have. T-shirt companies like Jim Morris T-Shirts and Human-i-Tees have good-selling designs that make a statement, too. You often can buy the shirts on consignment, which eliminates up-front costs and allows you to return for a minimal charge any that canít be sold.

Be realistic about the number you will sell to avoid returns and freight hassles. Make sure you will have enough money to pay the bills for your t-shirts.

Of course, when you have a T-shirt table, make sure you have plenty of information and letter-writing materials. TOP

Benefit Concerts

Concerts can sometimes be more of a hassle than they are worth. Here are some critical tips, which can spell the difference between success and unexpected losses.

If you canít put together a show under these criteria, you probably should not do it. There are plenty of reasons why the crowd could be much smaller than your "worst case," and you will have to honor any fixed price contracts, leaving you holding the bag. TOP

Musicians and Personalities

One of the best ways to get performers inexpensively is to arrange for them to perform at your event the day before or after a paid job they've already scheduled. If you know a big star, many people will be willing to pay just to attend a reception where the star is present. A performance may not really be needed.

Another possibility is to book a show for the musicians at a local school that can afford to pay the base expenses and cover losses. This show itself could be a fundraiser if the school doesnít need the ticket money, or you could have your own separate fundraiser the next day as described above. TOP

Make your group into a non-profit corporation

Consider becoming a non-profit group under U.S. tax code. The term "nonprofit" doesnít mean that you are supposed to be destitute. It simply means that if you happen to have money left over at the end of the year, you donít pay taxes on it like a regular corporation, the money is added to your next yearís budget. If you expect to handle a significant amount of money, typically $10,000 or more per year, you should incorporate as a "not for profit corporation." Being incorporated provides extra protection from lawsuits. It also allows you to accept money from foundations, if you get tax-exempt status.

If you think you will be asking foundations for money, you must find yourself a lawyer who will file for your tax -exempt status. Most foundations only give money to 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, and this money is restricted to educational and other nonpolitical, non-legislative work. Since political and legislative action is what passes laws to protect the Earth, environmentalists have been at a severe disadvantage to industry in helping shape laws.

Having 501(c)(4) status allows you to do legislative action and grassroots organizing as a nonprofit corporation, but it does not give you the benefits of not having to pay sales tax. Donors to 501(c)(4) groups donít get the tax deductions they would if they gave to 501(c)(3), so it is harder to raise money for legislative action.

If youíre serious about starting a group involved in legislation, should consider setting up two organizations, both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)óone for education and legal work, and one for legislative and grassroots action. TOP

Keeping track of money

Good records really help you plan ahead and get the maximum tax advantages for your expenses. If you handle enough money to fill out a tax form, keeping good records will save you days of work at tax time.

Brave souls may be able to get by without a computer; however, by purchasing a small business or other accounting program your life can be made much simpler. There are plenty of easy-to-use programs. Among other benefits, you'll be able to easily create expense reports that are necessary for grant applications. TOP

Grant Writing

Grant writing can be a pain, and there is stiff competition for the money. Again, most foundations are limited to funding educational and non-legislative activities. Many websites specialize in grant allocation, use a search engine to find the most up to date site.

There is an organization called the Foundation Center, which has offices in many large cities and can help you find grant sources. Its website is http://fdncenter.org. Most colleges and larger city libraries have a grant-making department. Also, we can help you with advice and lists of grant makers. Give us a Call! TOP

Hard Money

Much of the charitable donations in the U.S. actually come from middle income families. This can become the "hard money" that goes for legislative action for your campaign.

Some groups raise hard money with door to door canvassingócheck the local laws covering this kind of work. It is also a good way to build a local political network. One group is using an "Adopt a Tree" program as a hook for its funding and canvassing efforts. Membership brochures and direct mail are used to find hard money, too.

The web has become major new means of raising money. Your own website can serve as a simple way for donors to give money to your cause. You can build a special donation page and arrange for direct donations with credit cards. Your web host company will probably be equipped to help you arrange this.

Your fundraising success will be increased if people know your group's name. Use some of the press tips to do your own public relations campaign. Also, there are a few foundations that sponsor public relations efforts for grassroots groups. Call us for more information on this topic. TOP

Multiply your successes

While many donors will want to give an annual donation, many others will be eager to get involved beyond making a simple donation. Get that person involved as an activist who will work on legislative networking. If someone gives you money, ask that person to tell his or her friends about you. That way, one fundraising success can be multiplied quickly. Thank you notes are always appreciated along with your latest literature. TOP