The Dos and Don’ts of First-Time Fundraising

First-time fundraising.(image by Sharon Drummond)

First-time fundraising.
(image by Sharon Drummond)

This issue is grim death for the many smaller organizations that are dealing with a reduction (or end) of government funding. Seriously – I get about two calls a month asking for advice on how to plan for first-time-ever fundraising. The groups are usually super-small with only two or three staff.

My suggestion is the same in most cases – and kind of self-serving as you will see – I tell them to get a consultant to hack out an initial plan based on the organization’s resources and contact list. This way, they don’t end up just throwing money at a full-time fundraiser without a plan in place. Better to pay a pro for a few hours to get things set up right the first time.

Now for some points to keep in mind:


  • Ask an expert, don’t waste time guessing, get all the options and evaluate. Get RFPs and references! (Yes, this was worth repeating!)
  • Educate the whole organization about the need for fundraising – it can’t happen in a vacuum.
  • Make a plan, and change it as you get better information.
  • Pick types of fundraising that will appeal to the people currently involved with your group or cause.
  • Use social media to get the contact info (emails) of people associated with, or interested in, your cause. They are your prospects.
  • If you decide on doing some grant writing, call your prospective foundations first. Don’t “spray and pray” by sending out a zillion generic applications.
  • Pick a system to track your prospects and donors – recipe cards are fun and have that whiff of nostalgia, but maybe get serious and get a cheap database in place.
  • Start simple in your planning, but with an eye to future diversification.


  • Hire a fundraiser before you have a plan of action.
  • Hold an event without resources for follow up.
  • Stage an event that is too complicated or expensive. Events are pricy and time-consuming – pick the simple ones!
  • Like I said above, don’t Firehose your community with grant applications.
  • Pay anyone on commission to raise money. A pre-arranged set bonus based on multiple performance points is fine. Paying a percentage of dollars raised is considered unethical by the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ code of ethics.
  • Invest in an expensive database until you have a couple hundred donors/prospects at least. Even then it doesn’t have to be pricy.
  • Skimp on the fundraiser’s salary – you’ll lose out on long-term earning potential. You get what you pay for in terms of experience and efficiency. Do it right from the start.

And yes, I can help! Tell your friends and thanks for following my blog!

–          Siobhan


About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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