Canadian Heritage

Fundraising Ideas That Work
Grassroots Groups

by Ken Wyman, cfre* Director
Ken Wyman and Associates Inc
Consultants in Fundraising, Volunteerism, and Communication
64b Shuter Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1B1

(416) 362-2926

* Certified Fundraising Executive

Voluntary Action Program
Department of Canadian Heritage

Note: This is an updated, expanded and largely revised version of A Guidebook to Fundraising for Disabled Persons' Groups, published in 1988 by the Disabled Persons' Participation Program, Department of the Secretary of State of Canada.


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Table of Contents

Introduction: How to Use This Book

1    Fundraising in Canada Today
2    What's the Money For?
3    Working With Volunteers
4    The Four Types of Fundraising 5    More Than Money
6    Special Events
7    Gambling
8    Institutional Grantors
 9    Major Individual Donors: Rich and Not-So-Rich People
10   Taxation Issues
11   Should You Use Fundraising Consultants?

  Bibliography: Fundraising Resources

About the Contributors


How to Use This Book

Adapt, don't adopt

This is not a fundraiser's cookbook with easy-to-follow, surefire recipes that will guarantee that you raise money every time. There is no such thing. Every organization is unique and must adapt ideas to suit its own situation.

The informality of the writing style used in this book will, we hope, make the manual more user-friendly, so that you can work with the information it provides right from the beginning. This is meant to be, literally, a guidebook, pointing directions and suggesting options. Some points are touched on only briefly. Others had to be left out completely, and may form the ground for a future work. Where possible, a few selected resources are suggested to help you go further.

Here's what you will learn

  • You'll get solid advice on good ideas for fundraising and on how to avoid major errors.
  • You'll find suggestions for sources of help on most topics, so you can do additional research if you need to.
  • You'll discover techniques that have been outlined with grassroots and disabled persons' self-help groups in mind. Methods are adapted to help you raise money whether you are in a small community far from corporate headquarters and foundation offices, or are in the heart of a metropolis, feeling unable to compete with the multi-million dollar charity drives that surround you.
  • You'll share the experiences of professional fundraisers (and professional fundgivers) who work regularly with grassroots organizations that are committed to self-help and social change.

You'll find ways to make your task easier. It will never be easy, however. The authors have long experience in the frustrations of fundraising. Seeing long hours lead nowhere has bred a healthy respect for the difficulties. But seeing money donated to many causes has also led us to a positive and optimistic attitude. Proceed with hope and caution.

If you have questions, suggestions about how to make another edition of the manual better, or ideas on how to help grassroots groups improve their fundraising, please send them to:

Ken Wyman, Director
Ken Wyman and Associates Inc
Consultants on Fundraising, Volunteers, Communication
Suite 200
64b Shuter Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1B1

(416) 362-2926

What's Left Out

This book could not cover everything, of course. Emphasis is placed on essential basic information for which there are no other readily available sources. Where other first-rate sources were available, it seemed best to point them out rather than attempt to duplicate their content. Here's what's omitted:

How to get grants from foundations

Foundations gave about $305 million in 1993, exclusively to registered charities. In many ways, applying to them is similar to dealing with corporations, which is covered extensively here. However, there are significant differences. There is an excellent — no, make that essential — article in The Canadian Directory to Foundations1, published by the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy. (See the resource list at the end of this book for more information.) Don't even consider applying for foundation grants until you have read this.

How to launch a direct-mail campaign

A whole manual on this subject, written by Ken Wyman, is available from the Voluntary Action Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. (See the resource list at the end for more information on this and other materials.)

How to build endowments and bequests

This topic, usually called planned giving, is important but goes beyond the scope of this book.

Too many people who are new to fundraising have a fantasy of finding benefactors who will build up a huge lump of capital, so that the organization can live off the interest. In reality, this is exceedingly rare. Virtually no institutional giver (corporation, foundation, or government) ever contributes to such a scheme, no matter how important the cause or how respectable the group.

When money does come in for endowments, it is usually left in the will of an individual who is a friend of the group. Typically, that person has already made significant contributions during his or her life, and is now looking for a way to help more after they have gone to their own reward.

How to invest money for maximum return

You may wish to investigate one of the several `ethical investment funds'. Each of these has different limitations on companies and countries in which money can (or can't) be invested, depending on factors such as labour practices, racism, sexism, environmentalism, or weapons production.

For more information contact:

Social Investment Organization
Suite 443
366 Adelaide Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 3X9
(416) 360-6047

How a nonprofit can start its own business

Here are a few short points on the exceedingly complex topic of community economic development. Lengthier treatment must be left to another book.

Decide the primary reason why you are setting up the business. You cannot accomplish several goals all equally well simultaneously. Is your goal to:

a)create opportunities for people to learn job skills? You will also need to invest more heavily in trainers, and you may need to constantly update your equipment, both hardware and software. This may not produce enough income to be self-sufficient, so you may need subsidies.

b)create long-term jobs for your client group? This may take the form of permanent job creation or a sheltered workshop, or anything in between. It may mean putting a lower priority on net income and tolerating work habits that are less than perfect.

c)create income for your organization? This may mean concentrating on employing people who can produce a profit at the minimum investment, even if you have to turn away — or fire — people who do not produce at maximum efficiency. That is hard for most nonprofit groups to do.

Use the knowledge you already have that others might want to buy from you. For example, a disabled people's group could offer:

a)advice for architects, businesses and governments on how to make buildings accessible;

b)a directory of services for disabled persons, listing social service agencies and health professionals;

c)consultation for schools on curriculum design to teach non-disabled children (or social work students) how to understand and respect disabled persons and their struggles.

Make use of existing free or low-cost services that advise people how to start a small business. These include everything from the Federal Business Development Bank (which offers excellent booklets and courses) to student projects run out of university business schools.

Courses are offered by:

Larry Trunkey
PO Box 8667
Victoria, BC
V8W 3S2

(604) 384-4096

For more advice contact:

Our Local Economy
4th Floor
49 Wellington Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M5E 1C9

(416) 361-0466

Chapter 1

Fundraising in Canada Today

Will available funds keep pace with rising demand?

First, the bad news

The real world of fundraising is a hard place. Government funding is being cut back. Corporations and foundations are not picking up the difference. Massive public appeals are costly.

This world can also seem very competitive. As of mid-1994, there were over 70,000 registered charities in Canada, and another 20 or 25 are created every day — ten per cent more each year. Big organizations such as universities, hospitals, and health research associations use very sophisticated techniques to raise millions of dollars.

Cutbacks in funding have increased demand for independent nonprofit organizations to replace services once provided by government agencies.

Small groups, especially self-help organizations, can feel hopeless in the face of this pressure.

Corporations are not increasing their giving to make up the shortfall in government contributions. Corporate giving has, in most cases, been cut back in response to the effect of the recession on profits. A few exceptions have emerged, particularly where support for a popular cause complements marketing strategies. More on this in the chapter on corporate giving.

Foundations have cut their giving back, too. With lower interest rates, they have less to give without depleting their capital.

In the six years since the first edition of this book, traditional fundraising has changed too.

Direct mail, once a low-risk proposition, has become increasingly difficult as the public gets flooded with requests. While it is still an effective technique, it is harder than ever to make it work for a grassroots group.

Special events, too, are less reliable as a major source of income for many organizations than they once were. The ticket price for gala balls and dinners once climbed steadily with little apparent resistance. By 1994, that was no longer true. The costs and volunteer effort required to produce an event can be so high that the financial results are barely worthwhile, or may even result in a loss. Events can still be useful ways of generating publicity, finding new supporters and cultivating existing donors, whether or not they are an immediate financial success.

Now the Good News

Individual Canadians continue to give more to charity, after a downturn in the mid-1970s. Even during the recession, individual giving continued to increase faster than inflation.

Individual Canadians donated about $96 million more to charities in 1992 than in 1991, despite the economy, according to Revenue Canada. Their numbers only count the tax credits people claimed on their income tax returns. The real total is incalculably higher. This is especially remarkable, considering that 22,000 fewer people even claimed donation tax credits.

Individuals give 87% of all the money given to charities. Corporations give roughly 8%, and foundations 5%.

Wealthy individuals are not asked to give as often as they might be, outside of hospital and university campaigns. There is room for growth here.

Slice of the Pie or Change the Recipe?

This manual focuses primarily on how you can get your share of over $3 billion Canadians give to charities each year. It is a big pie, and even a small slice may help you a lot.

This does not mean you must fight with other equally worthwhile organizations over a piece of a limited resource. On the contrary, most experts feel that the size of the pie may grow, meaning more for everybody.

Charitable giving is an elastic section of the economy. You are not competing so much against other nonprofit groups, as against other sources of gratification, such as beer and cheesecake. In fact, the Imagine Campaign has had measurable success at urging all Canadians to donate more money and to volunteer more time.

You may not be satisfied with getting a slice of the pie, even if it is expanding. The National Action Committee on the Status of Women suggests it is time to “change the recipe”. Not content to depend on public generosity, many people want the government to provide better funding for more organizations.

This is an attitude shared by many of the smallest groups, such as centres for abused women and advocates for human rights. To their surprise, they find themselves allies with the largest hospitals and universities in this battle.

Effective presentations can and have changed government views on how public funds should be spent. Revenue Canada recognizes that limited advocacy for government intervention is a legitimate part of a charity's mandate. While the present publication is not intended to suggest techniques for making such sweeping changes, the author applauds these essential initiatives.

Paradoxically, good fundraising may be a vital part of efforts to eliminate the need for fundraising. First, of course, money is needed to fund the battle. Perhaps more importantly, developing a wide base of supporters helps show government leaders how much the public values your individual organization. This is most clearly demonstrated when Canadians not only offer vocal support but put their money where their mouths are.

Unless unlimited government funding is available, however, most groups will have to find other sources of funds, like it or not. This manual tells how to do that effectively.

Would you still fundraise if the government provided unlimited funds?

If the government offered full funding for your organization, would you still want to do outside fundraising?

The answer may be `yes'. In addition to money, fundraising provides a number of advantages, such as:

  • security, if grants are cut back;
  • freedom to work outside whatever restrictions donors might have, without strings attached;
  • feedback from the public on how well you are getting your message across;
  • a sense of ownership for participants who help fund their own organization, instead of depending on charity (in all the bad senses of the word);
  • an opportunity to influence public thinking;
  • a stronger, two-way relationship with supporters.
  • financial power to tackle projects that are beyond even the government's vast resources;
  • proof to the government that the public believes in what you do (and that you can count on voter reaction if your grants are cut back, or increased).

This is not to suggest there is not a need for more government funding. Over the years, the public notion of what is an essential service has changed. It will continue to evolve.


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    Last updated : 1998/10/16
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