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Fundraising for nonprofits

Guide: Grant writing, crowdfunding, donations
5 min read
Last update: Jan 20, 2024

In this article, we explain how you can get funding for your activist campaigns or non-profit cause. We talk about various means of getting money. The also discuss how to make budgets for your projects.

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There are a lot of ways for activists to raise funds. Whether it's through online crowdfunding platforms, asking for donations, finding sponsors, or applying for grants from charitable foundations, there are many options available. We wrote detailed guides that discuss grant-writing and donor cultivation, and many other topics:

Managing funds

In this section, we have listed a few guides that discuss how to manage your funds in an effective and transparent way. This includes applying for a legal non-profit status, making budgets and being transparent about where the money is going.

  • Legal nonprofit status

  • Budgetting

  • Reporting & transparency

"people not profit" projected on a building

Just Recovery action in London, United Kingdom - Activists and volunteers from 350, UK Youth strikers and Build Back Better coalition projects the message "People not Profit" " onto a the Treasury and " "Build Back Better", "It's our Money, Our future","Our eyes are on the Bank of England and the Treasury" onto the Bank of England in London, United Kingdom. They demand a Just Recovery for people and the planet as G20 Finance Ministers and Central banks governors meet in Saudi Arabia to discuss how to spend trillions of public dollars on economic recovery and stimulus, by Projection on walls (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Local context

Some challenges that arise from differing local contexts across countries for activists trying to do fundraising are:

  • Disadvantageous changes in legislation or inadequate implementation of laws that restrict the freedom of association, expression or assembly of civil society organisations (CSOs) working on human rights.

  • Hurdles to accessing financial resources and ensuring sustainable funding, such as shrinking budgets, burdensome procedures, unfavourable tax regimes or political pressure .

  • Attacks and incidents against civil society activists, such as harassment, intimidation, threats, violence or smear campaigns, that create a climate of fear and insecurity.

Some possible solutions to these challenges are:

  • Advocating for legal reforms and effective implementation of laws that protect and promote the rights and interests of CSOs working on human rights.

  • Diversifying the sources of funding and seeking alternative or innovative ways of fundraising, such as crowdfunding, social enterprises or membership fees .

  • Building solidarity and cooperation among CSOs and other stakeholders, such as media, academia, public institutions or international organisations, to raise awareness and support for human rights activism.

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Case studies

This section has not been written yet. What fund-raising worked or didn't work in particular cases?

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You can make this guide about fundraising for nonprofits better! Here are some suggestions:

  • Integrate the external resources listed below with Activist Handbook. The Creative Commons guides can be freely reused as long as we give attribution to the original authors.

  • Think how to organise this website section. A lot of resources exist on this topic already. How can we organise this section about fundraising?

    • Put the most important info summarised on this page.

    • Create sub-pages to go into detail

    • For example:

      • Introduction: Explain the purpose and goals of the guide, and why fundraising is important for activism.

      • Fundraising strategies: Provide an overview of different ways to raise money for a cause, such as crowdfunding, grants, events, merchandise, etc. Explain the pros and cons of each strategy, and give examples of successful campaigns.

      • Fundraising planning: Provide a step-by-step guide on how to plan a fundraising campaign, including setting a budget, timeline, target audience, message, and tools. Provide tips on how to track and measure progress, and how to adjust the plan if needed.

      • Fundraising ethics: Provide a list of ethical principles and best practices for fundraising, such as transparency, accountability, respect, inclusivity, etc. Explain how to avoid common pitfalls and challenges, such as donor fatigue, fraud, conflict of interest, etc.

      • Conclusion: Summarize the main points of the guide, and provide some additional resources and references for further learning. Thank the reader for their interest and support.

  • Provide answers to questions that activists may have about fundraising:

    • How to identify and reach out to potential donors who share the same vision and values as the activists?

    • How to craft a compelling and clear message that explains the purpose, goals and impact of the activism?

    • How to choose the best platform or method for collecting donations, such as online platforms, crowdfunding, events, grants, etc.?

    • How to set a realistic and achievable fundraising target and timeline that reflects the needs and capacities of the activists?

    • How to track and report on the progress and outcomes of the fundraising campaign and acknowledge the contributions of the donors?

    • How to manage and allocate the funds in a transparent and accountable way that aligns with the activism's objectives and principles?

    • How to evaluate and improve the fundraising strategy based on feedback and lessons learned from previous campaigns?

  • Provide solutions to challenges activists may face when raising funds:

    • Legal and administrative barriers imposed by governments that restrict or ban foreign and local funding for NGOs.

    • Intimidation and harassment by state and non-state actors that target activists and donors .

    • Lack of access to resources and official development assistance for grassroots organizing and local civil society organizations.

    • Competition and inequality among NGOs of different sizes, profiles, and capacities.

    • Lack of available data and research on the state of civil society and human rights funding.

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