Creating Fundraising Systems for Your Non-Profit (Part I)


Today, we begin a two part series on how to create fundraising systems for your non-profit. In this article, we will talk about what fundraising systems are and why they are important for development. In the second part of the series, we will show you how to create systems at your organization.

One Seriously Stressed Out Non-Profit

Let me tell you a story. It’s about a non-profit I once worked with. And this organization was in trouble. They had one full-time development director on staff, but everyone – including the staff, the board, the volunteers, even the donors – was constantly worried about fundraising.

They were worried about finding new prospects. So they tried everything in the book.

They were worried about making asks. So they constantly talked about it and stressed about it.

They were worried about donor communications. So every time someone had a good idea for a mailer, they sent one out.

Everyone at this non-profit was constantly wringing their hands about raising money. It was all they could talk about, and yet it never seemed to be going well. They never had the money they needed, and they were never quite sure where it would come from. In short, this non-profit lacked fundraising systems. Instead, they flew by the seat of their pants. And it resulted in stress, worry, and constant staff turnover.

What are Fundraising Systems?

Fundraising systems are, in their simplest form, plans of action for your development office. They lay out (systematize) the steps your non-profit will take for each of the most important activities you engage in. Your non-profit’s fundraising plan lays out the overall strategy for your fundraising activities, while your fundraising systems are the step-by-step process you follow each week, month and year to carry out that plan and meet your goals.

There are lots of different fundraising systems your non-profit can (and should) have in place:

  • A prospecting system
  • A cultivation system
  • A thanking system
  • A board fundraising system
  • A stewardship system
  • A referral system
  • A communications system
  • And so on…

Why Are Fundraising Systems Important?

Establishing fundraising systems at your non-profit is one of the best investments you can make in your organization’s long-term success. Fundraising systems allow your staff to do more work with less hassle. Very few non-profits have the resources they need to fundraise the way they truly want to. Systems bridge the gap and allow few people to do more work with less financial investment.

If you are a small non-profit with no full time development staff, fundraising systems can help your program staff and executive director raise more money in less time, until you can afford a full-time fundraiser.

If your non-profit has a full-time development staff, fundraising systems can help your team reach new prospects and carry out new activities without the need to hire more staff or rely on more volunteers.

Click here to go to Part II of this series, where we’ll take a look at a step-by-step formula you can use at your organization to build the fundraising systems you need to thrive.

Photo Credit: Marcin Wichary

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