What are the Basics of Non-Profit Development?

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  • Written By: Leah Bloom
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2019
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Non-profit development, or fundraising, generally focuses on two main areas: public funds and private funds. Successfully soliciting money from these sources typically requires good research on who to appeal to, compelling data that demonstrates the return on a donor's investment and stewardship of relationships with donors and potential donors. Experts often recommend a varied approach to non-profit development that includes advertising, e-mail and postal mail. Events and media coverage are other ways to make contact with donors. Scheduling these contacts strategically can ensure that a non-profit organization stays on people's minds but does not wear out its welcome.

Professional non-profit development officers often specialize in raising funds from a specific audience, such as corporations or wealthy individuals. A major gifts officer may do extensive research to determine the depth and breadth of people's assets, their charitable giving habits and their professional and community involvement. He may meet with potential donors in person many times over the course of the years to build a lasting relationship that will ensure continued contributions. Likewise, someone who focuses on corporations and foundations may court chief executive officers (CEOs), meet with grant-makers and offer tours of the non-profit's facilities to demonstrate the organization's commitment to its mission. He may also work to enhance a donor corporation's reputation through co-branding with the non-profit agency and report back on how any funds raised were spent.


Making the best use of all fundraising tools available is another way to foster adequate non-profit development. Events raise money through ticket sales and sponsorships, which may be priced at different levels and paired with special benefits or incentives to encourage generosity. A well-planned direct mail program can bring in a steady stream of contributions, re-capture lapsed donors and encourage regular donors to increase the size of their contributions. Estate planning, electronic fund transfers and in-kind contributions are also part of non-profit development. Telemarketing, newsletters, e-mail marketing and a host of other activities can also be useful.

Experts recommend creating a strategic non-profit development plan to guide fundraising activities throughout the year. This can help ensure that no likely funding source is left unexplored. At the same time, it prevents sources from being approached too aggressively. A development calendar can also be useful in tracking progress towards fundraising goals and in keeping the entire non-profit organization apprised of important events and deadlines.



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