Solicitation Savvy: Three Ways to Drive Donations on a Budget

by Jim LeFevre, Senior Director of Marketing, Public Interest Registry

“You have to spend money to make money” is a well-known adage. A quote that mission-based organizations can perhaps relate to more comes from Hank Rosso, Founder of the Center on Philanthropy: “Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”

Non-profits and good-for-the-world businesses often work with razor-thin margins; money raised is necessarily funneled back to operating costs and serving the cause, even more so during organizational start-up and at times of economic downturn. The good news is that being smart and strategic about soliciting funds and making the world better can go hand-in-hand. Small fundraising budget? No problem. It is possible to “teach the joy of giving” on a shoestring, as long as you stay savvy. 

In this article, we offer three low- or no-cost tactics that pay dividends in fundraising dollars for your non-profit or good-for-the-world business. They include planning properly,  economizing effort, and utilizing urgency.

Plan Properly

In her article on, international fundraising expert Simone Joyaux explains that too many organizations use total operating costs as their goal. “That is so wrong that I want to rant and rave! Yes, add up your expenses to do your work. But at the same time, the fundraising team is calculating how much money might be possible to raise,” says Joyaux. “Smart organizations don’t simply add more charitable contributions to the income side. Really smart organizations reduce expenses to comply with income,” she adds.

Joyaux suggests that fundraisers should, “Organize your charitable gift income by source, e.g., individuals (where most gifts come from in North America), foundations, corporations, net of special events, civic groups, and faith groups.” 

Where do your funds flow from most? When planning your fundraising budget, concentrate your efforts there. And even then, be sure to follow the next step.

Economize Effort

You can’t reach everyone, everywhere with your mission. But you can reach those most likely to champion it if you’re strategic about it. A great place to start is by tapping your top supporters. Pamela Ateka is the Founder and Executive Director of the Community Focus Group in Nairobi, Kenya, an organization that harnesses the power of art and storytelling to raise funds for the most pressing needs of her community. She advises: “When fundraising on a budget the best [course of action] is to approach your top supporters to ask for individual gifts and request them to request their friends and family to offer support.” This kind of “peer-to-peer” fundraising helps preserve staff resources while current donors create community engagement with your cause. Peer-to-peer fundraising is highly effective online as well, according to Ateka. “In Kenya, sometimes we fundraise in WhatsApp and request [existing donors] to forward to others on social media, if possible,” she says.

According to Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation, in this piece on, “When donors share their passions with others, they’ll remember why contributing to your nonprofit is so important to them.”

Joyaux also advocates mobilizing multiple messengers. “Every single board member helps to nurture relationships and secure gifts, and gives their own personal financial contribution. Every single employee behaves in a donor-centered and customer-centered manner, helping to retain current donors and acquire new donors,” she says. 

And what makes the message most impactful? Make it urgent.

Utilize Urgency

There are millions of non-profit organizations around the world, with 1.5 million mission-based organizations registered in the U.S. alone, according to There are myriad worthy causes for donors to support. So, how do you get your message heard and heeded? In a word: urgency.  This article on by fundraising blogger Ilma Ibrisevic argues that “…creating a sense of urgency in your fundraising appeals is not only a useful optional ‘trick’ or ‘tip’ to raise more money. It could very well be the deciding factor between a donor giving to you or to another organization that they feel needs the money more urgently. This is why urgency matters.”

You don’t have to be an expert copywriter or hire a fancy firm to help you convey urgency for your mission. Inspiring sentiment in donors helps them feel urgency on a visceral level. Using video, photographs, and testimonials from those you help, alongside simple, direct language, can go a long way toward evoking emotions, particularly empathy. “Emotion is what sets the scene, leads the reader through a story, and helps them empathize. And empathy is what motivates philanthropic action,” Ibrisevic says.

A tight budget should not be a barrier to raising funds for your organization. So, don’t be afraid to  “think outside the donation box” and employ the low- and no-cost strategies mentioned in this article. Remember, the only money you definitely will not raise is the money you don’t ask for! 

Share this post
Skip to content