The Nebraska Community Foundation works with community, organizational and donor-advised affiliated funds serving 250 communities located in 80 counties. NCF and its affiliated funds have reinvested $269 million in Nebraska since 1994.
Below are descriptions of a variety of fundraising techniques that have proven useful for NCF affiliated funds over the years. As you read through these techniques think about how these might work in your community or for your organization.
The ultimate goal of the most successful affiliated funds is to build a reserve of unrestricted endowed funds. The principal of the endowment account is invested to create an ongoing source of income year after year. Permanent endowments are the key to the success and perpetuity of an affiliated fund. Endowment earnings can help offset the operating costs of public facilities like parks, community centers and libraries.
Perhaps more importantly, unrestricted endowments allow your Fund Advisory Committee (or the future Fund Advisory Committee) to address community or organizational needs both now and in the future. We have no way of looking into the future to know exactly what the community will need 10, 20 or 50 years from now, but an unrestricted endowment is the next best thing – it creates the means to take care of needs that are unknown as of right now. Read more about building endowments.
Many endowments are funded with large gifts given from assets from estates. Memorial gifts are also an excellent way to fund endowments. But, you can build an endowment using almost any fundraising method – the key is in the message you give to donors.
Raising the money to fund an unrestricted endowment is the first step. The second step is to reinvest the earnings to make an impact in the community. Read more about impact grantmaking.
Rural communities are faced with critical issues today: quality of life issues to retain and recruit young families; health care issues to allow senior citizens to age in place; educational issues of teaching local students of all ages how to succeed in an ever-changing world.
Many successful affiliated funds have gotten their start by raising money for specific projects that address issues in their hometown. There are many examples of Nebraskans who give very generously to such projects if they feel they can help address a need or solve a problem for their fellow residents.
Issue-oriented Accounts within your affiliated fund may be a great way to get public attention for your affiliated fund. However, use caution when beginning a project-based account. For example – what if you wanted to build a community learning center? This may be a very worthwhile and needed project in your community, but if you only raise money to build the center or remodel a current building, how will you sustain the learning center? Be sure to plan for future needs, too. For example, if you felt that a community learning center was a need in your community and wanted to pursue a fundraising campaign to raise money for the center, consider also building an endowment to support operating expenses at the same time.
The Nebraska Community Foundation can provide training to assist communities as they raise money for capital campaigns. We can give examples of how events build awareness, but not much money. We can show the importance of annual gifts; the importance of getting large donations first; and why it is better to announce success rather than intentions.
Our generation of Americans often expects instant solutions to our problems. But it often takes years to solve the big community issues. Ensuring the future of a community can take generations of time.
Successful affiliated funds understand the difference between asking donors to give from their income (checkbooks) for specific projects/issues, which are short-range goals, and asking donors to give from their assets (planned giving through their wills or from their estates) toward endowments to fund long-range goals.
The Nebraska City Community Foundation Fund compares it to the difference between the leaves and the roots of a tree. The green leaves appear each spring and thrive for the summer, but by fall they dry up and blow away…they must be re-grown each year. The roots, on the other hand, although being hidden deep in the soil, are the permanent source of stability and the life source of the tree.
Successful communities understand the importance of the role of their local financial planners to maximize the gifts of assets through planned giving. Read more about how donors can make planned gifts.
Successful affiliated funds have formulated policies for granting money that will have the best impact for the future of the community. They use grants as a catalyst for change and a means of creating new wealth. Read more about impact grantmaking.
While grants should not be thought of as a primary source of funding, they can provide income for affiliated fund and community projects. If your affiliated fund is considering applying for a grant, there are some things you should know and some guidelines you must follow to increase your chances of success and minimize risk to your fund and the Nebraska Community Foundation (NCF). Read the Guidelines for Applying for Grants.
Most donors want to know how their money will be spent. They are accustomed to being in control of their funds. Many get satisfaction in seeing the results of their charitable giving.
A donor-advised fund allows the donor to be actively involved in the decision making process. They are able to pass on their advice and wishes to the local Fund Advisory Committee.
Donors like to reinvest in ways that make an impact, but often need some ideas from the local leaders. It is important to keep them informed with personal contacts. This is an opportunity to thank them and reconnect them with their areas of interest.
Nebraska Community Foundation can provide locally customized brochures that describe donor-advised funds. We can also provide specific scenarios for conducting confidential meetings with potential donors. Read more about Donor-Advised Funds.
Experience has shown that the largest gifts to community foundations are the result of the trusted personal relationships between the donor and professional advisors such as attorneys, bankers, financial brokers and life insurance agents.
Successful local Fund Advisory Committees visit with their community’s professional advisors personally to make them aware of the local affiliated fund.
Many Fund Advisory Committees have financial planners serving on their FAC.
These professionals need to be made aware and reminded often of the needs and opportunities within the community. They should given annual updates and brochures for their client waiting areas.
Professionals also need to understand that the Nebraska Community Foundation encourages local control, so the local services of the individual professionals continue to be utilized.
The Nebraska Community Foundation maintains a list of financial planners and e-mails them a weekly newsletter. We also provide a series of training seminars for local professional advisors.
Surprisingly, even successful affiliated funds often experience a lack of public awareness of who they are and what they do. Local newspapers and radio stations can be good advocates if their reporters and editors are kept informed on a regular basis.
Successful Fund Advisory Committees make one-on-one contacts with media personnel to build a trusting relationship. They make sure the local media get their stories first. A representative of the affiliated fund personally takes press releases about their affiliated fund to update the general public on their efforts.
Some FAC members offer to be interviewed on local radio morning talk shows. They prepare a script of topics in advance with questions and answers. They concentrate on one topic per interview.
Read more about working with the media.
Former residents are often an overlooked resource for donations and planned gifts. Many people who grew up in rural communities have done quite well financially, and they often have fond memories of their hometown.
Successful affiliated funds have found that the alumni will give back if they are made aware of the needs and opportunities. High school alumni reunions are a great place and time to make contact with people who care about their hometown.
Consider sending letters and brochures to alumni and former residents, informing them of the opportunities to give back to their hometown through your affiliated fund.
Develop your Web site to appeal to the alumni. Read more about alumni mailings and alumni events.
If you have questions about how any of these techniques might work for your affiliated fund contact your development staff member or the NCF office.
Kathy Thuman has made cash contributions of more than $180,000 to support the Nebraska Community Foundation’s mission.
“I really feel that the Nebraska Community Foundation’s endowment campaign is a great way to give to the whole state, and have some influence over the whole state, because we really are a single community. We’re a small population and we know each other,” Kathy said.Read more →