Talk to those who run non profits around the country and you’ll discover a common thread. For those non profit organizations who don’t have the backing of a huge national brand, the biggest challenge is establishing credibility with potential donors. Sure, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has no trouble selling its brand to potential benefactors. Most organizations aren’t Komen, though, and their challenge is to show potential donors that the cause is both worthy and legitimate. Trust is paramount, and credibility does not come easy. If you’re going to effectively raise funds, you need to take steps to establish credibility among the groups you’re going to be targeting. Here are five ways to ensure that you’re building that requisite credibility.
Incorporate and complete the 501(c)(3) process
There are certain markers of credibility that today’s donors are naturally going to look for. They will want to know if your organization is incorporated. This signals legitimacy and demonstrates commitment. Beyond that, today’s donors have been trained to ask about your tax exempt status. Applying for a 501(c)(3) tax exemption can be a lengthy and arduous process. It can take up to six months to get the go-ahead from the IRS in some cases. Even though this process is lengthy, it will be worth your time. In addition to building credibility, it will allow you to offer tax write-offs to the people who make donations.
Have your tax deduction forms organized and ready to go
One of the biggest problems that smaller non profit organizations run into is a lack of preparation. They spend all of their time trying to solicit donations and little of their time thinking about what to do when those donations come through the door. Many people will donate without the thought of taking a tax deduction. Still, you should have organized and official forms to give every person who makes a donation. These forms denote how much they gave and list your organization’s pertinent details. Your donors can then give these forms to their accountant in order to claim their tax deduction. The major upside to this approach is that you’ll appear more credible to donors in the future.
Carefully create and populate your board of directors
When you’re putting together a board of directors, you should be thinking about two different things. First, what can these people and their networks bring to the table that no other person could? In addition, you’ll want to think about the kind of people that bring fundraising credibility. Your goal should be to have a collection of individuals who are respected in the community. That doesn’t mean you’ll have to pull the mayor of your city into the offing. Rather, just target people who have done well in their own fields and people who have close ties to the community you are serving.
Build links with traditional media sources
Even in the age of Internet, people still give respect to traditional media. Many individuals today look to the Internet for their news. They might look at the newspaper only a few times for month. Still, they will respect the fact that traditional news media have given you a stamp of approval. Reach out to them to do television interviews. Putting a face with a name can go a long way in signaling that your non profit is serious about the work that you’re doing. In addition, you will benefit from significant cross-promotion. The media will have an interest in promoting your story for their own well-being. This equates to free marketing, a need for every non profit.
Don’t be afraid to partner with other non profit organizations and businesses
Many non profit managers make the mistake of doing things alone. They view businesses and other non profit organizations as competitors rather than partners. If you are trying to build credibility for fundraising purposes, you should be willing to partner in many ways with those groups around you. This might mean choosing to sponsor another charity’s event. It might mean taking on a large corporate sponsor for one of your own events. Your goal should be connectedness. When your potential benefactors see that other organizations are willing to have you on-board, your own organization and cause will appear much more legitimate.