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Small charity, big opportunity

publication date: Aug 30, 2018
author/source: Edited by Ann Rosenfield with advice from JoAnna Black, Matthew Dubins, Katherine‏ Verhagen Rodis, and Ken Wyman

Recently, JoAnna Black asked fellow professionals to "Hit me with your "fundraising at a small charity" resources, friends! I will be doing a lot of reading and a lot of learning for the next while."

Small charities pose their own set of challenges but there are many benefits to fundraising for a small charity. Here is some of the advice that the Twitterverse gave JoAnna.

Maximize your advantage through radical personalization

Donors are increasingly interested in the impact of their giving. They do not expect small charities to deliver a glitzy set of materials. What small charities can do very well is help donors connect, in a very personal way, to the good work of a grassroots charity. 

In this vein, Matthew Dubins notes that "Personal mission is huge. Regardless of whether you learn this from your donors through one-on-one conversations or through surveying, make sure you save each of your donors' "why" in your records. This is an enormously important thing for impactful communication."

Small charity ❤️, big charity savvy

Matthew futher notes that "I would also add that you should be meticulous in your digital record keeping of who you communicate with and when, as well as who donates to you and for what reason. Data isn't a luxury in this day and age."  He points out that you need to "Segment your donors as soon as possible. You want to communicate differently depending on when they last supported you, how loyal they are, how much they gave you, etc."

In addition to smart data practices, donor research is a valuable, hidden tool for small charities. Hilborn Editor Ann Rosenfield notes "I did some consulting work for a charity that raised $30,000 a year who had a database of 400 names. Through donor research I found 1 billionaire, 2 donors who had given $1M to other charities, and 6 donors who had made gifts over $10,000 to other charities." While many large charities have fulltime researchers, small charities can hire a researcher at an hourly rate or buy a subscription to an online donor research service.

Never, never stop learning

Ann further points out that one of the keys to working smarter, not just harder, is by staying well informed about fundraising. She notes that AFP has a number of bursaries for AFP Congress (November 19-21) for professionals working in agencies raising $2,000,000 or less per year (excluding government and/or United Way funding). Some bursaries include travel and hotel accommodations. She notes that deadline to apply is September 14.

Professor Ken Wyman commented that the "Grassroots Fundraising Journal is one of the best possible resources for small charities and non-profits (particularly progressive groups) comes from the USA and their advice works in Canada." He also says that the "Ontario Non-Profit Network has many resources for small charities."

Keep reading!

Finally, Katherine‏ Verhagen Rodis had four great book suggestions. Katherine recommends

Thanks to this practical advice, you can get a jump on the year-end giving season to make sure your small charity is poised for success. If you follow these steps, you will find small really is beautiful.

Editor's note

Follow @HilbornInfo on Twitter and never wait again for these kinds of insights.

About the authors

JoAnna Black is a passionate and driven individual pursuing a career in non-profit fundraising and development. A recent graduate of Humber College's Fundraising Management program, JoAnna hopes to make a big difference in helping charitable organizations thrive.

Matthew Dubins is Chief Donor Scientist at Donor Science Consulting: a truly Canadian consulting agency using predictive analytics, data visualization, dashboarding, and address correction to help you do better fundraising with the help of your data! You can reach him at

Katherine Verhagen Rodis is a recent Fundraising Management graduate of Humber College, most interested in major gifts, stewardship, capital campaigns, and awkward grammar or math puns.

Ann Rosenfield is the Editor of Hilborn Charity eNews and is the only person to have won the AFP Toronto Chapter's Mo Davies Award for Excellence in Small Charity fundraising as both an Executive Director and a Board member. 

Professor Ken Wyman has more than 35 years’ experience helping grassroots groups grow and raising millions of dollars. He has written or contributed to eight books on fundraising, most recently Excellence in Fundraising in Canada, and is a frequent media commentator. He won the first ever award as Fund Raising Executive of the Year from the AFP Toronto Chapter. Ken is a consultant and a professor in the graduate Fundraising Management program at Humber College.

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