Online giving, viral campaigns, large grants from foundations, funding from government agencies. These are some of the popular revenue streams for nonprofits. Those with earned revenue also secure funds from tuition, fees, sales, leases, rentals, licenses and other sources. All sources provide the money needed to make the missions of nonprofits come to life. There is also another important revenue source: “old school fundraising” or “passing the hat.”
Old school fundraising is all about reaching into your pocket – and into your community – to collect money to give to a nonprofit you believe in. It is the process of rubbing nickels together to make magic. It means looking to your neighbors and friends and asking, asking, asking. Not for $1 million but for $10 and $20. Depending on your circle maybe people will give $100. It’s about “regular people” stepping to the plate and making a difference. Old school fundraising includes car washes, bake sales, yard sales, door-to-door solicitation, tee-shirt sales, home or office parties, and raffles.
Passing the hat is a well-known form of old school fundraising. You let people know what you need to raise and you ask them to give what they can – right then and there. Think about the scholarship funds you are asked to give to by co-workers and friends. And don’t forget the power of passing the hat at church – a time-tested method for launching and sustaining important community work.
Variations on old school fundraising include giving circles. This is where a group of people gets together and each person agrees to give a specific amount over the course of the year. The money gets put in a “pot” and at the end of the year the group decides which organization(s) to give the money to. If you have a lot of people participating you can set up a donor advised fund at your community foundation to serve as the “pot” during the year. Just call and ask – they will be happy to help you.
Women’s giving circles are popular. Some emerge from book clubs and church groups. Others are facilitated by women’s foundations. You can start one with your women friends, or you can seek out your local women’s foundation to learn about their giving circle opportunities.
This is your reminder: old school fundraising is one way you can make a difference. Many small gifts go a long way.