Your fundraising will never compete with big charities and that’s a good thing

I hear it all the time.

“There’s too much competition for donor dollars.”

Sometimes it’s “donor fatigue” or “low brand awareness” or “we don’t have a marketing budget.”

Or maybe you’ve given up on fundraising and have decided to focus on grants instead, because you think that’s where the big money is.

But here’s the thing – you can be successful fundraising, not despite your small size, but because of it.

There are two things you need to focus on to raise reliable funds from donors, without having a big (and often any) fundraising budget:

  • Authenticity

  • Relationships

Want to see what I mean?


Your best donors and potential donors are those who care deeply about your cause, regardless of how much they give. So don’t just focus on big donors and big grants.

Who has an authentic connection to your cause?

Focus on building your relationship with those people, and you will eventually have a community of donors that give at different levels. Soon you will have a really solid base of financial support.

Download my free Shoestring Fundraising Cheat Sheet to discover three things you can do right now to build mutually beneficial, authentic relationships with your donors.


Being a small charity can give you an edge over bigger charities…

Oh yes it can!

First off, it’s a conversation starter. If you tell someone you work or volunteer for a small charity and their reply is, “I’ve never heard of that,” think of it as an invitation to tell them about your organization. Bonus if you can tell them through a story, instead of re-stating your mission.

You can get people really interested and excited when you engage in a meaningful conversation about your work.


As a small charity, you have an amazing opportunity to elevate your donor’s experience.

Many donors have told me that in a big charity, a $50-$500 donation might feel like a drop in the bucket, but at a smaller charity their gifts go so much further.

In my free Shoestring Fundraising Cheat Sheet, I share with you some specific tips on how you can engage your donors so that they immediately feel like their gift had a big impact for your organization.

I encourage you to err on the side of appreciation and strive to include donors, or donation amounts, that in big organizations would go virtually unnoticed.

My first job in fundraising was as Fundraising Manager at Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter. I knew there were many, many other women’s shelters in the city. I also know that we were “competing” with other big organizations that support abused women. But I also knew my donors lived predominantly in an affluent neighborhood just south of the Shelter that happened to be on my way home from work. So when I had a tax receipt, I would hand-deliver it!

I was able to personally thank and convey to donors that their donation meant so much to us. In person, on their door step. Imagine, hearing that knock on the door and expecting a delivery, or a sales call, but instead a big smile and a thank you, with a hand-delivered tax receipt.

Well, can you guess what happened?

Because my visit showed that we were present in their community and responsive to their support, donors elevated the Shelter to the top of their giving list.

Many donors expressed their delight at my surprise visit and their subsequent gifts increased, year over year! You can build a strong relationship with your donors with simple no-cost actions like this.

Once you establish this relationship, “brand” doesn’t matter and any concern about “competition” will fall away.


Now some of you might be thinking, “Where do we start fundraising? We don’t know any big donors!” Well, yes, we all want big donors, but I bet you already know lots of people who can give $100, (or any amount that is meaningful to them) and that is a great place to start.

In fact, the more kinds of donors you have who give at different levels, the more stable your charity will be in the long term. Let me explain…

In your mind, right now, draw an imaginary circle around your charity and its mission. Inside of that circle are the people who LOVE what you do. Outside of the circle are people who just have no reason to care, and are indifferent to your mission.

Focus on your inner circle and they will become your ambassadors and unlock untapped communities of like-minded people who might also be inclined to support you. And if this means that you wind up really busy with many smaller donors, enlist the support of staff to help you make no-cost thank you calls (I show you how in my Shoestring Fundraising Cheat Sheet)!

Thanking many donors at all levels is a great opportunity to get your front-line staff involved in fundraising. Ask staff, volunteers, or client alumni to spend 5-10 minutes a day on thank you calls. It will strengthen their relationship to donors and donors will love to hear from those within your charity that are on the front lines.


I see so many organizations hold off on fundraising because they don’t know where to start.

Or their brand isn’t strong enough. Or they don’t have the right fundraising volunteers.

At the heart of fundraising is authenticity and relationships. You don’t need money, or the “right” network, or anything other than your passion and a good story to get started fundraising.

You’re never going to “compete” with the big organizations, and their fancy marketing materials, and their big galas, and their beautiful websites, and, and, and.

But if you leverage your assets right, you can start to build a base of fundraising support that fuels your mission and growth.

Begin to implement the simple no-cost or low-cost action items from my free Shoestring Fundraising Cheat Sheet right now and you will make your charity important to donors and potential donors.

You will elevate your organization to the top of their list. Just get started in engaging your supporters without worrying about being perfect. Start building a community of people who care about what you do and the rest will follow.

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The Good Partnership, 401 Richmond St West, suite 353, Toronto, ON M5V 3A8

437-886-6047 |