Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter

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December 16, 2018

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Wish List Fundraiser

by Deane Brengle

"Wish list fundraiser" could be considered to be a misnomer. When you create a wish list for your nonprofit group and receive a contribution from it, have you created a new fundraising source or saved yourself from spending your hard earned fundraising dollars? Actually ... you've done both!

Wish lists are not unheard of within the fundraising community. They are, however, an under utilized resource available to all nonprofit organizations no matter what the size.

A wish list establishes the various needs of your organization. Depending on your group's needs it could consist of anything from pens and paper to office space to auction items to professional services. Your wish list is only limited by your imagination!

Creating Your Wish list

When preparing your wish list make sure to invite all of your organization's staff and key volunteers to submit their own wish lists. You may think you know what they will request, but when you ask you will understand their wants, needs, and dreams. And I'm betting you will be pleasantly surprised with their creativity.

When creating your wish list try to think big as well as small:

  • What are your immediate needs?
  • What are your wants?
  • What are your long term dreams?

Ask for input for your wish list on a regular basis. Your organization's needs will change and your wish list should be updated at least every three months.

Be Specific

To avoid the embarrassment of having to explain why you got rid of a donation or why you refused a donation be sure and specify the type, make, model, size, shape, and color of the items you are requesting when appropriate.

Spread the Word About Your Wish list

The success of your wish list is only limited by how well you advertise it. Use every means at your disposal to spread the word about your wish list:

  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Email
  • Flyer
  • Annual report
  • Direct mail

And while you're at it, make sure everyone you have contact with gets a copy of your wish list:

  • Members
  • Supporters
  • Volunteers
  • Donors
  • Vendors
  • Community organizations

Three more important groups that you might not think of:

  1. The Press- If you can put a newsworthy spin on it, your wish list could generate an article in your local paper or community shopper.

  2. Prospective Donors- If a prospective donor is unable to contribute cash they may be able to contribute something from your wish list.

  3. Other Nonprofits- You may be able to barter for goods on your wish list with other nonprofits that have received an excess from their own wish list donations or in-kind donations.

Never under estimate the power of word of mouth advertising. The more people that are aware of your wish list the more opportunities you have for a donation.

Saying NO!

No matter how hard you try, you may find yourself in the uncomfortable position of someone trying to donate something you could never use or don't want. You may accept a donation and turn around and barter or sell it, if you make it clear up front to the donor those are your intentions. That being said, don't accept items that aren't appropriate for your group.

Sample Wish lists

Community Wish Lists

Sometimes your community may have a place and time they compile wish lists from nonprofit organizations and make them available for all to see and donate to. This often happens at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but some offer this service all year long. Be sure and check in your area to see if this service is available. Here are a few examples:

A wish list is an important budget stretching/fundraising tool. Make sure you take advantage of the opportunity that a wish list can present to your nonprofit.


About the Author:

Deane Brengle is the editor of several free online publications that cover fundraising for small nonprofit groups. You can visit these publications and read more about fundraising in articles by him and other experts in the field at The Fund$Raiser Cyberzine, The Fundraising for Small Groups Newsletter, and Fundraising Booklets.

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