Many of the questions I receive are about fundraising. Where to find a donor? How to identify individuals who might like to contribute? How to get a grant? Etc. But I almost never get a question about project design. I don’t why, exactly. It is a pity because I think good project design is key. So how are fundraising and project design connected? Let me walk you through it.


Fundraising is also referred to as resource mobilization. Basically it refers to all activities you undertake to bring resources (in money or in kind) into your organization so that you can work towards your mission.

What activities?

So fundraising includes all your activities to bring in money or in-kind contributions from a variety of donors and sponsors. That is an unlimited variety of activities. For instance: an event, a raffle sale, a sponsored run, a crowdfunding campaign, a call for donations on your website or via email, an ask for a sponsorship, a request for goods, an arrangement for reduced prices at certain shops, etc.Mostly, you are the one initiating these activities, thereby creating an opportunity for others to join in and contribute to a shared dream.

And, yes, a grant application, too

You can also raise funds through an application for a grant. A grant application is usually in response to a call for proposals. So that this is an opportunity created by an initiative from the (potential) donor. They are making it possible for you to identify yourself as someone with a shared dream.

Fundraising step 1

All fundraising of course starts with an idea. Your idea. An idea that will help you get closer to achieving your mission. An idea that will help you solve a problem for the community you serve in a way that is helpful to them. (don’t forget to validate this idea with them!)

Fundraising step 2

The next step is to decide which type of donors fits best with this idea. Is this something a company could be interested in supporting? Could it be realized with help of donations of private individuals? Or is it a venture for which a grant would be needed for the pilot phase?



Fundraising step 3

Once you know the type of donor that could be good fit to help you make this possible, you can start identifying which concrete company, institutional donor or persons could be interested (and how).

Fundraising step 4

Next, you need to think about how you can approach these (contact) persons. Where to approach them? What is a good way to ask them? What information is needed? Etc. etc.

Step 4 Call for proposals

If you have decided that an institutional donor is the best partner for your idea at this moment, you need to check whether the ones you identified as a good match have a call for proposals you can respond to. If not, can you find out, when they will open next?

Fundraising step 5

Now you have an idea that needs to be achieved. And you have a concrete idea of which donor(s) can help you. And you have developed your approach toward them. You may have information about a call for proposals, if that is the way you think you need to go. So now is the time to develop your idea into something you can present to the donor(s) your have in mind.

Step 5 Project design

So this is when you need to turn your idea into a project. Whether it is big or small. A short-term activity or a multi-year endeavour. Whether it is a simple activity or a complex mix of results and activities. Whatever your idea is, it needs to be structured as a project.

…. but it’s not for a grant

If you structure your idea, you can speak about it much more easily and clearly. But more importantly, structuring it will help you develop the idea to a higher level. It will help you see where there are gaps in what you envision. It will help you see where you need to fine-tune your idea.  And it will help you foresee more precisely what resources you are going to need to make it happen. So, invest time in this also if you are not going to develop a project proposal.

My key tips

  • Make sure you start with a validated idea and create opportunities based on that. Your mission should be the centre of what you try to find resources for. Don’t be distracted by opportunities that are not aligned with your mission.
  • Devote time in building relations, online and offline as possible. This is key always, for any kind of fundraising. All steps will be easier if you have a few solid relations.
  • Invest in developing a project structure for your idea, however small it is.

How I can help

Check out my free Ten Tips to Make Clever Project Budgets:

Here is how I can help you design better projects, including better budgets, to achieve real impact for the community or cause you serve:

  • If you would like a structured approach with easy steps and guidance by me to go from a great idea to an effective project design, that has community support and a workable budget, you can join my Course Project Design for nonprofits here:

Here is how I can help you set up your donation policy and SOPs professionally so you can start collecting meaningful data about what your donors like:

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into my nonprofit support community and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free nonprofit support community

You can join my free nonprofit support community on the Heartbeat platform here. This group is a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.

You can visit the community via a browser or via an app. Here is the link to download the Heartbeat chat app in the Google Play store.

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