Land is a problem that money can solve.
To save land, you need relationships, you need trust, you need a vision — and you need money. As one land trust leader put it, “Land is a problem that money can solve.”
A lot of us find fundraising a challenge. Part of it is that we just don’t like to ask for money. But, at its best, fundraising is about more than going after money. As Marc Smiley points out, it’s about increasing your community’s ownership of your work. If you want to have more fun — and more success — with fundraising, remember that you’re giving people the chance to invest in their values and realize their dreams. People want to make better communities and you’re helping them do that.
But there’s still the million-dollar question: how do you raise money?
12 ways to raise money
Here are 12 ways that land trusts bring in the funds they need. Each requires its own set of skills to do well. That’s why the Alliance is always asking fundraising experts to share their advice. You can find more information on these topics — and more —by searching our fundraising resources below or digging deeper on The Learning Center.
Most of the money that goes to charity in America doesn’t come from foundations or corporations. Over 80% of it comes from individuals. So, the cornerstone of your fundraising strategy should be connecting with the people in your community who care about conservation, who can make sustaining gifts. Two tips: 1) People give to people, so make the time to build relationships. 2) You have to ask for the money!
Even if your members give only a small amount on average, an active membership supports your land trust in so many ways. Members donate, volunteer, advocate, and spread the word about your land trust. The more engaged your members are, the more likely they are to move up from small gifts to major gifts over time.
Most donors give more when they can spread it out, contributing a small amount automatically each month (or some other interval). Network for Good found that the average recurring donor gives 42% more than donors who make one-time gifts. Recurring gifts also mean more reliable income for you. So, be sure to give donors that option!
Partner with local employers to increase gifts to your land trust. Workers can choose to have a regular donation come out of their paycheck, so it’s convenient for them and predictable, year-round income for you. Best of all, employers will often match employees’ contributions, which motivates giving and multiplies impact.
Talk to your supporters about how to leave a powerful legacy — by making a charitable gift part of their retirement or estate planning. With the right tools, donors may be able to achieve their financial goals, reduce their tax burden and make a significant contribution to a cause they love. Be ready to discuss options like bequests, life insurance policies, charitable annuities, charitable remainder trusts, and life estates .
Foundation and Corporate Grants
Success with grants takes more than a good proposal. It takes a strong program that matches your funder’s priorities. It also takes relationships. Use your connections to get introduced. Then, cultivate your contacts. You’ll get the best results if you can make your case in person. Do your research and focus where you’re most likely to succeed.
Government is a vital source of funding for conservation projects — which is a big reason why advocacy is so important! Federal, state and local programs are all major funding sources. You can also ask the voters for funds directly. In recent elections, we’ve seen high rates of success with ballot measures to pay for conservation.
As you plan events, start by evaluating your goals. Events aren’t always the most efficient way to raise money because they take so much work — and you have to put money into them. On the other hand, events can be great for growing relationships and expanding awareness.
Real Estate Gifts
Gifts of real estate can substantially increase your assets. Depending on the property’s conservation value, you might choose to manage it as a preserve, protect it with an easement and sell it, or sell it for market value. Be sure you and the donor agree about your plans for the land.
Not all of your income has to come from gifts. Sometimes, you can charge for your products and services. You might charge for admission to events, recreational access, property rentals, or services like planning, mapping, or training. Just make sure your earned income ventures are in line with your charitable mission.
For the most part, social media is better for raising awareness than for raising money. But fundraising through social media is on the rise. Try integrating social media into your fundraising campaigns. Or, experiment with peer-to-peer fundraising, like when people donate their birthdays.
Sometimes people will share their gifts or energy to support your cause. Your supporters might get pledges for running, biking, birding, even geocaching. Or a local artist might donate proceeds from a conservation-themed show. Creative fundraisers can build engagement, especially when there’s a clear link with your mission.