Fundraising: Assessing Funding Needs and Opportunities

Updated: 6.1.06

Before you begin fundraising, you should have a basic understanding of what resources you have at your disposal to help you meet your match.

What You Have to Offer

Organization and Coalition Assessment

It is important to understand what your organization's and coalition's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are in relation to fundraising. This information will help guide your initial and future fundraising efforts in a targeted and efficient way. For example, one of your strengths might be that you have a broad coalition that includes representatives from various sectors of the community who can provide access to funding sources, while one of your threats is that there are a lot of nonprofit organizations in your area competing for the same money. By mapping out these characteristics and situations, you will have a big picture view of your fundraising environment. This information will help guide you in the steps and exercises that follow.

One way to map out your organization's and coalition's characteristics is to complete the Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (SWOT) Exercise. With the help of your staff and coalition members, list these characteristics of your organization and coalition. Focus on the characteristics as they pertain to fundraising. The information gathered in the SWOT chart will help you plan for your short- and long-term funding needs. It will also help when developing your talking points for potential funders by highlighting points that should be addressed (threats) before you start seeking funds from donors.

Fundable Projects

Your Covering Kids & Families work plan includes many projects in which a potential funder may be interested. Begin by reviewing your work plan and listing the activities your coalition has set out to accomplish. These will be the projects that you will focus on when reaching out to potential funders. Creating this list will also help you describe your work in a concise manner. Keep your list of CKF projects in mind while researching potential funders so that you can match your projects to their interests. By focusing on those potential funders whose interests are aligned with your projects, you will be able to narrow down your list of prospects.

Examples of fundable projects that appear in some CKF work plans:


Next, you will need to assess whom you know and whom the members of your network know. First and foremost, fundraising is about personal relationships. Having a personal connection with a prospective donor can help you identify sources of grant monies, refine your proposal to better meet grant criteria and ensure that your proposal is reviewed.
Because most people are uncomfortable with fundraising, they mistakenly devote all of their time and attention to the impersonal aspects, such as developing the proposal.

Having a personal advocate "on the inside" can give you an edge over other grant seekers. Your immediate reaction will probably be: "I don't know anyone with access to that kind of money." But you have more resources than you think. Fundraising is 90 percent networking and 10 percent grant writing. Even if you do not know the head of the major health foundation in your area, chances are that by talking with people you do know, such as your coalition members, you will discover someone who does have a connection to that potential funder. You may also discover that you know someone else who has funds to give. The information gathered in the "opportunities" section of the SWOT exercise may be helpful in compiling your list of fundraising contacts. Begin by approaching anyone who has a direct relationship to you or your organization, including:

You should first consider if any of your immediate contacts or their organizations have the means to be a funder for your CKF project. If not, explore with them the possibilities of connecting you to someone who might.

It's important to remember that most people do not like fundraising. They will inevitably respond by saying, "I don't know anyone." Be sure to explain that making the ask will be your responsibility. Their help is needed only to connect you to the right people, provide guidance and, if they are comfortable, move the process along.


One of the biggest challenges you may face in securing your matching funds is the ability to dedicate enough time to fundraising. If you wear many hats (e.g., programmatic, communications, managerial) fundraising can slip through the cracks. With the short time frame you have to meet your match, it is critically important that you, or someone on your staff or coalition, make fundraising a priority.

Fundraising is time consuming but does not need to be all consuming.

Fundraising Consultants

If you are thinking about hiring a fundraising consultant, consider these points:

Fundraising Committees

Depending on the nature of your organization, you may find it helpful to develop a more formal committee (i.e., a subgroup of your coalition or board of directors) whose responsibility it is to assist with fundraising efforts. Managing such a group effectively takes significant time and attention, but the results can make it a worthwhile investment. Remember, making the ask and developing the proposals will still be your responsibility. If you pursue this option, here are some things to take into account: