Diversify Your Non-Profit Funding Sources

Diversifying your non-profit’s funding sources is essential. It is usually the main difference between a successful non-profit and an unsuccessful one. If your business relies on one or very few sources of funding, you are already facing a significant risk.

The Best Revenue Streams for Non-profits

Individual Donations

Individual donations usually make up the largest piece of the pie for most non-profits. It is worth investing effort to increase this particular revenue stream. The process of individual donations, however, needs to be easy for donors to understand. Willing donors can be deterred by confusing donation methods and poorly structured donation websites.

It is also essential for the donation process to include an opt-in option for monthly or weekly automatic recurring payments. This is a convenient option for some donors. It also promises cashflow to the business.

Lastly, the donation process must recognise donors and make them feel important and valued for their donation.


Grants are a powerful revenue stream. Funders will normally prescribe a set of  documents for you to prepare as part of the submission pack (e.g. application form, budget, etc). Prior to applying, always ensure you thoroughly understand these request conditions, since good applications can be rejected on grounds of non-conformance.

Winning your first grant can take considerable time and effort. Also, you cannot win them all. There can be a string of failures before success is achieved.

Fundraising Events

These can be a great way to engage with your community while also identifying further sources of revenue. However, fundraising events can be unpredictable. Typically, attendance and donations are not guaranteed. Moreover, they require significant manual effort to get going.

Nonetheless, fundraising events are great for start-ups that do not have an existing network of donors. They can create awareness about your organisation.

Corporate Sponsorships

Increasingly, corporations today are considering corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs that fund and support local charities and non-profits.

When seeking corporate sponsorships, it is essential that your organisational goals are in alignment with sponsors’. For example, your animal rights organisation could be a good fit for a dog food company seeking to sponsor non-profits.

In-Kind Donations

In-kind donations do not directly involve money. Therefore, ensure that your website (or other sources of information) clearly indicates what sort of in-kind donations you accept, and where you can accept them. Donors receive satisfaction from in-kind donations because it gives them a sense of being directly involved. 

In-kind donations can be food if your non-profit focuses on eliminating hunger or providing aid to those affected by a crisis. It could be free shelter if your focus is homeless individuals, or it could even be professional services such as therapy or counselling if your focus is suicide prevention or mental health.

Major Gifts

These are major donations received in cash or in-kind.

To receive major gifts requires trust and good relationships with supporters. Also worth considering is how transparent your organisation is with the allocation of its resources.

Other Creative Revenue Streams For Non-Profits

Sometimes, a little creativity can go a long way. Here are a few ideas to fund your non-profit.

Social Media

With social media being as prevalent as it is, it is an effective way for your non-profit to gain exposure and donations at the same time. Larger social media platforms have already incorporated non-profit fundraising into their platforms, which has made it easier than ever for people to support their favourite charities.

Selling Merchandise

Where the core purpose of merchandise sales is to generate revenue.

Offering Services

Your non-profit can also offer services in exchange for donations. These can range from expert advice to consulting to social work.

However, do ensure your services align with your organisation’s goals.

Funding models

Funding models provide a basis to decide which sources of income streams would be of most benefit. Some common models are listed below.

Heartfelt Connector

A model that focuses on issues that are common among individuals at all levels. They usually get donations from individual donors and mostly host fundraising events where they can connect with their supporters and beneficiaries and build relationships.

Beneficiary Builder

A model that relies on individuals that have benefited from the services of the non-profit – some common examples are universities and schools.

Member motivator

This model focuses on individual donations where the core cause of the non-profit affects donors’ daily lives.

Big Bettor

This model focuses on non-profits that rely on large grants from a few organisations or individuals.

Public Provider

These are the non-profits that usually work with the government to provide necessary social services such as housing and medical facilities. They generate their revenue mostly through government sources.

Policy Innovators

These non-profits help fill in the gaps left by basic government policies; they frequently collaborate with government organisations, allowing them to generate revenue from government sources while simultaneously helping the government by taking on their workload.

Beneficiary Broker

These are those non-profits that usually compete with each other to provide services to their beneficiaries – the only difference between these and other government-funded non-profits is that beneficiaries are free to choose which non-profit they wish to benefit from.

Resource Recycler

These organisations focus on in-kind donations and then making efficient use of these goods and/or services to benefit individuals that need them the most.

Common Questions Among Non-profits

You might think that grants and corporate sponsorships bring in the most revenue. However, according to statistics, individual donations make up a majority of most non-profits’ revenue streams in most cases.

The most common revenue streams are individual donations, in-kind donations, and earned income revenue from services the non-profit provides.

In Conclusion

There is no one-size-fits-all technique or strategy for determining which funding sources are best for your non-profit; consequently, it is crucial to explore and consider alternatives and commit to the ones that work for you, for as long as your sources of income are diverse.

If you are starting out, it is not necessary or even possible to have a diverse source of funding from Day 1. Acquiring funding sources takes time and effort. If you are just starting out, it is best to focus on building one source of revenue at a time and then working your way up.

“A man who chases two rabbits catches neither”

Chinese proverb

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