Grassroots Fundraising Training Notes


Facilitated by Sonia Silbert and Alexis Stoumbelis


  1. Intros
  2. Why Grassroots Fundraising
  3. Why not?
  4. Who gives money?
  5. Facing our fears
  6. Breakout Groups:  1) Making the Ask; 2) Strategy Components; 3)Potential 3rd group
  7. Report Backs
  8. Close/Evaluation


Most participants in the training had some background in grassroots organizing and a basic level understanding of fundraising.  Most attended the training because they worked in grassroots organizations.  

Activity – Step

Everyone was asked to stand up in a circle. Facilitators asked  questions, and if the answer was yes, the individual stepped in the circle.

The following questions were asked:

  1. Been to a grassroots fundraising workshop before? – A few people raised their hands
  2. Do fundraising as part of their paid job? – A handful number of people raised their hands; most individuals attending the training aren’t working full-time on fundraising.
  3. Do fundraising as part of their volunteer job? – Some individuals raised their hand
  4. Never done fundraising before? –A few individuals raised their hand
  5. Work with a local org focused on DC area issues – Some individuals raised their hands
  6. How many of your organizations are funded by 75% or more with foundation money?  A few individuals stepped in
  7. How many of your organizations are funded by 50% or more with foundation money? The majority of individuals in the circle stepped in
  8. How many of your organizations are funded by 25% or more with foundation money?  A few of

the individuals stepped in.

  1. How many people have asked for money before – Most of the group had asked for money
  2. How many people have donated to a non-profit – Most of the groups had donated to a non-profit.

Activity – Spectrum

Facilitator asked 4 questions regarding where most individuals are on the complete spectrum. The questions included the following:

  1. What kind of work allows your organization to reach out to and educate a broad-base of individuals? Organizing or Fundraising

Most individuals picked organizing and some felt it was about fundraising

  1. This kind of work we do because we believe our causes is just and we want other people to be involved.  Most individuals felt it was organizing
  2. This kind of work can bring more people into the organization.
  3. Everyone in the organization should consider themselves an (fundraiser/organizer, or both)

The main point is fundraising is a good thing and it’s a vital component of organizing. In some organizations, all individuals do is organize, and in other groups, individuals have to play both roles: organizer and fundraising. 

What Is Grassroots Fundraising and Why Should One Fundraise

Grassroots fundraising is about asking money from individuals, rather than corporations, institutions, foundations, or governments. Fundraising is based on ‘people power’ and the ability of everyday individuals to influence people in powerful positions. It helps with building up the skills of individuals. There are new organizers and people can help to build a collective movement. It also challenges our capitalistic system and hierarchal model.

It mobilizes many people, and is rooted in a bottom up approach, not a top down approach.

It also is based on engaging individuals that are most impacted by the issues and gives them the power of decision-making and building a campaign.

Whoever funds the work has a lot of power to dictate what the work is.  If you want those directly impacted by the work to make decisions about it, ensure they are in that position!  Who are you accountable to?

Grassroots fundraising also challenges class because most of the individuals that give aren’t on the higher income strata. It’s important to not assume what people’s capacity is, ask everyone if they can contribute, and if they can’t contribute money, then find a way to see how they can do so in the best way.

Key Points on Why We Should Engage in Grassroots Fundraising

  1. Grassroots requires less reporting, paperwork, and there is less need for writing grant reports or fundraising outcomes
  2. No limit on who one can ask and how much they can give (lots of people can participate)
  3. Donors believe in what you do and want to achieve
  4. Impact: More self-reliant and sustainable. It is a good way to fund organizing (even more than advocacy) – building a base and presence. There is an accountability mechanism in place re: individuals will continue to donate if they believe in your work
  5. Necessity (foundations don’t always fund social change) – How to talk about it all in a way that makes sense and how to talk about our work in a way that makes sense.

One example is CISPES and the Washington Peace Center.

Key Points of Fundraising from the People/Not the Institutions

  1. People sustain because it benefits the community
  2. Protection
  3. Gives a people sense they’re doing something (people who are giving money)
  4. Ownership
  5. Helps people make connections and decentralizes
  6. Authenticity – people speaking for themselves
  7. Free from corporate interests/control
  8. To whom is the organization accountable?

Why Don’t Organizations Fundraise?

Fundraising Fears from Groups

  1. There is no time
  2. There is no org/institution capacity
  3. Don’t know any individuals with money
  4. Don’t really know how to ask individuals for money
  5. There are issues around capitalism, fear and power

Dispelling Myths about Who Gives


  1. In 2004, people that earned 25000 or less contributed double the amount of people making $100,000
  2. African Americans gave away 25 percent more of their discretionary income than whites
  3. All single women, including poor single mothers, gave 4 times high-income single men do
  4. 89 percent of the people living in the US give money
  5. In 2006, percentage that gave money to general causes:

-90 percent of retirees

-71 percent of people making 35k or less

-8 percent of people 75k or more

-84 percent of donors give because they feel it’s the right thing to do

Stated that having money and giving money aren’t the same thing.  Most money in America is given by middle class and low-income families.

Dead people through their trusts and wills give away more money than corporations do!

Quote: Why Don’t Organizations Fundraise?

The Politics of the Money Taboo: The main purpose of the taboo about money is to maintain a capitalist system. If I can’t ask for money, I will be shy about asking for a raise. If I can’t ask someone at my workplace what they earn, or if it is “not done” to reveal my salary, I will not learn that I am paid more because I am white or less because I am a woman.”

For those who question “fitting in” and “taking our rightful place,” we must also question the taboo about talking about money. In fact, if we don’t deal with money, learn how it works and how to ask for it, we wind up collaborating with the very system our work is designed to change. Seeing our inability to ask for money in a more political context helps people overcome their anxiety about doing it.” – Kim Klein, Fundraising in Times of Crisis

Breakout Groups: 1) Making the Ask; 2) Strategy Components; 3)Potential 3rd group

Everyone had the option of splitting into 3 groups. Most individuals chose the first two groups.

Making the Ask Group:

Group Breakout Sessions

Fears of Asking someone for money

  1. Public Speaking
  2. Losing friendship/awkward
  3. Not having money

Things that work when you ask someone for money

  1. Causes/justice – why (Say a personal reason why it matters to you)
  2. Someone you know – (Ask someone you know and trust)
  3. Know the org or their work
  4. Eye contact shows confidence
  5. Excitement/passion
  6. Confidence/speaking clearly
  7. Ask and wait for an answer. Let them figure it out.
  8. Settle on ask 1 (money) before asking for other things
  9. Be ready for other responses (I don’t have that much)

Personal asks are a success 50% of the time. Typically, one should get as many ‘yes’ as ‘nos’

Creating a Good Pitch – The Rap

RAP: Where you lay out why the work is exciting; make the case for why this work is important.


1. Who are you?

-What is the organization?

-What do you do? – Use stories that can grab someone’s attention with an engaging question. Think about who is the organization and what do you do

2. Problem – Explain the problem to everyone/it could be a personal story show/it can be a habit/give the pitch/how to change habits (timeline)

-Why should I care

3. Solution

-What needs to happen?

-What will it take?

-What are you doing about it

4. The Pitch

-What can they do about it?

-What do you need in order to solve the problem?

-We need x to do y…

- Will you give money?

2nd Group: Strategy Components

Fundraising Fears and Realities

  1.        Anxiousness in asking people for money
  2.       Personal relationship – individuals mentioned will asking money hurt their personal friendships
  3.        People will think the individual is self-interested
  4.       Feel guilty – Some people felt as if they might be tricking their friends or those whom they know.
  5.       Fear of being pushy and are interrupting
  6.       Don’t feel worthy

Prospects: People to Ask

  1. Family
  2. Friends (+others)
  3. Coworkers
  4. Neighbors
  5. Social networks – Clubs, groups, and sports
  6. Fellow organizers
  7. Religious organizations and institutions
  8. Unions
  9. Professors, classmates
  10. People with whom you do business

Grassroots Fundraising Systems

  1. Mail appeals
  2. Phone calls/phone banking
  3. Events
  4. Sustainers
  5. Requests and planned giving
  6. Email appeal
  7. Individual meeting/pitching
  8. Peer to peer (bikathon, walkathon)
  9. Dues
  10. Door to door or street canvassing

Resources: Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT)

GIFT is “a multiracial organization that promotes the connection between fundraising, social justice and movement-building,” promotes skills-development and leadership for people of color as fundraisers, and makes fundraising resources accessible to grassroots organizations. GIFT publishes the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, which comes out six times per year in print along with a monthly e-newsletter. GIFT also offers many trainings, including an annual conference “Money for Our Movements.”

The Accidental Fundraiser: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Money for Your Cause, by Stephanie Roth and Mimi Ho (Chardon Press)

Alliance for Justice (202.822.6070)

Are you a volunteer with an organization, school, or project that needs to raise money? The Accidental Fundraiser is a how-to resource that guides you through the process of raising money from your community. The book presents eleven proven fundraising strategies that are easy to carry out and don’t require significant funds, large numbers of people, or extensive knowledge of fundraising. The authors, Stephanie Roth and Mimi Ho, show how to choose the right fundraising strategy (from house parties to bowl-a-thons) and include step-by-step instructions for carrying out all of the activities. In addition, The Accidental Fundraiser contains a wealth of worksheets and practical tips.