Dear Kim:

I have been enjoying your site a great deal.

I have a question about starting fundraising before we open our doors. My husband and I are starting a nonprofit arts center in our upstate town. I have gotten a great response from the community so far.

We need to raise $98,000 before we can even gain access to the space and buy all of our equipment. My question to you is, how does one go about setting this up? I had the idea of asking for corporate sponsorships and for smaller personal gifts from the community. How do you get people to support an organization that does not yet have a place to call home?

—Home is Where the Art Is


Dear Home:

You say you have gotten a great response from the community, so now your job is to translate that response into money. The people, the businesses, the other nonprofits who support the idea of opening this center now need to be asked to express their support with donations of equipment or money. Also, your board of directors needs to help you by making their own gifts and raising money from their circles. There are people, foundations, and a tiny number of corporations that like to give to start-ups. The pitch to them is, “Help us get this going—you know how important it is. We are approaching you because you are the kind of person willing to take a chance on a good idea.”

I would also consider how you can spread raising the $98,000 you need over a period of months. In fact, perhaps you don’t literally need $98,000 just to open your doors. Let’s say you need first and last month’s rent and a deposit before the landlord will give a key, and you would like to have painted the gallery space and possibly have the furniture for one classroom. That, then, is what you literally need to open your doors. Psychologically, it will be easier to raise $20,000 to open, and $78,000 more once people see you have a real space than waiting until you have the whole amount.

Also, you will begin to have some cash coming in, and you can see how much money you will be able to generate and by when to offset your outflow. I would suggest asking someone who works with small businesses to help you with the financial projections for your organization. These projections can then be shown to funders and donors as part of your “business plan.”

Good luck.

— Kim Klein