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APRIL 30, 2007

A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising

Author: Maksim Kalashnikov, Harvard Business School
Advisers: Prof. Jan Hammond, Prof. Dutch Leonard


1. Introduction
1.1. Scope
1.2. Structure of the Guide
1.3. A Note on Terminology
1.4. Methodology

2. Examples
2.1. A Typical Event
2.2. A Popular Variation
2.3. Variation Used by BikeCoastToCoast.org

3. Choosing Your Event, Cause, and Charity

3.1. Selecting a Cause for Your Event
3.2. Designing an Event for Your Cause
3.3. Selecting a Charity

4. Form of Organization
4.1. Forming a Nonprofit Corporation
4.2. Not Incorporating
4.2.1. Liability Release
4.2.2. Registering as a Grassroots Fundraiser
4.2.3. Venue-Based Sub-Events
4.3. Other Legal Issues

5. Website
5.1. Why Create a Website?
5.2. Event Title
5.3. Website Address
5.4. Website Content

6. Fundraising
6.1. Raising Donations
6.1.1. Solicitation
A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007 Target Audience Channels Crafting the Communication
6.1.2. Sub-events
6.1.3. Forms of donation
6.2. Securing Sponsorships

7. Sources
7.1. People
7.2. Endurance Event Websites
7.3. Organizations, Publications, and Other Sources

8. Appendices
Appendix A. Fundraising glossary
Appendix B. How to establish a nonprofit; resources for nonprofits
Appendix C. Sample fundraising letters
Appendix D. Donor’s Bill of Rights
Appendix E. Screenshot of the Kintera / BikeCoastToCoast fundraising page
Appendix F. Sample charitable contribution form
Appendix G. Venue-based fundraising event ideas
Appendix H. Screenshot of the BikeCoastToCoast.org website
Appendix I. Additional website development information
Appendix J. Additional fundraising and donation resources

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

1. Introduction

This Guide is a collection of my organizational and fundraising learnings developed while putting
together a fundraising endurance event. The event, Bike Coast to Coast Against Cancer
(http://bikecoasttocoast.org/), will be a charitable bicycle ride from New York to San Francisco during
the summer of 2007 to raise funds for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. LAF provides support,
information, and resources to people with cancer.

Bike Coast to Coast is my first attempt at event-based nonprofit fundraising. When I started out,
fundraising was a black box to me. Though I knew that people conduct endurance fundraisers and
succeed in collecting money for charity (for example, Swim Across America), I was completely baffled by
the concept. So I set out to learn how it works, create my own event, and codify my takeaways in a
document that will help others with their fundraising events. Hence this Guide.

The Guide is not perfect, as it came out of just one organizational effort and some research. I would like
you to read it, use it, and expand it by adding your own knowledge and experience. I hope that the
Guide will continue to grow and evolve this way, eventually becoming an authoritative source of
information about all types of fundraising.

1.1. Scope

Before I proceed further, I would like to define what this Guide is about.

First, for the purposes of this document, I split the universe of all fundraising events into two rough
categories that I call – however imperfectly – “endurance events” and “venue-based events”. I define a
“venue-based event” loosely as an event of small to medium size, contained in one physical location (that
is, venue), suitable for attendance by an audience, and amenable to the collection of fees from guests and
participants. A dance party, a sports tournament, a poker night, and an auction are examples of what I
call venue-based events. All other events fall into the “endurance event” bucket. Some examples are a
marathon, a long-distance bicycle race, and a mountaineering expedition. Some of their defining
characteristics are their wide geographic footprints and the large physical/endurance challenge involved.
Often, organizers of an endurance event set up smaller, venue-based events to raise awareness and funds
for the main event.

This guide will focus on organizing an endurance event, but will also briefly cover some aspects of
venue-based events (see Section 4.2.3, Section 6.1.2, and Appendix G).

Second, I will constrain the Guide’s scope geographically to the Unites States. Most of the information
here may apply to setting up events and fundraising elsewhere in the world, but I cannot confirm or
disprove it.

Third, this Guide is for first-timers. If you have already put together a fundraising endurance event, you
probably already know everything that I am about to say. Instead, read this Guide with a critical eye to
correct any inaccuracies or to add anything that I have overlooked.

1.2. Structure of the Guide

The Guide starts out by dissecting (or “opening the black box”) the structures of several common types of
fundraising endurance events. The next four sections (Section 3 through Section 6) go through the main
activities involved in setting up your fundraiser, roughly in their typical order. Conspicuously absent is a

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

section on executing the event itself. It is mostly outside the cope of this document, and would be useless
to you anyway, since: (1) each event is unique and (2) I have not run my event yet and therefore have no
experience to share. Section 7 lists my sources and suggests some other useful places for you to look for
information. Finally, ten appendices (A through J) cover some additional information or touch upon
topics that are somewhat outside the scope of this Guide.

1.3. A Note on Terminology

The language of event-based nonprofit fundraising is often vague and murky. Some terms are frequently
used interchangeably, for example “sponsor” and “donor”, “to donate” and “to pledge”, and so on. For
clarity, I define the terminology (in Appendix A) as I will use it throughout the Guide, and I will try to
strictly adhere to these definitions.

1.4. Methodology

The Guide is mostly a product of my own organizational takeaways. But I have also conducted a lot of
research using published sources and have interviewed about 40 people, each with knowledge and
experience in at least some aspects of event-based fundraising (see Section 7).

Interviewing people for this Guide was an interesting exercise in itself. It turns out that most people
possess good knowledge about some aspects of fundraising, but seem to have been misled about others.
For example, some of the interviewees with professional fundraising experience (working for non-profits)
insisted that to raise funds for a cause, you must be a 501(c)3 organization, and proceeded to offer help
and advice on how to incorporate as a nonprofit – whereas in fact, there is no such requirement, as the
Guide will demonstrate (Section 4). Many others, people with amateur, grassroots fundraising
experience, said things like, “…since you must use some of the proceeds to cover your own expenses,
donors are reluctant to donate,” implying that you can’t donate 100% of proceeds to charity. In fact, you
can, and our event is an example of doing just that.

2. Examples

To concretize the subsequent discussion from the start, I present here a few examples of fundraising
endurance events and their underlying structures. I’ll illustrate, in graphical form, how all of the parties
and roles involved fit together, and how information, funds, and benefits flow among the parties. We
will start by looking at a very common, typical example. It will provide the basis for understanding the
interactions involved. Then we’ll build on this base framework by looking at some variations. We’ll see
that the basic framework is flexible and extendible. As an organizer, you should be creative in
structuring your fundraiser to fit your goals.

2.1. A Typical Event

Some examples of “typical events” are:

• Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk (http://www.komen.org/)
• Hazon.org’s cycling events (http://hazon.org/)
• Swim Across America (http://swimacrossamerica.org/)
• Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (http://pmc.org/)

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

They all share the structure below:

Donors Participants Sponsors

Solicit donations

Donation balance
Receipt for IRS

Entry fee
R tio
ec n
ei ip

G rp
pt sh

oo ar

fo s

ds tic
on y
r IR cit
Sp bli

an ipa

d nts
Organizer Vendors
(a 501(c)3 charity) Event expenses (food,
Program expenses transportation, etc.)


Beneficiaries Goods/services

In such an event, the organizer (a 501(c)3 organization, that is, a charity) sets up and advertises the
endurance event (walk-a-thon, foot race, bike race, swim race, etc.). A participant registers for the event,
pays an entry fee ($50-200), and commits to raising a set minimum amount in donations ($1,000-5,000)
from his personal network. Anyone – an individual or an organization – can be a donor. (Note: many
employers match their employees’ donations as part of workplace philanthropy programs.) If the
participant fails to reach the minimum donation goal by a cut-off date, he is required to donate the
balance himself; the organizer simply charges the participant’s credit card using a credit card number
obtained in advance. The organizer raises additional money from sponsors in exchange for publicity.

The entry fee pays for the participant’s spot in the event. It is not tax-deductible and roughly covers the
organizer’s cost of running the event and the costs of goods and services provided to the participant
during the event (food, lodging, transportation, and emergency medical care). The organizer often
contracts with third-party vendors to provide such goods and services.

The donations raised by the participant are tax-deductible to the respective donors. These funds go
mostly toward the organizer’s program expenses.

The sponsorships are generally not tax-deductible to the sponsors, since they are effectively payments for

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

2.2. A Popular Variation

The following variation is popular among many events such as the New York City Marathon and the
Boston Marathon:

Solicit donations
Donors Participants Sponsors

Entry fee

Donation balance

Receipt for IRS


Donors Participants

Solicit donations





i pt









Goods and



i pt


for participants


Other Charities Organizer Vendors

(501(c)3) (a 501(c)3 charity)
Negotiate Event expenses (food,
“Approved charity” transportation, etc.)
Program expenses
Program expenses



Beneficiaries Beneficiaries

This slightly modified framework is similar to the typical framework, with the following difference. The
organizer (the main charity) partners with several other charities to benefit from the event. For example,
the New York Road Runners Foundation organizes the New York City Marathons. For the 2007 event,
some of the “partner charities” are Lance Armstrong Foundation, Achilles Track Club, and Michael J. Fox
Foundation. The organizer allocates to each partner charity a predetermined number of spots (expressed
in “bib numbers”). Each partner charity is then responsible for managing its participants, namely, setting
the minimum donation threshold, collecting payments from donors, and issuing receipts for tax
deductions. Each charity, including the organizer, spends the donated proceeds on its own program
expenses. Similar to the typical event structure, in this variation the organizer is the one who sets up the
event, collects entry fees, and contracts with vendors and sponsors.

2.3. Variation Used by BikeCoastToCoast.org

In setting up our own fundraiser, Bike Coast to Coast Against Cancer (http://bikecoasttocoast.org/), I
used an event structure called “a grassroots fundraising event” (see Section 4 for more details):

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

Donors Participants Vendors
Solicit donations
Goods and services

Coordinate the event

(Organizer is also
Receipt for IRS

a participant)
Charity Organizer Sponsors
(501(c)3) Negotiate
“Approved charity” Publicity
Program expenses


Beneficiaries Goods/services

This variation exhibits a very simple and accessible structure. Anyone can organize such an event,
because it does not require obtaining a formal non-profit status. In our example, BikeCoastToCoast.org
has partnered up with a 501(c)3 charity (Lance Armstrong Foundation). We set up our event and cover
all of our expenses with or without help from sponsors. Each of our participants reaches out to his
personal network of friends, family, and colleagues to solicit donations for our charity on our behalf (See
Section 6 for information about fundraising). Though I’ll touch on some issues pertaining to organizing
one’s own nonprofit corporation (Appendix B), this Guide will focus mostly on the “grassroots event”
model used by BikeCoastToCoast.org.

3. Choosing Your Event, Cause, and Charity

Early on in your fundraising event setup, you must make three fundamental and tightly interlinked
decisions: define the nature of your event, identify the cause to support, and identify a charity or
charities that will benefit from your event.

People go through many different thought processes in deciding to take part in event-based fundraising.
Most commonly, however:
• they feel passionate about a cause, decide to fundraise for it through an endurance event, then set
about looking for an event to join or set up;
• alternatively, some people feel passionate about an endurance activity, seek to participate in that
activity by joining or setting up an event, and decide to use that event for charitable fundraising;

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• finally, some people just want to do something challenging and adventurous for a cause, but
don’t know exactly what and exactly for what cause.

This Guide focuses on organizing one’s own event. For simplicity, I also assume here that you are not a
formal nonprofit and that you want to raise donations for just one cause and one charity. (Appendix B
contains more information about creating your own nonprofit. Moreover, fundraising for more than one
cause or more than one charity is a trivial extension of the case presented here.)

The three-dimensional decision involved in selecting the cause, event, and charity can feel overwhelming.
Therefore, it helps to approach the decision in a structured manner. First select a cause (or event), then
find the best corresponding event (or cause), and finally choose the best charity for your selected
combination of cause and event.

Importantly, keep in mind that to attract participation, your event must exhibit a close fit between you,
your event, your cause, and your charity. After you’ve completed the steps below and settled on your
event, cause, and charity, take a step back and do a sanity check on whether all components make sense

3.1. Selecting a Cause for Your Event

Say, you have decided on an event to organize. Now you have to figure out a cause. No matter what
your cause, the key to getting others (donors, sponsors, volunteers, participants) involved is to be a
passionate spokesperson for the cause. Therefore choose a cause, no matter how big or small, that you
sincerely care about.

A good starting point is Charity Navigator. The website categorizes nonprofits into broad categories, that
is, causes – such as animals, health, religion, education, environment, and so on. Look through the list,
zoom in deeper, and identify a few causes that you strongly empathize with. Then introspect and discuss
with your co-organizers, event participants, and potential donors. You friends and family are another
good source of advice on selecting a cause.

Finally, the cause should fit well with your event. For example, protecting the environment fits nicely
with most kinds of physical endurance events, because such events celebrate the natural beauty and
ruggedness of the human body and its independence from environmentally damaging technologies.

BikeCoastToCoast.org’s example. Devin and I are both avid long-distance cyclists. We crave the
exquisite sense of freedom that an open road and a bicycle give you. One night I was taking a break from
studying and came across John Dorsey’s website dedicated to his cross-country solo bike tour. The idea
to do my own bike ride hit me like a lightning rod. It made complete sense as a perfect adventure
vacation between business school and the start of a new career.

The decision to make it a ride for charity was secondary to the decision about the event itself. Devin and
I considered two causes that we care deeply about: preserving the environment and fighting cancer.
Both causes connect well with a cross-country self-supported bike tour. On one hand, a bicycle is the
quintessential environmentally friendly substitute for the automobile. On the other, a 3,500-mile, two-
month, physically and mentally challenging bike ride can symbolize the long and arduous ordeal that is a
patient’s fight against cancer [Kraner].

Both causes were equally appealing to us, so we broke the tie in favor of cycling against cancer by
assessing cancer as the more urgent and compelling cause to a wider group of people.

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3.2. Designing an Event for Your Cause

What if you have a cause in mind and are trying to figure out an event to organize? In a manner similar
to the decision process outlined above, think of the types of endurance activities that you enjoy, are good
at, or would like to get involved with. Then narrow the list down through criteria such as your specific
organizational skills that may be applicable to one type of event but not another, the event’s potential to
attract your desired demographic of participants, your desire to develop certain parts of your personal
network, and so on.

As before, keep in mind the fit between the cause and the event.

3.3. Selecting a Charity

Now that you have defined your event and cause, it is relatively straightforward to choose a charity.

Step 1. List a set of criteria that are important to you in your candidate charity. Ours were:
• Support current patients with all types of cancer.
• Be a nationally recognized charity.
• Meet or exceed the generally accepted standards of efficiency, capacity, and accountability.
• Provide support and advice to grassroots fundraisers like BikeCoastToCoast.org.
• Have a strong connection to endurance cycling.

Step 2. Pre-select several potential charities that roughly fit those criteria.

Step 3. Research each of the candidate charities. Browse their publications (website and brochures) to
see what programs they offer and whether those programs fit with your event and cause. Analyze each
charity’s performance: efficiency (one common metric is the 75% rule, see Appendix A), capacity, and
the level of transparency and accountability – using its publications and tax filings. It may be too time-
consuming to pour over a charity’s IRS Form 990 filings; plus, these forms do not always show the full
picture. Instead, the easiest way to assess a nonprofit’s performance is to look the organization up on the
websites of the industry watchdog organizations, such as Charity Navigator, Guide Star, Wise Giving
Alliance, and so on (See Appendix J).

Call each charity and talk with a person in charge of supporting grassroots fundraisers (often the title is
“development officer”, “grassroots event coordinator”, or “program officer”) and see how responsive
they are to your needs as a potential grassroots fundraiser, what resources they offer, and how easy they
make it for you to set up a donation mechanism for credit card and check donations through your event.

Keep narrowing down the list of charities until you zero in on the one that satisfies your criteria. The
steps above do not have to be taken in that exact order. Make a couple of iterations, gradually refining
the process and zooming in on the best charity for your event and cause.

Example from BikeCoastToCoast.org. After deciding on cancer-patient support as the cause, I narrowed
the field down to three candidate charities, Lance Armstrong Foundation, National Cancer Coalition, and
Huntsman Cancer Foundation. Further research showed that each had its pros and cons. LAF and NCC
are nationally recognized charities; whereas I had not heard of HCF until Devin told me about it (they
share the same hometown, Salt Lake City). Between LAF and NCC, NCC gets better marks for
performance from charity rating agencies, though LAF’s are good, too. I could not find any third-party
ratings of HCF. Among the three, however, HCF was by far the most responsive to my personal contact
and requests for information and had the most useful website. LAF’s responsiveness and resources were

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decent. NCC was completely unreachable and offered the shallowest set of resources, despite having
received best performance ratings.

At the end, I settled on LAF as our beneficiary, mostly due to its primary focus on supporting patients
(rather than on research grants), its highly recognizable brand, and its strong connection to the world of
endurance cycling.

4. Form of Organization

An integral part of fundraising is the collection of contributions from donors. This leads to a set of legal
questions, especially ones related to your form of organization. As a charitable event organizer, you have
two relevant alternatives:
• Form a nonprofit corporation
• Not incorporate

Each has benefits and drawbacks.

4.1. Forming a Nonprofit Corporation

Incorporating as a nonprofit [LZ]:

• Shields you and your personal assets from liability as event organizer by shrouding you in the
“corporate veil”
• Allows individuals and organizations to donate money to you tax-free
• Is the only way to get tax-exempt status from the IRS

But these benefits come at a cost of money, time, and resources [WSJ 4/29, Anderson]:
• Setting up a nonprofit takes about six months
• It costs $2 thousand to $10 thousand in legal and accounting fees
• You incur operational costs, such as:
o Developing (our outsourcing) a donation collection infrastructure
o Compliance with periodic filing and audit regulatory requirements
• It subjects your operations to public scrutiny

If you are reading this Guide, you are probably a first-time (or one-time) charitable endurance event
organizer. You want to have an adventure and help a worthy cause, but do not plan to go into this field
as a profession. Therefore, for you the costs above significantly outweigh the benefits and forming your
501(c)3 is not desirable or practical.

For those still interested, Appendix B lists the requirements and some good resources for forming a
501(c)3 corporation.

4.2. Not Incorporating

Not incorporating as a nonprofit:

• lets you get down to business of organizing your event right away
• is almost free (you still incur event expenses, but not the additional expenses associated with
establishing and running a nonprofit)

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• gives you complete control over your initiatives

The drawbacks of not incorporating as a nonprofit include:

• Exposure to personal liability
• Inability to collect donations in a tax-exempt manner
• Inability to collect donations tax-free to the donors

But well developed methods exist for mitigating all of these drawbacks. You handle the first one by
having your event participants sign a liability release, and the other two by registering as a grassroots
fundraiser on behalf of an existing charity (rather than acting as a charity yourself).

4.2.1. Liability Release

The best way to get a strong liability release is to have an attorney draft one for you. Sometimes you may
be able to avoid or reduce the legal expenses involved in doing so by contacting the pro bono section of
your local bar association or a nonprofit organization clinic that works in cooperation with a law school.
Here are two examples in Boston:
• http://www.bostonbar.org/sc/bl/prb/index.htm
• http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/clinical/lsc/clinics/business.htm

You can also download for a nominal fee a ready-to-use standard liability release form from an
organization like USLegalForms.com

Finally, you can download, modify, and use for your own event a liability waiver form that another
endurance event has made available for its participants online to download and sign.

4.2.2. Registering as a Grassroots Fundraiser

All nonprofits understand, appreciate, and do everything to harness, the power of grassroots fundraising.
They make it easy for any person or organization to register as a grassroots fundraiser on their behalf.

All you need to do is contact your target charity by phone, e-mail, or through its website and submit your
name and, if applicable, the description of your event. The charity typically will take a day or two to
approve your grassroots fundraiser request (they want to weed out vandals, extremists, and others
deemed dangerous to their brand).

The charity then allocates to you a personal fundraising webpage with functionality for donating through
a credit card and receiving a receipt for tax deduction. Most charities outsource the hosting of these
pages to a third-party donation-infrastructure provider like Kintera or First Giving (see Appendix B), but
some manage this infrastructure themselves. You then personalize the page with your event’s
information and send the link, together with your donation solicitation materials, to your potential
donors. In response to your plea for donation, your donors follow the link to your personalized donation
page, donate online using a credit card or check, and receive a receipt via e-mail or regular mail. The
technology behind the page keeps track of your donors’ donations and credits them to your event.

BikeCoastToCoast.org’s example. We have registered our event, Bike Coast to Coast Against Cancer,
with the Lance Armstrong Foundation through its website. Appendix E shows a snapshot of our event’s

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registered fundraising page (provided by LAF, hosted by Kintera, and personalized by us),
http://livestrong.org/grassroots/pedalagainstcancer/. Note: we do not send this link to our donors.
Instead, we have placed this link on our own webpage, and send our webpage’s address to our donors
instead. This is because the ability to personalize the charity-provided fundraising page is severely
limited. By sending our donors to our own webpage first, we better control the presentation of our
event’s information to donors.

This mechanism completely eliminates any tax issues, since you only solicit donations and do not handle
your donors’ money – your donors donate directly to the designated charity. But there is one caveat, see

4.2.3. Venue-Based Sub-Events

As Section 6 will show, the simple solicitation-based fundraising is not the only weapon in your arsenal.
Organizers of endurance fundraising events often set up smaller, venue-based sub-events to raise
donations for their main event. These sub-events, such as a dinner parties with raffles or a charity
auction, typically charge each guest an entry fee that partly covers the party’s costs and partly goes to
your charity. You pay for the event and donate the remainder to the charity. Your direct handling and
management of the entry fees – in the absence of a formal 501(c)3 nonprofit status – creates a problem.

Technically, the money you collect as entry fees is, for tax purposes, your personal income, and the law
requires that you pay taxes on it. Moreover, by pooling your guests’ donations and donating them to
charity yourself, you get the tax deduction and your guests do not, since you are not a nonprofit. A
rigorous solution to the problem is to ask that your guests give you only the portion of the entry fee that
will go toward covering the event’s costs, while donating the balance directly to the charity through your
fundraising page or by check.

Most organizers find this solution impractical because it puts too much administrative burden on donors.
As a result, few organizers follow this advice.

Instead, the recommended, though burdensome, practice is to do the following. Collect the cash entry
fees, keeping track of who gave how much. Split each fee into its cost-coverage component and its
donation component. Use the cost-coverage component to cover the event’s costs. Mail each donation
component as cash (or money order, for safety) to the charity, together with a contribution form filled out
with the donor’s personal information, so that the charity can mail the donor a receipt for the donation.
(See Appendix F for a sample contribution form.) Charities recommend that the organizer avoid placing
guests’ donations in his bank account and sending them to the charity by check – apparently, this triggers
the personal-income treatment of the funds that are being moved through the organizer’s bank account.

4.3. Other Legal Issues

Are there any regulations concerning the solicitation of donations by a grassroots fundraiser? Aside from
the income tax considerations mentioned above and the ethical norms described in Section 6, it appears
that you are free to fundraise in whatever manner you wish [Kraner, O’Mary, Sample, Trelles, Hathaway,

5. Website

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Your website is a critical element of organizing your charitable endurance event. Getting the site up is
one of the early steps in the process and is a prerequisite to many of the subsequent steps, such as
fundraising, recruitment of volunteers and participants, and even the execution of your event.

In this section, I’ll explain why you need a website and how to create one. See Appendix I for some
lower level details, such as domain registration, web hosting, and various alternatives in building the

5.1. Why Create a Website?

Designing your website clarifies, disciplines, and structures your thinking about your charitable event.
The content feedback that you receive from others while working on the site provides early validation of
your concept.

The website helps you fundraise because it reduces the length/size of your written and spoken outreach.
Pitch your cause concisely and send your audience to your website for details. The site will do the rest –
let donors donate; help sponsors reach you; describe you, your cause, and your event in more detail; and
keep people updated about your progress.

The website is a centralized and authoritative source of up-to-date information about your event.

The website is an excellent tool to promoting your event. Put a link to the site in your fundraising
outreach. Get the website mentioned in all online and offline publications. Have your partners,
sponsors, and donors link to your site from theirs. Increase awareness of your event through online

The website is your platform for accepting donations.

A professionally looking website attracts partners and sponsors because it helps their brand through
association with yours.

A well designed website demonstrates your credible commitment to your event’s success, because a
good site takes effort to put together. This reassures your partners that you are competent and your
intentions are serious.

5.2. Event Title

Selecting a title for your event (and, hence, for your website) is the first thing you should do, because
many other things depend on it – the website address (domain name), the event’s logo, and so on.
Because some addresses may be already taken, the two-step process of choosing the title and address
may need to go through a few iterations.

Finding a title for your event is completely up to you, but I’ll share the example of my own title selection
process; you may find it helpful.

First, I listed a set of criteria for my event’s title. The title had to:
• Be catchy and perhaps quirky, but not tacky
• Be short
• Be descriptive, namely:
o Reflect the long-distance, but not competitive, nature of our ride

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o Underscore that it’s a bicycle ride

o Possibly reflect our cause. This item was tricky, as I also wanted to stay sufficiently
general to be able to reuse the domain and website for future biking events.
• Be easy for me to pronounce and for others to understand without my having to spell it
• Be available as a domain name

I brainstormed, alone and with friends, and came up with several candidate titles, “Tour de U.S. Route
50”, “Tour de U.S. 50”, and “Tour de Route 50”. I liked these titles because they were catchy and quirky,
not too tacky, available as a domain name, and associated with long-distance cycling (through the Tour
de France). The problem, however, was that all these titles were hard for me to pronounce and I would
have to spell the address to people. More importantly, these titles misleadingly hinted at competitiveness
(again, by association with the Tour de France). Eventually, I settled on the name “Bike Coast to Coast”.
It is not as original as the “Tour de …” titles, but is short and catchy enough, reflects the ride’s nature
very well, and is easy to understand in conversation.

5.3. Website Address

Your website’s address (domain name) should be as short as possible to be easy for people to type. At the
same time it should be descriptive of the website’s content, purpose, and title to aid search engines in
indexing your site. Shortness and descriptiveness are conflicting priorities, so use your creativity to
reconcile them in your domain name. Check whether the domain is available by using an internet
registry website such as Go Daddy (http://godaddy.com/).

By convention, most nonprofits and charitable event organizers register their website addresses in the
“.org” top-level domain. Therefore, it’s best for you to use the .org as well. Our event’s full domain
name is bikecoasttocoast.org.

5.4. Website Content

Content is the most important part of a website. Develop it by focusing on your expected audience and
brainstorming about what kind of information you want your website to convey to that audience. Tap
into your friends and colleagues for ideas. Finally, borrow content ideas from the websites dedicated to
other charitable endurance events.

For the BikeCoastToCoast.org website, I conducted a simple market-research-type exercise. I asked a few
of my trusted friends to put themselves into the shoes of potential visitors to our site – donors, sponsors,
volunteers, participants, and partners – and jot down a few things they would like the site to convey.
When I put these lists together, the following master list of requirements emerged. Our website had to:
• give clear and detailed information about donating, namely, who will benefit, what fraction of
proceeds will go to charity rather than to operational costs, how to donate, and how to claim a tax
• describe the organizers, their credentials, and their motivations for the event; present a coherent
and compelling story
• give details about the ride – schedule, route, team, and ways to participate
• describe the planned publicity and media coverage
• impress the reader with our ride’s difficulty
• be concise but interesting and engaging; for example, describe our route and highlight some
exotic or especially challenging parts; don’t forget to put up some pictures
• be uncluttered and easy to navigate

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• be tasteful and aesthetically attractive; strike a good balance among text, graphics, and white
• use fonts and colors that are easy on the eyes

Take a look at our website, http://bikecoasttocoast.org/, to see what came out of this exercise (or see
Appendix H).

6. Fundraising

Fundraising typically consists of two components: raising donations for charity and obtaining support
(financial or in kind) for your endurance event from sponsors. I’ll speak about each in turn and conclude
with some tips and hints that are applicable to both activities.

6.1. Raising Donations

To give you some philanthropy context, the total amount of charitable donations in the U.S. in 2005 was
$260.3 billion, of which individuals and corporations donated, respectively, $199.1 billion (76.5%) and
$13.7 billion (5.3%). Giving by bequest accounted for $17.4 billion and foundations gave $30 billion. [CN]

The two most common methods of raising money from donors are direct solicitation and venue-based

6.1.1. Solicitation

To solicit donations, you need to analyze your set of potential donors, the best ways to reach them, and
the content of your communication to elicit the highest response rate. Target Audience

The concept of grassroots fundraising is based mainly on the idea of a fundraiser reaching out to his
personal and professional networks to recruit their members as donors and fundraisers. These recruits,
in turn, pass the message on to their networks, and so on. The goal is set off a chain reaction whereby
your message spreads throughout the network of networks to reach a wide population of donors.
Participation in this process is not limited to individuals, but can and ideally should, extend to
organizations as well.

Grassroots fundraising does not exclude the use of the “door-to-door” and “cold-call” sales tactics, but
these methods are not very effective and require special talents in the fundraiser (extreme self-confidence
and tremendous persuasiveness); as a result, we do not use them in fundraising for our bike ride.

In contrast to cold-calling, network-based grassroots fundraising relies on an axiom from consumer

marketing: word-of-mouth advertising is the cheapest and most effective form of advertising. One of the
important reasons why network members choose to act upon the fundraiser’s outreach is that they
personally know and empathize with the fundraiser. I’ll cover some of the other reasons later.

Most people have (that is, are part of) multiple networks. Before you start your solicitation campaign,
create an inventory of all your networks. For instance, some of my networks are: family, friends in New
York, friends in San Francisco, college and grad school (pre-HBS) friends, HBS section, HBS club-mates,

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friends in other HBS sections, members of the Poxod Outdoors Club which I cofounded, former
colleagues, professors, and so on.

Sequencing. Once you have your network inventory, filter out those networks that for whatever reason
you don’t want to use in this campaign. Sort the remaining ones into an order in which you will reach
out to them that will maximize your campaign’s impact. Some potential donors (perhaps, your family
and close friends) will be willing to donate just because you’ve asked, because they love you, and so on.
They will be forgiving if your communications and publications are not perfectly polished yet. Reach out
to them first. Others may be more likely to donate (or donate more) when they see that others have
donated. Reach out to them later in the campaign when you can show that your fundraising has gained
momentum and produced some donations. As an added benefit of sequencing, you can hone your
communications as you test them on your earlier, more loyal donors and collect their feedback.

Timing is very important in fundraising. For each network, time your campaign to avoid conflicts with
vacations, school papers and exams, other people’s fundraising, and other things that compete for your
donors’ attention. Here’s an anecdote from our early fundraising for the Bike Coast to Coast event. One
of our target audiences was the HBS first-year class. At some point we realized that we had a formidable
competitor for their donations – the HBS charity auction, an event in early May that collects almost half a
million dollars for charity each year from first-year students. Unfortunately we could not avoid the
timing conflict. Therefore the only way we could hope to raise any money from first-years was to avoid
competing with the charity auction by becoming part of it – and we convinced one first-year HBS section to
make Lance Armstrong Foundation (through our bike event) a beneficiary of their charity auction! Soon
we’ll see whether the tactic has succeeded.

Finally, use your network wisely. Keep in mind that soliciting donations too frequently or too invasively
may jade your friends and colleagues and make them less willing to help in the future. Channels

Now that you’ve determined whom and when to contact, figure out the best medium for the contact.
Typical channels include e-mail, telephone, face-to-face conversation, public announcement, and
advertising in the media.

E-mail is quick and easy, but not as effective a one-on-one conversation, unless tailored to each individual
donor. Sending one e-mail message to a whole group of potential donors is the most popular way of
grassroots solicitation. What makes e-mail especially suited to grassroots fundraising is that recipients
can forward your message to their friends with just a couple of clicks.

Speaking with each donor face to face or over the phone is more time consuming, but the personal nature
of this method makes it more effective than e-mail at eliciting donations. Therefore you should try to
follow-up your e-mail outreach with a phone call or an in-person reminder, even if in passing or as an
announcement at an event or gathering. Crafting the Communication

Asking for a donation is akin to making an “elevator pitch” of a business idea to a very busy corporate
executive. Donors live busy lives, get tons of mail every day, and don’t like to part with their money
without a compelling reason. Therefore, craft the text of your message according to the principles of
business correspondence (and journalistic reporting):
• Make your message as short as possible

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• Place the most important information at the top

• Put the weight at the front of each paragraph or section

A good template is: (1) describe your event, cause, and charity; (2) ask your donors for donation; (3) list
the benefits of donating; (4) instruct the donors how to donate; (5) thank them. Many of the requirements
for your website content (see Section 5) apply here as well.

By the way, having your website up and running comes in very handy. It allows you to keep the
fundraising letter short on details by referring your readers to the website.

To encourage donors to donate, convey a compelling value proposition to them. Benefits of donation can
range from pragmatic to emotional and from superficial to deeply personal. Be creative. For example, in
promoting involvement with our event we list benefits such as:
• feeling good about (1) helping cancer patients and (2) contributing to my research for this Guide,
which, I hope, will help other philanthropic events
• receiving from us a public acknowledgement of contribution
• taking advantage of a tax deduction

We also implicitly use some tactics that may appear manipulative or even somewhat sinister, but which
are in fact a widely accepted practice in consumer marketing and have proved effective [Wathieu]:
• Impress people into donating. Our bike expedition is a very challenging endeavor that requires
a lot of personal sacrifices from participants. Many donors feel compelled to donate because this
is “the least they can do” to be part of this endeavor. Their donation allows them to experience
the challenge vicariously through us. [Malkovitch, Kraner, Fishman, Salguero]
• Speak to donors’ sense of guilt at not having done enough for their relatives and friends who
have struggled with cancer or maybe even died of cancer

Anchoring. You can use your solicitation (as well as other publications, such as the website) to anchor
the donors’ expectations about the amount you would like them to donate and about the overall goals of
your fundraising. But be careful: if you ask for too much, you will turn some donors away; if you ask for
too little, you will raise little. In my outreach for Bike Coast to Coast, I have chosen not to ask for a
specific donation amount. Instead, our third-party donation website (see Appendix E) does a little of the
anchoring by displaying how much other people have donated and stating our campaign’s goal and

Norms. Even though the legal rules about grassroots fundraising are few and permissive (see Section 4),
please be respectful to your donors and partners and follow the generally accepted fundraising norms:
• Respect the rules of the charity for which your are fundraising
• Respect the wishes/rules of individuals, groups, and organizations to whom you are reaching
out (for example, if a company has a no-solicitation policy, do not solicit donations there; if an
individual asked you not to e-mail him for donations, do not e-mail him)
• Follow the applicable guidelines in the Donor’s Bill of Rights (Appendix D)

Keep in mind that your fundraising letter and other publications can ask your audience for more than just
donations. Use these communications to attract participants, volunteers, and sponsors.

In setting up your event, you are obviously pursuing some personal goals in addition to the philanthropic
ones. Personal goals often include fun, learning, self-empowerment, and the joy of accomplishment in
overcoming obstacles. When crafting the text of your publications and deciding on the amount of relative
emphasis to give to personal and philanthropic pursuits, you should consider the nature of the event and
the audience for whom you are crafting the text. For example, if planning an event with a very limited

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maximum number of participants (like our event, Bike Coast to Coast Against Cancer), you should de-
emphasize the personal goals and stress the philanthropic ones to avoid the feeling of “paying for
someone else to have fun” in donors. On the other hand, for events like a marathon or a walkathon,
where the large number of participants is practical and desirable, there is no need to deemphasize the
personal benefits of participation.

See Appendix C for a few sample fundraising letters.

6.1.2. Sub-events

The other common way to raise money for your cause is through smaller, venue-based sub-events. I have
covered the basics and the legal aspects of such events in Section 4.

See Appendix G for a sample of ideas for local fundraising events.

The basic framework is to charge participants a fee that covers the event’s costs, with the balance
benefiting your charity. As a rule of thumb for determining the price of admission, Huntsman Cancer
Institute’s website suggests using the industry standard “75% rule”: estimate the event’s costs, multiply
them by at least four, and set the fees to this resulting amount. This will result in at least 75% of the entry
fees benefiting the charity.

Obviously, your guests will be overpaying for the given service or product, but usually they will be
willing to participate anyway if you stress the charitable nature of the event.

6.1.3. Forms of donation

Most donors donate outright, with no strings attached. Some, however, prefer to make a pledge, which is
a promise to donate at a later date. Some of the reasons for making a pledge rather than an outright
donation are:
• Lack of spare money to donate at the time of fundraising
• Desire to take advantage of time-value of money by postponing or stretching the donation
• Desire to be certain that the your event will take place before committing to a donation
• Creating an incentive for event organizers or participants to complete the event

For you, the organizer, pledging is a tool that expands the total donation pie by attracting donors who
would not donate otherwise.

Pledges take many forms. Some pledges are simply periodic donations. Others are contingent on
achievement of some goal by event organizer or participants. For example:
• Donating a dollar per unit of distance covered by a racer
• Donating some amount for reaching certain milestones, towns, or landmarks
• Donating a dollar per dollar raised in donations. This is called “matching” and is often used by
employers to encourage philanthropic giving among employees.

Be creative in crafting and negotiating with your donor a pledge agreement that creates a larger overall
donation while giving you incentives succeed in executing your event and in your fundraising activities.

6.2. Securing Sponsorships

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The concept of sponsorship is very simple. Sponsors pay for publicity.

Sponsors could be individuals, but typically they are firms. Therefore there are a few common kinds of
publicity an endurance event can provide them: raise awareness of the firm’s brand, advertise its
products, and foster the public’s good will toward the firm through association with your cause.

You can provide this publicity by mentioning the sponsors or showcasing their products and logos
throughout various outlets:
• Your website and publications
• Media coverage of your event
• Your fundraising correspondence
• Your fundraising events
• Your endurance event

Sponsors may also get additional publicity by mentioning their sponsorship of your event in their own

Selecting sponsors. Common wisdom suggests that it’s best to select sponsors whose activities are
closely related to your cause, charity, or the type of event you are organizing. For example, if you are
organizing a running event, you should consider getting sponsored by a shoe manufacturer. However,
this is not the only criterion. Some firms may be lucrative sponsor candidates simply because they have a
lot of cash (for instance, some Wall Street banks) and are looking for opportunities to invest it. Yet others
may be looking to offer lucrative sponsorships because they are trying to round out, optimize, complete,
or diversify their sponsorship “portfolio”.

Approaching sponsors. The best way to contact a firm to sponsor your event is through personal
contacts on the inside, rather than cold-calling the firm through its publicly available contact channels.
The availability of personal contacts in the firm may increase your chance of reaching a decision maker
and is another practical criterion for narrowing down your list of candidate sponsors.

Think carefully before committing to a sponsor, because sponsorships often come with strings attached.
For example, if you get Coca-Cola to sponsor your event, they will probably contractually prohibit you
from getting Pepsi or Red Bull as co-sponsors.

Sponsorship levels. A common technique for managing several sponsors is to assign each to a symbolic
sponsorship level (for example, diamond, platinum, and gold) based on the amount of their contribution.
A sponsor’s desire to be assigned to a higher bracket may provide an incentive for it to increase its

7. Sources

7.1. People

Victoria Anderson (Archaim Foundation),

Constance Bagley (HBS professor),
Nico Batrel (HBS Outdoors Club),
Chris Brewer (Lance Armstrong Foundation),
Albert Bui (HBS student, cycled coast-to-coast solo),

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Annie Fishman (HBS student, New Sector Alliance),

Emilia Fuksin,
Anna Gekht (Parliamentarians for Global Action),
Mikhail Golitsine,
Jan Hammond (HBS professor),
Brooke Hathaway (Huntsman Cancer Foundation),
Alexandra Khorovsky,
Rita Kraner (Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk),
Avi Kremer (HBS student, Prize 4 Life),
Vlad Kuperman (Limus Studios),
Dutch Leonard (HBS professor)
Ilia Malkovitch,
Serge Maryanchik,
Devin Mattson,
Marsha Meytlis,
Michael O'Mary (HLS student),
Mikhail Pasternak,
Benjamin Ristau (Coast To Coast Against Leukemia),
Anna Rozenblat,
Mike Salguero (Boston Marathon),
Peter Sample (HLS student),
Debra Schifrin (HBS student, NPR, Harbus),
Allie Schwartz,
Lauren Scopaz (HBS student, cycled coast-to-coast),
John Serafini (HBS student, Mountains For Miracles),
Nadav Topolski (HBS student, Prize 4 Life),
Jeremiah Tracy (Coast To Coast Against Leukemia),
Oscar Trelles (HLS student),
Mike Vermeulen,
Luc Wathieu (HBS professor),

7.2. Endurance Event Websites

• http://hazon.org/ - hosts many charitable bike rides to benefit the Jewish community
• http://www.dartmouth.edu/~ewg/john/ - a solo bike tour to benefit the Huntsman Cancer
• http://mountainsformiracles.org/ - hosts fundraising mountaineering expeditions
• http://the3day.org/ - the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk
• http://swimacrossamerica.org/ - conducts charitable long-distance swimming events
• http://racingtheplanet.com/ - sets up endurance foot races in deserts around the world
• http://www.bostonmarathon.org/
• http://www.nycmarathon.org/
• http://www.biketouring.net/ - John Dorsey’s solo cross-country bike ride
• http://www.leasfoundation.org/CrossCountry2006/ - Cycle Coast-to-Coast Against Leukemia

7.3. Organizations, Publications, and Other Sources

• Wikipedia, “WP” (http://wikipedia.org/)

• The Merriam-Webster dictionary, “MW” (http://m-w.com/)

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• The Wall Street Journal, “WSJ”

• Poxod Outdoors Club of New York (http://bikecoasttocoast.org/friends.html#poxod)
• Charity Navigator, “CN” (http://www.charitynavigator.org/)
• Wise Giving Alliance (http://www.give.org/)
• Other nonprofit watchdog organization (see Appendix J)
• Legal Zoom (http://legalzoom.com/)
• Lance Armstrong Foundation (http://laf.org/)
• Huntsman Cancer Foundation (http://www.huntsmancancerfoundation.org/)
• National Cancer Institute (http://www.cancer.gov/)
• “The Best Memo You’ll Ever Write” by Holly Weeks, Harvard Management Communication

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Appendix A Fundraising glossary

The language of nonprofit fundraising is often vague and murky. Some terms are often used
interchangeably, for example “sponsor” and “donor”, “to donate” and “to pledge”. For clarity, below I
define the terminology as I use it throughout the Guide, and I will strictly adhere to these definitions.

501(c)3 organization – see nonprofit.

75% rule – an informal but widely accepted financial metric, defined as the ratio of program expenses to
total costs, intended to measure the efficiency of a nonprofit. Many people consider values above 0.75 to be

Cause – a charitable undertaking [MW].

Charity – see nonprofit.

Donate – to give money or property to charity not in exchange for any products or services [Fishman].

Donation – money or property given to charity not in exchange for any products or services [Fishman].

Donor – a person or organization that donates.

Fundraiser – a person or organization conducting fundraising.

Fundraising – the solicitation of funds. In the nonprofit parlance, applies specifically to soliciting

Fundraising event – an event organized with the purpose of raising awareness of, and fundraising for, a

Grassroots fundraising – fundraising by people or organizations that are not formally associated with (i.e.
not employees or paid agents of) a nonprofit, on behalf of the nonprofit.

Grassroots fundraising event – an event organized for the purpose of grassroots fundraising. Often, the
term implies that the people or organization in charge of the event do not have a formal nonprofit status.

Nonprofit (n.) – also referred to as “a 501(c)3 organization”, “a charity”, and “a nonprofit organization”, a
nonprofit (in the U.S.) is an organization dedicated to the relief of poverty, the advancement of education,
the advancement of religion, or other activities considered beneficial to the community [WP] – and
exempt by the IRS from paying income taxes. To obtain the tax-exempt status, a nonprofit submits to a
set of financial reporting and auditing requirements. See Appendix B for more information.

Nonprofit (adj.) – in U.S. legal parlance, possessing the status of a nonprofit.

Nonprofit organization – see nonprofit.

Operational costs – as opposed to program expenses, these are a nonprofit’s expenses for salaries, fees,
fundraising, investments, and so on.

Organizer – a person or organization setting up a fundraising event.

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Participant – a person taking part in a fundraising event; he could be, but does not have to be, an organizer
of the event.

Pledge (n.) – a written or (typically) verbal promise to donate at a future date or upon the occurrence of
some event.

Pledge (v.) – to issue a pledge.

Program expenses – the costs of setting up and running programs.

Programs – as opposed to operations, are a nonprofit’s initiatives directly related to its cause or mission. For
example, the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s programs include the provision of information and tools to
cancer patients and the issuance of grants for cancer research.

Sponsor (v.) – to provide financial support in exchange for a service, such as advertising or publicity

Sponsor (n.) – a person or organization that sponsors.

Tax deduction – also tax-deductible expense, is an expense that a taxpayer is allowed to subtract from
gross income to arrive at a lower overall taxable income [WP].

Total costs – the sum of program expenses and operational costs.

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Appendix B How to establish a nonprofit; resources for nonprofits

Nonprofit Corporation Compliance Issues

(Reproduced from http://www.geocities.com/a.hereford/nonprofit.html)

• Nonprofit Corporations generally file for Tax Exemption from the IRS. This exemption carries
some requirements, namely:
o Annual filing of Form 990
o Abstaining for all political campaigning
o Engaging in only limited lobbying
o No private benefit, particularly to members and officers of the corporation
o Transfer of the assets to a charitable purpose when the corporation dissolves
o Activities unrelated to the organization's purpose are taxable (UBIT)
• Many states have requirements for nonprofit organizations, including:
o Registering with the Attorney General
o Registering and reporting on fundraising activities
o Filing an annual report
o Reporting any significant transfer of assets out of the state of incorporation

Nonprofit Corporation Checklist

(Reproduced from http://www.geocities.com/a.hereford/nonprofit.html)

• Research goals and mission

• Develop a plan and recruit board members
• Establish Corporation
o Adopt Articles of Incorporation and File with the State
o Name the Board of Directors and adopt Bylaws
o Obtain an EIN - Tax ID number by filing form SS-4 with the IRS
o Obtain Tax Exempt status by filing Form 1023 with the IRS Instructions
• Establish a Conflict of Interest Policy
• Establish financial management
o A corporate banking account,
o An accounting system adequate for
ƒ organizational management
ƒ tax reporting
ƒ grant tracking
ƒ proving substantiation letters to contributors
o Meaningful financial oversight
o Internal controls
• Contact the state tax board for information about obtaining a state tax number and see if
additional information must be submitted for state tax exemption from income tax and sales tax,
• Check with the state department of consumer affairs or business licensing to obtain any required
business licenses or permits.
• Contact the state Attorney General's Office to see if registration or reporting is required.
• Find out about workers' compensation if you will have employees.
• Protect your trade name
• Order any required notices (advertisements you have to place) of your intent to begin operating
in the community.
• Check zoning laws.

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• Obtain city and/or county business licenses or permits.

Get adequate insurance or a rider to a homeowner's policy.
• Get tax information for employees, including guidelines for withholding taxes, information on
hiring independent contractors, etc.
• Apply for a federal non-profit mailing permit.
• Order business cards and stationery.
• Get an email address.
• Set up your website.
• Develop a Corporation Checklist of legal requirements for operation including:
o Board Meetings
o Tax Filings
o State Filings
• Ongoing steps to develop the organization
o Educate and Assess the Board
o Select, educate and evaluate the Director and key staff
o Develop a strategic plan
ƒ Review vision and mission
ƒ Review programs and activities
ƒ Review financials, fundraising and legal compliance
ƒ Identify areas of growth and stagnation in the organization
ƒ Examine areas of possibilities for growth and needed services

Additional resources

Federal and state regulations for nonprofits, http://www.muridae.com/nporegulation/index.html

Legal counsel for the nonprofit sector, http://www.hurwitassociates.com/
Attorneys for nonprofits, http://www.attorneyfornonprofits.com/wst_page7.html

Resources for building a nonprofit board, http://www.boardsource.org/

Fundraising resources, http://www.4npo.org/fundraising.html

Grants and funding:

• http://www.grants.gov/search/category.do
• http://www.mygovernmentresources.com/
• http://foundationcenter.org/

Third-party donation-infrastructure providers:

• Active.com: http://active.com/ - provider used by Huntsman Cancer Foundation
• First Giving: http://firstgiving.org/ - provider used by Mountains for Miracles
• Kintera: http://kintera.com/ - provider used by Lance Armstrong Foundation
• Network for Good: http://networkforgood.org/ - provider used by Hazon.org
• Chip In: http://chipin.com/
• PayPal: http://paypal.com/
• Money Bookers: http://moneybookers.com/ - provider used by Wikimedia Foundation

Free web hosting services for nonprofits, http://www.charityusa.org/do/Tools

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Appendix C Sample fundraising letters

Sample fundraising letter 1

Here’s a letter that I e-mailed to my family to solicit support for Bike Coast to Coast Against Cancer:

From: Maksim Kalashnikov

To: addresses concealed
Date: Apr 24, 2007 5:25 PM
Subject: Yours truly bicycling 5,600 km against cancer

Hey, guys!

Cancer has touched every family including ours. Cancer is something that we are all concerned
about. Therefore I have decided to try to make a small contribution to the fight against the
disease, but need your help. We are organizing a summer-long coast-to-coast bicycle expedition
whereby a couple of my friends and I will ride from NYC to San Francisco to raise awareness and
funds for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Please take a look at our website,
http://bikecoasttocoast.org/, to see what this is all about.

You, my family, are the first group of people whom I'm contacting, because you guys are ...well,
my family, and are willing to help! More importantly, your involvement will be visible to others
and will create momentum behind our effort. (My partners are reaching out to their families first,
as well).

Please help us in one (or all) of the following ways:

1. Make a donation through our website. 100% of donations go to the Lance Armstrong
Foundation and are tax-deductible. We are not taking any of your money for ourselves. Every
dollar you contribute will help validate our efforts in the eyes of other potential donors to whom
we'll be reaching out next. See http://bikecoasttocoast.org/getinvolved#donate for more info.

2. Connect us with corporate partners. Each of you works for a company. Please talk about our
bike expedition to your employer or to your friends at other firms. They may be willing to make
a corporate donation or to make a sponsorship arrangement with us. (Also note that many
employers have donation matching programs.) If it's easier, introduce me to them and I'll take it
from there.

3. Spread the word to your friends and to the rest of our family. I've realized that I don't have all
the e-mail addresses (like Sveta Feldman's, or Raya & Lyuba's, or Seva and Anya's son Danik's,
for example).

Thanks a lot in advance! Let me know if you have any questions.


Sample fundraising letter 2

From Michael Salguero’s friend:

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---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: address concealed
Date: Apr 17, 2007 10:52 PM
Subject: My Brother Huck Finn
To: addresses concealed

My not-so-little brother Edmund is up to big things and could use your help. Check it out:
Friends, Family, and Fellow Adventurers,

On May 20th, I Edmund Baldbacher and Jeff Prairie, two UND students will be setting out on an
adventure of a lifetime. Our plan is to canoe the entire 2,320 miles of the Mississippi from Lake
Itasca, MN to the Gulf of Mexico.

Both avid outdoors-men, with a combination of military and Boy scout experience, we have
partnered with the local UNICEF chapter in an effort to raise $5,000 from individuals and
companies. The majority of the proceeds will be donated to UNICEF's water, environment, and
sanitation program which improves access to safe water and sanitation and promotes hygiene
awareness in developing countries.

We need your help in raising the $5,000 and support!

Feel generous and contact either myself, Edmund Baldbacher, or Jeff Prairie: email -
paddleforapurpose@gmail.com phone - 734-777-7661

If you are a business, or if you are a top donator ($150 and above) we will display your name on
the side of our canoe, on our website, and we will mention your name during interviews with the
local media. Both the Grand Forks Herald and WDAZ 8 have shown interest in our story.

We are currently speaking with sponsors such as Cabela's Outfitters, Wenonah Canoes and Red
Bull in an effort to obtain the necessary equipment for the trek. Resources are just as valuable as
a donation and if you are aware of anyone that may want to sponsor our endeavour please let me

Make sure to visit the website: www.paddleforapurpose.blogspot.com!

We will continually update this site with information regarding our fundraising efforts, trip
planning, and provide up-to-date entries while on the river.

~ Huckleberry Ed

: Eric Baldbacher : 222 Apple St. #4E : Brooklyn, NY 11221 http://web.mac.com/ericbaldbacher/

Sample fundraising letter 3

An e-mail message from Rita Kraner announcing her participation in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer
3-Day event:

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Rita Kraner <address concealed>
Date: Feb 6, 2006 4:34 PM
Subject: Join me as I will walk 60 miles in 3 days in a fight against cancer

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

To: Marsha Meytlis <address concealed>

Dear Marsha,

I am really excited, nervous and empowered to let you know that I have committed to walk 60
miles in 3 days and to raise money for cancer research, treatment, and for the hope of cure.

Like many of us, two years ago cancer struck my life when my mom was diagnosed with this
frightening disease. For two years I tried to hide, escape and avoid the reality of having someone
I love be so threatened. The fear drained me and my family both physically and emotionally. Any
time anyone would bring this disease up, I could not handle it. I certainly could not even
pronounce the word "cancer." But I have decided to change that. I have decided to not only allow
my body and mind to recognize its existence in my life, I decided to face it head on and embrace
the opportunities to do something about it.

Therefore, along with two of my friends, this August we will be walking 60 miles in 3 days as
part of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the National Philanthropic Trust,
which funds important breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment.

We each committed to raise $2,200 to donate to this fund, as well as we each committed to heal
and grow as part of the training.

But for that we need your support. I would be incredibly appreciative for any financial
contribution, as well as your kind words (and maybe good weather on the day of walk).

I thank you in advance.


Follow This Link to visit my personal web page and help me in my efforts to support The Breast
Cancer 3-Day.

Sample fundraising letter 4

This is a template provided by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for its grassroots fundraisers.

Dear Friends and Family,

This year I am proud to be playing a part in the war against Parkinson’s. As a Team Fox member
I will be [NAME ACTIVITY HERE - e.g. hosting golf tournament, running marathon, asking friends
and family for support]. Taking on the challenge of this fundraising endeavor is both exciting and
inspiring. I am making a commitment to raise money to end the suffering caused by Parkinson’s
disease (PD) because [YOUR ANSWER HERE]. I am dedicating my efforts to The Michael J. Fox
Foundation because I believe that my work as a Team Fox member will ultimately shorten the
road to a cure.

More than six million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease – a chronic,
degenerative neurological disorder characterized by symptoms that typically progress from mild
tremors to complete physical incapacitation. There are currently no known ways to prevent or
accurately predict who will develop Parkinson’s disease, but scientists believe that, of all the
brain disorders, Parkinson’s is the one closest to a cure.

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research is dedicated to ensuring the
development of a cure for Parkinson's disease within this lifetime through an aggressively
funded research agenda. Advances in Parkinson’s research are likely to significantly contribute to
the understanding of other devastating neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, ALS and
multiple sclerosis. The opportunity for therapeutic breakthroughs has never been greater, yet
research remains severely underfunded.

I’m asking for your support in our race to finish PD. My personal goal is to raise [FUNDRAISING
GOAL]. Please help me reach my goal by making a contribution. Donations are tax-deductible to
the full extent allowed by law and can be made payable to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for
Parkinson’s Research. I have enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope to make it even easier
for you to help. I’m inviting you to make a difference in the lives of those living with Parkinson’s
disease. You can play a part in the effort to eradicate this debilitating disease.

Thank you in advance for your generous support as we strive together toward the finish line on
the fast track to a cure.


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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

Appendix D Donor’s Bill of Rights

Designed jointly by four nonprofit industry expert organizations – American Association of Fund Raising
Counsel, Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, Council for Advancement and Support of Education,
and National Society of Fund Raising Executives – the Donor’s Bill of Rights is a commonly accepted set
of principles that should guide a nonprofit’s charitable fundraising activities [CN]. Some of the principles
expressed in the Bill do not apply to grassroots event organizers for structural reasons. Nevertheless,
grassroots fundraisers should treat their donors with respect and adhere to those principles that do
apply. Here’s the text of the Bill, reproduced verbatim from the Charity Navigator website:

Philanthropy is based on voluntary action for the common good. It is a tradition of giving and
sharing that is primary to the quality of life. To assure that philanthropy merits the respect and
trust of the general public, and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in
the not-for-profit organizations and causes that they are asked to support, we declare that all
donors have these rights:

I. To be informed of the organization's mission, of the way the organization intends to use
donated resources, and of its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes.

II. To be informed of the identity of those serving on the organization's governing board, and to
expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities.

III. To have access to the organization's most recent financial statements.

IV. To be assured their gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given.

V. To receive appropriate acknowledgment and recognition.

VI. To be assured that information about their donation is handled with respect and with
confidentiality to the extent provided by law.

VII. To expect that all relationships with individuals representing organizations of interest to the
donor will be professional in nature.

VIII. To be informed whether those seeking donations are volunteers, employees of the
organization or hired solicitors.

IX. To have the opportunity for their names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization
may intend to share.

X. To feel free to ask questions when making a donation and to receive prompt, truthful and
forthright answers.

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Appendix E Screenshot of the Kintera / BikeCoastToCoast fundraising page

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Appendix F Sample charitable contribution form

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

Appendix G Venue-based fundraising event ideas

This is a short compilation of ideas from the websites of Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Michael J. Fox
Foundation, and Lance Armstrong Foundation, and from author’s interviews.

Tailgate – Show your school spirit and organize a barbeque or tailgate before the big game.

Silent and Live Auctions – Hold an auction for donated items such as trips (put those frequent flyer
miles to good use), tickets, and so on. Offer a few “mystery” prizes such as a piece of jewelry wrapped in
a brown paper bag.

Tournament – Put together a soccer, basketball, football, baseball, or softball tournament in your area, at
work, or on campus. Charge spectators an admission fee. Have participating teams raise additional
donations. Add a free throw shootout or field goal contest to liven the event.

Golden Globes & Oscar Parties – Think you know who is going to win ‘Best Actress’ this year? Compile
a sheet of all the nominees for all categories and ask everyone to predict who they think will win.
Request everyone to contribute $20 or more to create the winning pot. The person with the most correct
entries wins a percentage of the pot and the balance contributes to your fundraising. You can do this as
either a party or an office pool.

Cocktail Party – Throw a cocktail party with open bar and an admission fee.

Television Show Finale Party – Is your favorite television series coming to an end? Gather a big group
of friends, family, and co-workers to tune in to what is sure to be a memorable series finale. Charge them
at the door and put the money toward your fundraising.

Raffle party – Throw a party to raffle off a few prizes (gift certificates, spa admission, and so on). Ask
everyone to contribute an amount that you determine through the 75% or similar rule.

Poker Run – Participants pay an entry fee and are given a map or clues for the route. As participants
check in at each periodic check point, they are given a playing card. Best poker hand at the end of the
race wins. Potential costs: party at the end, prizes, T-shirts, several decks of cards, refreshments. Non-
participants can pay a fee for short-cut directions, tickets to the party, and have their cards dealt at the
door. You can have more than one category of winning hands.

Wine Tasting/Auction – A wine tasting event can bring in a large amount of money. This is a great solo
or group activity. Sell tickets for $15-$50 ahead of time and invite everyone to bring along a bottle of their
favorite wine. People like to share their “good taste” and every bottle someone else brings is less money
out of your pocket. Set out some easy, inexpensive snacks such as crackers and cheese. Include a silent
auction as part of the event. While people are tasting wines, they can bid on auction items. Try to get the
wines and auction items donated.

See the HCF, LAF, and MJFF websites for more ideas.

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Appendix H Screenshot of the BikeCoastToCoast.org website

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A First-Timer’s Guide to Event-Based Nonprofit Fundraising (DRAFT) Maksim Kalashnikov, April 2007

Appendix I Additional website development information

Developing a website consists of the following activities:

1. inventing a domain name (i.e. the site’s internet address)
2. registering the domain name
3. signing up with a hosting service
4. writing the website’s content
5. designing the website
6. building (i.e. coding) the website

I have covered steps 1 and 4 in Section 5 of this Guide. The best resource I’ve found for the other steps is
W3 Schools, http://w3schools.com/, a wonderful free guide for novices that covers all aspects of web
site development.

You have four basic options for designing and coding of the site (steps 5 and 6 above):

Outsource to a professional – this is the most expensive option. It will produce the most professional
looking website with minimal involvement from you and in a relatively short period of time. By
outsourcing your website development, however, you cede control over the “under the hood” technical
details and may later have a hard time if you choose to maintain and update the site yourself.

Use a website template provided by your hosting service – this is a cheap and quick way to build an
initial / temporary website. This method is probably not suited for a final website as these templates
severely limit the degree of customizability and your control over the site’s appearance.

Use a WYSIWYG software program like Microsoft FrontPage – (WYSIWYG stands for “what you see is
what you get”) this method is a little more expensive than the template method above, and gives you
significantly more control over the website’s appearance. It is probably the best option if you are a novice
trying to develop your first website.

Code the site by hand – though by no means a professional or skilled web designer, I chose this method
because I had a very precise standard of quality for the BikeCoastToCoast.org website in mind, requiring
the ultimate, “crafted by hand” degree of control that this method affords. I had to learn a few
technologies and techniques from scratch (XHTML, CSS, cross-browser compatibility, digital illustration
and photo editing, and some basic typography) and greatly enjoyed the learning and creative process.
One downside is that coding the site by hand is the slowest of the four options; BikeCoastToCoast.org
took me three weeks.

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Appendix J Additional fundraising and donation resources

Nonprofit industry watchdog organizations:

• Charity Navigator: http://www.charitynavigator.org/

• Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance: http://www.give.org/ - collects and distributes
information on hundreds of nonprofit organizations that solicit nationally or have national or
international program services.
• Guide Star: http://www.guidestar.org/ - maintains a searchable database of hundreds of
thousands of nonprofit organizations in the United States, and provides links to recent
philanthropic news.
• Independent Charities of America: http://www.independentcharities.org/ - pre-screens high-
quality national and international charities and presents them for your consideration.

Fundraising how-to’s:
• An excellent playbook from Susan G. Komen Foundation:
• A great playbook from Michael J. Fox Foundation:
• A philanthropy dictionary: http://www.nptrust.org/philanthropy/philanthropy_dictionary.asp

Useful tips and hints about giving in the workplace:


Some legal guidelines about tax deductions for charitable donations:


Statistics on charitable giving in the United States (in 2004 & 2005):

Some fundraising-related entries in Wikipedia:


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