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Oct 31, 2023

Modern Nonprofit Fundraising

Understand the three key pillars for success

This is part one of a multi-part series on the three pillars of modern fundraising.

Take a deep breath, because it’s already *that* time of year. 

Fundraisers everywhere are gearing up for the busy season, making lists and leaning on board members to make just one more introduction. Whether it’s a targeted effort for Giving Tuesday or simply the push to find more donors looking for tax deductions, it’s make or break time for many nonprofits.

As former fundraisers, grant writers and funders, we at Impala know exactly what this feels like and how hard it is. We’ve made all the mistakes: asking for too much or too little, pitching the wrong funders, overlooking the right funders, under-utilizing our networks, spending too much time on LinkedIn, and…well, you get the point.  

We now know what we were missing all those years: a data-driven strategy that supports targeted fundraising from the best donors for your specific nonprofit.

Knowing where and how to look saves time, sanity, and probably even friendships strained by the “Can you just introduce me?” question.

Better fundraising starts with the broadest possible understanding of your mission. Pair your programming plans with concrete financial goals, become informed about the foundations, donors and grants, and then create a strategy. We’ve boiled it all down to three key pillars: 

Alignment • Capacity • Relationships


Alignment is a fundraising reality check. Does the foundation work in my region? Does it fund other projects like mine? Are our values and principles in sync? Nonprofits can spend ridiculous amounts of time trying to determine this, using kludgy databases and IRS filings, but it’s tedious, costly, and usually incomplete. And just researching a donor’s website might not be enough to ensure actual alignment – what’s on the site and where the money is truly going can be two very different things.

Nail the alignment piece and fundraisers will at least know they’re putting their efforts in the right places.


Capacity refines alignment further by making sure nonprofits are like Goldilocks and not asking for too little or too much, but just the right amount - for both their own needs and the requirements of the funder. Imagine knowing a foundation typically gives a nonprofit like yours $50,000 and is open to multi-year support, but you were only going to ask for $25,000 for a single year. Suddenly all the “what if’s?” and “should we’s?” disappear, and it’s possible to target the best options. Forearmed with knowledge, nonprofits can confidently ask for the right meetings, and stop wasting time and resources on places unlikely to yield results.


The third pillar is relationships. The goal of every nonprofit should be to find the shortest way to connect with potential funders that are most likely to be in alignment and have the correct capacity - but that’s way easier said than done.  A strong board of directors is incredibly valuable, but it’s neither productive nor necessarily polite to continually ask for generic introductions to “potential donors.” What nonprofits need is a way to connect all the dots and leverage all their networks in an efficient way (and by that we don’t mean endlessly surfing LinkedIn).

There is a lot more to unpack here, so we will follow up this blog post with three more that will take a deep dive into each of the three pillars. We promise to share our best practices - from years of trying to get this right - as well as anecdotes we know you will appreciate.

In the meantime, please check out Paths, Impala’s newest fundraising product. Paths is designed to turn data into intelligence and help nonprofits activate relationships and increase development productivity by supporting the three pillars of fundraising success.

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