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[Preservation Tips & Tools] Fundamentals of Fundraising


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One critical component of nearly any preservation project is funding. It enables you to hire craftsmen, build advocacy campaigns, purchase materials and equipment, and so much more. However, money won’t just fall into your lap -- so how do you get it?

All research and polling around charitable or philanthropic behavior suggest one inescapable truth: People give because someone asked them. While that’s a strong place to start, there’s a little more to it, so this toolkit provides you with some fundamental steps for fundraising.

If you can put these basics into practice, then you will increase your chances of turning an ask into financial support for your great preservation work.

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[Preservation Tips & Tools] Fundamentals of Fundraising

  2. 2. Raise money to support what matters. Fundraising isn’t about money -- it’s about your mission. When writing to ask for money (whether it’s a fundraising letter or grant application), highlight the work you’re doing to make a difference and tell your donor how they’ll be a part of it.
  3. 3. People give to people. People are behind the foundations, corporations, and government agencies that you might appeal to for a grant or donation. Find out as much as possible about prospective supporters to help you build meaningful and lasting relationships.
  4. 4. “People give because someone asked them.”
  5. 5. Be accountable; be ethical. Be transparent to the community and to those who are helping support your work. Part of this includes sharing results -- for example, giving tours to show your donors that their financial support made a tangible difference.
  6. 6. Start with a plan. Before you can reach out to individuals and institutions, you need to have a plan and a goal. Make a list of people and places you will ask for funding and how much. Decide when you’ll write your letters and/or apply for grants; you’ll likely need funding at different points along the way in your project. Don’t forget, always read the guidelines for any grants you apply for.
  7. 7. Search beyond traditional sources of assistance. Preservation Fund grants are a great place to start. But there are also many other places to look -- private-sector philanthropies, corporations and corporate foundations, family foundations, and community trusts, to name a few. Get creative -- reach out on social media, host a special fundraising event, think outside the box.
  8. 8. National funding resources: offers a comprehensive list of federal grant opportunities. The National Park Service also administers a range of grants. There are many other sources to check out, such as The Getty, Tourism Cares, and the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation. Keep looking and you’re sure to find more.
  9. 9. State funding resources: Talk to someone in your state historic preservation office (SHPO). Most states administer historic preservation grant or loan programs.
  10. 10. Local funding resources: Reach out to your local historic preservation office. If your community is a Certified Local Government, it’s eligible to apply for grants that can help fund a variety of preservation projects. You can also look for community foundations in your state.
  11. 11. Never give up. Fundraising isn’t magic, nor is it an arcane science. If you can hold a conversation with a friend, throw a party, write a letter, or draft a report, you can raise money. It might not be easy or feel totally comfortable at first, but remember that the more people you ask, the more support you’ll receive.
  12. 12. The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same in their own communities. For more information, visit Photos courtesy: Specious, Wikimedia; Susana Raab; NWABR, Flickr; Duanebates, Wikimedia; NPCA Photos, Flickr; Eli Pousson, Flickr; EncMstr, Wikimedia; US Army Environmental Command, Flickr; Maralei Bunn, Wikimedia; Duanebates, Wikimedia.