Tip Sheet & Case Study: Small Shops

Small shops with 2 or less – and even no – staff dedicated to fundraising can meet the challenge of raising funds, expanding their donor base, and taking advantage of evolving trends in fundraising. All it takes is the right tools and a good plan.

Your Fundamentals


Assess the tools and resources your organization has. Begin with people power. Everyone in your organization – staff and volunteers – can play a role in fundraising, whether helping to identify potential donors, participating in major gift asks, or telling your story through social media.

Be sure you understand their capacity and willingness to be part of your fundraising effort.


Fundraising is about communicating and the Internet is a powerful tool to tell your story. Make social media work for you.

Visitors spend more time on websites that have videos and photos. Other social media tools like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great ways to expand your audiences and engage potential donors.


Managing contacts is key to your fundraising efforts. Use your database to track your donors and prospects, manage your donor recognition program, and segment contacts for targeted asks.

Having assessed the tools within your organization, develop a plan that uses those tools for maximum impact. In small shops there can be a gap between expectations and resources. A good plan manages both.

Set achievable targets for expanding your audience, growing your database, and raising funds. Build performance measurements into your plan. With limited resources available you need to know what’s working and what isn’t.

Make everyone part of the plan by reporting your progress at regular intervals. If everyone has ownership of the plan, everyone will be motivated to make it work.

Case Study

The Nite Hawk Theatre in Indian Head, Saskatchewan

The Nite Hawk Theatre was the first opera house on the Prairies and was converted to a movie theatre in the 1930’s. When its owners retired and announced plans to sell the 110 year-old theatre in 2013, the Indian Head Theatre and Community Arts group was formed to keep the theatre community-owned and community-run.

The project was to secure ownership and preserve the Nite Hawk as a theatre and cultural community centre. Small shops with 2 or less – and even no – staff dedicated to fundraising can meet the challenge of raising funds, expanding their donor base, and taking advantage of evolving trends in fundraising. All it takes is the right tools and a good plan.

The Challenge

Raise enough funds to secure a bank loan to purchase the building in a two month period, in a small community with a population under 2,000.

The Approach

Before they even began asking for money, the group did their homework, preparing a risk assessment, a financial plan, a business plan, and a sustainability plan. Armed with all of that information they initiated a community awareness plan through a series of town hall meetings, public events and in the local media. Throughout that period they recruited a volunteer fundraising team.

In October 2013 they launched their fundraising campaign with a volunteer phone bank that reached every household in Indian Head. They began by collecting pledges to assess the level of public support for the project. In one night they raised $45,000 in pledges.
Community members pitched in contacting family and friends who had moved from Indian Head. A few small fundraising events raised $15,000 and created opportunities to rally the community around the project.

They developed a project brochure and an information sheet for a mail drop. Given the short length of the campaign and the size of community they were targeting they didn’t do a website, but Facebook played a huge role in their communications plan.
By December 2013 they had raised $105,000. In January 2014, with the help of an angel investor who guaranteed them an interest-free loan – and made a major gift to the project – they purchased the theatre for $150,000.

The People

One staff member seconded from the Indian Head Main Street program v dedicated 30% of her time to coordinate the entire project, including the fundraising campaign.

The fundraising team was composed of 25 dedicated volunteers and 10 core volunteers, including the Board of Indian Head Theatre and Community Arts.


The theatre is now owned by the community and efforts to preserve it are underway. The group is now working to raise $400,000 to replace the roof.

Lessons Learned

01. Invest in a Plan

Preparing all those plans before asking for donations meant the groups was wellprepared to answer questions the community had about the project.

02. Recruit Volunteers

Holding the town hall meetings was a great way to recruit volunteers and involving everyone in the community – from youth to seniors – meant everyone was engaged in the project.

03. Report Your Progress

Keeping the community informed ensured the they wereon-board with, and knew about the project, and made those phone solicitation calls much easier.

04. A Tip From the Coordinator

Groups running a volunteer-based fundraising effort should put careful thought into the right combination of skill sets and experiences needed for your leadership volunteers and have a recruitment process that ensures you get them.

Before You Start - Ask Yourself:


Can you accomplish your goals with the resources you have?


Are you prepared to make social media work for you?


Do you have support in your community?


What new fundraising trends can help you reach your goals?