Fundraising Basics

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How to Save a Place Fundraising Basics

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Raise money to support what matters. Fundraising isn’t about money -- it’s about your mission. People give because they feel passionate about a cause and because they believe they can make a difference. Highlight the work you’re doing to make a difference and tell your donor how they’ll be a part of it.

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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.

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Be accountable; be ethical. Be transparent with those who are helping support your work. It’s important to accurately track and report fundraising revenue and expenses. A big part of transparency is sharing results. Hosting tours and events for donors at your historic site will help you show that their financial support made a tangible difference.

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Successful fundraising starts with a plan. Before you can reach out to individuals and institutions, you need to have a funding goal and a plan for how you’ll reach it. 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. Remember, always read the guidelines for any grants you apply for.

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Search beyond traditional sources. Preservation Fund grants are a great place to start. But there are also many other places to look -- private-sector philanthropies, corporations, corporate foundations, to name a few. Speak to bank trust officers about any local or individual trusts, bequests, and foundations that might embrace the goals of the preservation project. Get creative -- reach out on social media, host a special fundraising event, think outside the box.

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Look at national funding resources. Grants.gov offers a comprehensive list of federal grant opportunities. The National Park Service also administers a range of grants. Plus, check out The Getty, Tourism Cares, and the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation. Keep looking and you’re sure to find more.

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Also research state funding resources. Talk to someone in your state historic preservation office (SHPO). Most states administer historic preservation grant or loan programs.

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Don’t forget 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.

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Explore emergency grants. If your historic site has been damaged in the last few weeks by an unexpected event such as a flood, fire, or high winds, it may also be eligible for a National Trust Emergency/Intervention Fund Grant. Funding can also be used to support advocacy campaigns in response to pending legislation or development pressures.

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Never give up. Fundraising isn’t magic, nor is it an arcane science. Think about it more as a conversation with someone (whether it’s in person or on paper), not a transaction. It might not be easy or feel totally comfortable at first, but remember the most important part is simply asking.

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Photos courtesy: Specious, Wikimedia; Susana Raab; NWABR, Flickr; Duanebates, Wikimedia; NPCA Photos, Flickr; Eli Pousson, Flickr; Specious, Wikimedia; EncMstr, Wikimedia; US Army Environmental Command, Flickr; Maralei Bunn, Wikimedia; Duanebates, Wikimedia; Slworking2, Flickr.