SHANNON PESTKA has been managing accounts in various industries for 14 years.  Her focus over the last 6 years has been on different facets of higher ed. Currently, she onboards, trains, and coaches development offices at Community Funded.

One of the best ways to find ideas is to start talking with people!  If you have something like an Office of Student Involvement, this group either has a pulse on funding needs or can help you reach out to the various clubs, student organizations, Greek life groups, etc on campus to make sure they’re aware that you can be contacted with ideas. This office will likely also have events planned that might have great crowdfunding stories that could be woven into the occasions. Walk over and make sure they know who you are, what you’re doing, and how to get in touch with you!

Another great way to solicit ideas is to use an online Idea Submission Form that students, faculty, staff, etc can fill out and submit to your office when they have a great idea. The trick, after it is created, is to make sure that people know it exists!  Do have the ability to post announcements within elevators, dorms, dining halls, or stall doors in heavily trafficked buildings? These are great places to spread the word!  If the URL to your Idea Submission Form is long or not very easy to remember, create a QR code to make it easy to start the process. The easier the submission process is, the more engaging ideas you’ll have flowing past your desk. Make sure people know that you’re looking to help people with compelling stories and how to get their idea to you.

MARIHELEN MILLAR, MBA, CFRE is a highly dedicated and resourceful development executive with significant experience in all aspects of philanthropy and non-profit management. She has an unwavering commitment to education as the pathway to helping underserved populations to succeed. Millar has a proven record of fostering organizational growth through mission-driven fundraising; applying entrepreneurial approach to identify and develop innovative fundraising initiatives; developing a network of donors locally, regionally and nationally who are mission-aligned; working closely and collaboratively with Boards and Advisory Councils and; managing, mentoring, and motivating teams of staff and volunteers.

Being curious and open to new ideas and suggestions drives me. I’ve always loved to learn and will continue to be a lifelong learner.

How do I collect fundraising ideas from my community? The short answer is CASE – Copy and Steal Everything. There are so many great blogs, articles, websites, think tanks and research organizations publishing a wealth of data and information online. My “go to” sources are the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, Eduventures, Thrive Global, AFP and CFRE – and of course, this blog, Community Funded.

I also take advantage of as many free or reasonably-priced webinars and demos as my schedule allows. Some are great and others – not so much. But with a small investment of time and money, it’s worth it check them out.

Fundraising publications are also great resources for new ideas, tips and information. Some of my favorites are the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Non-Profit Quarterly and the CASE publications, I also have alerts sent directly to a folder called “Thoughts and Tips” in my email account. That way, I can peruse them whenever I have windows of time when I’m on the run. And I always keep up with our local Business News Journals – these are invaluable resources and allow me to keep up on our “movers and shakers.”

Most importantly, my network of colleagues, former colleagues, mentors, bosses and thought leaders are an incredibly robust source of fundraising ideas. I keep up with them and their articles and thoughts through social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Liking and sharing ideas on these platforms provides my network teammates with feedback and recognition and it’s my way of saying “Thank you for the great ideas. I appreciate your expertise and I want to share it.” In my MBA program, I took a course based on Dr. Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principals of Persuasion and Influence. The Principals of Liking and Reciprocity apply here. In the case of social media, I truly am publicly “liking” an idea and “sharing” it. The Principal of Liking says – people are more likely to like people who like them – sounds simple, but the principal, in practice, takes time and consistency. Reciprocity says that people are more likely to reciprocate favors or kind gestures if the favors and gestures were first given to them unexpectedly and without expectation of repayment. Cialdini’s methods are my way of influencing my influencers.

I have to disagree with statement, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Through reading, participation in conferences and webinars, engaging and constantly seeking knowledge, I have found lots new – and have put much of it to good use.

CINDY SKALICKY is the owner of On Point Communications. Cindy provides award-winning public speaking coaching and brand consulting to entrepreneurs and small businesses who seek to master their message on stage, online and in publications. Cindy consults on investor pitch decks, storytelling, delivery and presentation presence, brand messaging, PR strategy and more. Originally from Chicago – and a lifelong Cubs fan – her passion for crafting, analyzing and presenting messages developed through more than 25 years in the corporate, academic and entrepreneurial worlds.

As a communications expert and presentation coach, I do a lot of work with professionals who fundraise from others in the community. They might be founders seeking outside investment through angel investors, venture capital funds or government grants. They may also be larger entities in need of significant funds to break ground on a new building, which is the case for one of my current clients right now. He needs to raise funds to the tune of $2-3M, and it needs to be executed via large gifts as opposed to investment with the promise of return. That’s a big ask.

As we work on his pitch deck and grant applications, we keep in mind that these large “asks” require careful consideration and delicate – and authentic – persuasion. First and foremost, we consider existing relationships, and then explore how to build additional relationships in the network. As we shape the slide deck and grant application, we think critically about the audience who will review the fundraising deck. Specifically, we rely heavily on the concept of “pathos” and “logos.” Pathos is Greek for “emotion.”  That is, how can we tap into potential donors and how they will feel by contributing to the effort? That’s the heart. “Logos” is Greek for “logic” or “reason.” How can we simultaneously make a strong case that the project is needed, that it serves a well-documented need? This is the part of the slide deck where we lay out numbers and data to demonstrate the project’s short and long-term viability.

Collecting fundraising ideas from my community of clients is both exciting and challenging. It’s exciting because of what can happen for our economy and employment rates when companies are funded and offices are built. And it’s challenging because it’s a high-stakes ask, which requires careful, honest, persuasion with a hint of style on the part of my clients who seek funds. When funds do come through, there is a palpable excitement for both parties, and that’s a win-win for all.

GAIL PERRY, MBA, CFRE, is an international fundraising consultant, keynote speaker, and trainer. She is a leader in the new breed of fundraisers who are on the cutting edge of fundraising today.  Her Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 30 years as a nonprofit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts. 

Not a good idea at all. Why would anybody want to collect fundraising ideas from their community? How exhausting! What do you do with 100 ideas from well-meaning people who are not particularly familiar with efficient and effective fundraising? Many times the random ideas about how to raise money can eat up your time, energy and resources on strategies that are not well-thought through to begin with. Not a smart plan if you ask me! 🙂

JULIA CAMPBELL is an author, coach, and speaker, and trains nonprofits large and small on the best ways to use digital tools to raise money and awareness for their organizations. She is the author of Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, and her blog on online fundraising and nonprofit technology is consistently featured in the list of the Top 150 Nonprofit Blogs in the world. Find her blog and contact information at www.jcsocialmarketing.com.

I recommend looking at your website analytics and your social media insights to see what kinds of content and which stories resonate the most with your community. That should give you a good framework to create fundraising appeals. Nonprofits can also use free online survey tools like SurveyMonkey or Facebook Group polls to ask questions of their community and gather feedback. You can send out a simple email to your list asking people to hit reply and tell you about a fundraiser that they participated in that inspired them, and to probe for other ideas. Your donors and supporters will love to give you their feedback and their advice, and they will form a stronger relationship with you and feel more invested in your next fundraiser if they have helped to craft the idea.

LYNNE WESTER strongly believes that donor relations are the key to unlocking fundraising success. Lynne and her teammates at the Donor Relations Guru Group partner with nonprofits on a variety of initiatives from developing sound strategy and vision to utilizing technology and creating meaningful donor engagement – all designed to positively affect the fundraising bottom line.


I use LinkedIn, blogs and listservs as direct normal sources. But honestly, the BEST way to get new ideas is to participate in the donor experience myself. I make a TON of online gifts to peers, aspirants, and organizations nothing like our to see how others are thinking or not thinking about the donor experience. I highly recommend this and if you need two organizations that do it right, look no further than Team Rubicon and charity:Water.

JENNIFER STEELE believes in the power of partnerships, the beauty of relationships, and the ability of people to change the world together. She’s been working on those things for around fifteen years in the social sector, connecting people, ideas and dots to create impact and move needles. Jennifer currently serves as Regional Director of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization dedicated to finding the cures for Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, and to improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by these diseases. Jennifer has also had the opportunity to work alongside incredible colleagues and volunteers in the fights against hunger, childhood poverty and chronic, devastating diseases. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Northern Kentucky University, where she has also taught courses on advocacy and community engagement. She asks “why?” a lot, and tries to say “why not?” even more often.

There was a great article by David Chavis and Kien Lee in the Stanford Social Innovation review circa 2015, What Is Community Anyway? In it, they explore how a more nuanced understanding of community could help to create better change initiatives – and that first and foremost community is all about people, feelings, and relationships. One of my deeply held beliefs is that fundraising, when done well, is empowering for both the giver and the recipient. So to get fundraising ideas I pay attention to what’s happening in what we as professionals think of as the fundraising community – what’s coming out of AFP, what my colleagues are doing, what has been successful in other organizations – but I’ve found that some of the best ideas come from just talking with people within the other contexts of community.

I’m fascinated by people — what moves them, what their dreams are, what they care the most about. These are the ways in which people are most highly motivated to engage and make a difference. I’m a social worker by training, and one of the fundamentals of social work is the idea of meeting people where they are. I find this so relevant to fundraising, as well. That’s where as a fundraiser you’re able to connect passion to something tangible that people can DO, and the magic happens once you find the point where that passion intersects with mission advancement. A walk team captain has a passion for comedy? Great, let’s help him turn that comedy show into a way to engage their friends and family in fundraising for research. A business executive is passionate about the health of her employees an community? Fantastic, let’s figure out together how to turn that into an innovative business development opportunity. A foundation officer is passionate about transformational impact? Perfect, let’s co-create something that will change lives. These are the ideas that will get people excited, invested and more deeply involved with the cause.