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Nonprofit Fundraising Essentials

Take your first step toward a rewarding career in fundraising for nonprofit organizations! In this course, you'll first explore the skills you'll need to become a successful fundraiser. After that, you'll discover where the best corporate and foundation fundraising jobs are and how to apply for them.

By the end of the course, you'll have a wealth of new nonprofit fundraising ideas, and you'll be well on your way to success in this exciting career field.

6 Weeks / 24 Course Hrs
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Starting August 14 | September 11

Nonprofit Fundraising Essentials

Details + Objectives

Course Code: sif

What You Will Learn
  • Delve into every area of nonprofit fundraising—annual funds, special events, corporate relations, foundation relations, major gifts, and planned giving
  • Learn about capital campaigns and why they're a crucial element of nonprofit fundraising
  • Hone your own writing skills
  • Explore fundraising software tools you can use to track your efforts and enhance your results
How the course is taught
  • Instructor-led course
  • 6 weeks in duration
  • Courses begin each month
  • 2 lessons released each week
  • 24 course hours
How you will benefit
  • Gain new ideas for successful nonprofit fundraising
  • Open the door to new opportunities as a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations
  • Learn how you can better help the causes you care about


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Finding a Position

In this lesson, you'll find out what fundraising is and the role it plays in the nonprofit world. We'll examine a variety of fundraising positions and discuss what skills and experiences are needed to succeed in these roles. You'll also get prepared to find a fundraising job by looking at online job resources of particular value to aspiring fundraisers. By the time you've completed this lesson, you'll know how to conduct effective online job searches, understand how to set up e-mail job alerts, and feel more confident about the interviewing process.

Planning an Annual Fund

Today we're going to start our discussion of the annual fund. You'll learn important differences between unrestricted, restricted, and in-kind gifts. After that, you'll find out how to get a handle on your organization's annual operating budget so you can communicate knowledgeably about needs with potential donors. You'll practice assembling an annual fund timeline using an interactive game, and then we'll discuss the finer details of a typical 12-month campaign. By the end of the lesson, you'll be ready to develop a timeline that fits the needs of your organization, understand how to structure donor levels effectively, and be better prepared to communicate with donors as prospective volunteers.

Soliciting Annual Fund Gifts

This lesson continues our discussion of the annual fund. You'll learn how to draft an effective letter appeal, with an emphasis on nailing the author's voice and understanding your audience. You'll learn the process of mailing an appeal, including what to put in the envelope, what bulk mail permit to apply for, and how to set up credit card capability so you can accept annual fund gifts via credit card. We'll talk about the pros and cons of using e-mail to solicit gifts. And we'll take a look at the phone-a-thon—how it works, what volunteers need from you, and the scenarios you should include in your phone-a-thon script. We'll wrap things up with a brief discussion of how to acknowledge a gift in writing.

Special Events Fundraising

Today we'll kick off our discussion of special events, which will cover two lessons. We'll start by discussing the roles and responsibilities of the special events fundraiser within small and large nonprofits, and we'll take a look at different organizational reporting structures so you'll know what to expect and to whom you'll be reporting. After that, you'll learn about seven different types of special events used by nonprofits to gather supporters together, publicize their causes, and—hopefully, but not always—raise money. We'll wrap things up with a quick look at some of the tax implications of special events.

Organizing a Special Event

Even though they're great for publicizing the good work of your organization, special events aren't always such great moneymakers. So in this lesson, we'll discuss how to make the most of your event budget—and how to avoid ending up in the red. We'll start by costing out a gala event and scrutinizing a hotel contract for hidden fees related to everything from the use of audio-visual equipment to the trash left behind on banquet hall tables. You'll learn strategies for negotiating a hotel contract to protect the interests of your organization. And we'll also talk about ways to recruit volunteers according to the type of nonprofit you work for.

Foundation Relations

Today we'll begin our exploration of foundation relations. You'll get to know the methods and online tools you can use to locate foundations likely to be interested in funding your organization's needs. You'll also learn how to analyze a foundation's tax return to determine whether it's likely to be a good match for your organization. We'll talk about opportunities available through challenge grants and non-grant-giving foundations. And you'll learn how to translate your careful research into a cultivation plan designed to produce a proposal that's welcomed by a foundation. 

Applying for Foundation Grants

We'll continue our discussion of foundation relations today by exploring how to further cultivate foundation prospects. You'll learn how to write a one-page query letter that allows you to assess a foundation's interest, and you'll also find out how to develop a full-fledged grant proposal. After that, we'll talk about post-award responsibilities, which include writing acknowledgment letters, coordinating publicity with the foundation, and preparing grant reports.

Corporate Relations

In this lesson we're going to talk about the work performed by the corporate relations fundraiser. We'll start by exploring what motivates corporate philanthropy and the importance of being a fundraiser who can also think like someone involved in the business world. You'll learn how to develop a list of companies likely to want to support your organization and discover how to research those companies to determine whether they're worth cultivation. You'll find out what corporate foundations and corporate giving programs are and why they're important. And, finally, we'll talk about the role of the corporate advisory group.

Major Gifts

The consultations surrounding a major gift donor's decision can take months or years. Today, you'll learn the basics about major gifts, planned giving, and endowments. You'll find out why major gifts are so important, what activities or projects they support, and who major gift donors usually are. You'll find out how to determine and articulate your organization's major gift needs, how to plan a major gift program, and how to work with staff and volunteers to solicit major gifts. We'll also talk about what needs to happen after a major gift is received.

Capital Campaigns

Today we're going to talk about capital campaigns. You'll learn how a capital campaign differs from the annual fund, why they're so important to nonprofits, and what the campaign funds pay for. You'll discover why collaboration among development staff, volunteers, board members, and other staff within your organization is crucial to a campaign's success. And you'll find out how a campaign's goals are formulated and the kind of planning involved to put it all together.

Web 2.0 Fundraising

Today you'll learn about Web 2.0 fundraising opportunities, including how to improve your organization's Web site to make it easier for supporters to donate to your cause. We'll explore how to use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to connect with prospective donors and members. You'll find out why your CEO should be blogging and tweeting, and we'll talk about the ways you can use multimedia to document and share events with an online community.

Fundraising Software

In our last lesson, we'll explore the ways fundraising software can help you to become a more effective and efficient fundraiser by helping you to manage contacts and track fundraising relationships. Gift tracking, generating reports, storing notes, automating correspondence—all of these tasks are made substantially easier with the right program. You'll learn the difference between customer relationship management (CRM) and fundraising-specific software. And we'll look at some of the top players in the contact management market and discuss their pros and cons.

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Instructors & Support

Janet Levine

Janet Levine has been involved with grant writing and fund raising since 1988. Prior to starting her consulting company in 2007, she was the Vice President for University Advancement at a public, urban university. Levine has been a fundraiser and administrator at a number of colleges, universities and other non-profit organizations. She holds a Master of Business Administration from Pepperdine University and a B.A. from Hofstra University.




There are no prerequisites to take this course.


Hardware Requirements: 

  • This course can be taken on either a PC or Mac device.

Software Requirements: 

  • PC: Windows XP or later.
  • Mac: OS X Snow Leopard 10.6 or later.
  • Browser: The latest version of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox are preferred. Microsoft Edge and Safari are also compatible.
  • Adobe Flash Player. Click here to download the Flash Player.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here to download the Acrobat Reader.
  • Software must be installed and fully operational before the course begins.


  • Email capabilities and access to a personal email account.
Instructional Materials

The instructional materials required for this course are included in enrollment and will be available online.


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When can I get started?

A new session of each course opens each month, allowing you to enroll whenever your busy schedule permits.

How does it work?

Once a course session starts, two lessons will be released each week for the six-week duration of your course. You will have access to all previously released lessons until the course ends.

How long do I have to complete each lesson?

The interactive discussion area for each lesson automatically closes two weeks after each lesson is released, so you’re encouraged to complete each lesson within two weeks of its release.

What if I need an extension?

The final exam will be released on the same day as the last lesson. Once the final exam has been released, you will have two weeks plus 10 days (24 days total) to complete the final and finish any remaining lessons in your course. No further extensions can be provided beyond these 10 days.

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