How to Fundraise and Get Money for your Group!
Fundraising is one of the most important activites that your group can engage in. It is also one of the most overlooked activities by many groups. Fundraising can often seem challenging, but rest assured that it can also be very simple and fun. Oftentimes, there is funding available that your group might not even be aware of; you might just need to ask for it! Many SSA affiliates have pulled of very creative and fun events to raise money for their group. If your student group has some money in the bank, it makes it much easier to pull off bigger, more fun, and more creative events. This page is set up to encourage you to seek out funding and to inspire you on how to make it happen. If you have any questions at all, or even some advice for other groups, let us know!
There are many funding avenues available to student groups. Below is a listing of the most popular (but definitely not all!) ideas and activites you can engage in. You'll also find videos from past SSA Leadership Conferences that are relevant to this topic.
Fundraising for Nerds
There are some fairly basic ways that your group might be able to gain funding if you keep them in mind:
- Many (if not most) campuses offer some form of insitutional funding for offical student groups on campus (this is what your student activity fee is for). The infrastructure and bureaucracy for such processes differ a lot between campuses. If your campus has some form of student organization department, that would be the first place to start looking for such funding.
- Fundraising creatively and proactively is one of the best things your group can do. You can go off ideas other SSA affiliates have used successfully (listed below) or create your own events. These can be a lot of fun for your group members as well.
- You may also be able to work with any off-campus groups in your community. Many areas of the country now have CoRs and possibly state-level Secular Coalitions. There are also many, many off-campus groups at various levels of organization that you might be able to work with and tap into. Even if such groups in your area do not have funding to spare for your student group, they can still help you out in other ways.
- If your group is old enough to have alumni, and if some alumni are still active with the group, you might also consider approaching them to help out with funding specific ideas or events. Usually alumni will have a bit of extra money and might be more than happy to help out their old student group.
- Your group might also consider membership dues. SSA affiliates have asked for $5-$20 (or even more) from their membership in the past. This can be done on a quarterly/semesterly or annual basis. This can go a long way towards providing more group cohesion in some cases. This money can be used for anything from pizza (or other meeting snacks!), group t-shirts, or other swag. Do not be afraid to ask your membership for support.
- If you have some money to begin with, try investing in a button making machine. You can sell buttons throughout the year.
- The Secular Student Alliance offers several types of funding for things like speakers, travel, large events, and assorted other projects. To find the funding that best fits your project, use our Funding Finder!
- SSA affiliates may affiliate with any other national organizations that they like. Organizations such as Center for Inquiry, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, and others off limited amounts of funding to their affiliates. This, however, varies heavily with each organization so check with them before relying on monetary support for specific events.
On our Activity Packets page, we have several different fundraising ideas that have been successful for SSA affiliates in the past. They are:
- Flying Spaghetti Monster Dinner
- Benefit Concerts
- Soul Auctions
- Stone a Heathen
- Send an Atheist to Church
- Dine and Donate or Percentage Nights
We have a page set up here for ideas and potential ways to raise money to get to the Annual SSA Conference or other leadership events and conferences.
You might be thinking, "Well now that we have money, where the heck do we store it at"? No worries, we have you covered! Setting up a bank account is easier than you might expect and we can tell you exactly how to do it.
There are a few things you'll want to keep in mind while you're seeking funding for your group:
- You may have to justify the existence of your group - explain how you offer support and a community for an often persecuted and underrepresented minority, how your group brings diversity to your campus, that you contribute to the marketplace of ideas on campus, and that you fill a niche on a campus that likely has more than its share of religious student groups. You also reflect our society's growing interest in the nontheist viewpoint, as evidenced by the recent success of books and movies such as The God Delusion and Religulous.
- Keep records of who, where and when you received funding from, and take notes on the process of applying for that funding. It will be far easier for the next set of leaders to apply for funding if you leave them information on the specific application process for each funding source.
- Once you've received funding, don't forget to thank your benefactors. Consider taking an individual donor out to dinner, sending a card to a local group after your sponsored event, writing a letter to a funding organization, and the like. Giving thanks is an important part of building a relationship that will lead to further support in the future.
- The question is occasionally raised as to whether a student group should apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Realistically, applying for this status takes a lot of time and work (the approval process can take up to a year), and the benefits to a campus group are few, if any. If your group does encounter a potential large donor who requires the tax deduction, contact the SSA for advice.