Top / Earth Day Organizers Guide / 010 Raising Money

Raising Money

Many of us feel reluctant to ask for help and, especially, to ask for money. Yet raising money is a necessary part of many civic-minded projects.

At the very start, get a clear picture of exactly what it is you need to be able to carry out your project or event. Begin working to make your vision a reality.

There is a big difference between telling potential donors that you are doing something and telling them you want to do something and outlining their potential involvement. Talk in definite and specific terms to convey that you are serious about your plans. This means outlining exactly what their contribution will be used for and asking for a specific amount of money.

Although it is important to think carefully about the amount of an ask, aim high. You can always bargain down, but it is almost impossible to bargain up. This way of speaking will make your fundraising more effective.

Remember that Earth Day campaigns and events offer creative opportunities to educate the community and spotlight your organization or committee, and they provide sponsoring opportunities for suitable organizations and businesses.

Creating a Budget

The first thing an organizer needs to do is create a budget. Make your budget realistic―not too high, but high enough to accomplish what you’ve set out to do. Plan carefully how much money you will need to raise, and in what amount of time.

Many groups and businesses are willing to underwrite or sponsor events, or to donate needed items for an Earth Day event. Factor into your budget what things you can realistically expect to have donated, and what things you will have to purchase.

Preparing a budget may seem difficult, but it is worth the effort because it will (1) help you identify exactly what your needs are, (2) point to avenues for filling those needs (often money is not needed, as many items can be donated), and (3) show prospective donors that you are organized and serious.

It is important to do a cost-benefit analysis before any fundraising activity. It costs money to raise money, but it should generally only cost at most 25% of the total raised. Don’t spend $75 to raise $100.

Types of Financial Support


Fundraising by soliciting donations, whether cash or in-kind, is the most important part of your financial work.

Person-to-person requests, phone calls, and mail solicitation provide a great opportunity to educate others about the importance of your project and gain support for your efforts―financially and otherwise.

Nothing is as effective as person-toperson contact for soliciting funds. When face-to-face contact is not possible, phone calls can also be effective. Remember that providing detailed information is important. Sometimes you will have to communicate in a variety of ways until you get an answer from a funder. Be prepared to answer all kinds of questions about your project, including how the money will be used and who else is participating.

It is important to be comfortable talking about money; this will be a key to success. Think of it this way: you should feel proud to ask donors to participate by funding a worthwhile project.


Consider a fundraising event or project. These are designed to: (1) raise visibility, and (2) generate the money you need to ensure the success of your project.

Merchandise such as T-shirts can be great fundraising products. They can be purchased at cost for as low as $5/shirt and sold for $10. You can make your own locally, and/or work through Earth Day Network, which will produce low-cost, high-quality T-shirts for organizers of Earth Day events. Check out Earth Day Network’s web store for more information.

Benefits can generate income and publicity for your event. Contact a local radio station or music group about producing a benefit concert for your committee. Or encourage a restaurant or supermarket to donate a percentage of proceeds for one day to your committee. Publicize the fundraising through the media, flyers, and other means.

Sales of donated merchandise, or even a good old-fashioned yard sale can benefit your group.

Dinner parties, bake-offs, neighborhood cleanups, stream walks, bike races, walk-a-thons, running events . . . all can generate income and visibility for you.


Invite your city and county government to co-sponsor your activities, and spell out clearly what you want them to do. If they agree to be a co-sponsor, you may be able to draw on the things governmental agencies can contribute― security, signage, postage, public relations, venues, coordination, and insurance.

Involving your local government demonstrates to the community that there is broad-based support for addressing environmental issues. Having the mayor or county commissioners on stage with you for presentations and welcoming remarks means photo opportunities for them and for you. This involvement enhances your project’s standing in the community, and it also helps you convey the message that we all need to work together to solve environmental problems.


Private foundations exist to support a variety of projects. These foundations have specific grant criteria and application processes that you will need to research before applying.
Check your local library’s reference section for the following helpful publications:

The Foundation Directory―a complete reference of private foundations and their criteria, listed by state.

The Foundation Center’s Grant Guides―a set of guides listing, by state, the foundations that fund specific programs. Guide titles include Grants for Environmental Education, Grants for Children, and Grants for Agriculture.

Once you have identified the foundations that might support your project or event, call them to request a grant application and a copy of their annual report.


If you plan to work with a fundraising committee either to do individual solicitation or organize a fundraising event, ask for a specific commitment from each committee member. For example, when putting together an event committee, bring together 10 people and ask them each to commit to raising $5,000 for the project.

The fundraising committee for your event will need to decide whether to seek financial assistance from area businesses. Businesses may be willing to make charitable donations, offer advertising, donate in-kind assistance, or provide discretionary funds in support of Earth Day celebrations. Try to determine whether their environmental practices make them a "fit" for sponsoring Earth Day. (Something to consider: have they signed on to the CERES―Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies― principles, or are they members of Businesses for Social Responsibility?)


Many businesses are searching for ways to be greener, and you can offer them an opportunity! Often corporations and businesses have quarterly campaigns in which they sponsor environmental projects. Corporations may also designate employees to volunteer or serve on your committee.

In addition to contributing money or volunteers, businesses might donate in-kind services. For example, many businesses have in-house printing facilities and may be able to print your programs free-of-charge or at cost. Approach local businesses for donations of paper, copying, printing, postage, volunteers, office space or phones. Spread out the requests so that instead of asking one company to donate 10,000 copies, ask 10 companies to donate 1,000 copies. Make your request as specific as possible. Share your vision for your project in a way that gets them excited about being involved.

Earth Day Network’s Corporate Sponsorship Policy

Earth Day Network does not accept corporate sponsors. This policy helps to maintain the clarity of Earth Day’s message.

Local organizers may choose to accept corporate sponsorship of their Earth Day activities. If you go this route, make an informed decision and check out their environmental record before proceeding.

Local organizers of Earth Day activities may choose to accept sponsorship.

Should You Incorporate?

To accept tax-deductible contributions, you must either: (1) have non-profit status in your state; or (2) find a local non-profit group whose mission is aligned with Earth Day and will allow you to operate under their auspices (technically, you will operate as a project of their organization).

To receive non-profit status, you must incorporate as a federal 501(c)(3) corporation. This takes time and money for filing fees.

First, contact your state’s Secretary of State for information on incorporation and registration as a non-profit in your state. Typically, you will need to obtain non-profit status in your home state first, prior to filing for federal approval. Plan on a minimum of 6-9 months before your incorporation process is finalized.

Some advantages of federal incorporation:

You will be eligible to receive donations tax-free.

Supporters can deduct their donations from their federal taxes.

Most grant makers require federal 501(c)(3) status, or a relationship to a 501(c)(3) sponsoring organization, for application.

You will be eligible for bulk-mail, non-profit rates.

If you decide to pursue tax-exempt status, you will need these federal tax documents:

Publication 557―Tax-Exempt Status for your organization

Form 1023 or 1024―Application for 501(c)(3) status

Form 8718―User Fee for Exempt Organization (up to $300)

Form SS-4―Application for Employer ID number

Form 526―Charitable Contributions Earth Day Organizers Guide 28

You must also provide your organization’s charter or mission statement, along with documentation of its history and activity, including fundraising methods and financial records.

Does all of that seem overwhelming? You don’t need to be intimidated by the process. Just describe your organization’s work in plain English. Demonstrate broad public support for your group. The IRS Toll-Free Help Line is 1-800-829-1040.

If you don’t have a lawyer in your group or on your board of directors, get one person to commit to seeing the process through to the end. Ask a local lawyer to help. Many will donate time to non-profit organizations whose missions they support.

A Final Word on Fundraising

Asking for money can be a daunting prospect. It helps to remember that working on Earth Day activities fills a vital community need and provides a way for people to work together for the common good.

Take pride in your work, and don’t be afraid to let others know about your project. When you reach out to potential funders, it gives them an opportunity to participate in a meaningful way too.



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アースデイ(地球の日)は4月22日、毎年Earth Dayの期間には世界各地で持続可能な社会を表現する、自由なイベントやアクションが行われています。

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