Fundraising for your park group: getting started

Resource | novembre 29, 2018

Fundraising, even for small amounts, is about building partnerships based on a shared passion for an idea. In the context of your park group, this can mean working with a local business or collecting donations from the local community. Check out this resource to get started on your park group fundraising journey.

Fundraising is a great way to boost the impact of what your community park group’s work. With some funding, you can host larger events and undertake the kinds of projects that involve significant materials and paid labour.

In addition to raising money for your initiatives, fundraising can help your group form partnerships and increase your ability to connect to new audiences. It’s not difficult, but like anything, you need to ramp up your focus and skills. Start small, set achievable goals and gradually develop your group’s capacity to raise and steward funds over time.

Whatever your goal, remember that all fundraising is also “friend-raising.”In other words, it’s an opportunity to connect with new people to share your group’s awesome work in the park. 

  1. Start small: Events

    Events are a great way to test your fundraising muscle. Ongoing park programs typically require more time and more funding than one-time park events, so try a one-off or a “first annual” event to get the hang of fundraising and friend-raising.

    To fund a first park event like a harvest Festival, begin by letting your City Hall representative and your Park Supervisor in on your plans, as they may be able to provide support. Park supervisors may be able to donate things like seedlings, mulch, and compost, if that fits in with your event concept.

  2. Go big: Major events, programs, capital improvements

    To fundraise for a large park event or a major improvement such as a playground, you must first obtain consent from the landowner—typically the municipal government. Talk with municipal staff about your plans for park improvements, as they will help you align your efforts with existing municipal plans for development.

    Major fundraising efforts (more than $5,000) normally required the ability to issue charitable tax receipts, which enable individuals, companies and other entities to get a break on their taxes. See our resource on Working with a Trustee to learn more about the different ways of making that happen.

  3. Building a fundraising team

    “Great projects have great teams behind them. Be sure that you have a strong support crew when you set out to raise funds and improve the places you love.”

    Once you have the ability to issue tax receipts or tackle the other issues related to charitable status, you will need to organize a strong team to carry through your fundraising goals. In that respect here, are some questions to answer:

    • Do you need to set up a distinct sub-committee for fundraising?
    • When you do raise funds, will other group members help deliver the project?
    • When you secure funding, will you need a bank account? A treasurer?

    The bank account part is simple. Two to four people will need to have signing authority on your account, and you will likely have to form an association. To set it up, contact your bank manager and bring along meeting minutes and a list of members with contact details.

  4. How to raise $500 or less

    At this early level of fundraising, a big part of your goal should be to get the word out about your group. We call this “friend-raising”! There are many ways to raise smaller amounts of funding. You can:

    • Ask for donations from your members as well as organizations that use the park
    • Pass the hat at a fun community event
    • Launch an online crowdfunding campaign and let people know by email and social media

    You can also approach local businesses for in-kind donations or donations that can be raffled or auctioned off. Try and think of businesses that:

    • Have a stake in your work
    • Want to advertise to your audiences
    • Might already be vendors or suppliers
    • Are connected to your group through your Board or Members
    • Are located in your neighbourhood

    Letter of Introduction

    Whether you are approaching groups that use the park, local businesses, Members, municipal staff or other parties, you should include a Letter of Introduction. Letters of introduction put people at ease since they explain who you are, why you are contacting them and what you want. Take a Letter of Introduction to local businesses as an example. It should state:

    •       Who you are
    •       How you are connected to the company in question
    •       What you are asking for (money / merchandise / services)
    •       How will you recognize the company
    •       Follow-up information (when you intend to follow up) and contact details

    If you can, include a picture of your group and of what you want to improve in your park. A picture is worth a thousand words (especially when it has a caption) and goes a long way to motivate people.

    Follow up on your ask

    “When a funder says ‘yes’ there’s a sense of elation—but don’t forget to follow up quickly, establishing when and how you will secure funds.”

    Follow-up is important. Think of all the email and paper mail that you get every day. Do you pay attention to it all? Few people do. You’ll need to follow up on your Letter of Introduction in order to make sure that it was received and to stimulate a response (hopefully yes!). The best way to do that is in person or by telephone. Call, find out if your letter was received and reiterate the important points. Then ask for commitment. If getting that commitment requires an in-person visit, hopefully you can arrange that, too. If you do get a ‘yes’, be sure to nail down details of where and how you will receive the contribution.

  5. How to raise $500 or more

    Major events and projects generally require a longer-term effort to raise money. Holding a festival, construction projects like a new playground and other efforts takes concerted fundraising. That can include grants, larger donations from individuals and businesses, as well as funds raised from events and online crowdfunding.

    The importance of a budget

    A Letter of Introduction is definitely the way to start with individuals, businesses and groups that have a similar interest to your own. But when you are asking parties for a sizeable amount, you may want to follow up your letter with an in-person meeting at which you present a budget. You obviously need a budget for planning in any case. What it does for donors is it builds confidence that the project has a very good chance of succeeding and that you are on top of all the details. People want to sign on to projects that are going to succeed!

    To create a budget:

    •       List everything you will need to spend money on, separated into categories
    •       Be as accurate and realistic as possible
    •       Show the value of things you already have, i.e. donations, volunteer time, in-kind items, free space
    •       Add up the categories to show the total amount required, and the value of what you have already. {See a sample budget here.} [LINK to sample budget]


    Most, if not all park groups, submit grant applications to secure funding for major projects and events. There are hundreds of organizations ready to contribute funds to good works of many kinds. Most foundations, funds and other organizations that give grants have areas of focus, so you will have to find organizations whose focus fits with your own. There’s no sense in applying to a foundation that aims to advance knowledge regarding global warming when your aim is to build a playground!

    Find out much more about the in’s and out’s of grant writing in our resource on grant writing.

    Accepting donations

    It’s exciting when people say “yes”. Just make sure that a) you follow up on the offer and actually secure funds/goods/services, and b) be sure that the donor feels their contribution is valued. There are really just three things to do:  

    •   Thank the funder and confirm how and when you will receive the funds, goods or services
    •   Clarify how they would like to be recognised by your group (by displaying their logo, mentioning them in a speech, with a plaque, etc.)
    •   Invite them to the event or to the celebration surrounding project completion

    Fundraising is a big part of making things happen. Now that you are familiar with the basics involved, we would like to wish you the best of luck with your efforts to improve parks in your community!

“Never forget that ‘friend-raising’ is a big part of fundraising. You want to create as many allies as you can!”
Erika Nikolai, Co-Executive Director at Park People