Hacks for SSP Fundraising

Best Practices for Fundraising in Harm Reduction

  • Start with a plan – your fundraising plan should be a part of your strategic planning process and should include SMART(IE) goals. Please see the section “Organizational Design and Planning Hacks for SSPs” for more information.
  • Diversify – try to ensure that your organization has a diverse set of income streams in order to guard against catastrophe if you lose one.
  • Seek partnerships – look for other agencies to partner with for larger fundraising projects or contracts.
  • Keep asking – even if you have asked a particular donor and been rejected, don’t hesitate to ask again.
  • Leverage rejection – if you have been rejected by a particular funder, ask them for feedback and pointers on how your proposal could have been stronger. Sometimes your rejection may have more to do with funding priorities, but you may get valuable information on how to improve your chances if you ask.
  • Make it concrete – especially when you’re talking to individual donors, make it clear what they are paying for or could be paying for. This helps people relate better to why they need to donate.
  • Learn to tell stories – learn to tell your participants’ and your organization’s stories in a relatable way that engages people emotionally.
  • Develop spokespeople – Work on empowering your participants to help deliver their stories to show potential funders how much impact they can make.
  • Leverage personal relationships – Ask your friends, family members, and other people you know to help with your fundraising efforts by donating money or time to your cause.
  • Cultivate donors – Find places where you can meet potential donors and look for them.
  • Research everything – Research every avenue for funding and try to think of novel ones.
  • Talk to everyone – Don’t ignore funding sources you think might not be aligned with harm reduction, instead tailor your message to suit your audience.
  • Engage your donors – After you’ve cultivated donors, regularly find ways to reach out and engage them so they feel like they too are a part of your community. This may include regular communications or events.
  • Hire someone – Hire an outside consultant to help you, especially with larger grant proposals or those for which specific expertise is helpful, such as federal requests for proposals.
  • Cold call – Don’t be intimidated to “cold call” potential funders and ask them for ideas.
  • Host events – Hosting events allows people to get to know your agency and builds community.
  • Offer tours – Offer regular tours of your service sites. Though organizations are discouraged from providing such tours during service provision hours (to protect the privacy of SSP participants) offering tours during down time builds community and demystifies services.
  • Have a fundraising page – Have a page on your website entirely dedicated to fundraising. DO NOT put it as an afterthought on another page.
  • Make monthly giving the default – Small monthly donations, called “sustained giving”, offer one of the most useful donation strategies and should be set up as the agency’s default form of donation.
  • Develop your social media presence – The importance of social media in promoting an organization’s profile, brand, and appeal to potential donors cannot be overstated. Work on developing your social media presence by talking about what you’re doing, reposting content related to your work, offering harm reduction education, and so on.
  • Leverage your board and volunteers – Your board and volunteers are the backbone of your community. Getting them involved in fundraising will dramatically increase your reach and your efficacy.
  • Look to community businesses and corporations – Make sure to ask local community businesses to help support your work.

More Resources

Don’t reinvent the wheel
During our development Harm Reduction Hacks have collected together a large number of resources from around the web you can find these in our resource folder in Google Docs. We are also always looking for more so help us by suggesting any resources we may have missed.
Suggest a Resource

External Resources

Collected from around the web
There are a number of external resources that contributed to the development of Harm Reduction Hacks. Here are a selection relating to this section:


The hacks on this site are shared with you under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. This allows you (with attribution) to adapt content for your own use, although we do ask you to then also allow others to have equal access to anything you develop. More details of this licence can be found on the Creative Commons website.


We do not claim that this is an exhaustive set of strategies, shortcuts, or tips for running an SSP. What we do suggest is that Harm Reduction Hacks offers down-to-earth, practical information for being a better leader, starting and running an SSP, and providing syringe access services. We feel we can say this with confidence because the Hacks are based on interviews with, and the experiences of, literally generations of people who have been doing harm reduction work.

Please note that nothing in this guide should be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney local to your area to ensure your program is in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that apply to your situation. 

Harm Reduction Hacks site design and implimentation by Nigel Brunsdon

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