Funding and income sources for community organisations

Having adequate funding, income sources and resources is fundamental to your organisation's survival and longevity and enables future goals to be achieved.

Use this page to learn about funding and income sources for community organisations.

Funding sources

Your primary funding sources should be ongoing income streams that you have an adequate level of control over.

External grants and one-off funding or sponsorship deals are important potential income sources but should only be used to deliver key projects that support or enhance your program and service delivery. Your organisation should not rely solely on these funding sources.

Just because your organisation is registered as 'not-for-profit', does not mean you should not make a profit. In fact the more profit you make, the more viable and sustainable your organisation is. Being 'not-for-profit' simply means the profits are kept and go back into the organisation for its future.

When thinking about your organisation's funding and income sources consider if you:

  1. consistently generate enough funds to service all of your outgoing costs?
  2. generate an adequate surplus each year to put toward larger projects?
  3. rely on only one or two income sources or do you generate funds from a variety of sources?
  4. have an up-to-date fundraising strategy that you review annually?
  5. have a funding coordinator and sub-committee to focus on fundraising?
  6. regularly evaluate your income-generating tactics such as events and merchandise sales to ensure they not only make a profit but are worthwhile in terms of time and effort?
  7. have priority projects suitable for funding through grants adequately scoped and planned?
  8. proactively connect with local businesses who could offer discounts, other in-kind support or may be interested in sponsoring you?
  9. have information ready to provide to a potential donor or to attract crowdfunding?

Income sources

Generating funds from as many income sources as possible will help to:

  • secure the future viability of your organisation
  • ensure your organisation is sustainable in the long term
  • create a strong and secure base
  • allow flexibility in terms of spending.

Relying on only one or two main income sources can leave your organisation vulnerable if income reduces or an income source is lost.

To build financial stability, spread the load and be strategic in terms of income-generating opportunities and what you offer your members.

Focus on deriving your core income from activities that service your outgoings and look at other one-off options such as grants as a bonus to deliver specific projects.

Be mindful that funding bodies may change their grants programs or priorities, and rarely fund operating costs.

To achieve a well-rounded funding profile, you need to plan, prioritise your goals, be innovative, diversify your offerings and be aware of participation trends and your members' needs.

There are several income sources available for community organisations to consider. The main ones are:

Membership and participation fees

Membership and participation fees are often the main source of regular and predictable income for organisations.

Your membership and/or participation fees should at least cover the associated delivery costs to your organisation. If they don't, ensure you have a clear understanding of how much is being subsidised and from what income sources.

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Choosing to have volunteers spend endless hours fundraising instead of calculating the cost of each membership or participation experience is not a wise or sustainable approach.

The level of service provided (e.g. experience and facilities you offer) determines the real cost to your organisation and informs the contribution your members/participants should make.

Be clear about your membership and participation goals (e.g. increasing numbers or the range of opportunities). Hiring out to other providers and the multi-use of your facilities are other positive ways to increase your organisation's viability, whilst offering improved services to the community. 

Aim to provide a range of membership/participation options that offer good value for money and meet the needs of the target audience. You can include options to support people who may be unable to pay full fees by offering subsidies.

It is important to remember that it isn't only membership/participation fees you are striving to attract. You also need people's enthusiasm and support, which is best gained through active participation.

Ultimately, your membership/participant base influences and increases your capacity to generate income, provide programs and services, attract and inspire volunteers and generate referrals back to your organisation.

Your organisation's culture and the atmosphere created are dependent on your participation base. Read our attracting and retaining participants page for more information on how to increase your membership base.

Sales, merchandise and other income

'Sales' refers to items your organisation sells such as food and drinks, merchandise, promotional products and equipment.

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Make sure all items you sell are appropriately priced and make a profit for the work that goes into providing them.

Consider generating income through the provision of additional services or programs (e.g. school holidays or seniors programs, social competitions).

You can also generate income from hiring out part of your facilities (e.g. kitchen, meeting space/s, clubroom, sporting fields) to other suitable user groups.


Events may include your annual events (e.g. end-of-year break-ups), as well as other more ad hoc events such as fetes, game and trivia nights, fashion parades, talent contests, dances, film nights and functions.

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Encourage your members and participants to bring along their friends and family to support your event.

Think about ways you can generate additional income at your events (e.g. sale of food and merchandise, raffles, competitions, auctions offering donated prizes).

You can make your annual events more sustainable if you include sponsors and other partners/supporters to help with costs and spread the workload.

Community-business partnerships and sponsorships

Businesses often provide community organisations with in-kind support such as donated or discounted products and services, volunteering, or more formalised sponsorship arrangements, that enable them to promote their services, whilst also supporting a good cause.

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These arrangements are often considered an investment for the business. Businesses commonly either want to support community organisations to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility, or to use your name and/or member reach to help sell their products and services. Either way, be mindful to only enter into partnerships where both sides contribute and benefit.

You may choose to have several business sponsors who provide varying levels of support based on what you offer them in return (e.g. naming rights, venue signage, the inclusion of their logo on communication tactics such as newsletters or your website).

Again, it is important to note that these arrangements should not be relied on as primary sources of funding, as they may change based on business needs or other unforeseen circumstances.

Donations and bequests

While donations and bequests are great to receive, they are not reliable funding sources!


Donations are funds that your supporters provide. They should be collected appropriately and require good administrative processes.

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To assist with the administration and promotion of donations, there are online donation platforms for not-for-profit organisations such as GiveNow that you can use to receive donations and support.

Make sure you give people a good reason to donate by clearly communicating your mission and future goals. Often individual donors are loyal and will give more money over time provided they can see the benefits of their contributions and are recognised for this.

It can take time and effort to track down potential donors who have funds available to contribute. Be mindful of their motivations for doing so and try to meet these needs to continue attracting their support.

Have your list of members/participants up to date so you can easily communicate with them about opportunities to donate and support your organisation's goals.


Bequests are funds that are left to an organisation through someone's will or estate plan. 

You can encourage bequests by providing information to potential benefactors and supporters.


Crowdfunding is an online fundraising campaign for a specific project where there is a set target to be reached. People pledge an amount that is normally only provided to the fundraiser if the target is reached.

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Crowdfunding is a great way to raise awareness of your goals and to attract a new audience of supporters.

GiveNow and GoFundMe are crowdfunding platforms you can use to attract funds for your projects.

GiveNow provides a free online donations service where you can also create a CrowdRaiser to raise funds for a specific cause or project. It can also help you to manage your fundraising and gain exposure.

The Australian Sports Foundation (ASF), founded by the Australian Government, provides a platform for organisations, sporting clubs and individual athletes to fundraise. You can use the platform for a range of fundraising activities including crowdfunding, community events, one-off donations and regular giving. The ASF also assists organisations to manage paperwork by processing online and offline donations, ensuring funds are properly used and providing resources to support fundraising efforts.

Rich video (e.g. video) communicating the benefits of your project to members/participants and the local community can help support a crowdfunding campaign.

If you are looking to appeal for public funds, there may be other laws you need to consider in addition to your normal incorporation and tax requirements.


Grants are funds you apply for from a funding body that are tied to a specific project or program you propose to deliver. Most grants are one-off and are not normally provided to fund core operations such as ongoing administration or maintenance costs.

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There are usually set timeframes around when you can apply for grants and when your project must be delivered. Generally, late applications are not accepted and extensions to project timeframes need to be approved by the funding body. You must use the money as agreed and provide evidence of this (acquit your grant) upon completion.

Grants can be highly competitive. There are normally more applicants than there are funds and for this reason, they are not a guaranteed source of income.

Even funding programs that have been ongoing for some time are vulnerable to changes in direction and/or budget.

All levels of government (federal, state, local) distribute grants, as do many philanthropic and community foundations, not-for-profit organisations and businesses.

To identify grants your organisation may be eligible for, you can:

  • search the websites of known funding bodies (e.g. local government)
  • subscribe to funding bodies for notifications of upcoming or future grants
  • use funding databases.

Before you apply for funding, make sure you are eligible, can meet the selection criteria and have the capacity to deliver the project or program you are proposing, including any required monetary contribution.

To be competitive, your application should demonstrate your ability to deliver the project on time, as proposed and within budget.

Developing a funding strategy

Organisational sustainability begins with planning, not funding. Successful fundraising efforts and grant applications come from good planning and evidence-based needs.

Your funding strategy should be prepared annually, evaluated throughout the year, and adjusted according to your changing needs, learnings from activities, or opportunities that arise.

The following key steps will help you to develop an effective funding strategy.

Invest time in planning

Good planning is critical to your organisation's long-term viability. It also enables you to provide high-quality funding proposals or grant applications that demonstrate the need for the project or program, anticipated outcomes, and benefits to the community.

Have a strategic plan in place that clearly details the directions and goals of your organisation. Take the time to clarify your short and long-term goals and priorities and use this information to develop a funding strategy to help manage your fundraising efforts.

As part of your planning, identify the resources (including funds) needed to achieve your goals and any projects or programs suitable for funding through a grant or other income source.

Develop a three-year rolling budget detailing the previous year's figures and your predictions for the next two years, allowing for increases in costs. Next to your income column, add comments to help planning in future years.

Assign a funding coordinator

Assign someone on your committee to take the lead and be responsible for your fundraising activities. This is a key role in your organisation. 

Ideally, you should also establish a sub-committee to support the funding coordinator.

Review your funding

Consider the success of your past fundraising activities.

Make sure you consider the resources each activity involved, profit and time and effort expended.

List all your income sources from the previous year and the percentage each source represents and whether they are a reliable, repeatable source, or a one-off, such as a grant.

Determine your highest priorities, your most profitable previous funding activities, and if any of your regular sources (e.g. membership fees) need to be reviewed and adjusted to meet your ongoing future costs or intended changes to your level of service. 

Research funding opportunities

Invest time researching income-generating methods that have proven successful for other similar organisations. Explore how they could be applied to your organisation and adapted to suit your operations and member needs.

Determine who has, or could, support your organisation financially including businesses, individuals, and government departments.

There are often several income streams available to support an organisation. The focus you give to each one and their level of importance in terms of your overall funding strategy depends on the nature of your operations and service delivery.

Prepare your funding strategy

Once you have completed planning, determined goals and responsibilities, reviewed last year's income sources and undertaken research, you need to determine your activities and set targets for each, including stretch goals. Identify the resources required and develop a timeline which includes deadlines for any grant opportunities.

Be realistic when setting targets, particularly for event attendees and membership numbers. Overestimation of numbers can result in overspend based on projected income.

When preparing your funding strategy, keep in mind your 'who, what, why'.

Consider how you can incorporate additional funding or awareness-raising activities (e.g. selling merchandise, displaying membership information at events). Be creative and consider new ways to make fundraising both feasible and profitable.

Aim to develop a funding strategy that ensures your organisation is sustainable and viable in its own right and not dependent on one-off or unreliable income  streams.

Gain endorsement from the committee

Your committee or board should approve the funding strategy and be clear about the role it plays in helping generate income.

Regularly monitor your funding strategy

Monitor your funding strategy regularly by making it a regular committee meeting agenda item. This enables you to track your progress and make changes if one of your tactics is not producing the outcomes you anticipated.

Keep members informed

Update your members about your funding strategy, progress, and information about key activities and milestones via your website, newsletters and other communication methods. This ensures everyone in your organisation knows about your funding goals and objectives and how they can support you.

Stay informed about funding opportunities

Keep up to date with funding and grant opportunities and be aware about when they open by subscribing to funding information sources.

Resources and support

  • The Funding Centre - enterprise of Our Community that provides information on grant and fundraising opportunities for not-for-profit organisations, as well as helpful tips and tools
  • The Funding Network - helps grassroots not-for-profit organisations pitch their ideas to people and organisations who can help fund their cause by providing interactive live crowdfunding events and workshops for the broader philanthropic sector

Related links

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