Fundraising is often associated with agonizing efforts like sending off letters in hopes of receiving a check in return. If you’ve ever had a stack of solicitation letters fall out of your jam-packed mailbox, you know what we mean.
Instead of having potential donors begrudgingly open your persistent mailers only to drop it in the trash with a sigh of slight annoyance, your fundraising efforts could engross people’s attention with a compelling topic or offer them an experience that enriches their world.
Keep in mind that the reason fundraising mailings might not render a big response is not that people are opposed to giving. They might not be fully aware of this, but people generally want to be inspired when they encounter your organization’s efforts to engage them financially. Nonprofits can move people to get involved by seeing creative fundraising ideas come to fruition to garner genuine, organic investment from people who care about their cause.
Below are five ways you can raise money the cool way. We’re talking the targeted, relevant, smile-causing, head-turning stuff of nonprofit fundraising dreams.
1. Organize A Challenge.
Successful fundraising often involves injecting meaning into people’s lives. Inviting your community to participate in a challenge offers a fun, effective, and exciting event to put on the calendar. It’s one thing to host a dance-off (yes please!) or 5K (very positive). But it’s another to up the anty and create a challenge complete with teams, a hashtag, and an extremely powerful mission.
As you engage in all that it takes to organize a successful challenge, you might discover that the process of doing so can even give your organization’s marketing and cause awareness a boost while you raise funds.
She’s The First, a nonprofit dedicated to helping girls be the first in their family to graduate from college has campus chapters across the U.S. that run bake sales selling their signature tie-dye cupcakes that have raised $100,000 for girl’s education. They’ve organized a challenge where the campus chapters compete to see who can raise the most money selling cupcakes. Volunteers engage with the cause and challenge on social media with the hashtag #bakeachange which further spreads their mission and rallies enthusiasm from the different communities involved.
As you organize a challenge, here’s a list of things to keep in mind:
- Think of a fundraising goal and clear objective for your challenge
- Make an eye-catching graphic that advertises your challenge and shares easily on social media
- Create a toolkit that informs interested participants and offers seamless engagement
2. Social Fundraising/Crowdfunding.
We all know that person on Facebook with a link to a crowdfunding page and generalized “donate!” status with all the exclamation points. There’s nothing wrong with using social media to fundraise but there are approaches you can try to be more effective.
Here are some tips you can do to make your fundraising stand out on social media:
- Leverage online tools to determine what platform your dedicated followers are or will be
- Personally, tag/mention individuals to thank them when they donate
- Work with bloggers to help tell your story and link to related posts during your campaign
- Analyze stats to figure out what your followers engage with the most
- Give yourself time to build a social community
Choosing a crowdfunding platform that caters to organizations is also key. To find what crowdfunding model might be best for your organization, check out this list.
3. Host An Event.
Events can be a great way to engage people to spread your mission and bring funds to your organization. Attending charity events can help provide meaning in a person’s life as face-to-face events provide the chance to actively serve others.
For example, Covenant House, an agency that provides shelter, food, and crisis care to homeless and runaway youth, hosts SleepOut, an event where men and women across the U.S. sleep outside for one night to raise funds and awareness for homeless youth.
There are different SleepOut events throughout the year that cater to different groups of participants such as actors, businessmen, students, and parents. This approach shows the community how anyone can engage with homelessness.
The event is done a few times a year and often involves different groups of people such as students or executives who attempt to be sponsored by their friends and family for participating in the event. Covenant House’s SleepOut empowers people to have an experience that forces them to engage with their specific cause and compels participant’s friends and families to be intrigued by what’s going on which further raises awareness for their cause.
Any religious, educational, charitable can consider hosting a special fundraising event. Here are some tips to get started:
Come Up With An Idea
- Think of a relevant activity connected to your cause. The more directly related to your cause, the more influential.
- Ex: Does your nonprofit work to preserve nature? Host a group hike.
- Ex: Does your nonprofit serve to prevent animal cruelty? Arrange a group to take animals to visit local offices for an impromptu take-your-dog-to-work day.
Getting People On Board: Promote Well.
- Create an online hub for teams of challenge participants. This can create excitement around your cause and event. For tips on connecting on and offline, check out this post.
- Empower potential event participants with online tools to create a team, upload personal photos, and allow their network to track their fundraising and participation progress through a web link or on social media.
You might consider having donors sign up to be members of your organization. People who feel a sense of belonging to a nonprofit are probably more likely to feel a sense of ownership for your cause, perhaps making them more likely to donate regularly instead of sporadically. Beyond fundraising benefits, members of your nonprofit have the potential to give their loyalty and involvement to your organization.
Something transformative often transpires when a person crosses the line from passively giving every now and again to volunteering for and consistently supporting a nonprofit. In many cases, there has to be a relationship developed or a recurring experience set in place for someone to become more than a donor but an active, committed member. Perhaps members attend community meetings, help plan events, advocate for your cause, and see themselves as committed faces to your mission.
Membership giving is a popular model for religious organizations. Consider how monthly payments are the fairly standard form of giving for charities that help individuals and families sponsor children. Starting a member giving program can enable your nonprofit to build relationships with members of the community who may feel a continued sense of responsibility to your organization.
Think you might want to set up a membership program with your organization? Here are some tips:
- Consider coming up with a membership fee based on the research of what potential members could likely contribute
- Establish what the benefits of membership are. Think about what would motivate them to become a member and design a list of benefits around that.
- Secure a system to stay in touch with members on a regular basis (monthly meetups, weekly newsletters, etc)
- Streamline the membership process in terms of joining, follow up and cancellation
5. Grants And Partnerships.
Reaching out to institutions for grants and partnerships can provide a solid fundraising source and valuable affiliations for your nonprofit. A traditional way for revenue-generation in addition to individual donors, foundational grants are often a large source of growth for 501c3 organizations.
Finding like-minded foundations and groups to join forces which can also be a great source of fundraising. For example, if you are a smaller, literary-minded nonprofit, you might consider applying for a grant from a larger, like-minded organization such as Poets and Writers or PEN American Center. One resource for finding a nonprofit to potentially partner with is the Foundation Center.
In addition to finding larger organizations to apply for grants from, partnering with universities can be a great way to seek funding especially if you can find a program, school, and/or research center that correlates to the work your organization does.
Coming together with another organization serves your nonprofit beyond helping to meet your financial goals. Collaboration around a shared cause fosters a greater sense of purpose in any endeavor. Imagine what could happen if all the organizations that support youth education came together to achieve their missions. This could happen through various efforts such as a large-scale, co-hosted event or multi-participatory awareness campaign.
How To Build a Partnership
- Educate yourself. Read our free online guide, “Working With Partners and Brands.”
- Research organizations with missions that align with yours
- Send a friendly, personal, and genuine outreach email to feel out the potential for collaboration. Perhaps include a few simple yet specific ideas of what you had in mind in your initial message.
- Utilize social media to network with like-minded organizations. For more tips on community building online, check out this post.
No matter what method you use to fundraise, what matters is where the money is going. Before embarking on any fundraising effort, thoughtfully evaluate how incoming funds will directly result in the advancement of your cause. Ironing out this fact will put your fundraising efforts above others as knowing where the money will go and why it goes where it does gives your organization and donors clarity about how they are making a difference.
Remember that fundraising can be flipped from a dreaded chore to a vehicle for inspiration. Organizing challenges, hosting events, working with partners, and even just engaging online can be a fun journey that reaps major reward.
Ultimately any fundraising effort, whether it’s a writing grant proposal or hosting a special event, is about relationships. It’s important to recognize that process of hosting, organizing, and executing a fundraiser can be one way to build relationships that greatly impact your fundraising.
For more about how to build relationships with your nonprofit community, read our ebook Cultivating Relationships With Your Nonprofit Community.