Fundraising Engagement 101: Using Community-Driven Fundraising Every Day to Engage and Cultivate Donors

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

You think about your donors a lot, don’t you? I surely do. As a fundraiser, it’s only natural.

We’re constantly wondering who will attend our upcoming events, which supporter is going to step up and volunteer to chair the next fundraising campaign, and why Mr. Smith decided to decrease his gift this year (hint: don’t just wonder, give him a call and chat!)

We live and breath by our donor’s actions. Fortunately, WE REALLY DO have a hand in shaping those actions– through fundraising engagement, that is.

It’s impossible to nurture current donors and cultivate new ones without engagement. But instead of creating “fundraising engagement-specific” action items in our annual fundraising calendars, I think it’s time we start thinking about fundraising engagement more holistically.

Fundraising engagement can– and should– be integrated into everything we do, whether it’s just a simple touchpoint or a more intricate campaign. A great way to do this is to think about engagement from a community-driven fundraising perspective.

What Does Engagement Have To Do With Community-Driven Fundraising?


First, let’s review what community-driven fundraising is. This form of fundraising uses the amazing power of your supporter’s influence to inform and ultimately motivate their own friends and family to get involved with your cause. With community-driven fundraising, you’re inspiring and engaging your current supporters in the hopes that they’ll do this same.

Peer-to-peer fundraising, social sharing, crowdfunding—these are all perfect examples of community-driven fundraising.


With community-driven fundraising, your community shares with their community to grow your overall community.

As you inspire your supporters, activate your donors, and rally advocates to inspire others to get involved, you’re engaging: plain and simple.

Community-Driven Fundraising Can Engage + Cultivate Donors

Community-driven fundraising involves three separate actions, or what we refer to as “The Elements of Community-Driven Fundraising.”

  • Inspiration: To get people interested in your cause, you have to connect them emotionally to the work you’re doing. This is the inspiration component.
  • Activation: Once they’re inspired, most supporters are ready to act, which is why you need to give them something to do. Using a strong call-to-action, you can guide supporters to donate, share, or volunteer to support your cause; these are necessary steps in the donor engagement process.
  • Rallying: When your supporters rally for your organization, what they’re doing is transitioning into advocates. They’re actively participating in the inspiration and activation of their personal networks.

Today, more than ever before, it’s word-of-mouth that produces results. You don’t just want your supporters to get involved in the process.: You NEED them to.

Here are a 6 different ways you can use community-driven fundraising to engage and ultimately cultivate your donors. The desired result: a group of committed, devoted and retained supporters.

6 Different Ways To Engage + Cultivate With Community-Driven Fundraising


The first step of the donor engagement cycle is to inspire your supporters, and there’s a real reason for this. Without inspiration, there’s little chance they’ll be compelled to do anything to help your organization. Thus, inspiration is needed to ensure cultivation down the road.

1.Share “Shareable” Client Stories

There’s no denying the power of a good, emotion-inducing story. Stories are the reason I cry at Disney movies and can’t, for the life of me, get through an ASPCA commercial. Tears aside, stories are the best tool we have to educate, energize, and cultivate our nonprofit supporter base.

Since community-driven fundraising requires inspiration, there’s no better place to start than with a client story. Client stories help to show the “hero’s journey,” of the people we serve. Dive a little deeper, and you’ll see how these stories also show how our nonprofits are an integral part of said journey.

A well-written story goes a long way, not just inspiring people to act, but by inspiring people to inspire other people (did you follow that?)

When you see a funny meme or read a great article online, you want to share it, right? The same goes for your readers! To ensure you’re engaging your readers, infuse your stories with “shareable” elements, including:

  • Practical value, such as a great takeaway from the client
  • Content to like awe, curiosity, or fear
  • Social currency to make people feel like they’re getting a “behind the scenes” scoop on this client story

As you can see, the Asian American Arts Alliance took this concept up a notch by prompting supporters to share their own “client story” with others

2. Connect Supporters with Visual Stories

Visual client stories such as pictures and videos get the attention of our intended audience (our current audience) like written client stories, but can they be engaging? Absolutely!

Let’s take a cue from charity: water on this one.

In this Facebook post, charity: water introduces a client story and a great image and asks the reader to click to watch the video and learn more. It’s a simple action, but it’s an essential building block toward activation.

Here’s another one, this time from Volo City Foundation.

Volo City Foundation shared a great video to tell the story about their latest community-driven fundraising campaign efforts.

VoloCity Kids CauseVox Campaign
VoloCity used CauseVox to create and manage their latest peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

These visual stories are the exact recipe for inspiration!


Through inspiration, you’ve provided your supporters with the information they need to decide when and how they want to get involved. Check out these 2 ways that you can activate to cultivate.

3. Use Calls to Action Every Single Time

If inspiration is WHAT motivates people to act, a call to action is HOW to get people to act. It’s the true instrument in supporter activation.

Whether you’re asking people to sign up for your eNewsletter, providing them with a nonprofit story to read, or sharing your latest ROI results on Instagram, end each “touch” with a call-to-action.

community driven fundraising
Beyond Borders uses three different calls to action on their fundraising page: Sponsor a Family Now, Help Fundraise, and Share

Is this overkill? No way! It’s how you engage and ultimately cultivate your supporters.

Here, Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc. encourages donations to their crowdfunding site through Facebook.

4. Capitalize on Social Sharing

Social sharing is essential in any nonprofit marketing plan today. Whether you have a large following on Twitter or are catering to an email audience, the people who support you want a way to share what you’re saying with others.

As you’re crafting your nonprofit stories, emails, stats, and other marketing tidbits that you share with supporters, stop to think about the avenues you’re giving them to share their experience with others. Don’t forget to add social sharing buttons to your stories so that your audience can immediately spread the word if they are inspired to do so.

community driven fundraising
World Bicycle Relief knows the drill
World Bicycle Relief knows the drill


You’ve provided the inspiration and activated them into action. By now, your supporters know about your cause and have done something to prove they’re committed. In other words, they’ve made it through most of the donor engagement cycle.

Donor Engagement Lifecycle
Donor Engagement Lifecycle

Take that energy one step further by rallying them to become advocates for your organization.

5. Recruit Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers

Personal fundraisers, the people who volunteer to fundraise in your peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, are true champions of your cause. They’re on the forefront, sharing your message with friends and family, adding their own story to your nonprofit story, and in the process, bringing new prospects to your attention.

When you recruit personal fundraisers, you’re giving these supporters the opportunity to go above and beyond. It’s the optimum way to ensure long-term cultivation.

community driven fundraising
World Bicycle Relief recruits personal fundraisers

6. Try DIY Fundraising

If a time-bound campaign isn’t in the picture, try a DIY fundraising. These campaigns are always “open for business” and run on the personal fundraiser’s own schedule. You provide your fundraiser the tools (usually via a support person at your organization AND a personal fundraiser toolkit) and they go out and advocate for your cause.

community driven fundraising
20 Liters encourages supporters to fundraise anytime, anywhere in any way they see fit

You see, you can engage your donors almost anytime. Inspire them into action and then convert that passion into advocacy. As you work through your community-driven fundraising activities, and really work to inspire, activate, and rally, you’ll ensure a devoted, cultivated supporter base.

Interested in community-driven fundraising? You can deep dive by watching a recording of our latest free training here.

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