The decline in charitable giving from individuals in 2018 was 3.4%. However, donations from grants and corporations saw an increase of 7.3% and 5.4% respectively. 

While this may seem fairly good at first, keep in mind that nearly 80% of charitable donations come from individuals. Taking this into account, the nonprofit fundraising market doesn’t seem to have a promising future.

While some attribute this decline to the recent changes in tax laws, others point to the volatility of the markets. 

Whatever the reason may be, the takeaway here is that nonprofits will need to work harder to raise money in the coming times. 

However, working hard is not the perfect solution, it’s only part of it. 

This hard work will have to be complemented by smart planning if nonprofits wish to continue their fight. 

In this guide, we will go over all the steps and components of raising money along with best practices to help you create a bullet proof fundraising plan for this year.

Strategic Planning

There’s no denying the fact that every action needs a well-thought out plan. A great place to start off your plan is with some type of SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, threat) analysis.

Since it’s best to be completely prepared for the worst, we’ll start by looking at some major threats your fundraising efforts can face.

Fundraising Challenges

Fundraising is not an easy feat and you can easily be pushed off-track by a few challenges on the way. 

Most common challenges you may face will include:

Donor Trust

Back in 2016 1/3 of people didn’t trust charities, and these were the numbers for 2017.

Donor trust statistics
source: Give.org

Failing donor trust is a major issue in raising funds. While in 2017 only 19% of donors had complete trust in the nonprofit this has not improved in 2018.

As the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer report shows below, the change stays neutral. While in the United States the trust has dropped by 9 points.

Trust issues can originate from a lot of factors. Lack of transparency is the foremost. The other reasons include intrusion, expensive intermediary costs, lack of emotional connection and exploitation of generosity.

One great way to improve trust is working towards providing transparency. People are nowadays used to tracking their Uber rides or food delivery couriers, it’s no wonder they would love to understand where their donated money went and what it helped achieve.

Little Phil is a new age solution that is trying to solve this issue. Check out this video from Little Phil.

Another way to restore trust is by seeking endorsements from influencers who still command the confidence of a large audience.

Building a Donor List

As per reports, Memberships drive 77% of the revenue. It goes without saying, the importance of adding members to fulfill your fundraising goals is paramount.

However, building this list, especially if you’re just starting out, can be a major barrier. You can refer to the article, Building your prospect list, for some insights. 

Donor Retention

As the earlier point suggests, it is hard to build a membership base. And that makes NOT CHURNING the existing ones an essential element to have a long list. Let’s look at some surveys.

Change in online donor retention

Now look at the following numbers and notice how the high ticket value donors have the highest retention. What it also implies is that most engaged(high retention) donors actually end up donating more.

online donor retention by donation level

Communicating the story

There’s a quote (author unknown), that says,

“Most giving is 80% emotion and 20% rational. The best way to get to someone’s emotions is to tell a story.”

As you would already know and something I’ve noticed in countless reports and in most successful charitable campaigns, the strong emotional currency that gets served.

The ice-bucket challenge was controversial for its success in terms of raising funds or for the way it was executed(wastage of potable water in today’s times).

However, it succeeded in engaging the masses and raising awareness around the subject. Among many reasons, the strong social currency they attached to it remains one of the vital factors in achieving that success.

Policy Changes

With changes in the government, the policies around fundraising also take a turn.

While some changes can be predicted based on the winning candidate’s agenda (and talking points during numerous debates during the election cycle), most aren’t.

“Whether related to shifts in the tax law or budgeting decisions, there is no track-record of policy decisions upon which an organization may predict the future with any real degree of certainty.  Naturally, nonprofit organizations feel unsettled and limited by their abilities to plan beyond the next week or month.”

Liz Knuppel, president and CEO of a Cincinnati-based nonprofit consulting firm

Social Media Reach

With the advent of Social Media & online platforms it has been one of the primary channels for nonprofits to promote their cause.

However, in recent times, platforms like Facebook have started focusing on paid reach over organic reach.

This resulted in an economy that made small players increasingly feel left out of the picture if they can’t shell out cash to improve their reach.

Organic reach decline

Intermediary Charges

Right from marketing costs to payment gateway charges, a big chunk of the donations or gifts go away in the form of intermediary cost.

While those are necessary elements to facilitate or encourage the process of giving, it also remains to be a big problem to be solved.

So taking this into account while planning your nonprofit fundraising is crucial to meet your needs.

monetary-labor-cost-charitable-fundraising
source: Paypal

There are other factors like lack of proper knowledge, resources and retention of good fundraisers that also pose a fundraising challenge.

While these challenges could set you back in fundraising, there are other factors too that have a direct impact on your efforts. While they may not always set you back, you will have to accommodate for them in your plan. 

In the next section, we’ll go over these factors that could be either opportunities to improve or threats to be aware of.

What are the factors that influence fundraising

Apart from the challenges we discussed previously, there are few major factors that also influence your fundraising efforts.

Case for support

A case for support (or case statement) is a document that details everything related to your organization. Your mission, what you do, what you plan to do, and most importantly, why you need to raise funds. 

Your case for support gives prospective donors a detailed understanding of what your nonprofit plans to achieve with the funds you raise.

It typically lays the groundwork for briefings, solicitation meetings, marketing materials, fundraising campaigns, etc. 

How your case for support impacts your campaigns depends on how you present it. Hence, it’s crucial to plan out and create a detailed case with all the crucial elements for maximum benefit. 

Some of the most crucial elements of your case for support that influence donors are:

1. Fundraising requirements

Is your nonprofit looking to raise money to keep running things as they are or do you plan to expand the scope?

Major donors see more opportunities in supporting new initiatives. Small donors, on the other hand, might donate for both.

2. Your plan and vision

What is your mission and how do you plan to achieve it? Ideas that seem realistic and easy to achieve draw more donors than others. 

For example, for education nonprofits, building a school is a feasible idea that donors would be more comfortable supporting. But going to each and every house to homeschool children may be perceived as more complex and hence an unachievable challenge to donate for.

3. Impact

What kind of impact did you have in the past? People are more likely to support organizations that have used funds in the past effectively. 

Here’s an example of a case for support by Habitat for Humanity.

Leadership

The leadership of your organization has a huge effect on nonprofit fundraising activities. The way the leadership strategizes on achieving the organization’s goal is perceived as critical.

Apart from organizational leadership, collective leadership is also an essential factor in fundraising.

Good collective leadership results in better and more effective decision making ultimately affecting the fundraising process. 

Prospect Pool

The prospect pool comprises the kind of people you plan to reach out to for donations. The elements of your prospect pool that would influence your fundraising campaigns are:

1. Size 

The number of people you can reach out to with a campaign. The larger the size of your prospect pool, the better. Although, it should be realistic, otherwise it might not be achievable.

2. Demographics

Which group of people are you more likely to get support from?

For instance, based on the statistics below, if a majority of your target audience is millennials, raising money from them might be difficult but getting them to volunteer would be easy. 

Donations by demographic - America
Source: Marketing Charts, Harris Interactive
3. Engagement

How do you plan to engage with your prospects and ask for donations? This will largely depend on your demographics. 

For example, social media would be a great nonprofit fundraising channel for millennials and Gen Z’ers whereas baby boomers would prefer fundraising through events.

4. Propensity

How are people likely to react to your fundraising efforts? 

For example, as per the philanthropy chart below, religious organizations would be able to raise more money than environmental or animal welfare nonprofits.

Resources

Quite obviously, the kind of resources you have at your disposal affect your fundraising campaigns significantly. The more the merrier. 

The major resources that influence nonprofit fundraising efforts are:

1. People

The number of volunteers you have or can assemble for a campaign.

2. Budget

The kind of budget you allocate for your fundraising efforts largely decides the type of campaigns you can run.

Environment

The environment includes macroeconomic factors that have a direct or indirect impact on nonprofit fundraising efforts. The major factors include:

1. Market 

If the markets are down, chances are corporations may not be performing too well. In that case, the likelihood of securing major corporate donors would be low. 

If you take a look at the charitable contribution from 1978, you’ll notice that donations from individuals and corporations took a dip during 2008-2009 because of the recession

Charitable giving by source
Source: Giving USA.
2. Population

Changes in population, specifically the demographics you’re reaching out to will affect your charitable giving. 

For instance, if more millennials are moving out from the towns to the cities, trying to raise money for social causes in those towns may not go too well.

After going over the threats and opportunities, you may now wonder, “how do you get detailed insights into your strengths and weaknesses?” 

A fundraising feasibility study is your answer. 

In the next section, we’ll discuss how this study helps you determine your strengths, weaknesses, and ultimately the chances of success for your campaigns.

What is a fundraising feasibility study and why do you need it?

A nonprofit fundraising feasibility study is conducted with the objective to assess the likelihood of success of a fundraising project. 

Feasibility studies are typically conducted for large nonprofit fundraising campaigns (like capital campaigns) for projects like starting a new program, merging with another organization, or constructing a new building (for internal or external use), etc.

A fundraising feasibility study may be conducted in-house or by an independent consultant. However, the latter is preferred since it brings in a fresh perspective and all the required set of skills and connections.

A comprehensive fundraising study generally reveals the following:

Strengths and Weaknesses of the board

Usually, board members of nonprofit organizations lead these large-scale initiatives. 

But you may have questions like would they be capable of handling such a project, do they have the required skills and/or experience, do they have a clear plan in mind, etc. 

The feasibility study answers these questions. 

How?

The consultants you hire to conduct a feasibility study (or whoever is in charge) interview the board members and assess their skills.

They will then list out their strengths and weaknesses and clearly state whether or not they will be able to lead the project.

Perceptions of the organization in the community

For any fundraising campaign to be a success, it is quite crucial that the community (or at least your target audience) has a good opinion of you. The support you gather is directly dependent on your reputation in the public.

The fundraising feasibility study will help you understand exactly what your reputation is in the market. If it’s well-conducted, it may even dive deeper into what you could do to improve your perception. 

How?

Consultants typically work with focus groups to find out how your organization is seen by the public. They also list out the reasons why you may or may not have enough credibility that could help you improve.

Who would be effective leaders for the fundraising campaign?

This is an extension of the strengths and weaknesses of the board section. Based on the characteristics of the board members, consultants will be able to clearly point out who would be the perfect candidate to lead the project.

If no one in your existing board might be suitable, consultants will also give you other references. 

How?

Having worked with organizations and campaigns earlier, consultants will know exactly what skills would be required to lead a campaign to success.

They would also have a strong network from which they could refer the right people for the job. 

List of potential major donors/funders

The burning question for every fundraising campaign, who will donate. Large scale nonprofit fundraising campaigns depend a lot on major donations.  

Who would be able to give you large sums of money? What grant could you apply for?

Your feasibility study will have clear answers to this.

How?

Consultants usually have a repository of potential major donors and grants. 

Once your requirements are clear to them, they do a wealth screening of all prospects. 

They also research about the available grants (and the process to apply for it) that might most likely be awarded to you. 

Wealth screening brief

Possible alternatives

There’s no perfect way to raise money for a campaign, which is why it’s good to have a few options. 

With more options at hand, you’ll be better equipped  for success (since you already know your strengths and weaknesses by now).

A good fundraising feasibility study details a few alternatives to the campaign or complete the project. 

For instance, assume your project is about building a new headquarter and you’re trying to raise money for it. But what if you got all supplies in the form of an in-kind donation from a construction company? 

The funds required then would reduce significantly and you might be able to raise the money with a simple small donation campaign.

How?

After working on a number of campaigns, consultants would have more ideas on raising funds for a project.

They would also have relevant industry insights (like companies who give in-kind donations) that could help ease the load of the fundraiser. 

In addition to all of the above, studies may also reveal major issues with the whole program. In general, whether the program/project in itself is a good idea or not. 

Let’s assume you decide to build a new headquarters in another region. But, what if you don’t have enough credibility in that region to draw a crowd of volunteers. the building would be rendered useless. 

Quite obviously, it would be better to know this before you break ground right? 

Fundraising feasibility study objectives

At the end of your feasibility study, ask your consultant for the next steps you and your team should take to prepare and get started with the campaign.

By now, your nonprofit has a complete overview of your SWOT. 

What next?

Well, keeping all the above factors in mind, now it’s time to start developing your plan.

Let’s take a look at the steps to creating a detailed nonprofit fundraising plan in the next section.

How to plan for fundraising? 

The first step of your fundraising efforts is making a comprehensive plan. Like a journey needs a compass, your nonprofit needs a clear goal and actionable plan to guide your fundraising.  

Here  are a few steps to set you in the right direction:

Step 1. Create a Gift Chart Range

In simple words, a gift range chart shows the gifts (and gift sizes) you need to meet your fundraising goals. 

To give you an example, here’s what a gift chart range looks like:

Sample gift range chart

To give you a brief on how to arrive at this, you can start with the lead gift which should be at least 15% and maybe up to 25% the goal. 

Then, build down the pyramid from that number by reducing the gift size by half and doubling or tripling the number of donors at each level. 

Based on previous data, you can list out the number of gifts you can expect to receive in each segment. If your organization is just starting out, you could refer to the annual reports of similar nonprofits to get an estimate. 

Add the number of prospects based on your previous conversion rate. If you’re new, you can search for an average conversion rate in your sector and start with it.

For instance, say your conversion rate from grants of $150,000 (major gifts) was 25%. In that case, you will need to apply to shortlist at least four grants to get funds from one

The cumulative total is calculated by simply multiplying the number of gifts with the gift size.

To get closer to your nonprofit fundraising goal, change the number of prospects in each segment keeping in mind your conversion rate from previous years. 

But you cannot just change the number of major donors and be done with it. Keep in mind the campaigns you’ll opt for and modify the number of prospects accordingly. 

For instance, if you’re planning on running more crowdfunding campaigns, increase the number of prospects in the lower gift ranges. However, if your plan is to focus on leveraging grants, then increase the number of prospects in the higher gift ranges. 

The next step is to divide this gift range into segments of small, medium, and major donors.

As per our example above, we can split the segments as given below:

Donor segmentation example

Step 2. Shortlist fundraising strategies for each segment

Each segment of donors has to be targeted separately. While shortlisting the right strategy for each, you must keep the following things in mind:

1. Cost
  • What are the monetary costs involved in executing the strategy? 
  • How many volunteers and man-hours would be needed for the campaign?
  • The in-kind resources needed to support the campaign.
2. Output
  • How much are you expecting to raise from the campaign? 
  • How close will it get you to your goals?
  • Is the ROI of the campaign suitable for your organization?

Collectively, the cost and output of each campaign will help you prioritize your efforts according to your resources. 

The different types of nonprofit fundraising strategies discussed above can be divided among the target segments as follows:

Fundraising for different segments

This is roughly how you can plan your campaigns for each target segment.

However, these strategies are subject to change if your target segments differ as per donation sizes.

Step 3. Plan the timeline for each strategy 

Once you have campaigns mapped out for each target segment, the next step would be planning their timeline. 

Targeting major donors goes on throughout the year. 

For small and medium donors, however, you can plan your campaigns based on different calendar events to maximize their efficiency. 

Let’s take a quick look at how you can go about your timelines.

Major Donors

All nonprofit fundraising activities for major donors typically have three steps involved:

1. Research and Identification

The research and identification process would involve looking for grants/corporations/people who are most likely to donate to your cause/mission.

For grants, it would also include understanding their application process and regulations they may have in place.

To ensure the process is seamless and you have actionable insights to work on at any given time, it’s best to have a team working exclusively on research. 

2. Planning

The planning step includes developing a plan of approach for each activity. For grants, this would be making an outline for the proposals as per the given rules.

For strategies like major giving, it would include defining how and when to approach the people shortlisted in the step above.

For example, leveraging a personal connection to set up a meeting with a top businessman/influencer.

While most of the planning might just overlap with the research phase, you can still keep out some time as a buffer separately. Maybe a couple of weeks before writing each grant or approaching a set of major prospects.

3. Execution

This phase includes taking action as per the plan laid out above. Primarily, it comprises writing the proposals and meeting prospects.

Following up after each meeting and making the relevant changes or corrections in the proposals as per the foundation’s request is also a part of this phase. 

Writing the proposal and converting a major donor could take months. While you can’t plan this phase with hard deadlines, have soft deadlines for each grant/prospect.

After this deadline, volunteers shouldn’t put in much effort if the possibility of conversion is low. 

Small and Medium Donors

Small and medium fundraising strategies can be planned out around different calendar events. While they could be run all year round, coupling them with special days of the year enhances their appeal to donor sentiment better.

Mapping your strategies with special calendar events has two major components that you need to work on:

1. A relatable message

Develop a message that resonates with the theme of the day/calendar event you’re leveraging.

A good practice for this would be to shortlist major calendar events that relate to your cause. 

For example, nonprofits working for the betterment of orphans could leverage mother’s and father’s day to appeal to donor sentiment.

2. Outreach plan

What channels do you plan to use to promote your message and raise funds?

Typically, social media, media ads, text broadcasts etc. are popular channels of outreach. Direct mailing and calling are also great outreach channels for medium donors. 

Once you have both, you can move to execute the activities. 

Typically, an approximate timeline for each calendar event fundraising campaign could be a week before and after the day.

A great example of this is the UNICEF USA Mother’s Day fundraising campaign:

UNICEF USA used Pinterest as their preferred outreach channel and created a board for Inspired Gifts. 

They showcased specific items that would make great Mother’s Day gifts along with messaging that resonated with the gift and the Mother’s Day theme. 

Mother's day fundraiser example

With a complete plan for fundraising, you will have a clear idea of how to efficiently allot your resources for each campaign. 

However, there’s one more aspect of planning that’s extremely crucial for nonprofit fundraising. 

Your donors. 

While your donors are the vehicles to your fundraising objectives, donor engagement is the fuel that gets them to do so. 

In the next section, we’ll talk about leading donors through the donor lifecycle with proper engagement and nurturing to help you reach your nonprofit fundraising goals.

Donor development strategy 

Donors are the lifeblood for your organization. Donor development is the process of converting prospects into donors and then repeat donors (and maybe eventually into volunteers) by moving them across different phases. 

The three primary phases in donor development include the following: 

Phase 1: Donor Acquisition

Donor acquisition comprises identifying and acquiring new donors. This phase in itself is a two-step process that includes the following steps:

1. Research and Identification

In this step, you identify your target donor segments as given in the section above.

You classify prospective donors into small, medium, or major and create a plan to establish the first contact for awareness (either through social media, ads, banners, etc.). 

You also try to get their basic contact details for the next step. In case you can’t acquire those details, you can always get them from government managed resources and/or exchange databases with other nonprofits.

After building basic awareness and deciding on the right channel of communication, you move on to the next step.

2. Solicitation 

This is where you make the ask through a specific medium. You can use a variety of channels to communicate with prospects. 

Social media ads, emails, texts, are suitable for small donors whereas direct mails and phone calls are good for mid-level donors. 

For major donors, in-person asks work better. You can make these asks by either approaching them directly (in their house or work) or by setting up meetings through personal networks. 

Once you’ve made the ask and the prospect has given the donation, you’re past the first phase of the donor development strategy. 

Phase 2: Donor Engagement 

By now you have the basic details of all donors who have donated once. Name, phone number and/or email, birthday, and current address are a few good to have details.

Getting donor details

Now, you can’t immediately ask for donations after their first donation. While many may be doing it, it’s not good practice. It’s best to engage and nurture these first-time donors first. 

Here are a few themes of messaging that you can use to engage with first-time donors:

Donor engagement messaging examples

While engaging with first-time donors, always ensure to personalize your conversations as much as possible.

Personalization will help you build your brand value and showcase your authenticity. It will also give you the option to engage them in a more personal way.

Phase 3: Donor Retention

After touching base with first-time donors, you can make the next ask. Those who successfully make another donation are considered retained donors.

After the engagement cycle, you can reconnect with these donors either the same way you did at first or through any other channel to make the next ask. 

However, a few tips to make your next ask successful:

1. Ensure maximum personalization

Maybe include the date and amount donated earlier to make donors feel like they made an impact, just like Wikipedia:

Personalized email example

2. Make subsequent giving easy and seamless

Making it easy to donate again (either for the same campaign or any other) ensures that people go through the process. Long donation processes could put them off. 

ActBlue Express makes future giving as easy as a click: 

Actblue express checkout

Remember we spoke about collecting the birthdays of first-time donors. Now is the time you can use it.

Wish the donor a Happy Birthday and appeal to their sentiment by asking them to donate and spread happiness on this special occasion. 

Apart from birthdays, other events like anniversaries, parent’s birthdays, or even special days around the year (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) can also be used.

4. Encourage them to opt for monthly giving

If supporters have donated once and are willing to donate again, it means that they are deeply invested in your cause.

Now is a good time to ask them to opt for monthly donations and make future giving even easier.

Monthly giving programs lead to a better retention rate. 

Once you’ve made the next ask and received the donation again from donors, you can repeat the engagement phase and make the next ask which can be volunteering their time.

Based on your SWOT analysis and donor engagement strategy, you can lay out the framework for your plan.

Once you’re done with that, the next step is to plan for the fundraising campaigns.

It is now time to go over the fundraising options you have, the ones most suitable for you, some unique ideas to ponder about, etc. which is what we’ll cover in the next section.

Nonprofit fundraising Campaigns

When going over fundraising specifics, the first thing you wonder is, what options do you have for nonprofit fundraising?

Well, there are too many to choose from. Let’s take a look at all of them below:

Types of Fundraising

Although they are meant to fulfill the same objective, the key differentiation in nonprofit fundraising is based on how you approach it from different entities (individuals, corporations, grants, etc).

Typically, we can classify all strategies based on who you’re making the ask from:

Nonprofit Fundraising from Individuals

1. Direct Mail Donations

Direct mail donations comprise reaching out to users through letters and requesting for donations.

The letters usually detail the organization’s mission, why they are raising funds, and how they plan to use these funds to achieve their mission. 

Donations from direct mails are accepted either through wire transfers or cheques. 

Direct mail fundraising is typically suitable for older donors who prefer the traditional way of giving and/or are hesitant to donate online. They are also used to nurture and encourage repeat donors. 

Direct mail fundraising
Fundraising letter sent by Sunny Days Community Centre

Since it is quite a costly activity, it’s best only for those who have positively responded to them earlier or from whom you anticipate a positive response.

Including appealing images in your letters could make them more engaging and inspire a positive response.

2. Online Donations

Online donations are contributions made through an online donation page/form. These donations are collected by leveraging payment gateways that give users a number of options to pay online (credit card, online banking, etc.). 

Generally, all kinds of online communications (emails, social media posts, ads, etc.) direct users to the donation page.

Donation pages are suitable to raise small sums of money from a large community of online users.

Typically, millennials, GenZ’s, and baby boomers are the ones who are involved in online giving. 

Simple donation form example
Mozilla’s online donation form

Online donations are extremely cost-effective. Keeping the form short and simple, providing multiple payment options, adding engaging content and clear calls to action like in the example above are a few ways to ensure maximum conversions. 

3. Event Donations

Charitable contributions collected during fundraising events like galas, charity walks, bake sales, etc. comprise event donations. 

How the money is raised purely depends on the type of event being conducted.

For instance, funds are raised through cash during garage sales whereas payments may be collected online during the registration process for walkathons. 

Some popular event ideas that you can think of conducting are

  • Auctions
  • Black-tie events
  • Competitions
  • Sports Events
  • Community events
  • Community sales
  • Fun events

>> Check out our blog on proven nonprofit fundraising event ideas. 

Depending on the type of event, you can target both small and major donors of all generations for event donations. The costs involved also depend entirely on the kind of event you host.

4. Pledge Fundraising

In pledge fundraising, your supporters pledge to donate a certain amount of money at a specific point in the future.

The point of time is decided by the nonprofit and could either be something specific (like a birthday pledge) or based on an event (like a natural disaster). 

Pledge fundraising can help you engage with a wider set of audience by giving supporters sufficient time to gather money to donate.

Pledge fundraising is typically suitable for small to medium-sized donors.

Pledge campaigns are primarily held in response to natural disasters or infrastructure obstacles. But, they can also be popularly used for event-a-thons.

A pledge fundraising form from a track-a-thon conducted by St. Emily School

Although the costs involved in pledge fundraising may be low, volunteers will have to put in the work to track all pledges. There are a number of platforms like Snowball that make tracking easy. 

5. Major Gifts

Major gifts are some of the most important sources of donations for nonprofits. These are generally made by wealthy donors who donate huge sums of money for a campaign. 

Gifts are classified as major gifts depending on the size of the nonprofits and the requirements of the campaign. 

As is clear from the name, major gifts are suitable for major donors. They are beneficial for both the nonprofit and the donor since donors get a tax benefit from sizeable donations. 

Major gift example
US businessman Stephen Schwarzman gifted Oxford University its largest donation in 500 years (£150 MILLION) in 2019

Typically, major donors are presented with a pitch by volunteers compelling them to donate.

The pitch highlights what the organization will do with the money, how the sum will help the nonprofit achieve its objective, and the benefits for the donor.

To ensure that your major gifts program is a success, you will need volunteers with excellent presentation and solicitation skills.

Also, having extra perks for major donors like an exclusive membership club would be an added advantage.

6. Planned Gifts

Planned gifts are donations received from individuals as per their wills or bequests either when alive or after they pass away. They typically comprise of assets and/or financial products and not money from their cash flow.

Planned gifts can be given by both small and major donors who are deeply involved with your nonprofit and its cause .

These gifts usually come with a lot of legal and tax formalities which is why it’s crucial for nonprofits to employ consultants or volunteers with a deep understanding of this.

While it’s quite a popular practice, planned gifts can often come as a surprise.

Hence having a defined system in place to accept and manage these assets is a good way to ensure that they are used well. Your organization could have a team to work on planned gifts in particular. 

7. Text donations

Although relatively new, donations through texts are quite popular now. In this, donors simply have to text a keyword to a shortcode (or longcode) to show their interest in donating. 

Organizations can then get back to them with an online donation link or ask them for the amount they wish to donate which is automatically added to their phone carrier bill.

Texting is usually used to collect small donations from a large number of people.

These details of the shortcode and the keyword are generally promoted through media coverage, brochures/pamphlets, or banners/posters/billboards. 

Haiti text donations example
Text donation campaign by Red Cross for Haiti

While conducting texting donation campaigns, it’s essential to use a short and memorable keyword, just like in the example above.

Similarly, a shortcode (909-99) is a better way since it is easier to remember and for branding. 

Complicated keywords and long numbers may cause errors and ultimately discourage donors from donating.

Also, picking the right service provider will be helpful in reducing costs and giving you better ROI from your campaign.

8. Peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a way to engage your supporters and encourage them to drive your nonprofit fundraising campaigns.

In these campaigns, donors usually approach others within their networks and inspire them to donate to your cause. 

These supporters can reach out to their network either through online or offline methods. Although in recent times, the former has become more popular. 

For example, given below is a Facebook post shared by a donor promoting the St. Jude Children’s Research fundraising campaign:

Online p2p fundraising example

Peer-to-peer fundraising is primarily driven by small donors. A majority of this crowd comprises millennials and GenZ’ers who are actively involved in such campaigns. 

Nonprofits can leverage a storytelling approach for messaging to inspire higher participation. Offering support and training to these individuals is also a great way to enhance the results from these campaigns. 

9. Telephone fundraising

Telephone fundraising campaigns are those in which your volunteers call prospects and ask them to contribute.

Calling allows you to personalize your outreach to a large extent that ultimately improves your conversions.

Making calls for donations is typically used to drive repeat donations. However, it isn’t limited to these campaigns.

It is primarily used to collect small donations from people but can also be used to follow up with major donors who have shown their interest. 

Calling campaigns are usually accompanied by a script to help volunteers keep the conversations on track. Training them before they get to calling people is also a great way to ensure the best results. 

Apart from that, you will also need a comprehensive call center software to help you make and monitor calls and track the donation processes. 

10. Capital Campaign Fundraising

Capital campaigns are fundraising efforts targeted at raising money for big projects like a building, expanding a structure, etc. in a specific period of time.

These campaigns are split into two phases: the quiet phase and the public phase.

Organizations try to raise 50-70% of the funds required for the project from major donors or corporations during the quiet phase.

During the public phase, they turn to the general public to raise money, generally in small denominations. 

Organizing capital campaigns might get complicated which is why hiring a capital campaign consultant might be a good idea.

However, that won’t be necessary if you have a team that can adhere to strict deadlines and craft a well thought out strategy to achieve clear goals.

Nonprofit Fundraising from Corporations/Organizations

1. Matching Gifts

In matching gift programs, companies donate a sum equivalent to the amount raised by all their employees thereby giving nonprofits double the donation. 

Matching gift programs are the most popular philanthropy initiatives among corporations. While most companies match gifts at a 1:1 ratio, some may match at a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio too.

To get started with a matching gift program, you’ll have to do a little research on organizations  and their past nonprofit affiliations to identify those who are most likely to affiliate with you. 

Your next step is to target donors in these organizations who can submit the required paperwork to the HR department and see if the company can boost their donations through a matching gifts program. 

Top companies with matching gift programs
Top companies with Matching gift programs

Alternatively, you can also promote a matching gift platform wherein donors can research their employer’s matching gifts programs (their guidelines, restrictions, deadlines, etc.) and approach the HR department accordingly. 

2. Corporate Grants

At the beginning of every fiscal year, corporations set aside some money for charitable giving that is usually given to nonprofits through grants. 

Generally, nonprofits apply for these grants by submitting their applications. Companies then shortlist and award the grant to either one or a couple of nonprofits from the application pool. 

Grant applications typically highlight the goals and objectives, project budget, strategies or program design, funding and sustainability, and information about your organization. 

Writing a grant application could take months to complete. Hence, your organization must have volunteers working on it full time to ensure the best results, especially if grants are a major source of your funding.

Having professional writers with good experience on the team would be an added advantage. 

You can reduce your efforts further by researching a company’s past affiliations and identifying the most relevant organizations to submit applications to.

>> For more detailed insights into writing grants, you can refer to this article here: Nonprofit grant writing essentials

3. Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants are charitable donations given by corporations in recognition of volunteering work done by their employees. These grants are awarded either for individual volunteering or team efforts.

Nonprofits benefit a lot from these grants as they get monetary donations as well as volunteers.

Similar to matching gifts, nonprofits have to rely on their supporters to submit paperwork to their HR departments to receive volunteer grants.

Apart from creating a proposal and encouraging regular supporters to submit it (along with any other required paperwork) in their company, there is not much that organizations can do. 

However, to increase your chances of getting a volunteer grant, you will have to ensure that all your supporters are aware of this program.

Pitching corporate volunteer days as part of their CSR directly to company HRs might also help.  

4. In-Kind Donations

As the name suggests, in-kind donations are product or service contributions made by companies.

These contributions often include tangible products like food, office supplies, real estate, etc.  or services like tax filing, legal consulting, advertising, etc.  

Companies typically give in-kind donations to nonprofits they have close ties or a partnership with. But companies don’t spontaneously donate in-kind, you will have to ask them!

In kind donations - Google ad grants
Google’s Ad Grant that gives nonprofits in-kind donations of free ads worth $10,000

You can start by identifying the right company and sending a request to their HR or philanthropy department. 

Start with the companies you have or had close ties with. Try gathering some information on the company’s in-kind donation program to better craft your ask. 

Also, creating a list of in-kind gifts that would help you in your fundraising efforts and approaching the right companies for each type would make the process more seamless. 

Nonprofit Fundraising from Foundations

1. Community Foundations Grants

Community foundations are nonprofits responsible for distributing funds to other nonprofits to support their cause. These foundations are usually funded by the state or large corporations.

Community foundations typically have a rigorous application process to apply for grants and could take months.

Hence, you’ll have to make sure that at least one volunteer is working on it consistently, writing applications and communicating with representatives of the foundations.

While applying for grants, ensure that you only apply for relevant ones. Often foundations have restrictions on how the funds can be used and may not fit with the objectives of all nonprofits. 

Community foundation grant application process
Letter explaining the process to apply for ASCAP Foundation Grant
2. Private Foundation Grants

Private foundations grants are similar to community foundation grants. The only difference is between the source of funding. Private foundations are funded by individuals or families. 

While most private foundations may award grants to nonprofits of their choosing, a lot of them have a defined application process. 

Most of these foundations have different rules and requirements that have to be fulfilled while applying for grants. Ensure your volunteers read up on these before applying.

While most of the options above may be exciting, always remember, not all options will work well for your cause. 

To determine the best strategies for your organization, you’ll need to conduct a fundraising feasibility study like we explained before. 

While that could take some time, let’s take a look at some of the most effective fundraising campaigns for major nonprofit sectors to give you a headstart.

Fundraising for different nonprofit sectors

Going by the fundraising statistics of 2016 as given below, the major sectors where a majority of donations go are: 

Donations by sector
This graph doesn’t include other minor sectors that also come in the nonprofit industry

Religion and Culture

Nonprofits for the culture and religion sector typically work towards promoting and generating awareness about a specific culture.

They also work to support and uplift cultures who may have been set back in the course of history for any reason.

Religion-based nonprofits focus on supporting people and places of worship of specific religions.

Apart from that, they also raise money for religious organizations who in turn support social causes and provide for members of the community in different ways.

Fundraising ideas for nonprofits in the culture and religion sector

1. Capital Campaigns

Capital campaigns are most suitable for organizations working towards building/restoring places of worship that may or may not be of historical significance.

During the quiet phase, you can try applying for grants from foundations. On the other hand, in the public phase you could raise money through peer to peer fundraising or door to door solicitation within the region.

2. Product/event fundraising 

You can have people of the community get together and create handmade products to be sold (online or at any venue).

Typically for such events, candles and T-shirts work best. However, baked goods and other items also do well, like in the example below

Event fundraiser - Church bake sale
Wickliffe Presbyterian Church Bake Sale

Education

The nonprofit education sector includes colleges and universities, preschool, elementary, secondary schools, libraries, and research institutions.  

This sector primarily works towards providing basic education to millions of people around the world. Nonprofits in this sector also often support important research projects. 

Fundraising ideas for nonprofits in the education sector

1. Treasure Hunt (event fundraiser)

Organize a treasure hunt on school premises for the students (maybe even for the parents) and charge a small admission fee for each individual (or a team).

This program would be suitable for elementary school and maybe even middle school children.

2. Music Show (event fundraiser)

More fitting for high school or college students, your organization could host a music show and charge a small entry fee from friends and family who come to see. You could charge a small participation fee.

3. Cultural Fair (event fundraiser)

A perfect program for university students. Participants could share local meals, traditions, and even dances for viewers.

You could raise money by charging an entry fee for the fair. Plus, you could also ask participants to contribute by selling local meals for a small fee, a part of which could then be donated.

Event fundraising - cultural fair
Cultural Fair at Beijing University
4. Foundation Grants

Research institutes and libraries would benefit more from foundation grants. You could recruit a set of volunteers who would identify various grants they would be eligible for and have them write proposals for each.

Nonprofits fighting for social causes like racism, equal rights, etc. come under the social services sector of the nonprofit industry. These include organizations supporting disaster relief.

Advocacy organizations striving to bring policy changes cater to the legal services sector. 

In most cases, these nonprofits require a lot of volunteers and volunteering time (especially for disaster relief and advocacy) apart from monetary funds. 

1. Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants are perfect for organizations in this sector. By identifying the right companies and applying for their volunteer grants, you can both raise funds and get volunteers to help you with your efforts.

2. In-kind donations

A lot of nonprofits also need in-kind donations (for example, packet meals and construction supplies for disaster relief).

Your volunteers could approach small business owners or even major corporations to procure these in-kind donations. 

3. Partnering with Religious Organizations (for in-kind donations or peer-to-peer fundraising)

As mentioned earlier, a lot of religious organizations (not nonprofits) too work towards supporting social causes.

Partnering with a religious organization will give you the chance to raise funds through peer-to-peer fundraising. These organizations can also provide you with a lot of volunteers from their community to help you out.

Healthcare

The nonprofit industry caters to hospitals, clinics, and research labs for medications in the healthcare sector. Some nonprofits even operate their own hospitals and clinics.

Organizations typically work to improve the provision of basic healthcare services and medication to the underserved population around the world. They also raise funds to support healthcare for the unprivileged. 

In some cases, it also aids in bringing awareness and fund research around less known illnesses like ALS(amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) that affect a lot of people.

Fundraising ideas for nonprofits in the healthcare sector

1. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is quite a popular way of raising money in the healthcare sector.

Your organization can leverage different platforms to raise money through crowdfunding. This typically works best for raising funds for an individual.

2. Walkathons (pledge fundraising)

Another popular way of nonprofit fundraising on a larger scale. Walkathons are generally conducted to raise money for the research or awareness of a particular ailment. However, it can be used to raise money for hospitals too.

3. Dance Marathons (pledge/event donations)

The Children’s Miracle Network hospital uses Dance Marathons really well to raise money for their patients. Funds can be raised through pledges, small donations, entry tickets, or even song requests.

Dance marathon - pledge fundraising
The CMN Dance Marathon at a college in Ohio

Environment and Animal Welfare

This sector has picked up a lot in the past couple of years. With growing concerns for the environment, nonprofits have ramped up their effort to fight for animal welfare and environmental conservation.

Nonprofits or advocacy groups fighting to prevent climate change also come under this sector. 

Nonprofits in this sector strive to provide safe and natural environments for wild animals, promote adoption than buying pets, bring policy changes related to hunting and poaching, etc. 

Environmental nonprofits also work to bring policy changes for environmental conservation (like making recycling necessary, banning plastics, fossil fuel, etc.) and also promote individual lifestyle changes for the same.

Nonprofits in the environment and animal welfare sector also need a good amount of volunteers and funds to drive their campaigns.

Fundraising ideas for nonprofits in the environment and animal welfare sector

1. In-kind donations

Organizations can apply for in-kind donations from corporations to drive their recycling campaigns.

Volunteers could approach businesses asking them to donate old electronics, textiles, plastics, or anything else that could be recycled or reused. 

2. Pet Shows (event donations)

Nonprofits for animal welfare could host an event showcasing their rescue animals up for adoption. These shows could be coupled with bake sales to raise funds for the organization too.

A rescue dog accompanying a guest as part of the Pound Puppy Hikes program 
3. Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants are also perfect for organizations in the environmental conservation sector.

Applying for volunteer grants with the right companies could get you a lot of volunteers for cleanup programs along with funds to cover the expenses.

After looking into prospective nonprofit fundraising opportunities, let’s take a look at some exceptional campaigns. 

These campaigns, that we talk about in the next section, will provide you with the creative inspiration you need for your next fundraiser.

Great nonprofit fundraising campaigns 

1. Arctic Home

Coca Cola and the World Wildlife Fund partnered up to launch the Arctic Home cause marketing campaign.

The campaign was a matching gifts fundraiser with the proceeds going towards the conservation of Polar Bears and their habitat. 

In the duration of this campaign, Coca Cola introduced special Arctic Home coke cans that came with a package code. Consumers could use this code to make a $1 donation which was matched by Coca Cola. 

The partnership along with the unique way of collecting donations had a great impact on fundraising. 

Arctic Home Campaign - WWF
Arctic home campaign - Coca cola cans

2. Team Rubicon’s Box of Awesomeness

Team Rubicon, an International non-government organization founded by U.S. Marines is a veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life.

The campaign was quite simple, Team Rubicon put up “The Box of Awesomeness” for sale on Amazon.

Obviously, there was no box that was delivered to those who bought it (as was clearly stated in the product description). 

Those who bought the box (or donated) just received a receipt for tax purposes. People had six different box sizes to choose from, all corresponding to different donation levels. 

Quirky, funny, and extremely creative this campaign was a huge success (until Amazon took it off their website due to seller guidelines). 

Team Rubicon - Box of awesomeness

3. #GiveaSh*t

WaterAid, a non-governmental organization decided to educate the world on global sanitation issues with this campaign.

Using the poop emoji, the #GiveaShit campaign offered a lighthearted way for audiences to become aware of the problem that affects 2.3 billion people who don’t have access to safe and sanitary toilets.

A cute and playful campaign, it caught up like wildfire when some social media celebrities shared custom poop emojis (that they were awarded) with their followers.

The campaign also featured an app that allowed users to design their own personalized poop emoji.

The playful campaign gained over 11,000 new supporters from all around the world in just a small amount of time. 

#GiveASh*t Campaign - WaterAid

Surely these campaigns above inspired you to get creative with your fundraisers too. 

While there is no limit to creativity, you can get a headstart and get people talking with some unique fundraising ideas discussed in the next section.

Unique Fundraising ideas

When it comes to raising money, you can’t always rely on traditional ways to inspire people to donate. 

Nonprofits need to get increasingly creative with their fundraising ideas to excite people and motivate them to donate. 

Although there are numerous popular ideas for a fundraising campaign, we chose to highlight a few unique ideas for you:

1. Donate a Hobby

In this fundraiser, you have people from a community donate services (typically their hobbies) like musical lessons, cooking, self-defense, etc.

Prospects could either get these services on a first come first serve basis or you could have a community auction for the same.  

Donating a hobby - fundraiser
A volunteer exchanging paint jobs for donations

Nonprofits can conduct such an event to raise small donations (or medium sized donations) within a region or neighborhood. 

2. Bake Sale

A bake sale is an event in which participants bake an item of their choice and bring it to a venue on a particular day.

Prospects can come and buy these baked goods with all proceeds from the sale going to your organisation. 

Bake sale fundraiser
Bake sale fundraiser at Mother Teresa Catholic School

You can accompany the bake sale with fun events for the day to attract larger crowds. 

A bake sale is again a great community event suitable to raise small donations

3. Pet Show

A pet show is a fun event in which people get their pets and show them off to others. Participants could get their pets dressed up or have them do tricks to entice the crowd. 

This event could be a closed event with a nominal ticket fee which would help you in your nonprofit fundraising efforts.

The show could be coupled with other events (like a bake-a-thon) to attract larger crowds. 

pet show fundraiser
Dog show at Kane’s Cookout (a fundraising event organized by Kane’s Krusade)

A pet show could be a bigger event at a regional level. Although the denominations of money would be low, you could attract a very large crowd for this and raise a significant sum.

4. Museum Parties

Believe it or not, museums actually make a great venue for a dinner party. You can partner with a museum to allow you to host the event.

Guests can talk about the exhibits while enjoying a good meal.

Museum party fundraiser
The 2018 Museum Gala at the American Natural History Museum

To raise money, you can have an admission fee and even have corporations sponsor tables. You can pair the event with an auction later.

Museum parties can be a great event to invite mid-level donors. Since there are certain risks involved with hosting a dinner at a museum, you can ask for a slightly larger admission fee.

5. Galas

Galas are perfect to secure large donations from major donors. It is an event in which people get together to enjoy a meal and entertaining performances.   

Before and/or after the performances, your volunteers could interact with the guests (and guests can interact among themselves too)  to explain more about your organization, your mission, and the benefits of donating to your cause. 

Gala fundraiser
Perkins Possibilities Gala to raise funds for Perkins School for the Blind

You can also charge an admission fee for the event. However, for galas it’s typically best to charge admission at a per table cost rather than at an individual cost. 

6. Community Yard Sale

One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. A community yard sale is an event where people get together to buy things that aren’t being used by others.

This would typically have two phases. The first phase is one in which you collect in-kind donations from people (things in good condition) that can be repurposed. 

In the second phase, you can display these items in a public venue and sell them to interested prospects. All the proceeds from the sale would go to your organization. 

Community yard sale fundraiser
Amma Vancouver Annual Yard Sale

A community yard sale is another great way to attract small donors and raise small sums of money from a community. 

7. Game Night

A game night is a fun way to indulge people and raise money. You can host a game night at your organization’s headquarters or have it in a volunteer’s place if possible. 

Firstly, you will have to source an assortment of games. These could include board games, card games, or even gaming consoles. You could rent them rather than buying to save costs.

You can raise money by charging admission fees. Apart from that, you could also serve food and snacks cooked by volunteers or supporters.

Game night fundraiser poster
Poster of a Game Night fundraiser

A  game night is a fun way to attract crowds of all ages. While most donations might be small, you could even inspire someone to donate a slightly larger amount.

8. Movie Night

Select a local park or auditorium where you could put up a big screen and screen movies (or a movie marathon, maybe Star Wars!?).

If you’re using an outdoor venue, you could attract more people by promoting the event as a movie under the stars. 

You would raise money by selling tickets for the movie and by selling snacks.

You could even have your volunteers host private screenings at home (or any venue they have access to) and raise money on your behalf.

Movie night fundraiser
Movie night for a school fundraiser in Australia

You could get more creative and pair a few ideas and turn it into a large charity event. There is no limit to creativity for fundraising.

Surely by now, you have some amazing ideas for your fundraising campaigns too. 

However, to implement any of those ideas, you need resources, to make them a success.

In the next section, we’ll dive into the specifics of some crucial requirements you can’t do without.

Nonprofit fundraising requirements

A successful nonprofit fundraising campaign needs the support of both people and technology. 

You can’t go ahead without both.

Given below are the specific requirements of each that are crucial for a successful fundraising campaign. 

Skills needed for fundraising

To ensure nonprofit fundraising efforts are a success, the volunteers involved in the campaigns must possess certain skills to carry out different functions. 

While it’s difficult to find all these skills in just a couple of individuals, your volunteers must collectively have the following technical and soft skills:

IT Skills

Basic IT skills like Excel, PowerPoint, Word are quite crucial for all volunteers.

At higher levels, knowledge of fundraising softwares also becomes important since most of the work will be done on them. 

Exposure to Digital Platforms

Individuals in leadership roles will have to be quick in adopting new technology and leveraging it for fundraising campaigns.

People are becoming increasingly creative online and volunteers will have to catch up with them 

All fundraising campaigns have to be run in accordance with the regulations of the region your nonprofit is operating in. 

Apart from that, volunteers also have to deal with the commercial aspects of fundraising like: 

  • Costing projects and plans, 
  • Tendering and negotiating contracts, 
  • Trading and filing donations and
  • Taxes

Communication

Good communication skills are crucial for volunteers as they have to interact with a lot of prospective donors while raising funds. 

To succeed in nonprofit communication, volunteers will need the following:

1. Social Awareness

Are you aware of the social cues a prospect is giving off while talking? Your volunteers must be able to pick up on these cues well so that they can redirect the conversation if the prospect doesn’t seem interested. 

2. Perseverance

Volunteers have to go through a lot of rejections till they can convert someone. Your fundraising efforts won’t go well if volunteers don’t persevere to get those drops of Yes’s in an ocean of no’s.

3. Etiquette

Etiquettes matter a lot when interacting with donors. Prospects decide whether they wish to establish a relationship with you or not based on the way your volunteers present themselves.

Hence, ensure that your volunteers follow the basic rules of engagement.

4. Creativity

Fundraisers are often required to think on their feet, especially if things aren’t going as planned. Volunteers need to come up with creative ideas to communicate with donors, engage them, and reach your fundraising goals. 

Technical and soft skills for fundraising

Apart from the generic soft and hard skills, you should also have volunteers in your team with role-specific skills like:

Major gifts fundraising skills

Some volunteers will be required to take up the end-to-end responsibility of nonprofit fundraising from major donors. This will include things like:

  • Major donor identification
  • Donor Solicitation
  • Proposal Writing
  • Relationship Management

Apart from that, volunteers will also need excellent interpersonal skills and be flexible enough to take up a range of tasks like: 

  • Creating identification and solicitation plan
  • Traveling to meet donors
  • Creating and presenting a pitch to donors etc.

Planned giving fundraiser skills

Volunteers undertaking the responsibility of handling planned giving donations must have excellent communication skills to be able to build rapport with donors. 

Apart from that, they will also be required to have a deep understanding of the complexities associated with planned giving like:

  • Estate planning 
  • Writing wills and trusts
  • Tax laws
  • Legal knowledge

Events fundraisers skills

Event fundraisers are responsible for everything starting from planning events to making sure they go smoothly and analyzing their performance. A few requirements that individuals responsible for this are:

  • Staff management 
  • Multitasking
  • organizational skills 
  • Creativity
  • Performance analysis 

Capital campaign fundraiser skills

Raising money for construction or renovation projects is capital campaign fundraising. Since these donations are typically procured from corporations, major donors, and small donors, volunteers must have

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills. 
  • Strategic planning skills 
  • Understanding of real estate and tax laws
  • Knowledge of individual fundraising
  • Grant identification and proposal writing skills 

Grant fundraiser skills

Grant fundraisers are responsible for raising funds by writing proposals to companies and foundations. As is obvious, here is what will be expected of volunteers handling this:

  • Grant identification and analysis
  • Professional writing skills
  • Knowledge of good nonprofit resources (to refer to for information) 
  • Ability to meet tight deadlines

Fundraising research analyst skills

Fundraising research analysts will be responsible for conducting deep market research and data analysis to support the fundraising team’s decision making. The following are crucial to be successful at this role:

  • Ability to collect and organize large amounts of raw data
  • Ability to analyze organized data (to come up with actionable conclusions)
  • Data presentation (to showcase relevant data to stakeholders) 

Fundraising manager skills

All fundraising campaigns are ultimately managed by an individual manager. These managers are typically responsible for:

  • Recruiting staff, 
  • Event and fundraising planning 
  • Budgeting 
  • Creating fundraising strategies 

Strong leadership, communication, research, and strategic planning skills are essential for people in this position.

Once you have a set of volunteers with all the above characteristics recruited, they can go on to 

Role specific skills for fundraising

>> Check out the related article for more insights: Fundraising skills and traits you need for fundraising jobs

By utilizing the strengths of volunteers to support these functions, not only will you make your nonprofit fundraising efforts seamless but will also engage volunteers better. 

Once you have the right people for the job, you will need the right tools to make them more efficient.

Some of the most popular ones for nonprofit fundraising with proven success are highlighted below.

Fundraising platforms

For all your online fundraising activities, different websites can provide you with hosted platforms to help you run your campaigns seamlessly.

These include the following:

Crowdfunding platforms

Crowdfunding platforms allow you to easily create web pages and seamlessly collect small donations and manage donor data.

When choosing a crowdfunding platform, ensure that:

  • They have decent customization options that helps you build your identity
  • The platform’s payment model is feasible for your campaign 
  • The platform has unique easy-to-use tools to support your efforts

Platforms like Causes, Fundly, Donately etc. are some of the most popular ones to support your crowdfunding efforts. 

Crowdfunding platform example
A crowdfunding campaign created on Fundly
Peer to peer fundraising platforms

Platforms for peer to peer fundraising allow your supporters to build engaging forms to raise funds for your cause within their network.

The perfect peer-to-peer fundraising platform should:

  • Support your engagement strategy like allowing people to upload contact lists and send emails, share pages/content on their social media channels, etc.
  • Allow you to design and build branded pages and custom forms to help you maximize the impact and reach your goals.
  • Provide you with efficient tracking tools for custom report generation, supporter coordination access, multiple currency support, etc. 

Kiva, QGiv, and Salsa Labs are some great peer-to-peer fundraising platforms that can help you out. 

P2P Fundraising platform example
A p2p fundraising campaign by the American Kidney Foundation
Online Giving platforms

Online giving platforms primarily focus on helping you build simple and engaging donation forms to facilitate donations.

When choosing a platform to enable online donations, consider the following things:

  • The kind of payment options it provides like debit or credit card payments, wire transfers, etc.
  • The integrations possible with the platform to ensure whether it can connect with your CRM system to manage and keep track of the payments and donors. 
  • The level of customization the platform allows to create unique pages and forms for donations. Also, ensuring the PCI compliance of the platform is crucial. 

Givelify, Givily, and Donorbox are some great online giving platforms that can come in handy for your campaigns.

Online giving platform example
Donation page created by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation using Donorbox
Matched giving platforms

Matched giving platforms help you increase awareness among supporters about matching gift programs of corporates and encourage donors to take advantage of these policies.

They also save the supporter’s time to look for policy rules and processes thereby simplifying the process. 

Before you purchase a matching giving software, you should consider the following:

  • The scope of the software and what you need from it. Be wary of features, you need or don’t need, as unnecessary features add to your costs. 
  • The extent of customization allowed. The platform should be able to let you use your own branding and format.
  • Security of the software. Donor data privacy is essential so ensure that the platform is PCI compliant. Make sure to read the regulations of how data is used by the company. 

Double the Donation or 360matchpro are some of the most popular matched giving platforms among nonprofits. 

Matched giving platform example
Matched giving platform (Double the Donation) used by the ASPCA 
Charity auction platforms

Online charity auctions are fueled by well-designed web pages and easy-to-use bidding features.

The main objective of a charity auction software is to provide nonprofits with a place to track all auction data and even manage logistics.

The perfect charity auction platform would be one that:

  • Matches with the type of auction you’re planning to host since every software caters to different types of auctions like silent, online, or live auctions.  
  • Is able to accommodate the number of participants and staff you anticipate to be involved in the auction. It should also accommodate the kind of items you plan to auction.

Some charity auction platforms that you can consider are OneCause, Snowball, and ClickBid.

Charity auction platform example
An online charity auction created on OneCause
Text-to-give platforms

Text-to-give platforms allow donors to donate via text messaging by simply sending you a keyword and the amount they wish to donate. The amount is then automatically deducted from the donor’s mobile carrier bill.

Organizations can also use text-to-donate platforms that send a donation link to the user and direct them to a more engaging donation page.  

The perfect text-to-give or text-to-donate platform for you should:

  • Allow you to use a customized shortcode and keyword of your choice for different campaigns. 
  • Let you collect donor data easily and feed it into your CRM for further analysis, tracking, and nurturing. 
  • Allow you to send personalized follow ups (like thank you messages, or event reminders, etc.) to ensure lasting impact.

Securegive and GiveByCell are text-to-give platforms that deduct a custom amount from the user’s mobile carrier bill. GiveLively is another option that has a free text-to-donate platform for nonprofits.

However, texting platforms like CallHub being used as text-to-donate platforms can also be used by nonprofits.

You can create custom memorable keywords for text opt-in and use shared shortcodes to run cost-efficient texting campaigns.  

Texting platforms like CallHub drive better engagement and help build lasting relationships through conversational marketing.

Note: Shortcodes are only available for the US as of now

Text to donate example
An example of a text-to-donate campaign 

With so many options available, it’s easy to get confused about which platform would be best for your needs.

>>Take a look at this article that helps you eliminate that confusion: How to choose the best online fundraising platform for your nonprofit

Social Media

With over 70% of the American population active on social media, this channel could prove to be extremely effective for nonprofit fundraising efforts.

In fact, nonprofits like Charity: Water and Truth Initiative have seen great success with social media. 

Social media can be used not just for fundraising, but even for connecting with donors, thanking them, spreading awareness about your fundraising, etc.

If you can leverage the network (word of mouth) effects properly, you can reach far and wide at a fraction of a cost.

Facebook

Facebook provides features like fundraising pages, donate buttons, pledge match donations, etc. specifically to nonprofits.

Facebook pages can be the voice for your cause accompanied by useful fundraising tools to aid your campaigns. 

Facebook also powers your peer to peer fundraising efforts by making it extremely easy for supporters to share the page details in their own network, like in the example given below:

Facebook fundraising
Instagram

Instagram allows you to tap into a younger crowd with catchy visuals and graphics.

With the introduction of the for Instagram stories, fundraising has become a lot easier on Instagram. 

The donation sticker is something that can be used by any user which could be helpful in fueling your peer to peer fundraising campaigns.

Here’s how the World Wildlife Fund used Instagram to ask for donations:

Instagram fundraising
Snapchat

Although Snapchat may not aid you directly in your nonprofit fundraising efforts, it does give you the opportunity to reach out to a wider audience base. Snapchat boasts an average of 218 million active users a day, 90% of whom fall in the 13-24 age group. 

With its unique features (like geofilters), Snapchat is also a great platform for your organization to reinforce its branding and spread awareness about your cause to a very young generation.

Take a look at how Ocean Conservancy uses Snapchat to spread important facts about their mission:

Snapchat to support fundraising
Twitter

Twitter is another great platform to engage both supporters and prospects.

This microblogging platform allows you to get in on trending conversations (if they are related to you) and spread your word to a large and highly active audience.

For fundraising, Twitter can be used to share your donation link along with a short and concise message to push people to take action. Charities can also put links to their ongoing fundraising campaigns in their bio.

Most of all, Twitter also gives you the opportunity to start a conversation (a hashtag to be precise) and create a ripple effect to spread awareness about your efforts. 

For example, the Amnesty International’s #Write4Rights campaign gained popularity on Twitter with huge influencers getting in on the campaign: 

#Write4Rights campaign using twitter
#Write4Rights campaigns using Twitter to gather support
YouTube

With 1.8 billion monthly active users, YouTube has the potential to be the most effective platform for outreach.

The ripple effect that we spoke about for Twitter can be amplified by leveraging video marketing. 

Videos have a virality and word of mouth factor that can have a more widespread impact on outreach and spreading awareness. Remember the ice bucket challenge?

Recently, YouTube also introduced a new element called “Fundraisers” that allows registered nonprofits to include a “Donate” button along with their video or live streams. 

St. Jude’s Cancer Research Hospital even implemented this feature to raise funds for its Childhood Cancer Awareness Week. Here’s a link to the video:

>> For a better understanding of using social media for fundraising, take a look at this article: Boost your fundraising with these social media fundraising tips

Fundraising Software 

Fundraising software can help you build and organize your campaigns better, save time on collecting and analyzing data, easily manage the funds you raise, etc.

All in all, the right software would increase your productivity significantly which will ultimately improve your nonprofit fundraising results

Typically, nonprofits can leverage the following types of software to support different functions:

Fundraising CRM 

Constituent Relationship Management software will allow you to store large chunks of user data and extract actionable information from the repository.

The CRM will be synced with all your online collaterals (landing pages, website, social media channels etc.) to collect data on your donors to facilitate your fundraising efforts.

Luminate Online, Virtuous CRM, CharityEngine are a few examples of such Fundraising CRMs. 

Donor Research software

This software can help you streamline your prospect research process and provide you with more actionable data to work with. 

DonorSearch, iWave, and WealthEngine are a few great examples.

Fundraising event management software 

To automate and monitor end-to-end tasks of a fundraising event, event management software comes handy. 

These software make processes like registration, payment collection, database management, and even user communication simple. 

ePly, Eventzilla, Regpack are some of the most popular nonprofit fundraising event management software.

Fundraising Communication Software

Personalized conversations are the only way to make donors feel valued and ultimately win their loyalty. Good fundraising communication software helps you do that. 

Softwares like CallHub and MailChimp allow you to personalize your outreach through text and calls (CallHub) and emails (MailChimp) thereby making conversations with donors more engaging and effective.

With the right plan, volunteers, and resources, you’re now fully equipped to efficiently run your fundraising campaigns. 

However, smoother operations are not enough to get the best results!

If you had the opportunity to get higher returns from the same resources and a little more effort, wouldn’t you take it? 

In the next section, we’ll go over the specifics of this extra effort that can guarantee you the best results from your campaigns. 

Fundraising consultants

Despite your best effort, in case you’re falling short of your fundraising goals or unsure how to get started, fundraising consultants could come in handy.

Consultants typically analyze your campaign and its feasibility to highlight where you might be falling short.  

They could either suggest process level changes to fix your campaigns or might suggest organizational level changes to improve your overall goal. 

While it may add to your cost, a fundraising consultant may be a good investment if your campaigns are not performing as expected. 

Nonprofit fundraising consultants also bring in a fresh perspective and a diverse set of skills that can help set your efforts in the right direction.

They usually have a better network and often have more organizational capacity that can put you on the right path. 

Marc Pitman, Claire Axelrad, and Jay Frost are some of the most notable fundraising consultants. 

Fundraising firms

Similar to fundraising consultants, fundraising firms also help you boost the success of your fundraising campaign.

The key differences between both are:

fundraising consultants and firms difference

Whether you wish to recruit a firm or a fundraising consultant depends entirely on your needs and your budget. 

Nonprofit fundraising firms might be a better bet to help you with larger fundraising goals that have to be achieved with a mix of campaigns. 

Consultants would be perfect for you for campaign level requirements. Regardless of what you choose, the objective you’ll achieve will be the same, higher success in fundraising. 

Some well-renowned fundraising firms that you can refer to include Changing our world, Aly Sterling philanthropy, and DNL Omnimedia

>> You can take a look at this article for more insights: Looking for a fundraising consultant? Here are some great ones & what you need to know before hiring

Getting the best outcome

You have put your time and resources till this point to plan and put in place the best fundraising campaign. It’s time to ensure the final step in getting the best results. 

Given below are six proven ways you can get the best results from your fundraising campaigns.

Promoting a fundraiser

While organizing a fundraiser, you’ll need to extensively promote it to ensure maximum impact. The more people get to know about your fundraiser, the more people will come out to support you. 

The tips given below will help you in promoting your fundraiser. Typically, all promotional activities can be divided into two broad categories. These are as follows:

Online promotions

Build a website/landing page

Your website/landing page will be the base of all information. In all your online communications, prospects will mostly be redirected to this page to take action (donate, buy a ticket, etc.)

The perfect landing page/website will have the following components in place:

1. Engaging Content

Your page must feature a great headline and encouraging content (like a real life story) that compels people to donate. Using powerful videos and graphics are perfect to engage your audience.

2. Campaign Counter/Fundraising Thermometer

Fundraising thermometers generate a lot of excitement among prospects and encourage them to donate or share the word.

On the other hand, campaign counters create a sense of urgency to motivate donors. You can use either of them or both depending on your campaign.

3. Clear Call to Action

Use well-designed buttons that push people to do exactly what you want them to do. Also, make sure that these buttons stand out and are clearly visible to the user at first glance.

4. Social proof and sharing buttons

Reinforce the credibility of your campaign by including social proof elements like total shares, comments on social media, number of people who already participated, etc.

Accompany that with easy to use social sharing buttons to help donors spread the word among their circles.

5. Simple and concise form (if any) 

If you’re planning to include a form on the landing page, make sure it doesn’t put people off. Keep it simple and easy.

For more insights on the form, take a look at this article: Essential qualities of an online form

A great example of an effective landing page with all the above elements well into place is the Big brother big sisters 2017 Bowl for Kid’s Sake landing page:

Fundraising landing page example
Social media

Social media is a powerful way of reaching out to a large community online. You can use multiple social media channels (refer to the “Fundraising Platforms” section above) to promote your messaging and nonprofit fundraising initiatives. 

Apart from enhancing your credibility with social proof, social media channels also create quite a ripple effect and help you promote among circles you might have not have thought about.

To give you a few tips here’s what you can do on social media to ensure maximum impact

1. Tell a story 

A storytelling approach is a unique way to hook prospects to your cause. Rather than a pitch, use posts that show how you’ve made an impact and offer a compelling reason for donors to get involved with your cause.

The Humane Society does an excellent job sharing their stories on their Instagram handle

2. Get creative

Remember the ice bucket challenge? It was a fun way to get the community involved while also ensuring that the message was communicated.  

While it may be difficult to reach that level of virality, even a small ripple effect created by creative and share-worthy content goes a long way.

3. Make it easy to take action

While getting creative with your posts is crucial, don’t forget the fact that you have to push people to do something. This could be anything from donating to liking a page or buying a ticket.

Linking every post to relevant pages, using a compelling and clearly visible call to action buttons (wherever possible), leveraging social sharing buttons, etc. are a few ways to make it easy to take action.   

A great example is a twitter post by Habitat for Humanity. They creatively get their message across promoting their volunteering program despite the character limit.

They also give a clear call to action for viewers to take the next step.

Promoting fundraiser online
Email

Email is another great online outreach channel to promote your fundraisers.

Mostly, emails are sent to donors who are already involved with your nonprofit. 

However, you could also share a list of prospects with other nonprofits or even purchase lead lists from companies like LeadsPlease

A few best practices while using emails to promote your fundraisers are:

1. Use an intriguing subject line

A great email starts with a stellar subject line. It’s the first thing prospects see and is  responsible for compelling people to open and read the email.

Ensure to use a subject line that piques an individual’s interest and makes them want to open it.  

2. Create a clear and concise copy

Don’t write everything in the email. Just give them the main highlights and direct them to your webpage. Ensure you clearly say what you want them to do.

Also, use a mix of images and text to make the email copy more appealing. 

3. Segment your list 

A good way to boost your email engagement rates is by segmenting your lists and sending only relevant emails to each. 

For instance, if someone hasn’t shown an interest in fundraising events and is only involved in giving donations online, don’t push them to attend events. Just nurture them with online donation campaigns. 

4. Accompany compelling CTA with actionable impact 

Using compelling CTAs in your email is crucial to driving action. However, along with the CTA, give the users a compelling reason to click on the CTA. 

A great example of an email with a compelling CTA and messaging is the Australian Red Cross Cyclone Pam Update email: 

Promoting fundraising with email
Paid online ads

You can run paid ads on all social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Quora) to spread word about your fundraising campaign. 

Apart from social media, paid ads can also be run on search engines like Bing and Google. As mentioned before, Google awards nonprofits ad grants that allow them to run ads on Google for free.

Typically, there are broadly three types of paid ads that you can use to promote your fundraising campaigns:

Promoting fundraisers with paid ads

To ensure your paid ads perform well, you will have to ensure the following:

1. Get creative with ad copies

To make sure your ad gets the desired attention, it’s crucial for you to create ads that stand out.

While for search ads it’s important to focus on creating captivating headlines, appealing graphics are important for image ads. Video ads give you a little more flexibility in telling a story in a visually appealing manner.

An example of a graphic ad that appeals to donor sentiments is the sponsored post by Oxfam for their monthly giving program:

Fundraising ad example
2. Boost performance with A/B testing 

In paid ads, there is no silver bullet. This is why testing different ad copies is crucial to figure out the one that performs best for your target audience.

For example, if you’re a nonprofit working for animal welfare, try using a happy dog for one ad copy and an injured dog for another.

After a week or so of testing, you’ll find out which image inspires the desired action better and you can continue using it.

Offline promotions

Calling 

While calling may seem quite labor-intensive, it gives you a lot of room for personalization.

Calling prospects is a perfect way to reach out to major donors and invite them for events. However, that is not all that it has to be limited to.

The following are a few tips to help you with your calling:

1. Use an effective script 

A calling script helps your volunteers ensure that the conversation flows in the right direction. With a well-defined script in place, the training time for volunteers calling prospects is also reduced.

2. Follow up with a text 

After a conversation with a prospect, it is important to make sure that they remember what they have to do. Following up with a text after calling prospects helps you ensure this. 

Texting

With an open rate of 98%, texting has proven to be one of the most effective channels to promote your fundraisers.

Nonprofits can either send prospects a text broadcast or leverage peer to peer texting to have more personalized conversations with them.

Texting is also a great way to follow up with prospects after your initial contact.

They are often used for last minute reminders or to share other details like location (for events), last date to donate (for online fundraising campaigns), etc. as given in the example below:

Texting to promote fundraising
Literature drops/posters/banners

Literature drops are pamphlets or brochures that are just dropped off in a prospect’s house.

Literature drops are a great way to spread awareness about your nonprofit. Posters/banners, on the other hand, are put up wherever possible around the community. 

These are typically used to target a community or people from a specific region.

Organizations can ensure maximum impact from literature drops and posters by ensuring the following:

1. Use compelling visuals 

Powerful graphics and catchy headlines are what will grab a prospect’s attention. Ensure that all your pamphlets are balanced with a good mix of images and text.

You can fill your literature drops with a lot of details. Your posters, however, have to be concise.

2. Clearly state the next action to be taken

Ensure that there is a dedicated section in your pamphlets that clearly state what the prospect has to do.

If they have to make a donation, then how, or if they have to take part in an event, then what is the registration process?

In your posters, don’t mention this in small font below the image. Try to place it in a more conspicuous area.

Radio/TV Ads

Radio and TV can get you a very large audience to promote your fundraiser.

As per streaming statistics of 2018, around 93% of the American population listens to the radio while 87% watches television regularly.

The weekly reach for different demographics through these channels can be summarized as below:

TV and Radio weekly reach
Graph legend

These ads could get costly for nonprofits but if you have the budget, there’s no harm in getting one out for each.

A point to note is that while radio and TV ads may not lead to direct action, they are still a great way to generate awareness about your nonprofit fundraising event/campaign.

An extremely important aspect of promoting your fundraiser is the messaging

If your messaging is unable to motivate people to take action, your fundraising campaigns won’t get the best results. 

In the next section, we’ll go over exactly how your messaging impacts your campaigns and how you can ensure that it does so positively.

Why & how great messaging facilitates fundraising

Your messaging is the most crucial part of your fundraising campaigns. All your efforts boil down to how effective your messaging is in encouraging people to support you. 

A good message is not just a catchy phrase but what it reflects. Great campaign messaging is one that fulfills the one or more from the following:

  • It clearly demonstrates the financial impacts and benefits of supporting the cause
  • It clearly highlights how donations fill the gap
  • It makes the volunteers/donors feel important
  • It inspires people to contribute

Why is great messaging crucial for nonprofit fundraising?

Your fundraising messaging does three important things: 

1. It makes people aware of your organization

However you plan your outreach, the first thing that is going to grab a new prospect’s attention is your message.

Your message is what will draw them to learn more about your organization, your mission, and what you are doing to achieve that mission.

The more people you attract with your messaging, the more people you can convert to support you.

2. It makes people aware of the problem (and how to fight it)

Did you know that roughly 805 million people get less than the recommended 2,100 calories a day, even though the world produces enough food to feed all 7 billion people? Don’t worry, a lot of people don’t know this.

People, in general, are unaware of the problems around the world. But, even if they are, they are clueless about how to overcome it even if they want to.

Your messaging solves this exact problem. It makes people aware of the problems. Apart from that, it also gives them an opportunity to fight the problem (through your organization).

It’s only after you spread this awareness will you be able to gather support for it. 

3. It appeals to donor sentiment

A majority of supporters donate (money, in-kind, or volunteering time) to feel the satisfaction they get from making a difference.

When it comes to charitable giving, people are ruled by their hearts and not heads.

There are six core emotions that encourage people to contribute to charity. These are:

  • Happiness 
  • Surprise
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Sadness
  • Fear

Your fundraising message needs to appeal to one (or more) of these core emotions to motivate your audience to support you.

These emotions are also used as guidelines when crafting nonprofit fundraising messaging. 

Examples of great messaging for fundraising

1. #LastSelfie

The World Wildlife Fund, Denmark division, leveraged the selfie and phenomenon to visually communicate the issue of growing endangered species. 

The organization shared a series of animal close-ups accompanied by the slogan “Don’t let this be my #lastselfie.”

They used Snapchat to reach out to the users and the vanishing snaps created a sense of urgency. It encouraged people to share the snaps and also donate by sending a text. 

Last Selfie campaign example
Why does it work?

The campaign spreads awareness about endangered species on the brink of extinction, that a lot of people may not be aware about. 

The animal close ups also sparks fear and sadness among viewers with the fact that they might not see these animals anymore.

Lastly, it also highlights exactly what people can do to prevent this (share and donate via text). 

2. #DearFutureMom

COORDOWN, an Italian charitable organization, launched a campaign on World Down Syndrome Day.

The campaign features 15 individuals with down syndrome highlighting what kind of a life will children with down syndrome have. 

The ad is a message to expecting moms and all parents (present and future) of children with down syndrome. 

The campaign was supported by the hashtag #DearFutureMom to address its target audience, establish a relationship with the video, and enhance its shareability. 

Why does it work?

The campaign message uses a balance of happy and sad emotions to inspire people.

By showcasing real-life examples and stories, the campaign clearly showcases who it benefits with its work.

Although it doesn’t prompt people to take any action, it does promote a culture of diversity and acceptance (which was the campaign’s ultimate goal).

3. How much do you love me?

Dogs Trust is an animal welfare charity and humane society in the United Kingdom specializing in the well being of dogs. 

Dogs Trust is known to put up appealing banners around neighborhoods to motivate people to donate. The image below is an example of one such high impact banner.

Dogs Trust campaign poster
Why does it work?

The message uses an appealing image of a cute dog that grabs an individual’s attention. The image triggers happiness in viewers. 

Similar to the #LastSelfie campaign, this banner also clearly depicts the action that people will have to take to help out (send a text to donate). 

Another point to note is that the keyword “You” in the message is addressed towards the viewer makes them feel important which in turn is a great motivator.  

Tips to enhance the effectiveness of your messaging

To ensure maximum impact, here are a few tips to keep in mind while creating a messaging for your campaign:

Make it relatable 

Your message has to be something that your audience can see themselves in or at least relate to.

From the examples above, keywords like Last Selfie and Future Mom achieve this relatability by using a popular action and relation of everyday life. 

Make it memorable and shareable

Using catchy and personal phrases goes a long way in compelling people to share it and spread the word. Only when people share your message (or phrase) will you be able to get the required traction for your campaigns.

Plus, a catchy phrase may even strike a conversation among people which in turn is great for promotion.

Enhance its impact with certain keywords

Using keywords like “Small”, “Instantly/Immediately”, and “You” can make your messaging more effective and push for conversions. 

Here’s how these keywords add value to your message:

  • Small – The keyword “small” shows that the donation is not a major financial burden and the fact that even small amounts can have a big impact. It works best in communications directed towards small donors. 
  • Instantly/Immediately – This keyword creates a sense of urgency that compels people to take quick action.
  • You – The word “You” adds personalization to the message while making the prospect feel important, as in the Dogs Trust example above, which is crucial to gather support.

    The same goes for the #LastSelfie campaign in which the messaging grabs attention by stating how “You” can save their kind. 

While a great message and the right promotion strategy ensures the success of an individual campaign, that’s not all you want.

To achieve your goals, you have to plan multiple nonprofit fundraising campaigns, as clarified earlier.

However, none of these campaigns are exclusive of each other. The success of a campaign is highly dependent on the preceding campaign.

In the following sections, we will discuss the pivotal actions that you need to take after a campaign to ensure the successive ones are successful too.

Ending your fundraisers

The end of a fundraiser may seem like you’re done for the day. That’s not the case.

No matter how your campaign performed, here are the next steps to end your fundraiser on a good note: 

1. Manage your finances

While this may seem obvious, many organizations may not pay too much attention to this leading to a hassle later. 

Immediately after your fundraiser, assign volunteers to solely handle the process of paying all bills, accommodating the expenses, and transferring the funds to relevant accounts. 

Apart from that, making a brief financial statement right after the campaign is also a good idea. It would help you easily consolidate all data for the annual report.

Plus, it also gives you crucial insights that will help you plan the financial goals and expenses of the next campaign better.

2. Thank all donors

Treat all donors like your organization’s life depends on it, because it does.

Donors might have received a thank you message/email along with the receipt immediately after the donation. But don’t leave it at that. Always get back to them again with a more personalized thank you, and be creative.

A few creative ways to show your gratitude after your campaign could be:

  • Mail handwritten thank you notes – These could be written by your volunteers or board members.

    However, it’s only suitable for a small number of mid-level or major donors. Here’s an example of a handwritten thank you note:
Handwritten thank you note example
  • Send thank-you packages – For major donors, you could also send thank you packages containing merchandise like t-shirts, custom mugs, etc.

    You could also include something memorable like a photograph (or a photobook) or a signed note from people benefiting from their donation.
  • Share a personalized video – Videos can stir emotions better than writings. Use that to your advantage. Create an appealing video with powerful music and visuals thanking your donors. Mail the video to each of them and even share it on your social media channel. 

    Here’s a video of charity water sending a personalized thank you video to a fundraiser:
  • Showcase their name/profiles on your website – Nothing excites supporters more than a public display of gratitude. You can have a section on your website to list out the names of all your donors.

    For major donors, you could create a profile with their images too. This would also work really well for corporations who partnered with you.

3. Report the impact (and share it everywhere)

How much money did you raise? Did you meet your goal? What will you be doing with the money?

These are a few burning questions that supporters usually have after donating to your campaign.

Don’t leave them burning. Put the fire out by publicly sharing the impact of the campaign.

Donor loss statistics

Sharing the impact of your campaigns publicly ensures both feelings are not induced. 

You can share all the information either as a brief post on all your social media channels or send it out as an email blast. Doing both works fine as well.

Reporting impact on social media
World Help’s Facebook post showcasing their impact

4. Have a briefing with your volunteers

You’re done with one campaign, but there are more to come. So how do you ensure that the next ones perform better?

Having a briefing with your volunteers will help you list out all the challenges and shortcomings you had to face in your campaign. You will also understand what went well with your campaign. 

Your volunteers did the groundwork and they will be able to give you insights into factors that you may not have taken into consideration while planning everything. 

Compile a report during this meeting with as much information as possible and analyze what you can improve in upcoming campaigns.

Also, make sure to appreciate all volunteers, they need motivation too. 

5. Follow up and engage 

A while after sending the personalized thank you message to everyone, engage them again with follow-ups. 

It’s always better to share a real-life story of someone being impacted by your campaign in these follow-ups. 

Apart from that, it’s also a good idea to invite them to take some action again. Asking for another donation so quickly may not be a great idea.

But you can ask them to do something else like volunteer, or sign a petition, or fill up a survey. You can ask for more gifts in subsequent follow-ups.

Don’t let the conversation die. Always keep it going!

Now that you’ve concluded the fundraisers and the necessary formalities, there are some burning questions to be answered.  

Was the campaign a success or not, how did it perform, what are the areas of improvement, etc. are major questions that need answers.

The answers to these questions will pave the way for upcoming campaigns and give you insights into how to refine them for success.

Let’s take a look at the most important metrics that you should be calculating to solve these queries.

How to measure nonprofit fundraising success

Measuring your performance is crucial to succeeding in your nonprofit fundraising efforts. Your performance metrics give you insights into what works for you and what doesn’t.

These insights further help you understand where you should concentrate your resources.  

When measuring your fundraising efforts, keep in mind the following areas and related metrics:

Fundraising Metrics

Cost per dollar raised (CPDR) 

The cost per dollar raised is the fundraising expenses divided by the total revenue of your fundraising campaigns.

The most common nonprofit fundraising metric, it tells you whether you raised money or lost it. The lower the cost per dollar raised, the better.

CPDR Formula
Gifts Secured

This metric calculates how many gifts you got over a specific period of time.

For more in-depth insights, you can separate all gift types (like major gifts, planned gifts, annual gifts,  etc.) to see which ones are more lucrative for you to procure. 

Securing more gifts is a primary goal for any fundraiser.

Fundraising ROI

Quite similar to cost per dollar raised, your nonprofit fundraising ROI is calculated by dividing the revenue by the expenses. 

This gives you a picture of how much money you can raise from each dollar you invest in future campaigns. The higher the ROI, the better your campaign has performed. 

Fundraising ROI
Conversion Rate

The conversion rate is a measure of how many prospects took an action when prompted.

This action may not be just donating money but could also include signing up for newsletters, signing up to volunteer, buying a ticket, etc. 

Higher conversion rates are the mark of a successful campaign. 

Donation Growth

Donation growth is the increase (or decrease) in the number of gifts secured in successive periods of time.

This metric helps you know whether you’re meeting your long-term goals or not. 

Donor Metrics

Donor Retention Rate 

An essential metric to understand your donors. Donor retention rate is the number of donors who continue to donate to your cause after a specific period of time (typically a year)

Since acquiring new donors is a lot more expensive than retaining old ones, maintaining a high donor retention rate is crucial for nonprofit fundraising success.  

Donor Growth

Your donor growth is the amount by which your donor base has grown (or shrunk) over a period of time.

The donor growth metric in conjunction with other metrics gives you insights into what you’re doing right in terms of new donor acquisition. 

The more the donor growth, the better your campaigns will perform. 

Donation Metrics

Average Gift Size

The average gift size is the revenue during a specific time period divided by the number of gifts received.

Typically, your goal should be to increase the average gift size over time. However, a lower average gift size solely does not mean that you’re not performing well.

Here’s an example of how your gift size chart might look like:

Average Major Gift Size

The average major gift size is similar to the average gift size. The only difference is that it’s exclusively for major gifts.

However, unlike the average gift size, a drop in this metric is a cause for concern. Larger average major gift sizes indicate a more successful campaign in reaching out to major donors. 

Online Giving Percentage

As online donation channels become more popular, keeping track of your online giving percentage becomes critical.

This metric tells you what portion of your donations has come from online channels.

Primarily, your aim should be to generate more online donations since they are more cost-effective (at least for small donations).

Engagement Metrics

Outreach Rate

This measures how often you get in touch with your donors or prospects. A high outreach rate doesn’t mean a better campaign.

This metric just helps you determine how many times you should get in touch with your donors to engage with them and ultimately retain them.

Email Conversion Rate

The email conversion rate tells you how many prospects took an action when prompted by an email. 

Since email is one of the most popular channels of outreach, this metric is crucial to understand how you can improve online engagement.

A high conversion rate showcases that your emails are performing well. You can see a direct impact of that in your campaigns.

Email Opt-Out Rate

Quite simply put, this is the number of people who unsubscribe from your emails over a certain period of time.

A high email opt-out rate means that either you’re sending too many emails, or the emails aren’t relevant to your prospects, or something in the emails is putting them off. 

Email opt out rate
Social Media Engagement

Social media engagement calculates the number of shares, likes (on a page or per post), comments, etc. you have on your social media channels.

This metric gives you an understanding of your online reach through these channels.

More social media engagement drives more awareness about your mission which in turn drives higher online donations.

Social Media ROI

Similar to the fundraising ROI, your social media ROI is the share of the revenue you get from all your social channels.

You can calculate the ROI for individual platforms to see which one works for you best.

With access to a larger community through social media, your objective should be to attain maximum social media ROI.

With these metrics at hand, you’ll be able to fine tune your future campaigns to get the best results. 

Once you have the measure of the impact you made, the next step is to share this information with the world. 

Every year each nonprofit is required to release an important document at the end of the year. 

This report typically includes the results and performance of all campaigns along with numerous other things. After the case for support, it is this annual report that is key in gathering support from major donors.

In the next section, we’ll be taking a look at what this document is and how to revamp it to encourage maximum impact on donor retention and acquisition.

Building an annual report

An annual report is a great way for nonprofits to demonstrate their accomplishments to current and future donors.

Annual reports help you appreciate donors and cultivate new partnerships with organizations or corporations.

While the content of the annual report may vary, there are a few key tips you should keep in mind while creating your report: 

Include relevant information

Every annual report has to maintain some consistency in the information included.

While you can get creative in how you represent the information, the report must have the following elements:

  • Mission statement: Boil down your values and objectives into one single sentence, that is your mission statement.

    You can expand on your mission statement (which will include more information about your organization, your objectives, and what change you’re hoping to bring about) in the subsequent section.
  • Projects: This would entail everything you’ve done in the past year. From nonprofit fundraising events to community programs, everything.

    Try grouping all your projects into specific categories (like events, programs, volunteering efforts, etc.) to make it easy for readers to navigate to the section of their interest.
  • Financial statement: The financial statement is one of the most crucial parts of your annual report. Supporters want to know how their money is being used.

    Being completely transparent about this helps you build credibility and win donor loyalty.
  • Accomplishments: Make sure your report showcases what kind of results you achieved, what difference did you make.

    You could highlight the accomplishments in the projects section. However, it would be better to have a separate section for it.
  • Donor List: Having a section in the annual report with the names of all donors is good practice. You could also give special thanks to major donors, influential volunteers, and board members in this section.

    However, if a majority of your funds come from small donors and the list becomes too exhaustive, you can skip the small donors. 

Use Visuals

A picture is worth a thousand words. 

Hence, use images wisely to make better use of space. Including all the aforementioned information above in a textual format may make your report lengthy and boring.

With images and visuals, you can make the content more engaging and readable. 

Here’s an example of how Charity: Water uses visuals in its annual report

Charity Water - Annual Report Example

Add a personal profile

Being the reason behind someone’s happiness is the greatest feeling in the world!

Induce this feeling in your readers by including a personal profile. Mention the story of someone who truly benefited from your efforts. 

Add an image of them with a personal thank you note. This won’t just motivate current donors to donate again but will also inspire new prospects to get involved with you.

Inspire supporters to take action

You could lose out on a lot of new supporters if you don’t clearly state how prospective donors should support you. 

Include a link to your online donation form, add a shortcode and keyword to collect text donation. Also mention the other ways supporters could get involved with your cause. 

Give a brief about your matching gifts programs, volunteering opportunities, sponsorship programs, etc. Include links to the relevant pages too. 

Be Honest

You can’t always succeed, you can’t always get what you wanted, and that’s alright. People understand that.

While it may seem like mentioning the challenges and shortcomings of your efforts may be counterintuitive, it’s quite the opposite. 

Talking about the mishaps along the way and how you plan to overcome them in the future only enhances your credibility. 

It shows supporters that they can rely on your organization to do the right thing and hence they can trust you with their money or time. Inducing that feeling is extremely important. 

Nonprofit annual report checklist

Your annual report (and a different perspective from readers) will give you a more clear idea of everything you did right and wrong. 

While you can pat yourself for everything you did right, planning for the mistakes you made is crucial for upcoming campaigns.

Here’s a few common ones, look out for those and others you learn along the way.

Most common fundraising mistakes to avoid

Fundraising is a tricky task and mistakes are bound to happen. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t avoid some of them with proper planning. 

Here are some of the most common nonprofit fundraising mistakes that you must avoid to ensure that your campaigns don’t fail. 

1. Not knowing your target audience

A charity fighting for any cause will gain some supporters. But you’ll never reach your full potential unless you don’t know who to reach out to.

Before you plan your nonprofit fundraising efforts, it’s important to ask this question, “Who are the people who’ll be most invested in this cause?”.

Once you have an answer to this question, you can plan your campaign around that. 

It’s only if you reach out to relevant people will actually be able to gather supporters for your cause. 

For example, an organization working for children’s education is more likely to gather support from the GenX and Baby Boomer demographic than millennials or Gen Zs. 

2. Failing to build relationships with donors

Someone made a donation to your cause and you sent them a nice thank you message. What do you do next?

Not figuring out this “next” move is another common mistake nonprofits make.

After thanking the donors once, it’s crucial for you to constantly engage with them and build a relationship. 

Don’t just ask them for another donation. Better, ask them if they’d like to volunteer, tell them how their donation helped you, ask them to help you by filling out a survey, etc.

Here’s an example of how Charity: Water uses a powerful email to engage existing donors and compel them to volunteer: 

Engaging donors for relationships

Remember the rule, Don’t Ever Stop Engaging (unless they ask you to).

3. Not having a clear long term plan

Let’s assume your organization is working to provide staple meals to children in Africa. You raise money through a campaign and sponsor some meals and repeat. 

How long do you think you could go like this?

While it may seem like a good plan at first, it is not something that will last. After a while, you’ll even start losing loyal donors over the same fact.

Having a long-term plan is crucial for nonprofits to inspire people to keep giving. 

In fact, your chances of getting major gifts are higher if you have a plan to bring sustainable change.

Major donors and corporations will be more inclined to support building a state-run retail store serving subsidized meals rather than just feeding 100 children at once. 

Don’t just aim for an impact, aim for a change. 

This doesn’t mean that you can’t run campaigns for short term impact. Do that, but make sure it compliments your long-term plan too.

4. Not employing the right communication software

As you may have already realized, communication is key for all nonprofit fundraising efforts.

Right from the start of the campaign, when you have to reach out to people for support, to the end when you thank them, you need a seamless communication system.

You need platforms that allow you to easily manage and personalize your communication.

There are four key communication software that all nonprofits need to have:

Email Marketing Software

Emails are crucial to reach out to people for support, thank them, send them updates/newsletters, etc. It’s a preferred mode of communication for engagement.

MailChimp and AWeber are some of the most popular email marketing software for nonprofits. 

Texting Platform

With an open rate of 98%, texting is not a communication channel you can ignore. Mass texting for outreach, peer-to-peer texting for engagement and nurturing, and text to donate is what you’ll be using the most.

The CallHub peer-to-peer texting and mass texting solutions are quite popular in the nonprofit space. They provide you with a user friendly platform to manage all text communication.

For text to donate solutions, QGiv is quite popular among nonprofits.

Calling Platform

Calling prospects is the next best thing after in-person meetings. It allows you to carry out highly personalized conversations with supporters that ultimately skyrocket your conversions.

Nonprofits use calling to get in touch with prospects and raise funds, thank them, or compel them to take action (like come for a volunteering drive).

CallHub’s Call Center software is a comprehensive solution that allows you to run phone banking campaigns, manage large teams of volunteers, and collect prospect data quite seamlessly.

Apart from that, the platform also allows you to send follow up texts right from the calling campaign without any hassle to ensure your conversation has a lasting impact.

Social Media Management Platform

For all your promotions and a majority of your outreach efforts, social media is going to be an integral part.

Your social media channels would primarily be used to run ad campaigns for outreach, organic posting for nurturing, and for analyzing online engagement.

Sprout Social and Buffer are two social media management software that allow you to schedule your posts well in advance.

Sprout Social also provides you with marketing analytics to help you plan your posting accordingly.

Keeping in mind these common blunders and ways to overcome them, you can now move on to executing your amazing fundraising strategies. 

While the sections above cover all the specifics of nonprofit fundraising, you can expand your understanding about it by going over some resources listed in the next section.

Bonus: Best resources on nonprofit fundraising

Books

  • Achieving Excellence in Fundraising
    https://www.amazon.com/Hank-Rossos-Achieving-Excellence-Raising/dp/0787962562

  • Fundraising Principles and Practice
    https://www.amazon.com/Fundraising-Principles-Practice-Adrian-Sargeant/dp/0470450398

  • Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits
    https://www.amazon.com/Mobile-Good-How-Fundraising-Nonprofits/dp/0071825460  

Blogs

Takeaway

In the first half of 2019, nonprofit fundraising revenue was down by 7.3% for more than 4,000 organizations as tracked by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. 

Yet, there were nonprofits like Feeding America that felt no negative impact in any way. 

Why do you think that was? 

A defined mission, priorities, and a well laid out plan of action are the only differences between a struggling nonprofit and a prosperous one.

While creating a nonprofit fundraising strategy is not a one-day or one-person affair, the results from a little effort can be truly remarkable. 

Smoother operations, better relationships with donors, both surmount to a reliable stream of funds, which is exactly what you need.

Remember, people want to help you out, you just need to know how to get them to!

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