The holidays are a time for giving, and that’s true whether it’s buying your child a toy or giving to charities. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the holidays are dubbed the “giving season” in the nonprofit world because donations increase at this time of year. Approximately 42.7% of high net worth donors give more during the holidays than at any other time of the year. No matter what the charity, about 16% receive half of their annual funds from campaigns enacted during this season of giving.
Because this season is so important, we’ve put together this list of the top nonprofit fundraising ideas, gathered from experts around the country and from different types of nonprofits, to spark your own creative fundraising ideas. You can use these ideas at any time of the year to generate vital, mission-supporting funds for your nonprofit.
1. Sponsorships Reduce Costs and Raise Money
Harry Freedman, Fundraising Expert, Book Author
“After having done over 200 special events, I can’t stress enough the importance of sponsorships. There are many things in an event that can be sponsored (i.e. food, drinks, invitations). Sponsorships allow an organization to profit from the event by reducing the amount of money they have to spend put an event together. The less money the organization has to spend for the event, the more money they actually NET from the event, which in turn can be used for the organization’s mission.”
MJ Pedone, Entrepreneur, Power Publicist and Super Mom, founder of Indra Public Relations
“When fundraising for an organization, you can’t host an event every month or every other month for that matter. You have to keep it to a minimum, maybe two to three max per year and make the events both meaningful and memorable. You can’t keep asking the same donor pool for funds all the time.
Let the donor know where their donations are going (i.e. what programs, medical research, individuals, etc. they are going to). People don’t want to see that you are just regurgitating the mission statement of the organization, but are actually showing the spend of the funds and where it is making a difference.
Post event, provide information, stats, imagery, etc. and let the sponsors/donors know that the funds actually supported what the intended ask was for. Supporters like to be well informed about where their fundraising dollars went and that their hard earned money made a difference.”
Marc Prosser, FitSmallBusiness
A CRM like Insightly can help you keep all of your contacts, donors, volunteers, and more. Use tags with keywords for each contact in your CRM so you can easily identify people you need for your next project or event. Keywords can help you find the people who participated in your last event (and would be excited to promote your next one), or those people whom you know are always willing to shell out a few dollars toward your cause. Insightly even offers 50% off for nonprofit companies. Click here for a free trial.
Billy Starr, Founder and Executive Director of the Pan-Mass Challenge
Starr recommends patience and dedication. “Be patient. It took over ten years before my team was able to raise more than $1 million dollars from when we began in 1980. Now, in 2016 alone, we raised $47 million in fundraising for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.” He also recommends building a culture, and fundraising will follow. Perseverance is important to building a following. When hosting annual events, participation builds over time. Starr also recommends charging entrants or participants a fee for event participation as part of a fundraising event.
JME (Jamie), Motley Zoo Animal Rescue
“Make whatever you’re doing worthwhile. Get the most bang for the buck, but also be creative and don’t be afraid to take a chance here and there. Just be sure your losses will be minimized. For example, we used to do frequent “networking” events, when we first started out, which definitely helped us establish a presence and following, but as we got busier and busier, we had to choose between these events that pretty much only built our reputation and ones that actually made money. Keeping track of the amount of donations that you get at each event, even if small, is really important. We know now that while adoption events find animals homes, they do not yield donations. and that community events, unrelated/nonspecific to pets, bring in more donations than those that are specifically pet related.”
Kelly Stimson, Director of Donor Services, Greater Worcester Community Foundation
“A personalized thank you, be it a phone call or handwritten note, makes donors feel appreciated. Remembering the details (kids’ names, favorite hobby, or pets) shows donors that you care about them as a person, not just for the value of their gift.”
Dionne Jackson, Professional Fundraiser, GiveBack+
“Leverage technology to increase attendee engagement and secure additional funds at the event. GiveBack+ is our fundraising platform which will be launched on May 2, in Philadelphia. The technology keeps audiences engaged, secures additional gifts, builds excitement around the goal at the event, and facilitates easy social sharing around the event, the donation, and the goal.”
Elisse E. Glennon, VP and CAO, NJ Sharing Network
“The most important thing any nonprofit professional can do is dream big. Set high fundraising goals, seize every opportunity, and continually challenge the status quo at your organization. If you always focus on something greater, you will surprise yourself at how much you can achieve.”
Randy Tarpey, CPA, Central Pennsylvania Scholarship Fund
“I handle fundraising for this nonprofit and in Pennsylvania there are tax credits associated with donations for public and private schools. We use these incentives to help motivate donors to donate to local school scholarships, and to local public school preschool and after school programs. As long as you give charities the tools to raise donations efficiently and make the process as easy as possible with as few costs as possible, the charities can raise a lot of funds for their cause–and in our case, for education charities in Pennsylvania.”
Rachel Stephens, Totally Promotional
“We work with many nonprofit organizations to create custom-printed products for advertising or to sell at a fundraiser. The key to a successful promotional product fundraiser is understanding the investment and potential gain. Be sure to calculate the total cost for your custom-printed items, including shipping and any setup fees, to determine the actual cost per item. Consider purchasing slightly more than needed, if you can get them for a lower cost per item. Extra items may be worth the investment if they can be sold at a later event. Also, be sure to ask for a nonprofit discount! Many businesses do not advertise nonprofit discounts, but it never hurts to ask.”
Southside SPCA, Animal Shelter
Southside SPCA operates a no-kill animal shelter through several Virginia counties. The shelter serves a rural, relatively poor region of the state where donations may be hard to come by. However, their unique local restaurant fundraisers are a big hit with the public. One night each month at a different participating local restaurant, the restaurant donates 10% of the evening’s total receipts to the SPCA. The SPCA has a table with flyers, raffle tickets for sale for a basket of cheer (donated, of course), and other information. People flock to the restaurants and fill them to capacity on “off” nights of the week, making it a win for the business, while the SPCA regularly raises $500 or more per month from the event. The added publicity and community goodwill for the restaurant is also a plus.
Kevin Baughen, Bottom Line Ideas
For his top nonprofit fundraising idea, Baughen suggests letting the volunteers pick the fundraising event to work on so that there’s better buy-in and participation. For example, if students are expected to participate in a school fundraiser, ask them what they’d like to do to raise money. Then urge them to create their own fundraising plan and volunteer schedule to generate even more excitement and enthusiasm for the event (Source: Fundraiser Insights).
Marc A. Pitman, CFCC, The Fundraising Coach
Fundraising events are just the beginning, not the end, of a relationship. Make fundraising events part of the ongoing communications strategy with your donors. Make sure that you continue to nurture relationships with donors before, during, and well after the events themselves (Source: npENGAGE).
There are hundreds of nonprofit fundraising events. Some will fit your brand perfectly, while others will be a mismatch or even detrimental to your brand. Choose the events that support and enhance your nonprofit’s brand presence. A church or religious institution could choose a Christmas concert fundraiser, for example, but might find that a bachelor or bachelorette auction doesn’t suit their brand. Likewise, an animal nonprofit might have a fashion show to raise funds, but choose only cruelty-free brands for the show. Always consider how well an idea supports your nonprofit brand or how it may be adapted to enhance the overall brand.
Kitty Cook Ramsey, CFRE, Major Gifts Officer, Children’s of Mississippi, University of Mississippi Medical Center
The key to good fundraising is one-to-one connections. Major donors like to give to causes that support their passions. Find out what ignites their passion, and then demonstrate how their donation will support and enhance their passion in the wider world. Someone passionate about animals, music, the arts, or health care will feel a deeper and longer-lasting connection with an organization once they perceive how their donation will help others in that area (Source: Third Sector Today).
John Haydon, Digital PR and Fundraising Expert, Speaker, Trainer, Author
Haydon’s message is simple: listen more than you speak, or listen to what your audience is saying more than you market to them. For fundraisers, this means listening to what people behind your cause care about. You can then deliver to them ideas, concepts, and events that speak directly to their interests. (Source: Third Sector Today)
Mary Cahalane, HandsOn Fundraising
In an article entitled “Why Mr. Spock Can’t Raise Money,” Cahalane states that emotion, rather than logic, drives donations and fundraising. Rational presentations of facts do not raise as much money for a cause as emotion-driven elements. Use images, actual case studies, and emotional appeals whenever possible. Link your fundraising to people and their stories so that donations are directly linked to emotions.
Julia Campbell, J. Campbell Social Marketing
Campbell reminds us of one of the critical truisms of marketing: never assume. Although given in the context of mobile fundraising, Campbell’s comments are important for many aspects of nonprofit donations and fundraising. Don’t assume your donors will give only in one way, or at certain times of the year. Ask them, test the responses, and keep trying new things. (Source: The Balance)
Joe Garecht, The Fundraising Authority
“No one single nonprofit fundraising idea will be perfect. Fundraise anyway. Something that works well this year may flop next year. Fundraise anyway. There will be problems, bumps, and mistakes, but fundraise anyway. Keep trying, don’t expect perfection, and look to improve instead.” (Source: Fundlio)
Pamela Grow, Fundraiser
According to Grow, you can never say thank you too much or too early in the donation process. Donors like to be thanked. Thanking them repeatedly, frequently, and publicly not only helps current fundraising efforts but builds long-term relationships for repeat donations. So remember to say “thank you” as often as possible to your donors. (Source: Fundlio)
Jeff Brooks, Future Fundraising Now
“Always follow the principle of simplicity in whatever you do. This is especially important with fundraising. Keep the driving idea behind the fundraiser simple and clear. Don’t bother with lengthy brochures or other materials; if you need brochures to explain your fundraiser, it’s not clear enough. Simple messages always win.” (Source: Fundlio)
Dr Subroto Roy, Professor of Marketing, College of Business, University of New Haven
“Massive field experimental research confirms lab psychology experiments in multiple countries. My research co-authored with K Sudhir (Yale University) and Mathew Cherian (HelpAge India) suggests the following tips for your fundraising message content:
- Emphasize named individuals, instead of un-named groups that your non-profit has helped. Do this in pictures and words.
- Highlight the before and after situation of the person you helped.
- Try to match the donor group to the beneficiary group. People like to help the less fortunate from their own group.
For more see the INFORMS press release: Carefully choosing your words in a fundraising appeal can increase donations by over 300 percent.
Over to You
These 20 nonprofit fundraising ideas will help you make the margin you need to support your organization’s mission. Passion, perseverance, and purpose are the drivers to successful fundraising events. Combined with these expert tips, you’re sure to get your fundraising activities off to a great start. Do you have any other nonprofit fundraising ideas that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments!