The best fundraising events are creative, not overly complicated, make a real impact in the lives of those your nonprofit serves, and requires little upfront costs so more profits benefit your cause. We asked the experts for their top tips and nonprofit fundraising ideas and compiled the best ones below.
Here are the top 31 nonprofit fundraising ideas and tips:
1. Share Stories of Those Impacted
Lauren Coleman, Development Manager, Phil’s Friends
The most important way to engage donors is to let them see the heart of the mission. Always share stories of the individuals that are impacted directly by their support on multiple channels: social media, email newsletters, direct mail appeals, and in person. You can give a donor all of the numbers you want that showcase what you do with their generosity, however, the stories of impact are what make the most impact.
2. Put the Donor at the Center of Your Campaign
Jeremy Reis, Sr. Director of Marketing, Food for the Hungry
Use “you” and “your” instead of “we,” “I,” and “us” to make your appeal personal for the donor. A quick writing tip to increase response in your fundraising: Count the number of times you use “I” or “we” in your appeal versus the number of times you use “you” and “your.” The latter are powerful ways for the reader to feel connected to your cause; the former will reduce conversion.
3. Connect Your Donors With Those You Serve
Aaron Negherbon, Troops Direct, Troops Direct
Creating a tangible connection between donors and your efforts makes it personal. Sometimes that already exists. People will be more apt to give to a cancer charity if they’ve lost someone to cancer. Try to find a way to individually engage potential donors with who or what your nonprofit is benefiting. The goal will be much better understood as will the steps needed to reach that goal.
4. Offer Expertise to Entertainment Brands for Exposure
Julie Daq, Founder, Living Donor Match
Anything that puts new eyes on your organization can be a fundraising opportunity, assuming all the donation tools are strategically in place when someone clicks the link to go to your website. The key is to keep the purpose of your organization in mind and then think about ways that you can help educate or support others when they are dealing with an issue that relates to what you do. An example of this could be if the entertainment industry regularly creates storylines relating to your cause. You could partner with them to make sure they are responsibly telling their stories which in turn could lead to more exposure for your organization through Public Service Announcements and press. More exposure leads to more eyes on your website and more opportunities for people to support you financially.
5. Hand out Branded Swag as Fundraiser Souvenirs
Allison Potts, Division Managing Editor, Fit Small Business
Remember, fundraising continues even after your fundraising event ends. So, find ways to help attendees continue spreading brand awareness. For example, use a marketplace like Anypromo to purchase goods like water bottles, sunglasses, key chains, and T-shirts with your logo printed on them. Then, use them as fundraiser prizes or souvenirs. That way, when your attendees show off the fact that they were involved in supporting your amazing cause, they also spread brand awareness. Click here to learn more about Anypromo.
6. Run a Pickup Truck Giveaway at a Local Event
Shelley Grieshop, Creative Writer, Totally Promotional
Pickup truck giveaways occur frequently in our rural area and are well-received. Ask a local dealership for the best price on a truck or whatever vehicle type you wish to give away for your raffle. Typically, dealers can write off the discount or donation on their taxes. Advertise and sell a limited amount of raffle tickets for $100 each or whatever amount is needed to cover costs and make a profit. Sell the tickets for a set period of time at multiple places/sites. Schedule the raffle drawing during a local event that is always well attended, such as halftime during a high school football match between rivals.
7. Don’t Underestimate Your Invisible Costs
Justin Wheeler, Funraise CEO and Co-founder, Funraise
The biggest trap in fundraising campaigns and events is underestimating your invisible costs—time, mostly. At the end of the day, nonprofits should be including the time they’ve spent arranging flowers and writing thank-you notes in the expenditures column of their budgets. The only way to avoid the sunk time pitfall is to outline your financial and time budget before you start.
8. Host a Sky Lantern Party
Aqsa Tabassam, Co-Founder, EvolveDash
Host an evening celebration where participants make a wish on a paper lantern, light a flame inside, and send it off in the sky. Participants can be asked to pay a certain amount of money to attend the celebration, which can be used for the nonprofit organization.
9. Incorporate a Meaningful Impact Story
Javier Martinez, Board of Director/Social Investor, Milestones Park
As a nonprofit, you need to create an opportunity for your community to story-tell how they helped someone today. Nonprofits today need to get creative and be engaging when it comes to creating fundraiser ideas. I believe in today’s world, when it comes to making a social impact, people don’t want to be sold to; they want to be entertained, well.
10. Build Fundraiser Buzz On Your Website
Miranda Paquet, Marketing and Operations Manager, The Close
11. Reduce Costs and Raise Money via Sponsorships
Harry Freedman, Fundraising Expert, Book Author
12. Be Selective and Transparent About Fundraising Ideas
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.
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.
13. Be Patient, but Persistent
Billy Starr, Founder and Executive Director of the Pan-Mass Challenge
Starr recommends patience and dedication. He says it took over 10 years before his team was able to raise more than $1 million from when they began in 1980. More recently, in 2016 alone, they’ve 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.
14. Ensure Donations Outweigh Your Invested Time & Costs
JME (Jamie), Executive Director, 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.
15. Personalize Your Thanks
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.
16. Leverage Technology to Increase Engagement
Dionne Jackson, Professional Fundraiser, GiveBack+
Leverage technology to increase attendee engagement and secure additional funds at the event. GiveBack+ is our fundraising platform which was launched 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.
17. Dream Big!
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.
18. Utilize and Promote Tax Credits
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.
19. Ask for Nonprofit Discounts for Promotional Items
Rachel Stephens, SEO & Customer Behavior Analyst, 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.
John Haydon, Digital PR and Fundraising Expert, Speaker, Trainer, Author
John Haydon, Digital PR and Fundraising Expert, offers a simple tip: 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.
25. Create Presentations that Evoke Emotions
27. Keep It Simple
Jeff Brooks, Nonprofit Blogger & Author, 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.
Bottom Line – Fundraiser Ideas
Whether you’re hosting a pickup truck giveaway or a sky lantern party, the best nonprofit fundraising ideas are creative, entertaining, and donor-centric. For them to make business sense, they must also be simple, require limited upfront costs and resources so more profits benefit your cause, and produce positive-impact stories to encourage future fundraiser attendance.