Fundraising is essential to keeping any nonprofit afloat. Each year, nonprofits need to be crafting winning strategies that will raise the most amount of money for their causes as possible.
In this post, we will look at ten different nonprofit fundraising ideas to help inspire your next fundraising strategy. While some of these ideas may seem obvious at first, keeping your fundraising avenues versatile and flexible by covering multiple bases is the key to maximizing revenue.
What is Nonprofit Fundraising?
To put it simply, nonprofit fundraising is the means through which nonprofits raise revenue for their causes. This is typically done by the nonprofit asking another entity—be that an individual, a corporation, a government agency, or another foundation—for money.
This solicitation for donations can be done either virtually or in person and can be done for individual giving campaigns or to cover operational expenses. This is where the majority of the nonprofit’s revenue will come from, and therefore, crafting effective fundraising strategies requires the most attention from the nonprofit’s staff.
Why is Nonprofit Fundraising Important?
For nonprofits, fundraising is vital. Since nonprofits do not earn revenue through the same methods used by private enterprises, nonprofits rely on fundraising to sustain operations, develop impactful programming, and advance their missions.
Below are just a few reasons why fundraising is so important for nonprofit organizations.
Building and Maintaining Public Relationships
Besides being the main form through which nonprofits collect money, fundraising is how nonprofits form relationships with the general public.
Think about it. What are the ways you interact with the nonprofits you support?
Be it by donating your own money or by volunteering your time to help with specific campaigns, fundraising is how others outside of a nonprofit get the opportunity to interact with the organization. And a nonprofit organization is only as successful as the relationships it fosters within the community.
Like the famous turn of phrase, “No man is an island”, no nonprofit is an island either. To make a meaningful impact in the community, nonprofits must build and maintain relationships with key donors, organizations, institutions, and other community stakeholders.
Fundraising is also a great method for sharing your nonprofit’s brand and mission with the general public. Launching a fundraising campaign can introduce new individuals to your organization and get them excited about your work, leading to potential new supporters.
Ensuring Operational Sustainability
One of the most vital reasons fundraising is important to a nonprofit is that it ensures operational sustainability.
Unlike private enterprises, nonprofits rely on donations and charitable giving to sustain operations and generate revenue.
Nonprofit operating costs can include:
- Program costs
- Staff salaries and benefits
- Equipment and supplies
- And more.
Fundraising is the most important and effective way nonprofits can ensure long term sustainability. By engaging in fundraising, organizations can access billions of dollars that are annually invested in the nonprofit sector to cover the costs of critical programming and services available to the public.
According to a study by 360MatchPro, in 2022 alone total giving to nonprofits was reported at a staggering $499 billion with $319 billion (64% of the total amount) given by individuals.
Nonprofits also rely on giving from public institutions and funders through grantmaking—which we will discuss in more detail later in the article.
By developing a robust and varied fundraising strategy nonprofits can secure revenue and sustain operations for years to come.
Expanding Impact and Reach
Without fundraising, nonprofits would be limited in the amount of individuals they can reach and the level of impact they may have on a community.
Through fundraising initiatives, nonprofits can expand programs and increase organizational capacity to serve a community. Fundraising can result in dollars that can fund a new position, a new facility, or equipment and supplies needed to carry out a project.
Additionally, fundraising can improve organizational processes such as evaluation, allowing organizations to have a better understanding of the impact they make and modify operations to provide the best service possible to their community.
Fundraising can both increase staff capacity to effectively evaluate their programs and it is an incentive for nonprofits to provide outputs and outcomes that are achieved through the fundraising support.
For example, The Madison Community Foundation provides a clear, concise example of program evaluation and outcome measurement.
Driving Advocacy and Awareness
Although it may not seem that way at first, fundraising is so much more than the bottom line.
All nonprofit organizations have a mission and engage in some kind of action, whether direct service or otherwise, in the name of advancing said mission. While fundraising is ultimately aiming to secure funds for the sustainability of the organization, it is also a great way to simply communicate with the public and increase brand awareness—or more importantly, awareness around an issue.
While it is great when fundraising solicitations and outreach result in sizable donations, money is only part of the equation. To develop strong networks of support, nonprofits need to communicate information about that work and why it is important.
Take for example, Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood not only provides direct healthcare and support to patients but is also engaged in national and local advocacy in the support of equitable healthcare for women.
On the organization’s donation page, they have a section with information about donating, but even more prominent is a blurb written about the critical need for Planned Parenthood’s services at this time. The organization briefly explains the current landscape of the work and why supporting the nonprofit will improve conditions for the population it serves.
It is a brilliantly crafted call to action that encourages people to donate while advocating for women’s health.
While not every visit to a website or social media click will result in a donation, it is a perfect opportunity for a nonprofit to advance its mission and rally supporters to join the organization in making the mission come to life.
10 Strategies to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit
Now that you know what nonprofit fundraising is and why it is so vital for your organization, let’s talk about ten different strategies you can utilize to raise more money for your nonprofit.
1. Create a Donation Page
Perhaps one of the most obvious nonprofit fundraising strategies is developing a donation page. A donation page is exactly what it sounds like—a page on your website through which visitors can donate money.
You do not need to overthink donation pages too much, but you do need to be sure that you are making the process as simple to use and easy to understand as possible. Remember that every second potential donor has to spend trying to figure out how to send you money, chips away at their patience and their generosity.
Take a look at this donation page from the World Wide Fund for Nature as an example.
See how intuitive it is? The page is professional and polished, easy to navigate, and the colors and design make it pretty obvious what one must do to successfully complete the donation. Furthermore, the page gives people the flexibility to donate different amounts.
Make sure your page is also as easy to navigate on mobile as it is on the web. And if you’re running a campaign, it’s a good idea to create a tracker showing how close you are to reaching your goal.
A donation page is a great way to raise funds from individuals who perhaps cannot yet commit to donating on a regular basis but still wish to support your cause.
2. Start a Membership Program
For those who do wish to offer your nonprofit ongoing support, a membership program is a good fundraising strategy to implement.
Membership programs involve members donating an amount of money on a timely basis—usually a monthly basis—to help with (most often) the operational expenses of running a nonprofit. This steady and predictable revenue can make a big difference in planning for the future and strategizing for individual giving campaigns.
The key to nonprofit membership programs is to make them flexible, with different tier levels that allow individuals with different financial means to donate as much or as little as they are comfortable.
Many nonprofits also use small incentives to encourage this type of support. If you choose to do this, however, remember to make sure these benefits not only make financial sense for their tier level but also will not require so much time to accomplish that it would take away focus from other important tasks.
Finally, make sure to not end all communications once you gain someone’s recurrent support. There’s nothing worse than pledging your support for a cause, only to receive no updates on how the nonprofit is using the funds raised to achieve its goals.
If you do not make your membership supporters feel appreciated and if you do not keep them informed, then they will feel used. This, in turn, might make them cancel their membership.
You can learn even more about starting a membership program and other fundraising ideas for nonprofits on Instrumentl’s blog.
3. Fundraise with Social Media Networks
Nowadays, no successful fundraising strategy is complete without the strategic use of social media networks.
Social media empowers nonprofit organizations to reach new audiences outside of their traditional networks and cultivate donors who may have otherwise never have interacted with the organization’s work. Social media is low cost, offering a totally free means of communication for nonprofits to reach supporters.
They also have built in methods of fundraising for nonprofit organizations. Many social media networks like Instagram and Facebook have built in features that allow individuals to raise money for a cause they believe in. This method, known as peer-to-peer fundraising, lets individuals start their own fundraiser and ask their friends or followers to contribute to an organization or cause.
Social media also allows for shareable posts. If an individual starts their own peer-to-peer fundraiser, a friend of theirs can share that fundraiser with their network, and another friend can share with a new network, and so on and so on. This helps nonprofits get the word out about their organization while cultivating new donors to help support their mission.
4. Send Fundraising Letters, Emails, and Texts
Speaking of communication, sending out fundraising letters, emails, and texts is another great fundraising idea.
If you’ve ever supported any cause, you’ve seen these before. They are a classic strategy that relies on telling a compelling story that gets the potential donor emotionally invested in the cause, and then uses that emotional investment to get them to donate.
These messages typically present the potential donor with a problem that can only be solved through the combined efforts of caring individuals. A good fundraising message will encourage action through donation, making one feel like an essential part of a bigger mission.
These messages do not need to be long or even overly complicated. Think about your cause, think about why you care so much about it, and think about why it is so important that we take action now. If carefully crafted, these sentiments can be as well conveyed through five paragraphs as they can through a few snappy lines of text.
5. Plan and Host an Event
You’ve certainly heard of this nonprofit fundraising strategy before. Think of the fancy galas with live music and delicious four course-dinners, marathons that bring thousands of strangers together beneath the summer sun, or even a fair with different tents, booths, and other activities and competitions.
All of these events provide your supporters with a fun day or evening in celebration of your shared cause. When done successfully, they foster a sense of community, making everyone feel united in your mission’s journey.
Typically, nonprofit fundraising events raise funds through the following:
- Ticket Sales
- Merchandise Sales
- Live Auctions
Try to tie in the event to your cause and your supporter’s interests. For example, The Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California has been hosting a yearly spring fundraising competition since 1997. As their nonprofit’s mission is to rescue and rehome basset hounds who were in abusive and neglectful environments, a fun dog event at a park is far more suitable for the nonprofit and its supporters than a fancy gala at a luxury hotel.
If done well, these can become regular annual events that your supporters will always look forward to.
Visit Instrumentl’s blog for even more ideas on nonprofit event planning!
6. Hold a Silent Auction
Not every fundraising effort needs to be loud and bombastic.
Silent auctions are virtual events that involve setting up an auction page for your supporters to bid on items for a determined amount of time. Once the period of the silent auction comes to an end—be it days, weeks, or even a month after launch—the person who gave the highest bid wins the prize.
Think of it as eBay for nonprofits fundraising.
You can sell just about anything at a silent auction, from collection items to weekends at spas. Many companies and celebrities will even collaborate with nonprofits by either donating something related to their brand or by sponsoring a special dinner or giving a stay at their establishment. If you know of any brands or influencers who are somehow connected to your cause, reach out to see if they’d be interested in helping out.
That being said, just because this is a “Silent Auction,” doesn’t mean your promoting of it should be silent.
Social media will be crucial in ensuring this fundraising effort is not a complete bust. This is another way in which celebrities and companies could be useful.
If they are donating an item—be it a physical collector’s item or a special occasion—have them advertise the auction on their social media page. Their followers are the ones who are most likely to be interested in said items, after all. Even if they are not, they might still learn about your nonprofit and consider donating to your cause in other ways.
7. Look for a Corporate Sponsorship or Partnership
Speaking of brands, consider taking on corporate sponsorships.
Corporate sponsorships are a win-win scenario for both parties involved. Not only does the corporation gain the benefits of good publicity and tax right-offs, but they also get the opportunity to give back in the way that matters most to them. For nonprofits, the partnership allows them to extend their reach beyond what they could have achieved on their own while also increasing funds.
Either way, this is a fundraising strategy that can not only increase revenue for your nonprofit but also increase visibility. Just remember to research possible sponsors thoroughly to ensure they are a match with your nonprofit’s values. And be sure to get a lawyer to draft a detailed contract.
The Trevor Project shows a good example of how multiple corporate sponsorships can help increase donations through selling products. Famously, Ben & Jerry’s and Stephen Colbert AmeriCone Dream also donate some of their profits to charitable causes.
Looking for additional guidance on how to cultivate successful corporate partnerships? Visit Instrumentl’s blog for expert guidance and pointers to help you get started.
8. Build Relationships with Major Donors
A key aspect of any successful fundraising strategy is to solicit individual donors—especially major donors.
What is a major donor? In plain terms, a major donor is an individual who gives a significant amount of money to a charitable organization.
A major donor can be defined differently from organization to organization. A smaller, grassroots nonprofit may consider supporters who give $200 to be major donors, while an international organization that has operated for decades may have cultivated relationships with donors who give $500,000+ in donations.
Regardless, these individuals represent a crucial aspect of a nonprofit’s fundraising strategy. For a nonprofit that wants to operate nimbly and adapt to urgent needs within their community, major donors can fill in the gaps that are left by smaller individual donors or grants.
Grants can sometimes be difficult to secure quickly with funders and government organizations setting up lengthy processes to ensure efficacy and accountability to the public. While this is overall a very good thing, it can make nonprofit operations challenging as organization’s wait to respond to challenges until they know they have grant funding to pay for it.
Additionally, relying on smaller but more frequent donations can sustain nonprofits over the long term (e.g. monthly giving campaigns), but it can be very hard to secure needed funding quickly by reaching out to this network alone.
Major donors have the capacity to give significantly more than an average donor while also giving at their leisure. While major donors are required to report their finances to the IRS (as with any individual) their giving is not governed by the same regulations and industry norms that guide grantmaking processes. As such, major donors can provide an organization with the capability of securing large support quickly.
A great way to engage major donors is to rely on existing networks of supporters and community partners. Many nonprofit make connections with major donors through relationships with their board of directors or through other community based organizations.
Work with your team to identify key individuals who could potentially become a major donor, and partner with key members of your network to get introductions to major donors and cultivate strong, authentic relationships with them.
Remember, even though developing partnerships with major donors is vital, every donation counts. Do not focus on winning over major donors at the expense of your other supporters.
For additional major donor fundraising strategies check out Instrumentl’s blog article here.
9. Initiate a Capital Campaign
Capital campaigns are critical for any nonprofit team aiming to grow their organization.
Capital campaigns allow nonprofits to focus fundraising efforts on a specific project, expansion, or improvement. Typically these types of fundraising campaigns are done with the intention of raising a specific amount of money for a dedicated purpose, such as raising funds to build a new facility.
Some campaigns can be much more comprehensive, supporting new processes, developing new frameworks, and driving innovative practices. In 2017, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) launched an ambitious capital campaign (IGNITE) with the intention of improving student experiences, enhancing learning and research environments and facilities, recruiting top faculty, and improving student outcomes.
The campaign brought in over $700 million dollars for the University, the most ambitious fundraising campaign initiated in the institution’s 160 year history.
These types of campaigns require a significant amount of planning and are typically carried out over a specific timeline with the involvement of every member of the organization including staff, board of directors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Many capital campaigns can last for several years with key milestones developed from year to year.
Given this, a capital campaign should not be carried out carelessly. Work with your team and staff to determine if a capital campaign is the right move for your organization before embarking. Instrumentl can provide you with several crucial resources to help you decide if a capital campaign is a good strategy for your nonprofit.
10. Apply for Grants
Finally, one of the best ways to raise more money for your nonprofit is by securing grants.
Grants are crucial for nonprofits, and they can make a huge difference in helping them achieve their goals. They can be offered by foundations, corporations, and even government agencies.
Despite the thousands of grants available out there, not all of them will be suited for your nonprofit. To top it off, every grant will have different application requirements and many grants may also request follow-up reports detailing how the funds were used.
Vetting each of these criteria carefully to make sure your nonprofit is eligible and then completing the application by the deadline is a time-consuming, painstaking process. The rewards, however, can be great, and this is how Instrumentl can become a vital tool in your fundraising strategy.
How to Use Instrumentl to Apply and Win More Grants
Instrumentl is an all-in-one grant discovery, tracking, and management tool that allows nonprofits to effectively and efficiently navigate the grant process from beginning to end.
Instrumentl helps users identify available grants that align with their mission and are most likely to result in success.
Notably, Instrumentl offers a unique smart matching feature, eliminating the typically lengthy grant search processes by focusing on funders and opportunities that are best suited to a user’s needs. The smart matching feature helps modify the user’s experience by focusing on finding open opportunities and RFPs that closely align with the organization’s fundraising priorities and its mission.
With information extracted from funders’ form 990s, Instrumentl provides users with a comprehensive look at previous recipients, funder priorities and scope of work (identified by NTEE code), giving trends and key statistics, geographic focus, and contact information for key personnel at the grantmaking institutions.
This feature sets Instrumentl apart from other grant management platforms, making prospecting much less laborious and time consuming so users can focus on the vital work of their nonprofit instead of spending hours sifting through complex tax documents or vague information available on the web.
In addition to smart matching, Instrumentl can also help nonprofits:
- Keep track of upcoming grant deadlines
- Keep their entire team informed on how the process is going
- Manage and assign grant-related tasks
- Create reports to present to board members or other staff
- And more!
With Instrumentl, users can also find grants and foundations by filtering for focus area and/or programmatic activities. Some of the searchable focus areas are:
- Environmental Justice
- Workforce Development
- Criminal Justice
- Social Justice
- Environmental Justice
- Public Health
- Criminal Justice
- And more!
Instrumentl also offers a library of resources to support users as they learn to navigate grant processes and build an effective fundraising strategy.
Instrumentl’s blog is full of articles providing expert guidance on a variety of nonprofit management topics and grant writing, training modules to help guide users through important steps in the grant lifecycle, and FAQs related to fundraising, development, and grant seeking designed to help you effectively grow your nonprofit.
Grantseeking should be a part of any successful nonprofit fundraising strategy and Instrumentl is the ultimate all-in-one tool that will make the otherwise complex grants process easier to manage.
Wrapping Up: 10 Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits
Fundraising is crucial for any nonprofit to function properly. However, for a nonprofit to thrive, one must strategize carefully.
To maximize revenues in upcoming years, it is important for nonprofits to not only be flexible but also versatile. With these ten strategies at your disposal, you can cover all of your bases by broadening your audience and diversifying revenue streams so you can raise more money for your mission.