We all know that online fundraising is quickly taking the nonprofit world by storm. More people than ever are making their charitable contributions via online avenues. That’s why we’ve compiled 11 of the best online fundraising ideas that can help your nonprofit raise more money in the digital age!
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
- Matching Gift Drive
- T-Shirt Fundraising
- Online Donation Forms
- Online Giving Days
- Text-to-Give Campaign
- Viral Fundraising Campaign
- Online Cashback Websites
- Online Auctions
- Donation for a Vote
Crowdfunding is proving to be one of the most popular ways for nonprofits and individuals alike to raise money for causes, projects, or events that they care about.
For those new to the term, crowdfunding essentially makes use of a nonprofit’s or individual’s existing network of supporters, friends, family members, coworkers, peers, and even acquaintances.
Nonprofits and individuals can set up crowdfunding pages and then share those pages on social media sites and via email.
A typical nonprofit crowdfunding page looks like this:
Most crowdfunding platforms allow nonprofits to:
- Upload images and videos.
- Write a detailed description.
- Post updates and comments.
- Share the campaign across social media sites and email.
- Set up giving levels or tiers.
- Send out automatic acknowledgements to donors.
- Track metrics like number of donors, average donation amount, and total amount raised.
If you want to make the most of your nonprofit’s crowdfunding campaign, follow these best practices:
- Interact with your supporters: Your donors want to know how your online fundraising campaign is going! Keep them in the loop by posting updates and responding to their comments on your crowdfunding page.
- Post at least 4 photos or videos: Media gives your donors some context and allows them to see exactly what they’re donating to. Make sure that your photos look professional and highlight the people, animals, or communities that your nonprofit serves.
- Set up giving levels: Including donation tiers or giving levels on your campaign page allows donors to select the one that they prefer. To create an even bigger impact, you can list out the specific actions that your nonprofit can accomplish with each donation amount.
Main Takeaway: Crowdfunding is one of the best online fundraising ideas for nonprofits. Most crowdfunding platforms enable you to get up and running in just a few minutes, and you can start raising money from your supporters in no time!
2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a type of crowdfunding that many nonprofits pair with fundraising events like walkathons, marathons, and cycling events.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns typically follow this structure:
- A nonprofit sets a goal, determines a timeline, and plans a peer-to-peer event.
- The nonprofit reaches out to loyal supporters and asks them if they want to participate in the fundraiser.
- If supporters are willing to participate, they then set up their own online fundraising pages (with the nonprofit’s help). These individual pages link up to the nonprofit’s main peer-to-peer fundraising page.
- Individuals reach out to their networks to ask for donations on the nonprofit’s behalf.
- Supporters’ friends and family members make donations via the individual’s peer-to-peer fundraising page.
- The nonprofit collects the donations, acknowledges and thanks supporters and donors, and hosts the (typically active) event.
Here’s an example of an individual’s peer-to-peer fundraising page:
This individual peer-to-peer fundraising page is linked to the nonprofit’s primary fundraising page:
This peer-to-peer campaign follows a few best practices that we’re a huge fan of:
- They include several images: Both the nonprofit’s main page and the individual’s campaign page have images and videos that allow supporters to see exactly what their donations are going toward.
- They describe what the contributions will help accomplish: Each page highlights the need for homes and volunteer time in Austin. Both pages have giving tiers that describe what a donation amount will be able to buy. For example, $300 will buy a stove, while $500 will buy a roof.
- Each description is detailed: A good peer-to-peer campaign description is the key to encouraging people to donate to your cause. Without it, people won’t know why you’re raising money! This campaign has listed out the reasons for fundraising and lets people know why building homes in Austin is important.
Main Takeaway: Peer-to-peer fundraising is a type of online fundraising that enables your nonprofit to raise more money and acquire more donors. As your supporters reach out to their networks, your nonprofit can introduce more people to your cause and mission.
3. Matching Gift Drive
Take online giving days one step further. Ask a local company or major donor to match donations made on a particular day to double the amount you raise.
Time sensitive fundraisers work well because they create urgency, a good motivator for supporters. Plus, since each donation goes twice as far, donors will be more likely to participate.
Unlike with corporate matching gift programs that apply only to employees, matching gift drives don’t have restrictions on who can participate!
The key to a prosperous campaign is promotion. Get the most people to participate by posting the details on your social media accounts on the days leading up the event. Don’t forget to mention the business (or major donor) that’s matching all the gifts!
Also, let donors know about the many ways they can contribute. Provide your donors convenient ways to give, such as:
- Donation pages.
- Mobile-responsive forms.
- Crowdfunding pages.
The more fundraising options donors have, the more likely they are to make a donation.
Think about it this way: if you’re hosting a giving day, but only accept donations through a form on your website, this limits the number of people that can contribute to your cause.
If donors encounter your marketing while browsing on their phones, they’ll want a way to donate with that same device. If your form is confusing or hard to read, donors may reconsider donating to your organization.
With that said, make sure that you have a variety of ways to collect donations before launching your matching gift drive.
Main Takeaway: Knowing that their gifts will double for a limited time is a great motivator for donors. Use that knowledge to your advantage and host a matching gift drive.
Bonus: For matching gifts year-round, see how Mercy Corps helps their supporters determine if their employer matches donations on their branded matching gifts page from Double the Donation.
4. T-Shirt Fundraising
Another effective way for nonprofits to fundraise online is by selling t-shirts. Your nonprofit can deisgn t-shirts as merchandise for your organization and sell them online to your supporters.
T-shirt fundraisers are a fun, engaging way to raise money for your nonprofit because they allow supporters to show their love for your organization while still getting something back in return.
For supporters who many not be able to donate as much as they would like due to financial limitations, t-shirt fundraisers offer them the opportunity to contribute to your cause without breaking the bank.
Your nonprofit can get started by promoting t-shirt sales in conjunction with different fundraising campaigns. For example, you might sell holiday-themed t-shirts during year-end giving to capitalize on the seasonal spirit.
Even further, the t-shirts you sell can double as marketing materials for your nonprofit’s brand. When people see their friends wearing your organization’s shirts, they may get inspired to start contributing to your nonprofit.
When choosing an online host for your t-shirt fundraising initiative, select one that:
- Offers plenty of t-shirt customization options.
- Allows you to upload original designs for your shirts.
- Gives you the freedom to set your own t-shirt prices.
- Charges a low-overhead fee so you can keep more of your profits.
- Gives you the ability to customize your nonprofit’s t-shirt sales page.
As your organization starts selling t-shirts, remember that customization is key! Supporters are more likely to buy your organization’s shirts if they feel the product (and sales process) reflects the brand they have come to know and love.
Bonus: Learn more about selling t-shirts to raise money for your nonprofit with Bonfire!
5. Online Donation Forms
One of the most traditional ways to raise money online is through the tried-and-true online donation form. In many cases, donation forms allow you to brand your page and create special fields to capture specific, related information.
Best of all, online donation forms can be mobile-friendly so even more of your supporters have access.
Since there are many customization capabilities available, your organization can create a form that is completely unique to your brand.
Here is an example of what your online donation form could look like:
As you can see, the Water Project does a lot of great things with their donation form:
- First, the donation form has preset giving buttons, making it easy for the donor to choose a gift amount.
- Secondly, donors have the option to set recurring gifts.
- Last, the option to share contributions on Facebook and Twitter is predominantly displayed.
All these features not only help boost your awareness and funds, but they also make the giving process convenient for your donors.
Of course, if your organization wants all of these features (and more!), you’ll have to chose an excellent fundraising software provider.
Look for a vendor that has a responsive technical support team and an easy-to-use interface; you shouldn’t have to be an expert in CSS and HTML to create a professional-looking form.
With a simple donation form builder, your organization should be able to drag and drop the elements you want to use and customize them to fit your needs.
When creating your online donation forms, be considerate of your donors’ time and keep your donations quick and simple.
Main Takeaway: Creating a convenient and beautifully designed donation page starts with finding the right software. Find a provider that offers the features that will make donating quick and easy.
Bonus: One convenient way to give online is via text-to-donate software. Visit MobileCause to learn more about giving on the go with text-to-donate tools!
6. Online Giving Days
The most common online giving day is #GivingTuesday, a national day of charitable giving started a few years ago by the 92nd Street Y in New York.
While your nonprofit might already participate in #GivingTuesday, that doesn’t mean that you can’t organize your own online giving day for your supporters!
Just so we’re clear, an online giving day is a 24-hour period where a nonprofit tries to raise as much money as possible from its supporters.
An online giving day has to have a lot of digital promotion and advertising to make it effective. Reach out to your supporters:
- With emails.
- Over social media.
- Via text message.
- On your website.
- With videos.
These digital outreach methods should contain information about your giving day such as the time, ways to donate, what the funds will go toward, and how supporters can get more involved.
Here’s an example of an animal nonprofit that promotes #GivingTuesday on Twitter:
— Homeward Pet (@HomewardPet) November 27, 2016
Of course, Twitter has character limitations, so this tweet had to be short and sweet. Your other digital promotions for your giving day can go a bit more in-depth and include more specific information about your online fundraiser.
Whatever route you take, make sure that you explain what the funds are going toward and provide supporters with a link to your online donation page.
Main Takeaway: An online giving day can be an energetic and fast-paced way to raise money for your cause. Electrify your donor base with lots of digital promotions and encourage them to give as much as they can in just 24 hours!
7. Text-to-Give Campaign
Text-to-give came on the scene as a digital fundraising method in 2010 when millions of dollars were donated to the American Red Cross to support victims of the Haiti earthquake.
Since then, text-to-give (or text-to-tithe for churches) has become a mainstream way to raise money for any organization or cause!
Today, text-to-give tends to work like this:
- A donor will text a keyword to a specific number that has been assigned to a nonprofit.
- The donor will receive a link as a text message.
- The link takes the donors to a mobile-responsive donation page where they can make a contribution.
It’s that easy!
When choosing a text-to-give tool, look for a provider that is PCI-compliant, which means the company follows strict rules to ensure a high level of security.
Ease of use and integration are also vital characteristics to look for in a text-to-give tool. You want the giving process to be quick and simple for donors as well as have a way to export data to your CRM.
Many nonprofits, schools, and churches use text-to-give technology as an online fundraising avenue throughout the year, but it’s also a popular donation method during fundraising events. One of your speakers can make a live appeal and ask people to give with their cellphones (all of your attendees will likely have their phones in their pockets or purses!).
Main Takeaway: Text-to-give is quickly becoming one of the most popular online fundraising ideas. Don’t get left behind with this fundraising trend!
8. Viral Fundraising Campaign
You’ve likely heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but you may not know just how successful that particular viral fundraising campaign was.
In just a month and a half, the ALS Association was able to raise $115 million (and tons of awareness!) for ALS research by asking people to pour cold water on their heads.
Another example of a viral fundraising campaign is “Movember.” For this viral campaign, men grow out their facial hair during the month of November and make donations in support of men’s health.
These are just two of the many viral fundraising campaigns that nonprofits have started. Why not start your own?
Keep these tips in mind before trying to launch a viral fundraising campaign. And remember, it might take a few months or even more than a year for your campaign to go truly viral.
- Don’t ask for too much. You aren’t going to receive a ton of donations if you ask for $500 every time. Instead, ask people for small contributions like $5, $10, or $20. Once a campaign goes viral, all of those little donations will add up!
- Create a memorable hashtag. Hashtags help group your social media posts and make your nonprofit’s message easier to find on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Create a memorable and punchy hashtag. Use it in all of your social media posts and encourage your supporters to use it, as well!
- Get to the point. A viral campaign has to be focused and targeted. It’s not the time to explain every single detail of your nonprofit’s mission. Instead, boil down your vision to a few key points and use them interchangeably throughout the duration of your campaign.
- Make use of all of your digital channels. Post on Facebook. Tweet out a promotional message. Snap a picture and post it to Instagram. Start a Pinterest board. Send out emails. Use every digital communications channel at your disposal!
Main Takeaway: It might take time to get a viral fundraising campaign off the ground, but if you can do it, your nonprofit’s mission and vision will be made known to supporters across the country and even around the world!
9. Online Cashback Websites
Online cashback sites can be used by nonprofits as well as individuals who are looking to raise a little extra money while doing something that nearly everyone loves: shopping online!
Let’s break down how most online cashback websites work:
- Someone in your nonprofit needs to buy office supplies or something else online.
- The staff member begins their search for office supplies at an online cashback site.
- Once the items have been purchased, a percentage of the total amount is deposited into a cashback account.
- Your nonprofit can withdraw the cashback amount at regular intervals (typically monthly or quarterly).
Common cashback sites include:
In addition to these sites, Amazon, the largest online shopping marketplace, has created an affiliate program that enables nonprofits to receive a certain percentage of sales that originate on the nonprofit’s website.
With Amazon’s affiliate program, your nonprofit can place banners, images, and links on your website that will direct users to a page on Amazon’s site. If the user makes a purchase, your nonprofit gets a cut of the purchase from Amazon.
While cashback sites aren’t going to help your nonprofit break any fundraising records, they are an easy way to raise more money from online shopping. Signing up for most of these cashback sites is easy, and everyone in your nonprofit can participate!
Main Takeaway: Online cashback sites can supplement your existing fundraising efforts. If your staff does a lot of online shopping, sites like Ebates and Amazon can be an easy way to raise extra funds!
10. Online Auctions
Online auctions are essentially digital silent auctions that are more cost-effective and are open to all your supporters, increasing fundraising potential even more.
Just like with any charity auction, you’ll need to procure items and experiences that excite your guests and encourage them to place bids.
Look for unique items that your guests won’t be able to find anywhere else. Look at the following suggestions to help you get started:
- Sports memorabilia.
- Backstage passes to a concert.
- Tickets to an exclusive museum exhibit.
- And so much more!
Generate excitement before your event by creating an auction catalog with images and a description of each item (or experience) and teach registered guests how to place bids to prepare them for the big day.
Main Takeaway: Online auctions make it possible for supporters from all over the world to participate and are cost-effective so that you can raise the most money from your event.
11. Donation for a Vote
The donation for a vote online fundraising idea gets your supporters engaged in a silly challenge in return for their contributions.
Here’s how this fundraiser works:
- Create a list of silly challenges that your staff or volunteers are willing to complete.
- Create a poll, asking your supporters to vote (with a donation) for the challenge they’d like to see your team complete.
- At the end of the poll, record your team completing whatever challenge received the most votes and post it on social media.
The challenges you pick should be interesting and if possible, related to your cause in some way.
In the video, thank your supporters for their contributions, and mention how the funds will be used to further your cause.
Supporters will get a kick out of seeing you do a silly task, and you’ll raise more money for your cause!
Not only will donors like seeing a hilarious video, but they’ll also appreciate that you want their opinion and input. Plus, supporters will encourage their peers to vote so they can see their favorite challenge win.
Main Takeaway: Donation for a vote is a fun (and potentially viral) way to raise money for your cause. Makes sure to choose your challenges and continue to encourage your supporters to vote.
Once you start bringing in that fresh funding, you’ll want to be sure you’re being fiscally responsible and financially accountable.
It’s easy to get lost in the exciting rush of new funds, but you need to be smart about how you handle it. These 7 financial strategies can help you do just that:
- Be prepared with better financial reports.
- Forget about spreadsheets.
- Get everyone involved.
- Stay focused with performance analytics.
- Strategize about growth.
- Use forecasting and budgets to set goals.
- Stay on top of report changes.
You can read more about those seven practices here. And as long as you follow them, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of following through on the 10 online fundraising ideas detailed above.
We hope that these 11 online fundraising ideas have inspired you to go out and try some different fundraising techniques.
For more ideas and tips, check out these helpful resources:
- Beginner’s Guide to Online Fundraising. Need to get back to the basics when it comes to online fundraising? Visit MobileCause for an in-depth beginner’s guide to better understand this important subject.
- 80+ Fundraising Ideas. Couldn’t find what you were looking for with our online fundraising ideas? Check out our full list of ideas. You’re sure to find the perfect fundraiser for your cause!
- Church Fundraising Ideas. If you’re looking for ways to raise money for churches and other faith-based organizations, we’ve got a list of ideas that will help you reach your goals.
- School Fundraising Ideas. Schools need to find family-friendly ways to raise money and engage their students. Check out this list of top ideas from Fundly to get started!
- Top Online Donation Tools. If you want to start fundraising online, you’ll need software to accept donations. Use this list of top tools to find online donation software for your organization!
- Crowdfunding Websites for Individuals. An essential part of crowdfunding is picking a platform, and with over 190 crowdfunding websites in the United States alone, there’s a lot of options to choose from. Luckily, we’ve narrowed down the list to our favorite 9 websites!