The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising + 22 Ideas

The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising + 22 Ideas

Nonprofit Fundraising Basics

What is Nonprofit Fundraising?

Fundraising is the process of asking for gifts from individuals, companies, and foundations on behalf of a charitable cause. Though monetary contributions are most closely associated with nonprofit fundraising, gifts can be made in the form of goods, services, and even time as well.

Nonprofits can fundraise through a variety of digital and traditional communication methods, and it’s an essential component of an organization’s overall revenue generation strategy.

What are the benefits of impactful fundraising?

Nonprofit fundraising is crucial for organizational success. Without smart fundraising, charitable groups would have little to no incoming revenue needed for their mission-related programming and day-to-day operations.

Therefore, nonprofit fundraising serves as a lifeline for organizations to continue their work and make a positive impact on society. This allows teams to raise awareness about their causes, build relationships with supporters, and secure the necessary resources to sustain their programs and services.

How Can I Gain Support For My Fundraiser?

No matter what type of campaign you choose, you’ll need to proactively spread the word about it to encourage people to donate. Even your most dedicated supporters won’t know how to contribute if you don’t take the time to market your fundraising efforts!

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to spread awareness for your fundraisers. You can post flyers on community billboards, share information on your social media pages, send emails to supporters, or leverage free ad space on Google. Plus, you’ll want to invest plenty of time into creating well-designed flyers, signs, and digital ads with eye-catching graphics.

Don’t worry – we’ll cover more ideas in-depth below.

How Can I Get Started with Fundraising?

That’s easy! The best place to get started with nonprofit fundraising is this very guide. After all, the more you know about smart revenue-generation strategies, the better you can craft your fundraising plan and set up your nonprofit group for ongoing success.

Luckily, we’ve got all the answers to your fundraising questions and can help you get started asking for donations in no time. Plus, we’ll share specific tips and tricks that will empower your team to jump right in below.

Getting started with fundraising can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure where to begin. But with the right approach and the resources to back you, it doesn’t have to be difficult!

Key Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas

How Nonprofits Can Raise Money From Companies

Matching Gifts

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What Is It?

Matching gifts are essentially a “Buy One, Get One Free” sale available to fundraising organizations through corporate philanthropy programs. When your donors work for companies that offer these initiatives (which, chances are, they do!), eligible individuals can request that their employer double their gift to your nonprofit.

After a donor makes a contribution, they can submit paperwork (or nowadays, typically an online form) to their employer’s HR department. If the donation and your nonprofit are eligible, the company will cut a check to your nonprofit.

Matching gift programs allow companies to exercise their corporate philanthropy initiatives while engaging their own staff members. They also help donors give twice as much to the causes they care about without opening their wallets a second time.

Keep in mind that matches are typically made on a dollar-for-dollar basis, though some companies go as far as tripling or even quadrupling their employees’ gifts!

How to Get Started

In reality, it’s up to your donors to submit the associated paperwork to their employers to request matching gifts.

However, that doesn’t mean your nonprofit can’t actively promote matching gift programs to your donors to increase engagement and revenue!

In fact, you should let donors know about matching gifts in all of your supporter communications (e.g., fundraising appeals, acknowledgment letters, dedicated emails), within the giving experience (in your donation form, on your confirmation screens, etc.), and more.

If donors are unaware that matching gift programs exist, they won’t know to fill out the requests, and your organization will miss out on eligible funds! Studies indicate that strategic outreach results in more matches ultimately being driven to completion⁠—not to mention retains your nonprofit cause at the forefront of donors’ minds for longer.

Also, ensure you use a matching gift tool. A matching gift tool will help your donors research their employers’ specific matching gift programs and submit their requests. They can look up forms, guidelines, deadlines, and restrictions during the donation experience or directly thereafter. Plus, your team can automate personalized outreach that guides donors through the matching process and drives more matches to completion.

Learn more about matching gifts!

Volunteer Grants

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What Is It?

Volunteer grants are sums of money that companies will distribute after employees have volunteered a minimum number of hours with an eligible nonprofit.

These can be offered in the form of individual volunteer grants that reward a single employee’s volunteer efforts as well as team volunteer grants after a group of employees volunteer at a nonprofit together.

Volunteer grants allow corporate volunteers to give back monetarily to the nonprofits that they care about. At the same time, nonprofits benefit by receiving both volunteer time and charitable donations.

How to Get Started

Just like matching gift programs, volunteer grants rely on supporters to actively submit their grant requests to their employers.

However, you can still promote volunteer grants to your loyal volunteers and encourage them to submit their applications to their company’s HR department.

Mention volunteer grants in your communications to volunteers and during special volunteer days and events.

The more your supporters know about volunteer grants, the more likely they’ll be to submit those requests to their employers.

the graphic describes that for every 25 hours spent volunteering, the company will donate $25

Corporate Grants

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What Is It?

Corporate grants are local, state, or national grants that companies distribute to eligible nonprofits.

Sometimes, a company will select a nonprofit to give the money to. Other times, nonprofits send in their grant applications and the company will make a selection from the applicant pool.

Companies tend to issue grants via their corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility offices or through a corporate foundation.

How to Get Started

If a company selects a grant-recipient internally, there isn’t a whole lot an organization can do.

However, if there is an open application process, the nonprofit should attempt to apply for the grant (when it fits in with the guidelines).

Grant applications can take months to complete, and nonprofits should take the process very seriously.

The impact of corporate giving on nonprofit fundraising

In-Kind Donations

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What Is It?

In-kind donations are contributions of products or services that companies give to nonprofits. These can encompass things like food and drinks for an event, free or discounted tax services during tax season, or equipment for a building project.

In-kind donations usually come from companies with whom the nonprofit has a standing partnership or relationship with.

While these are not monetary gifts, it’s important to recognize that gifts-in-kind help to ease a financial burden and allow nonprofits to complete the projects and host the events that they need to by minimizing their own financial investments.

How to Get Started

Most in-kind donations are given by companies who have close ties or partnership with the nonprofit in question.

Therefore, you’ll need to make sure that you’re asking the right company (preferably one with which you already share a relationship) for an in-kind donation.

Then, do your research! You’ll want to start by formalizing your request with a letter sent to the CSR or corporate philanthropy office. If a company has specific guidelines for requests for in-kind donations, make sure that you follow them closely to put your best foot forward.

donations boxes are shown, representing in-kind donations for nonprofit fundraising

How Nonprofits Can Raise Money From Individuals

Online Donations

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What Is It?

Online donations are contributions that a donor makes to a nonprofit cause via the internet. This giving method has quickly become the new norm due to the fact that nearly everyone is online in some capacity nowadays.

Because most donors are on the web looking for information about organizations anyway, an online donations page is extremely convenient for nonprofit fundraising.

While some might use a PayPal button or another generic giving type, many are increasingly opting to embed custom donation forms on their websites. These donation forms use  dedicated payment processing tools to directly transfer funds to your organization’s bank account, can be branded to match your nonprofit’s existing style, and more.

Better yet, online donation forms allow nonprofits to raise money from virtually anywhere in the world. As long as their website is up and running and donors have access to the internet, a nonprofit can fundraise. No longer are your efforts constrained by physical proximity to your cause! 

How to Get Started

First, you’ll need to optimize your website so that it creates the best giving experience for donors. Create a sleek and aesthetically-appealing site that supporters will want to stay on through the donation process.

Then, you’ll need to create a great online donation page. Though you could potentially create a form in-house with the help of your own web developer, we recommend using an online donation tool that makes it easy to build an effective form in ten minutes or less. Plus, they can even offer pre-existing features that provide a smoother donation process for your donors.

Finally, make sure that donors can quickly find your donation page. You’ll want to prominently feature it throughout your site with clear calls to action that help drive donations!

Nonprofit Fundraising eCards

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What Is It?

Fundraising eCards are a creative way to reel people into your cause. Using eCard creation tools, your team can create digital cards for occasions like birthdays, holidays, and everyday occasions. Think along the lines of thank-you cards and get-well-soon cards, too. Then, you can offer them to supporters in exchange for a donation.

Donors receive something tangible in exchange for their gift. Then, they can customize the email that’s sent along with the card explaining why they gave. When you get creative, the sky’s the limit with this fundraising strategy. You can:

  • Integrate them into your digital donation form.
  • Sell them as products in your online fundraising store.
  • Offer them alongside tribute donations to let the honoree know someone gave in their name.

You’re also not limited to only selling eCards to donors. Instead, you can pull them into your retention efforts by having your team send thank-you cards to committed donors and volunteers.

How to Get Started

To power your eCard fundraisers, you’ll need to find an eCard creation platform. We recommend eCardWidget, because the platform offers unique fundraising features and integrates with tons of popular donation tools.

Use the intuitive eCard builder to design your eCards. Whether you’re a newbie or design pro, you’ll have plenty of templates, graphics, fonts, and colors to bring your vision to life. You can even upload your own graphics, making it easy to incorporate your branding.

Once you’re happy with your designs, you have several options for offering them to donors. Embed your eCards into your site or connect them to your Shopify store. WordPress users can even use the convenient WordPress widget to embed their cards into their website quicker! In no time, you’ll start boosting fundraising revenue thanks to the interactive nature of eCards.

Pictured is an example nonprofit fundraising ecard for fathers day with two cartoon birds on it,,

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

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What Is It?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a way for your supporters to fundraise on your organization’s behalf. Contributions are made through individualized donation pages that are linked up to your nonprofit’s main donation form.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is usually tied to an event like a fundraising walk or bike-a-thon, and involves supporters reaching out to their friends, family members, and coworkers to ask for donations.

When supporters fundraise on your behalf, they are essentially recruiting new donors, giving your donor acquisition rates a boost!

How to Get Started

First, you’ll need to decide what event you’re going to pair your peer-to-peer fundraising efforts with. It tends to work best with active group events, like races.

Then, you’ll have to purchase a great peer-to-peer fundraising platform.

Make sure you pay attention to the platform’s features and pricing. You don’t want to lose money while you’re trying to raise money!

Next, start recruiting supporters.

You’ll need dedicated donors and volunteers who have shown a great interest in your organization in the past.

Then, give them the materials to fundraise on your behalf! These materials could include social media templates or special training sessions.

a diagram of interconnected people is shown, representing the nonprofit fundraising technique of crowdfunding.

Online Shopping Fundraisers

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What Is It?

Online shopping fundraisers are a method of fundraising that allow individuals to support your nonprofit through their online purchases. Nonprofits can launch this fundraiser by partnering with an online shopping program. The right program will have many participating retailers, including ones that your supporters already shop at normally. 

Online shopping fundraisers are commonly thought of as passive fundraisers. However, in reality they do require a reasonable amount of marketing to encourage supporters to continue shopping through your nonprofit’s app or browser extension. 

With this one stipulation, online shopping programs are one of the easiest fundraisers to run as they can be hosted throughout the entire year and charge your supporters no additional costs to participate. 

How to Get Started

Your nonprofit will need to partner with an online shopping program. These programs handle a few core essentials: facilitating relationships with the participating retailers, providing the app and browser technology, and creating a branded experience for your nonprofit’s supporters when they make their purchases. 

Once you’ve partnered with an online shopping program, your nonprofit will just need to encourage your supporters to download the app or browser extension and remind them to make their online purchases through them. Some shopping programs also offer an online mall, allowing your supporters who prefer not to make any downloads to contribute to your cause. 

T-Shirt Fundraising

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What Is It?

For a t-shirt fundraiser, simply create a design that encompasses your cause, either in coordination with another fundraiser or as a standalone campaign. When you launch your campaign and promote the t-shirts, your nonprofit’s donors can buy the shirts, showing their support for the cause. They’ll love receiving a tangible item that represents your cause in exchange for their contributions.

Plus, the t-shirts allow supporters to represent your mission or commemorate an important milestone. Each time your supporters put on their t-shirts, they’ll be reminded of your worthwhile cause, forging a deeper connection to your organization.

Not to mention, it essentially turns your donors into walking billboards! Others will undoubtedly take notice if your supporter’s t-shirt outwardly promotes your nonprofit with your logo, slogan, colors, and other branded elements. In turn, they’ll be inspired to ask about your nonprofit or research the cause on their own.

How to Get Started

To get started, you’ll likely want to choose a t-shirt fundraising website that offers all the apparel options and design tools you need. Depending on the platform, you may be able to upload your own artwork or start from scratch, leveraging their templates and free graphics.

Create your design with the exact styles and colors you want, and when you’re ready, launch your campaign and promote the opportunity to supporters. Buyers select their size and color preferences and then place their orders, and the fundraising platform should take control from there.

You can even equip supporters to launch their own peer-to-peer t-shirt fundraisers that benefit your organization. They can design the apparel in line with your branding standards and select your nonprofit as the beneficiary. Then, your organization will receive a direct payout.

Text Donations

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What Is It?

As we now know, an effective fundraising campaign engages your donors and effectively meets their needs. 

A good example of this is text donations. These days, more than 96% of Americans own a mobile phone of some kind, bringing fundraising to donors’ hands no matter where they are. Made up of both text-to-give or text-to-donate efforts, mobile giving encompasses contributions that supporters can make with a simple text from their mobile phone. 

What is the difference between text-to-give and text-to-donate? 

Text-to-give is a carrier-based mobile fundraising method. Nonprofits simply set up a short code (shortened phone number), a campaign keyword, and a predetermined donation amount. Whenever donors are inspired, they simply text the keyword to the short code and the donation amount is automatically billed to their cell phone bill. 

When using text-to-donate, nonprofits set up a specific number as well as a campaign keyword. Donors then text the keyword and amount to the nonprofit’s specific number. Then, they’re sent the link to the nonprofit’s mobile-responsive donation page. Once a donor fills out their info on this form, they never have to fill it in again. They just text the keyword and donation amount to give!

How to Get Started

First, you’ll need to find a great text donation provider.

To truly perfect your nonprofit fundraising strategy, you need reliable and capable tools to support you. Ensure you find a dedicated and comprehensive solution to help you raise money via text message.

Then, you have to determine how you’re going to implement text donations.

Will you only use it at fundraising events? Will it become an integral part of your overall nonprofit fundraising strategy?

Whatever you choose, you’ll then need to promote text giving to your donors along with easy-to-follow instructions. That means posting your text fundraising number and guidelines on your website, social media accounts, newsletters, and direct mail offerings.

Crowdfunding

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What Is It?

Crowdfunding is a type of fundraising employed by nonprofits and individuals alike. Using a third-party crowdfunding website, fundraisers are able to launch a campaign, promote it online to a widespread audience, and collect small-dollar donations from a variety of supporters.

Made popular by well-known platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, effective crowdfunding campaigns can see significant success in terms of awareness, social sharing, and funding.

Though the strategy can be used to raise funds for just about any organizational need, nonprofit crowdfunding is often employed to raise money for disaster relief, upcoming events, large projects, equipment purchases, and more.

How to Get Started

The first thing you need to do in order to launch a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign is to select a crowdfunding website on which to host your fundraiser.

There are a ton of options, both nonprofit-specific and those open to broader fundraising needs, so make sure you conduct ample research into finding the best platform for your efforts. Keep an eye out for any fees, specific functionality, user reviews, and more.

From there, you’ll be invited to fill in some relevant details for your campaign. This should include a fundraiser title, an explanation of the specific fundraising need, and a description of your overall organization.

An example of an online fundraising page for a crowdfunding campaign

Pledge Fundraising

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What Is It?

Pledge fundraising is the best way to help your campaign gain momentum and draw on a wide variety of supporters. The process behind a pledge fundraising campaign is quite simple. Your supporters pledge to donate money by a specific point in the future (determined by your organization). 

This type of fundraising campaign allows your organization to offer a wide window during which supporters can gather and prepare their donation, ensuring more people are able to participate in your fundraising campaign.

Pledge fundraising campaigns are most often held in response to natural disasters, political campaigns, and infrastructural obstacles. However, they are also a popular form of fundraising for lower-risk types of fundraisers such as event-a-thons and other activities.

How to Get Started

The best thing your organization can do to prepare for a pledge campaign is invest in a quality pledge software. Once you have equipped your team with a platform that will help you keep organized, it is important to establish concrete objectives and deadlines for your campaign.

Set clear and attainable goals for your organization and communicate these to potential pledgors, emphasizing that without their support you will not be able to accomplish the good you want to do for your cause. 

After concluding your pledge drive, make sure you effectively and efficiently collect the pledges and use the necessary tools to streamline the process!

Major Gifts

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What Is It?

Major gifts are typically contributed by donors with close ties to the organization, and often involve a significant cultivation process before the ask itself.

The definition of a major gift will vary depending on a nonprofit’s size and past fundraising efforts. For some, anything over $2,000 is considered major, while others would only count donations that are at least five figures.

Major gifts are some of the most substantial contributions that a nonprofit can receive from an individual. They inevitably tie a donor more closely to the nonprofit that they make the donation to.

Additionally, donors can receive tax benefits for donating a substantial amount of money to a charitable organizations. As a result, major gifts are important types of nonprofit fundraising for both parties involved.

How to Get Started

You probably won’t immediately know who your major gift donors are. Unless someone has expressed an explicit interest in donating a large sum of money to your organization, you’ll have to do some research to find your major gift donors.

Prospect research can be a huge benefit when looking for major donors. This typically involves looking at previous giving and involvement as well as common wealth markers and other indicators to better prepare your staff for a major donation appeal.

It’s nearly impossible to find major gift donors without doing some research beforehand. It’s important to:

#1: Segment your database into giving levels.
#2: Look at previous giving. Examine past donations to your nonprofit and other organizations.
#3: Research property ownership and other wealth markers.

Capital Campaigns

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What Is It?

Capital campaigns allow nonprofits to raise money in a very targeted and purposeful way. These are essentially large-scale fundraising initiatives that aim to raise money for a specific project like a new building, an expansion to an existing structure, or the supplication of an endowment.

They usually last for at least one year but can go on for much longer, and are typically split into two phases: the quiet phase and the public phase.

During the quiet phase, a nonprofit solicits companies and major gift donors to try to raise between 60% and 90% of the total goal.

The public phase is then opened to all donors and is when the rest of the goal is met.

How to Get Started

First, a nonprofit will need to complete a feasibility study. This study measures the community’s reception to the project.

Feasibility studies help nonprofits determine whether or not they will be able to fund the campaign over the course of several months or years.

If the feasibility study shows that the nonprofit has the capacity to launch the capital campaign, the organization will then begin the quiet phase and will start soliciting local businesses and major gift donors for large donations.

Once 60% to 90% of the overall goal has been met, the nonprofit will transition into the public phase and begin asking for donations from members of the general public until the entire goal has been met.

Planned Gifts

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What Is It?

Planned gifts are donations set aside in the present that are then made in the future. Individuals often delineate planned gifts in their wills or bequests.

Planned gifts are often substantial amounts of money made by very loyal supporters. Some planned gifts are anticipated, but sometimes a nonprofit will be pleasantly surprised by a substantial planned donation.

Planned gifts offer donors the opportunity to express their appreciation for a nonprofit in a very tangible way.

How to Get Started

To get started with planned giving, you’ll need to determine who among your donor base would be a likely candidate for a planned gift.

Because planned giving is considered a major decision and can be a delicate topic, it’s best to thoroughly research a prospect and craft a well-thought-out plan.

If you do thorough research, you will have a better handle on who might be a potential planned giving prospect and how you can tactfully go about the conversation.

Phonathons

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What Is It?

A phonathon is a fundraising campaign that requires volunteers to call donors to ask for contributions. Schools and colleges use phonathons to solicit donations from alumni, but they can be used by any kind of organization.

You can’t realistically go out and meet all of your donors. But if you can talk to them on the phone for a few minutes, it helps to humanize your organization.

Donors then think of your nonprofit as a group of people trying to support a noble cause instead of a organization that asks for money every few months.

How to Get Started

First, you’ll need to develop a phonathon script. While callers shouldn’t necessarily read the script word for word, it should list out several talking points and responses that volunteers can use when they talk to supporters.

You might also need to employ the help of a phonathon service or software to help you manage and track calls and process donations.

Don’t forget: you’ll also need a list of donors’ current phone numbers, so you might consider conducting a phone number append beforehand. You can’t host a phonathon without numbers to call!

Direct Mail Donations

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What Is It?

Donations made by direct mail are usually made in the form of checks. Donors who use this method are usually older and prefer a more traditional giving method.

Direct mail can be used by anyone as long as you provide a self-addressed envelope, and, until recently, was one of the most popular ways to donate.

Direct mail donations are important because they help your donors form a personal connection with your organization.

How to Get Started

To get started with direct mail fundraising, you’ll need to write a great appeal (or start with a well-crafted template). You have to convince donors to join your cause and support your mission.

Then, start sending! Mail out appeal letters a few times a year. You don’t want to bombard donors, but you don’t want them to forget about you, either.

Recurring Donations

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What Is It?

Recurring donations are contributions that a donor elects to make on a regular basis.

Usually, they are monthly or quarterly donations, but they can be made as frequently as weekly.

Recurring donations can be made via check, text-to-give, or through an online donation page (if your form offers donors that option).

Recurring donations give donors the ability to automate their contributions. They also boost donor retention rates.

How to Get Started

If you want to start encouraging donors to make recurring contributions, you should set up your online donation page to accept these kinds of donations.

If this is a feature that your donation page provider or text-to-give software offers, take advantage of it!

For direct mail donations, you can send donors information about the ease and convenience of recurring donations and encourage them to send in their contributions on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Annual Campaigns

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What Is It?

Annual campaign donations are contributions for a nonprofit’s annual fund, which is comprised of the money that keeps an organization running.

Other campaigns typically focus on raising money for specific projects or initiatives. An annual campaign is more of a general operational fund, and can be funded through a combination of checks, online contributions, text message donations, and more.

Remember that donations made to an annual campaign help keep a nonprofit running. Annual fund donations pay for salaries, office space, bills, marketing materials, supplies and equipment, etc.

How to Get Started

To get started with annual fund fundraising, your team will need to prepare dedicated marketing materials to get the word out about the giving opportunity. Then, you’ll start asking for donations from a variety of supporters in different ways.

Keep in mind that an annual fund is an ongoing process, which means the work never really stops.

But once you have a loyal base of donors who give regularly to your organization, your annual campaigns will grow each year.

Fundraising Events

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What Is It?

Event donations are contributions that supporters make during a fundraising event such as a gala, walkathon, or charity auction. Depending on the type of event, the money raised might come in different forms.

For instance, during a charity auction, fundraising dollars might come in the form of winning bids, whereas at a gala, donors might text in their donations or contribute via a donation kiosk.

Event donations are just a small part of the event fundraising puzzle, but they’re important because they can encourage many people to give at once. Plus, they can leverage the idea of social proof to produce significant impact overall.

How to Get Started

First, you’ll need to decide what kind of event you’re going to host.

As any seasoned fundraising professional will tell you, most events will require months, if not a year, of preparation. To supplement your planning process, many nonprofits use event management tools to stay organized throughout the planning stage.

Then, figure out how you’re going to ask for donations during the event. The method you choose will likely depend on the type of event you’re hosting.

For example, you could make a live appeal at some point during the event and encourage donors to use your fundraising tools to give. Or you could set up a donation table or booth on-site where those who want to can make a contribution.

How Nonprofits Can Raise Money From Foundations

Community Foundation Grants

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What Is It?

Community foundation grants are sums of money that are distributed by local, state, or national foundations.

These foundations are actually nonprofit entities designed to provide other organizations with funding.

Grants can be applied for and received annually. Some foundations have a rigorous application process, while others will award the grant amount to a nonprofit that they choose internally.

How to Get Started

The application process for a community foundation grant can take months. You’ll want to make sure that you have a point person to head up all of your application processes and can communicate with representatives at the foundation.

You might even need to bring on a professional grant writer to help your organization with the application process.

If you decide to apply for several different grants during the same calendar year, you can put your organization on a grant application calendar.

Private or Family Foundation Grants

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What Is It?

Private or family foundation grants are very similar to community foundation grants.

The only difference is the source; private or family grants are made by private foundations while community grants are made by either corporate or community foundations.

Private or family grants can also be large sums of money that a private foundation gives to a nonprofit of their choice or after organizations have sent in their applications.

Additionally, some of these grants occur on a yearly basis, meaning that organizations may receive a steady source of funds.

How to Get Started

First, you’ll need to determine if you’re eligible to receive the private or family grant that you’re interested in.

Most foundations have stipulations and rules that organizations must follow before being considered for grant eligibility.

Study up on the grant you’re applying for and the foundation that is distributing it. Then start getting your application ready!

Each grant will require different materials, but if you follow the guidelines very carefully, you should be more than prepared.

Getting Started with Nonprofit Fundraising

1. Understand Motivations for Giving

Altruism

A desire to help is one of the top reasons people give to nonprofits. Individuals like to help the people in their communities and around the world.

Some people are more inclined to support local community charities, while others like to give to larger international nonprofits. However, the desire to help others is one of the primary factors for donating.

Internal Satisfaction

Some people donate because it makes them feel good about themselves. This motivator can live in conjunction with the altruistic desire to give.

The impact of the donation is not lessened by the fact that the donor gives it out of self-satisfaction. When individuals help others, they naturally feel a little better about themselves, motivating them to give in the future.

Personal Connection

Sometimes, an individual gives because they have a particularly strong personal connection to the cause or organization they’re supporting.

For instance, a cancer survivor will be more inclined to give to a cancer research institute than someone whose life has never been affected by the disease. Personal connections can be a huge driving force behind charitable donations.

Societal Expectations

Many people will give to a charity because their friends, family members, or coworkers are doing so. They donate because of a sort of peer pressure known as social proof.

Again, this motivational factor can be combined with any other. No one is only giving because their best friend made a donation. They’re giving for a variety of reasons, and societal expectations might happen to be one of them.

Tax Incentives

A donation to a nonprofit organization may grant a donor a charitable deduction against their income tax if they itemize their deductions.

The higher a donor’s income bracket, the more their charitable deduction will be. And while getting a tax deduction usually isn’t a primary motivator for giving, it can be an additional incentive for donors who give substantial amounts of money to nonprofit causes.

Increase donor support and retention with our guide to matching gifts in the donor journey

2. Build Your Fundraising Team

Executive Director

The executive director of a nonprofit is the point person in charge of overall organizational fundraising. You might even think of this role like the nonprofit version of a CEO!

While their day-to-day operations can differ, the executive director typically helps cultivate and solicit major gift donors, form corporate partnerships, and more.

Major Gifts Officer

If your organization wants to make the most of its most lucrative donors and prospects, it’s a good idea to designate an official Major Gifts Officer to handle all things major gifts.

This team member’s role will focus on identifying potential major donors, cultivating connections with these individuals, soliciting large-dollar donations, and stewarding ongoing relationships.

Development Staff

The overall development staff is comprised of people who actively solicit donations from individuals, companies, and foundations.

Each staff member might be responsible for a different area of fundraising or a different level of giving, and the size of the development team can vary largely depending on the size and scope of the organization for which they work.

Board Members

A nonprofit’s board of directors is often heavily involved in the fundraising process. Board members can provide connections and introductions to corporate partners, major gift donors, and other sources of revenue.

Additionally, board members are usually expected to make some kind of contribution at least once a year, if not more frequently.

3. Prepare These Nonprofit Fundraising Must-Haves

  • Financial Goal

    An overall financial goal gives your nonprofit direction and the ability to strategize when it comes to your different fundraising methods.

    Additionally, you should set individual goals for the specific campaigns you run throughout the year. Having a targeted goal in mind will motivate your staff members and volunteers and keep you on the right track.

  • Budget

    Unfortunately, it takes money to raise money. No matter what type of fundraising avenue you choose, you’ll have to pay for certain base costs like staff time, marketing materials, donation collection, and software.

    A nonprofit should always have an overall budget, but each of your campaigns should have its own itemized budget as well. You may need to conduct a feasibility study before launching your campaign to ensure you have sufficient funds and enough support to make your fundraiser worth the effort.

  • Volunteers

    Regardless of your organization’s size, you’ll likely need volunteers to help you run certain nonprofit fundraising endeavors.

    You might need a group of volunteers to assist with check-in and check-out at your charity auction. Or you could ask some supporters to help out during a phonathon. The point is, volunteers are an essential component of nonprofit fundraising.

  • Marketing Materials

    You’ll need to get the word out about whatever fundraising effort you choose, which means you’ll need comprehensive marketing materials. You can print pamphlets, flyers, and banners. But you can also go digital and create cohesive graphics and messaging for social media, email, and text message marketing.

    Either way, you might consider hiring a professional graphic designer to create your marketing materials so you can fully focus on your campaign. We recommend Kwala, a graphic design firm that specializes in mission-driven marketing and offers services for print and digital advertising!

  • Prospect Research

    Prospect research is an invaluable tool if your nonprofit wants to raise more money from planned and major gift donors. It allows you to dig into your database and external resources to look at past giving history and patterns, empowering your team to identify potential supporters and personalize donation requests for the greatest results.

  • Fundraising Software

    Be sure to equip your fundraising team (and your donors!) with powerful fundraising software to support your overall efforts. This may include an online donation platform, donor management system, matching gift solution, and more.

    Though it will typically require upfront costs, the return on your investment will be great when you consider all the money you’ll raise and the team time you’ll save!

4. Promote Your Nonprofit Fundraisers

Paid Advertising

This is one of the quickest ways to generate awareness for your nonprofit fundraising campaigns! Plus, programs like Google Ad Grants and Microsoft Ads for Social Impact provide free access to paid advertising platforms to approved nonprofits.

With these programs, you can promote your donation form and campaign pages (or any mission-centric page). After conducting research, you’ll select your keywords. Then, you’ll craft ads that inspire users to visit your site’s landing pages and donate to your cause.

Whether you want to promote a specific event or boost your donation page, paid advertising is a surefire way to do that!

There’s a lot that goes into creating these ads and managing a Google Ads or Microsoft Ads account, though. Many nonprofits partner with a dedicated agency to craft winning ads. That way, your team can focus on hashing out the details of your fundraising campaigns.


Direct Mail

Contrary to popular belief, direct mail is not dead. In fact, it’s viewed as one of the most personal marketing methods, and nonprofit fundraising research estimates that 16% of donors prefer to give via direct mail.

Send flyers and fundraising letters, asking recipients to donate to your organization.

To stand out among stacks of bills and junk mail, put some thought into your design. Add eye-catching graphics, and brand it to your organization by using your official colors and logo.

Then, make it as simple as possible for them to donate by including the URL for your donation page, a QR code that will automatically take them there, and a perforated mail-in slip to send their donations.


Email

Email is one of the most effective forms of nonprofit marketing. In fact, for every 1,000 fundraising emails they send, nonprofits raise an average of $42, according to recent nonprofit fundraising statistics.

To use this channel, include a snippet about your current and upcoming fundraisers in every nonprofit newsletter you send. You can also spotlight impactful donors, share updates from past campaigns, and share stories from your beneficiaries to encourage more donations.

In any case, put some time into organizing each newsletter in an appealing format and creating standout subject lines to boost your open rates.

Word of Mouth

Few marketing techniques are as powerful as word-of-mouth advertising. Encourage your supporters to reach out to their family and friends, letting them know about your cause and its current nonprofit fundraising campaign.

You can supply your volunteers with templates to make sure they properly represent your cause. Alternatively, you can give them free rein over their outreach. Your most passionate supporters will jump at the opportunity to champion your cause.

When someone hears about your nonprofit from someone they trust, they’re much more likely to get involved. Even something as simple as them sharing one of your nonprofit’s social media posts can connect you with new supporters.

Social Media

Anyone who follows your nonprofit on social media obviously has an affinity for your cause! Get them involved in your nonprofit fundraising by posting about your campaigns on social media.

Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, there are several bases you’ll need to cover. Here are a few tips to inspire more people to support your fundraisers:

  • Adjust the content based on the platform. For instance, Instagram lends itself well to eye-catching photos, while Facebook is best for long-form content updates. Your core message can stay the same, but the format you present it in should change to appeal to each platform’s audience.
  • Share campaign updates. Share updates on your work thanks to your supporters’ contributions. This will show that their donations actually do make a difference and that your nonprofit uses funding responsibly, inspiring followers to give to your current campaign.
  • Interact with your followers. Social media opens up two-way communication for nonprofits. You can reply to comments on your fundraiser posts and like followers’ posts about your nonprofit.

No matter your approach, tell your followers how to get involved. Direct them to your donation page, event registration page, or any other campaign page.

The Nonprofit Fundraising Cycle

1. Identification
2. Qualification
3. Cultivation
4. Solicitation
5. Stewardship
1. Identification

Identification is the first step in the fundraising cycle. It involves using prospect research or other methods to determine which donors your nonprofit will be targeting for the specific campaign you’re launching.

When looking for individuals to ask for donations, it’s best to start with those who have frequently given to your organization in the past. Previous donations are the best indicators of future giving, after all!

You can also use prospect research to help narrow down your prospect list. The results of your prospect screening will depend on the type of donor you’re looking for. The candidates for a major giving program will likely be different than those for a broad text-to-give campaign.

If you’re looking to obtain corporate donations or foundation funding, you’ll need to identify companies and foundations whose missions align closely with yours. This will make it easier to make your case when asking for donations.

2. Qualification

Qualification is really an extension of identification. It involves someone from your nonprofit reaching out to a prospect to gauge their interest in giving to your organization.

Qualification is often used for major and planned giving donors or corporate partnerships. Because it usually involves a face-to-face meeting with a prospect (known as a “qualification visit”), it can’t be used for every single donor.

A qualification visit can be a nerve-wracking experience, even for a seasoned fundraising professional. The most important thing to remember, however, is that the conversation should be focused on the prospect. Don’t spend the whole meeting talking about how great your organization is or how badly you need money for an upcoming project.

Instead, pay attention to the prospect’s interests and preferences. Listen to them, and you’ll be far more prepared when it comes time to actually ask for a donation.

3. Cultivation

Cultivation is arguably one of the most important stages in the nonprofit fundraising cycle. It involves an organization and a prospect getting to know each other a little better.

It’s commonly likened to tending to a growing tree. Before a tree can become full-grown, you have to care for it, water it, and make sure that it gets lots of sunlight and nutrients. 

Treat your prospect relationships with the same care and deliberation that you would when growing a tree. Follow up with a prospect after a qualification visit. Invite them to a free event. Have a board member give them a call.

Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it. If you water a tree too much, it won’t flourish. Keep in touch with prospects enough so that your organization is in their minds but not so much that you start to irritate them.

4. Solicitation

You’ve worked hard to get to this point, and now it’s time to ask a prospect for a donation!

If you’re asking a major gift prospect, solicitation should take place in person or, in rare circumstances, over the phone (if a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible).

However, for less intense nonprofit fundraising methods, solicitation can take place in any number of ways. You could ask for donations via email, social media, letters, text message, or over the phone!

When soliciting a donor for any amount, remember to make a genuine ask. Remind prospects of what their donations will go toward and emphasize their gift’s impact.

Make the solicitation about your donors and how they can help your organization. Donor-centric solicitation methods are more successful that ones that focus on you and your nonprofit.

5. Stewardship

The nonprofit fundraising process isn’t over just because a donor has said “Yes!” and given to your organization.

The stewardship process begins as soon as a check has been written or an online donation has been made. 

You should immediately send donors a thank you note, letter, or email. Of course, a letter won’t be received as quickly as an email or phone call, but the sooner you can thank donors, the better.

You should also continue to steward your relationship with your donors in the weeks and months after they make a donation.

Offer supporters other opportunities to get involved based on the size of their donation and their own personal interests. You can invite them to events, encourage them to sign a petition, or ask them to volunteer with your organization.

Make sure that your stewardship activities are in line with donors’ relationship with your nonprofit and their past involvement. All in all, these efforts can help you approach donor relationships more proactively, resulting in elevated long-term support for your mission and stronger connections with donors.

Nonprofit Fundraising Rules and Ethics

The Basics

While fundraising, it’s crucial to understand and maintain ethical best practices, including:

  • Registering for fundraising, understanding timelines, and recognizing exemptions
  • Managing donation receipts
  • Complying with political fundraising restrictions.

Here are more details about nonprofit fundraising ethics that you should know:

The ethics of nonprofit fundraising are explained and outlined below,

Registration Timeline

Charitable solicitation registration must occur before a nonprofit begins fundraising. Otherwise, the organization could incur penalties or fines and might not be able to fundraise in that state.

Additionally, some states require nonprofits to register and report their financial results if they have assets that are tied to a charitable trust.

Registration Exemptions

Some nonprofits are not required to register with states before asking for donations. Nonprofit hospitals, educational and religious institutions are usually exempt from registering with the state.

Additionally, if a nonprofit is small or doesn’t bring in a certain amount (determined by the state), they are exempt from registering in that state.

Donation Receipts

Donation receipts are required for single donations of $250 or greater. However, they’re also required if a donor received goods or services in exchange for a donation greater than $75.

Gift receipts can be sent as emails or letters, but they must be received by January 31st of the year following the donation. Still, we recommend sending your receipts no later than two weeks following the date on which you received the donation.

Political Fundraising Restrictions

According to the IRS, nonprofits cannot take part in “electioneering.” This means they are prohibited from doing anything to impact someone’s chances of winning (or losing) an election for public office.

If an organization participates in electioneering, they could have their 501(c)(3) status (and, thus, their ability to fundraise) revoked by the state.

Additional Fundraising Resources

Top Fundraising Ideas


Find even more great ideas for your nonprofit fundraising with this free ideas generator.

Coming up with unique and impactful fundraising ideas doesn’t have to be difficult.

Check out our comprehensive list of fundraising ideas to find a campaign that’s tailored to your cause, budget, and any other preferences!


Matching Gift Basics


Improve your nonprofit software toolkit with matching gifts

Matching gifts are our #1 recommendation for any organization looking to improve its fundraising.

Learn everything you need to know about this type of initiative in our complete guide for smart nonprofits!


How to Ask for Donations


How to ask for donations

We get it; asking for donations can be tough. But don’t worry!

We’ve got your back with our in-depth guide that’s chock-full of tips and tricks for impactful solicitations.