Phonathons: The Fundraiser's Ultimate Guide & Top Tips

Phonathons: The Fundraiser’s Ultimate Guide & 15+ Top Tips

Raise more with matching gifts in your next phonathon.

Phonathons are a tried-and-true resource for all sorts of nonprofits and higher education institutions to engage donors and raise money effectively. While the benefits of a phonathon campaign are fairly straightforward, running a successful campaign is no easy task.

One thing that phonathons have historically struggled with has been identifying donors who may be eligible for a matching gift from their employer⁠—and pursuing those corporate matches to completion.

So how do you optimize matching gifts in your phonathons? Here at Double the Donation, we’ve compiled a number of tips and tricks to effectively communicate with your donors about matching gifts and raise more in phonathon revenue overall.

To plan a successful phonathon campaign, be sure to:

  1. Focus on the larger mission.
  2. Create a standardized script.
  3. Practice with mock calls.
  4. Schedule calls when donors are home.
  5. Set nightly/weekly fundraising goals.
  6. Use phonathon management software.
  7. Train callers on matching gifts.
  8. Implement screening and segmentation.
  9. Include matching gifts in call scripts.
  10. Prepare for donor questions.
  11. Equip callers with matching gift resources.
  12. Follow up with match-eligible donors.
  13. Track and incentivize successful conversations.
  14. Keep an eye on trends in employer information.
  15. Integrate your fundraising and matching gift tools.
  16. Bonus! Fundraising advice from phonathon experts.

Here are the steps involved in a successful phonathon fundraiser.

By adding matching gifts to your phonathon strategy, your campaign will see even greater success. If you can capitalize on that potential during your phonathon, you’ll see a massive increase in funds brought in.

Are you ready to find out how to optimize your organization’s upcoming phonathon to raise more? Let’s dive in.

Focus your phonathon on your nonprofit's mission.

1. Focus on the larger mission.

The most successful fundraising campaigns are focused on more than raising a certain dollar amount. If you can help donors understand why your cause is a worthy one, then you are far more likely to succeed. By highlighting the larger purpose of the campaign, you can motivate both donors and callers to feel good about what they’re doing!

To illustrate our point, take a look at two possible phonathon script introductions:

  • Phonathon Script Introduction #1: “I’m calling on behalf of University X to raise money for our annual phonathon campaign. Would you consider making a donation of $100 to the university’s endowment fund?”
  • Phonathon Script Introduction #2: “I’m calling on behalf of University X to raise money for our annual phonathon campaign. Would you consider making a donation of $100 to the university’s endowment fund? Every dollar you donate will go to scholarships for students in financial need!”

See the difference? In both cases, the caller is asking for the same dollar amount. But in our second example, the donor understands how their donation will be helping someone in need.

Create a script for your phonathon.

2. Create a standardized script.

For many of your callers, this will be their first phonathon campaign. The idea of getting on the phone with alumni to ask for donations can be extremely intimidating.

Creating a detailed and interactive script can help ease the nerves of new callers and standardize your donor’s experience. Here are the key components to any phonathon script:

  • Introduction: Answer the most basic questions: Who are you? What is your relationship to the organization running the campaign? Why are you calling?
  • Statement of purpose: Why is your organization asking for donations? What will the contributions be used for?
  • First ask: Make the initial request for a donation. What is the suggested donation amount? If the donor has made a donation previously, how much should the caller suggest they donate this year?
  • Gift confirmation: Success! How do we close the deal? How do we deal with different payment methods?
  • Answers to common objections: Not everyone wants to donate. How do we respond to common objectives such as a lack of interest, recent issues with the organization, or other giving priorities?
  • Non-pledge close: For those calls that don’t end in success, it’s important to help close the conversation gracefully to maintain the relationship with the donor.

A great script is arguably the most important component of a successful phonathon, as it’s a resource that every caller will use. Spend significant time working with your organization’s communication director to put this resource together.

Practice for your upcoming phonathon.

3. Practice with mock calls.

Having a team of well-trained callers is the secret to any successful phonathon campaign.

Prepare callers by organizing mock calls. During this time, they’ll read through the provided script and respond to a variety of different “donor personas.” See how they respond when a donor has questions about the campaign, voices objections, or is looking to complete their transaction.

This strategy will help you callers feel more at ease when it comes time to dial a real donor’s phone number. Plus, it can help get some of the roadblocks and uncertainties out of the way early!

Schedule calls for your phonathon.

4. Schedule calls when donors are home.

One of the most common challenges for phonathon callers is simply reaching the donor in the first place.

To improve the chances that your donors pick up the phone, consider calling during the hours when they are most likely to be home and available. These are some of our favorite times to do so:

  • Monday – Thursday, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM. If you call within this time window, most donors will be home from work. Yet, it’s early enough that you reduce the risk of waking anyone up (tip: cranky donors rarely give donations).
  • Sunday, 5:00 – 9:00 PM. At this time on a Sunday, most donors will be finished with their weekend errands and are likely available for a conversation.

Make sure that you’re planning to reach donors when they’re ready and able to chat for the greatest fundraising success.

Set goals for your phonathon.

5. Set nightly/weekly fundraising goals.

Setting goals greatly increases your chances of fundraising success. Encourage your callers to set nightly or weekly donation goals to instill a sense of accomplishment when they reach and exceed their objectives.

Then, there are plenty of opportunities to make the most of your tracking results. We suggest that you:

  • Identify any knowledge gaps and situations where additional training is needed.
  • Assign your most effective callers to your highest-value prospective donors.
  • Communicate the concrete donation impact of your callers’ fundraising goals.

Setting detailed objectives helps your organization keep track of how many donations you’re bringing in within a certain timeframe. You can even leverage some friendly competition between callers this way!

Use phonathon software.

6. Use phonathon management software.

Consider purchasing phonathon software from a well-established vendor, such as industry leader Wilson-Bennett Technology’s DonorConnect. This type of tool can save you time, money, and many of the technical headaches that would ordinarily get in the way of a successful campaign.

Common tasks that phonathon software handles include:

  • Managing and updating your donor database.
  • Automating pledge verification via email.
  • Tracking call results.
  • Issuing reports on campaign progress.

By automating these time-consuming tactical steps, you can spend your time managing callers, increasing donations, and engaging in deeper relationships with supporters.

Ensure proper phonathon caller training.

7. Train callers on matching gifts.

Using matching gifts to boost phonathon funds starts and ends with your callers. These individuals are the voice of your campaign, working hard to help you fulfill your mission. They need to be prepared to both speak to and answer any questions a prospect may have regarding matching gifts.

While you may understand the value of capturing employer data and pursuing a matching gift from your donors, your caller and digital engagement teams may not. Make sure the people who will be having those real-time conversations understand the what, why, and how of matching gifts.

Consider these four components of effective matching gift phonathon training:

  1. Materials: Document how callers should ask about matching gifts and the process by which they should share company rules, guidelines, and instructions.
  2. Speakers: Who at your organization is responsible for matching gifts? Invite him or her to speak with your callers.
  3. Practice: Have your callers pair up and do trial runs on a few matching gift companies. Provide feedback as needed.
  4. Coaching: Like with anything, there’s always room for improvement. Listen for matching gift asks during calls and provide guidance to improve techniques.

Ensuring your team is on the same page about matching gift goals will make the ask that much easier when the opportunity arises. Being a caller for a phonathon is no easy task. But with proper training, you’ll situate your callers in the best possible position to make matching gift asks.

Screen and segment your phonathon donors.

8. Implement screening and segmentation.

Make the most of your callers’ (and your donors!) time by pre-screening and segmenting your calling list beforehand in terms of matching gift prospects.

Think of it this way: would you rather call 10 people and have 1 person respond positively, or call 5 and have 3 people respond positively? By segmenting your contacts prior to reaching out, you’re ensuring that each call is a more valuable use of your team’s time and resources.

For matching-gift-related segmentation, you’ll be enacting a three-point process:

  • First, pre-screen your file for matching gift eligibility. It is likely that a sizable percentage of your existing prospects are matching gift eligible. Know who they are in advance.
  • Second, append relevant information to your file. Append employer data and phone numbers to either your entire file or best prospects.
  • Third, segment your calling list accordingly. Assign your best callers to high-value match-eligible prospects. Not only are those candidates’ donations likely to get matched, but they are likely to have higher average donation amounts. If they don’t respond the first time, this group might even be worth a second call!

Increasing matching gift eligibility awareness is only going to help your campaign. Give your callers the information they need to have the biggest impact.

Of course, call volume is always going to be crucial for successful phonathons. But if your organization can be even 10% more deliberate about who you’re calling, it can have a great impact on your call conversion rate.

Include matching gifts in your phonathon.

9. Include matching gifts in call scripts.

With over 18 million individuals working for companies with matching gift programs, many of your phonathon donors are bound to be eligible for a corporate match. Your callers should always be asking donors if their employer offers a matching gift program.

Here’s how (it’s as easy as A-B-C!):

  • A: Ask every time. Few donors are thinking about (or are even aware of) matching gifts. Let them know about the potential.
  • B: Be persistent. Donors sometimes default to, “I don’t think so,” when asked if their company will match their donation. Have callers ask for an employer name and then quickly research that specific company.
  • C: Come prepared. If a donor submitted a matching gift in the past, come to the call prepared with the company’s matching gift information. Make the process simple and easy for your donors.

Let’s walk through an example of how to properly incorporate matching gifts into your script. A normal phonathon call will consist of the following steps:

  1. The caller introduces themself and the organization that’s fundraising.
  2. The caller asks the potential donor if they are willing to donate.
  3. The potential donor says yes/no.
  4. If the answer is no, the caller politely thanks the prospect for their time and ends the call.
  5. If the answer is yes, the caller begins the donation process with the new donor and helps guide them through the experience.

Once the donation is secured, have your caller make the matching gift ask. Use a template similar to this:

Many companies actually match donations made by their employees to schools and other nonprofits. Do you know if you or your spouse works for a company that offers a matching gift program? I’m happy to do a quick check to see if your company will double or possibly triple your donation.

Scripts take the guesswork and pressure out of calls. Plus, if your request process is standardized, you’re in a better position to evaluate and adjust according to the results.

Prepare for questions from phonathon donors.

10. Prepare for donor questions.

Some donors will be hesitant to give, especially if they’ve never contributed financially to your organization before. If they have questions about your mission, your particular fundraising need, or anything else that might be holding them back, you’ll want to have the answers prepped and ready.

Additionally, your donors might have questions about matching gift opportunities. Be sure your callers are able to provide basic information on company gift-matching by answering questions such as these: What is a matching gift? How do I figure out if my company will match my gift? What’s the submission process?

Making sure that everyone is on the same page with regard to these questions will help ensure that your callers can give supporters the most thorough and accurate information and best drive as many donations as possible.

Equip phonathon callers with resources.

11. Equip callers with matching gift resources.

Do your callers have the information they need to help donors? They obviously can’t be expected to memorize the program guidelines for all the thousands of companies that offer matching gifts⁠—so where can they find that information to pass along?

That’s where your matching gift company database comes in! This type of tool allows users to conduct a quick search of an employer name and receive detailed guideline information in seconds. Equip callers with access to this comprehensive database to uncover the following:

  • Employee eligibility
  • Types of qualifying nonprofits
  • Match ratios
  • Match minimums and maximums
  • Forms and guidelines
  • Submission deadlines and instructions

Providing callers with this ample information will help them quickly and easily answer common questions from donors. Once a donor has expressed interest in requesting a matching gift, you want your caller to be able to help in any way they can. Don’t miss out on a matching gift due to a technical or otherwise avoidable issue!

Follow up with phonathon donors.

12. Follow up with match-eligible donors.

If a donor has expressed interest in matching gifts on the phone, your organization has to follow up afterward to increase the likelihood of your turning interest into action.

Immediately after the conversation, send an email with matching gift request instructions for the individual’s employer. You’ll also want to include matching gift reminders across various donor communications, including:

  • Pledge acknowledgments
  • Thank you’s
  • End-of-year reminders

Telling donors their gift is eligible for a match is only one component of boosting matching gifts. It’s far more valuable if you pair that information with actionable next steps.

We also recommend embedding matching gift information into your website. Give your alumni and supporters a trusted place to find their matching gift info and guided the next steps on an easy-to-find webpage, so they can take action after speaking with your ambassadors. This helps interested supporters discover gift matching and double their own donations!

Track and incentivize successful phonathon efforts.

13. Track and incentivize successful conversations.

Are your callers held accountable and rewarded for their overall fundraising and matching gift performance? One of the best ways to ensure that callers know how important matching gifts are to your phonathon is by implementing tracking with incentives.

Giving your callers something to work towards will only help your fundraising efforts. Then, once they reach and surpass their goal, provide them with a small token of appreciation⁠: such as a t-shirt, hat, mug, or even public recognition!

Tracking and incentivizing fundraising results also gives you a positive metric for tracking caller proficiency and efficiency. This enables you to define where your phonathon is doing well and where it has room for improvement. Once you’ve isolated those areas, you are in a great position to adjust your efforts as needed.

Note any trends in your phonathon fundraisers.

14. Keep an eye on trends in employer information.

As you start to collect employer information from your alumni and supporters, you may notice trends in company data. Be sure to ask questions like these:

  • Do a lot of your donors work for the same companies?
  • In similar industries?
  • In specific locations?
  • Do those common companies your donors work for have strong matching gift programs?
  • Is there a concentrated area of match-eligible donors you could target for your next campaign?

These are all characteristics you can determine with greater accuracy the more donors you collect employer data from. While these are nice-to-know facts for general fundraising initiatives, they can also have a more significant impact on your greater matching gifts strategy.

Therefore, make sure you’re considering matching gifts when analyzing those trends for future initiatives. You never know when that information could come in handy for future events, digital outreach, or even a future phonathon!

Integrate your phonathon and matching gift tools.

15. Integrate your fundraising and matching gift tools.

Phonathons and other digital engagement events can be huge operations, and a lot can get lost in the shuffle if you don’t have the right tools. Luckily, providing a scalable system for your fundraising ambassadors and callers is an easy and effective way to organize your donor data. With matching gifts added to the mix, you’ll want an automated system to take care of all the nitty-gritty details for you.

We recommend using a phonathon system to manage all your digital engagement needs⁠—particularly one that integrates with powerful gift matching tools! Donor Connect by Wilson-Bennett Technology and 360MatchPro by Double the Donation offer an integrated solution that allows callers to retrieve and communicate valuable matching gift information when speaking to donors in real-time.

It takes virtually no effort from your team to get set up with the integration, and you’ll be able to start using it right away in your next digital engagement event. Automate the best practices listed above by incorporating the autocomplete search tool within Donor Connect scripts, automated email outreach, and regularly updated donor data.

Bonus! Advice from phonathon experts

Bonus! Fundraising advice from phonathon experts.

Hear from the phonathon fundraising experts at Wilson-Bennett Technology: a phonathon management services and software company serving nonprofits since 1998.

Todd Smith

Founder and CEO – Wilson-Bennett

Ensure training is ongoing throughout the campaign and each caller receives assistance, along with reminders, before calling begins each session.

We always encourage callers to excel while teaching methods to overcome negative comments.

During training, be sure to explain campaign policies and procedures, ensuring callers make the highest quality call on behalf of your institution.

Todd Smith is the founder of Wilson-Bennett's phonathon software company.

Rob Schlitts

President – Wilson-Bennett

“Play chess with your phonathon.”

Matching the right prospects up with the right caller makes for a great connection, conversation, and ultimately a gift. Your alumni and student callers will both enjoy the ability to connect with prospects that share similar traits and experiences.

A well-trained student caller will always be the engine of a successful phonathon.Rob Schlitts is the president of Wilson-Bennett's phonathon software company.


Many organizations take advantage of the fundraising opportunities phonathons provide. However, most don’t think about the potential of incorporating matching gift promotions into those invaluable donor conversations.

By following these tried-and-true phonathon fundraising tips, you can set up your team⁠—and your mission⁠⁠—for long-term success. Looks like it’s time to get calling!

For more information, be sure to check out our other educational fundraising resources below:

Raise more with matching gifts in your next phonathon.

Check out these effective nonprofit fundraising ideas that don't involve selling.

Fundraising Ideas That Don’t Involve Selling

Every year, nonprofits, faith-based groups, and schools need new fundraising ideas. What’s more, it’s crucial to include fundraising ideas that don’t involve selling.

Let’s face it: donors and families don’t like to sell merchandise on your behalf. Yes, they’ll do it—if they have to—to support your cause, but they don’t like it. In fact, many families don’t like selling so much that they’d rather just donate by buying the merchandise themselves. However, then they’re stuck with items such as chocolates, foods, and useless items they don’t want and will likely throw away.

Discovering alternate fundraising ideas that don’t require selling merchandise is vital to your fundraising strategy. Now, let’s dive into 5 key fundraising ideas that don’t involve selling!

A shoe drive fundraiser is a great fundraising idea that doesn't involve selling.

1) The Top Fundraising Idea: Shoe Drive Fundraiser

The top fundraising idea that doesn’t involve selling is a shoe drive fundraiser! One of the top reasons why it’s the top non-selling fundraising idea is because your community doesn’t have to sell merchandise on your behalf. Plus, they don’t even have to contribute financially.

Also, it’s the most socially responsible fundraiser you can host! When you host a shoe drive fundraiser, all you do is collect gently worn, used and new shoes. In the process, your community will keep shoes from going into landfills, and in turn, you’ll save the environment. Talk about social responsibility!

Once the footwear gets picked up by a well-known shoe drive fundraising company, you receive a check. Simple, right? What happens to the shoes from there is fairly straightforward. They get sent to small business owners in developing countries in need of merchandise to sell so they can escape poverty.

A Grow-A-Beard event is an effective fundraiser idea that doesn't involve selling.

2) Grow-A-Beard Fundraiser

Sure, this grow-a-beard fundraising idea is catered to men, but women can still support them! November is known for the Movember movement, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask the men in your community to grow their mustaches and beards for your cause! If they feel connected with your organization, they won’t hesitate to join in.

Also, if your community has a veterans’ group or sports team, you can partner with them. To get started, all you have to do is ask your male supporters to grow their facial hair for a month. As part of the initiative, each participant agrees to help you raise funds. And this is where you can ask women, girls, and boys to join in on the fun!

Your fundraisers have to ask sponsors to support them (and your cause) as they grow their facial hair! Encourage participants to turn to their family and friends for monetary support. By the way, if you get a group of men who work for a business to participate, perhaps it’s something their corporation will also support.

A chef competition is a creative fundraiser that doesn't involve selling.

3) Chef Competition Fundraiser

Are you or people you know foodies? Well, an excellent and tasty fundraising idea is a chef competition! Think of it as your own Master Chef competition.

All you have to do is recruit amateur chefs (and even bakers!). Then, find a venue. Start by considering a school cafeteria or the hall of a church in your community. After securing a venue, invite and promote your chef competition and invite people to attend your event. This fundraising idea will be a lot of fun for your community, because people will actively participate and vote on which chef or team offered the best dishes.

In exchange for a charitable donation, everyone gets to participate, and the experience will be one that will be memorable for your community and your cause!

A film festival is another fundraiser that doesn't involve selling and will bring the community together.

4) Film Festival Fundraiser

Many people love movies, so a film festival is a great fundraising idea. Because of the digital age, almost everyone has a cell phone on them at all times. Due to technology and social media, people already constantly take pictures and shoot videos. So, take advantage of what people already do and ask them to do it for your cause.

Invite your supporters and other community members to enter their films into your amateur film festival. Select a date on your calendar when you can screen the movies. Also, think about different movie themes that might be of interest to your community. Depending on your community and your budget, screen the films at a local hall or auditorium, and charge attendees an admission fee.

Not only is this a great way to raise money, but it also brings the community together through common interests.

A karaoke fundraiser is an effective fundraising idea that doesn't involve selling merchandise.

5) Karaoke Fundraiser

Chances are, you have donors and supporters who love to sing. Plus, thanks to constantly-evolving technology, you no longer need heavy karaoke equipment. All you need is a good mic, an amplifier and a screen to stream lyrics.

Choose a date on your calendar for this engaging fundraising idea, and see if a local restaurant or bar will partner with you. In exchange for providing you with a venue, you need to effectively market the event and get as many people as possible to attend.

Then, the restaurant or bar will either allow you to charge an admission fee or provide you with 5 to 10 percent of the receipts for the evening. To secure even more donations, you can record the event and ask people to donate so that you can send them the MP3 music file.

 

Now you have five fundraising ideas to try that are fun, free, and doable! However, no fundraising event is really over until you send out thank you emails. Not only is it a great way to extend your thanks, but it also gives you a better chance of retaining first-time donors.

A good place to start is with an email list grouped by recurring or first-time donors. This way, you get to personalize the message for each group better. 

Sending a thank you email lets your donors know the value and impact of their contributions. When you build relationships with donors, you help them feel more inclined to continue supporting you, your cause, and other fundraisers you may have in the future.


Kristy Fonterela, the VP Marketing at Funds2Orgs, is the guest author for this post on fundraising ideas that don't involve selling.Author: Kristy Fonterela, VP Marketing, Funds2Orgs. Kristy Fontelera is a creative professional with a background in corporate and nonprofit social media advertising, content creation, and brand strategy. As the VP of Marketing, she works with a suite of global fundraising brands as well as manages national and local social media accounts for clients and entrepreneurs. Kristy enjoys new books, traveling, Fleetwood Mac, and picnics with her pup. Most of all, Kristy is a passionate individual that loves nothing than more than to help others make an impact in their market and the world.

Plan a Fundraiser that Engages Kids: 6 Top Tips for Schools

Your school undoubtedly enjoys supporting the programs and activities that your students love, and you should be able to continue to do so. But as an educator or member of the PTA, your time is limited. You have many tasks vying for your attention and it can be difficult to balance everything and still perform each task well.

School fundraising should not be another source of stress in your life. Fundraising for all of your kids and teens’ favorite programs can be fun and engaging for you, your students, and your community. However, to avoid becoming overwhelmed with stress as you organize the fundraiser, utilize an effective event fundraising software.  

To cultivate a fundraiser that kids will want to participate in and promote, you should:

  1. Plan a fun event.
  2. Stay organized.
  3. Encourage personalization.
  4. Allow healthy competition.
  5. Offer incentives.
  6. Make it shareable.

If you follow these 6 best tips for school fundraising, you will be blasting through your fundraising goals in no time—and getting your kids involved in the fundraising process. So, without further ado, let’s start learning how to create the best and most engaging fundraiser your school has ever seen!

1. Plan a fun event.

The best way to guarantee your students actually want to get involved in your fundraiser is to make it fun and simple. It is entirely possible that the goal of raising money is not enough to get the students to engage with the fundraiser.

Depending on the age of the kids, they may not quite grasp the importance of money in making sure the programs you provide can still be offered year after year.  

To ensure the students value the fundraiser, try planning your fundraiser around a fun event. To get some inspiration for fundraising ideas, click here.

A Fun Run or Jog-a-thon is an excellent example of a fun and easy event that’s well-suited for school-aged children.

The concept of a Fun Run or Jog-a-thon is simple. The student should recruit friends, adults, and family to pledge money for each unit of distance that they run or donate a lump sum for the entire distance. This could look like:

  • Uncle Joe pledges $3 for every lap ran by Timmy S.
  • Janet pledges $2 for every half mile ran by Ellie H.
  • Charlie donates $50 to Louis’ Fun Run fund.

An effective walk-a-thon allows for the kids to hang out with their friends and stay active while supporting their school.

2. Stay organized.

One of the hardest parts of organizing and promoting a large-scale school fundraiser is making sure all of your data stays organized. You may be unfamiliar with fundraising techniques and strategies—and that’s completely normal!

To stay organized and properly manage the information you gather from your Fun Run or Jog-a-thon you should employ a Fun Run/Jog-a-thon fundraising software, like 99Pledges.

The best software will track and manage the pledges made to your Fun Run or Jog-a-thon so that you don’t have to! Yes, you heard that correctly. You will never have to sit with a calculator adding up the money that each pledgor owes to your child’s fundraising page.

This technology will allow you to load each child’s information into the program and create a custom-made, individualized fundraising page for supporters to donate or pledge money to.

If you want to get kids and teens involved invested in your fundraising efforts, you need to have an organized system that can easily integrate students into its process.

3. Encourage personalization.

While you are all fundraising for the same end result, your fundraiser participants may have many reasons for becoming involved. Some people might participate because they are passionate about the cause or the program that your event benefits. Meanwhile, others may want to compete for incentives or simply participate in your fun event.

Whatever the reason for their participation, you should encourage students to personalize their fundraising page to entice more supporters.

With the right software tool, each student will be able to fundraise separately for a common goal. While some fields on their unique page may be consistent throughout all the supporters, such as the:

  • School name or program
  • Description of the fundraiser
  • Per participant goal
  • Date of the fundraiser

The students or their parents should still have the option to write a fundraising letter that offers an impassioned appeal for donations and pledges that will be more likely to draw in friends and family supporters.

This fundraising letter should:  

  • Describe the fundraising event in their own words.
  • Explain what the fundraiser benefits.
  • Convey the student’s reason for participating.
  • Provide donation information.
  • Thank the supporter in advance.

It is not likely that friends and family members will donate or pledge money simply because it is a good cause. They want the emotional appeal—they want to donate and pledge money because it is something the student is passionate about.

Feel free to encourage your students to make this fundraiser their own. This will not only cause the students to become more invested in the outcome of the fundraiser, but it will also boost your fundraising revenue!

4. Allow healthy competition.

One of the benefits of your PTA hosting a participant-based fundraising event is that the work is divided up among a wide range of people. While we know it can be difficult to motivate such a wide group of kids, make sure you don’t underestimate the power of healthy competition.

Friendly competition among friends has the potential to greatly enhance your fundraising revenue and encourage students to work hard to gain supporters.

The students should be able to have some sort of visual that represents how much each student is fundraising. A good software tool will display top donations that can serve as motivation for students to seek out additional support for their pages.

If you choose to do a walk-a-thon, or any variation of the event-a-thon, it is easy for the students to see how hard their peers are working. The student may be more inclined to walk further or read more or hit more baseballs if they can see how well other participants are doing.

While good, old-fashioned competition is one of the best motivators in fundraising among kids and teens, you must remember to provide some incentives that will further encourage the students to put effort into the campaign.

5. Offer incentives.

If you want to modify your fundraising strategy to maximize the number of students who are meaningfully engaging with your fundraiser, you should offer incentives to participants. Kids and teens love free stuff and added perks— but then again, who doesn’t?

To make competition a sustainable motivator and to help students stay excited about your fundraiser, you must give them a light at the end of the tunnel. They need something to look forward to and something to latch onto as they fundraise.

Don’t worry. The incentives don’t need to be elaborate or expensive, just something that will appeal to the kids and teens participating in your fundraising event.

Potential incentives you may want to offer include:

  • A pizza party for the classes with the highest participation rates.
  • Giving a percentage of the total earnings to the class who raises the most money.
  • Allowing the class to allocate the money they earn above their goal to a project of their own.

Depending on the age of your students, they may respond better to different incentives. Make sure you offer incentives that you know your students will love and want to achieve.

An easy way to incentivize all of your students at once is to provide fundraising team t-shirts. These can be custom made based on class, grade, or school depending on the size of your fundraiser. The kids will love the free merch and be excited to wear it, which will, in turn, promote the fundraiser.  

To see how you can increase excitement in your fundraiser with a tangible incentive, check out Bonfire’s custom school shirts.

6. Make it shareable.

The best tactic to include in your fundraising plan when hosting a school fundraiser that kids and teens will want to be a part of is to make it shareable on social media. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so many more social media platforms have taken over how people communicate with one another and share news that is important to them.

Depending on the age of your students they may have their own social media accounts or, at the very least, it is likely their parents have accounts. Enabling students to share the fundraiser with remote friends and family members and to engage with the fundraiser on their own terms will make it more likely that the students actually want to participate.

You will be able to reach more people and encourage the students to promote their own fundraising page if the event-a-thon software that you use allows mobile sharing of personalized pages, your students and their parents are sure to want to spread the word about the school fundraiser.


Your school fundraiser should be easy and fun for everyone involved—student, teachers, parents, and supporters alike! With the right software, your walk-a-thon or other exciting fundraising events can engage your students and increase your fundraising revenue.


This post was contributed by Brad Dowhaniuk.

Brad Dowhaniuk is the co-founder of 99Pledges, which provides schools and teams with an easy-to-use, web-based fundraising solution to manage and drive success in Fun Runs, jog-a-thons, baseball hit-a-thons, and much more.

Matching Gift Retention is the Future of Fundraising

With so many different ways to fundraise for our nonprofits, we’re being pulled in too many directions, and our ability to focus on the most impactful channels is becoming difficult. The future of fundraising is a strategy that enables organizations to overcome resource constraints and competing data sources to maximize fundraising and optimize programs.

Two areas that are worthy of tactical coordination are matching gifts and donor retention. In this post, we’re going to outline why retaining your matching gift donors, in particular, is going to have an amazing impact on your organization’s immediate revenue and long term sustainability.

Why retention needs to be your central strategy

The cost to acquire $1 from a new donor averages $1.25, yet retaining a donor comes at a significantly lower cost. According to research by acclaimed nonprofit researcher Adrian Sargeant, if an organization retains 10% of their current donors then their net growth in giving for the “typical” nonprofit will grow by 50%.

This data has historically focused solely on the individual donor and not taken matching gifts into account. Given that the majority of companies offering matching gifts are matching at a 1:1 ratio, while others can give as much as $4 for every $1 donated, there is an amazing amount of potential when we focus our retention efforts on match-eligible donors.

From a pure revenue generation standpoint, organizations will be able to dramatically alter their revenue projections if they can identify and retain donors who have historically been able to match their gifts.

So where do we begin?

Data stewardship will maintain your impact

A common source of frustration for donors is poor communication, which is typically a symptom of a much larger issue surrounding data integrity. It costs an organization $1 to verify a record upon entry, $10 to dedupe and clean data AFTER input, and $100 per bad record if nothing is done.

Identifying matching gift opportunities and maintaining donor retention both begin with having accurate data on your donors, so kick off your retention strategy by investing in data stewardship. This can be achieved by concentrating on small changes to processes that your organization may be missing right now:

This becomes especially important when leveraging impact-focused integrations like the 360MatchPro integration with NeonCRM’s donor management system, since having an accurate name and email on file will ensure that the automated marketing will be automatically delivered to drive more matching gift requests to completion.

An important process adjustment includes logging which businesses a donor works with. If you notice on LinkedIn or through your matching gift outreach that a person has changed jobs, be sure that this change is reflected in their account in your database of record.

Use personas to hone your retention message

Once your organization has established a confident foundation for your donor database, you will be able to begin strategic outreach and cultivation around donor retention. Rather than randomly calling people who have donated in the past, your organization can implement a data-driven outreach plan that centers around the creation of donor personas for your retention stewardship needs.

The concept of personas originally came from the marketing world as a way to group buyers into key segments of your audience. Since then, there has been some exciting work done around developing donor personas specific to the nonprofit industry.

Developing a persona to organize your work around can help to clarify the key items that will relate to your audience. Instead of creating mass messaging that doesn’t appeal to anyone, organizations should be crafting communications that speak directly to a specific audience.

An added step that your organization could be taking involves running reports specifically on donors who have requested matching gifts in the past. Being able to create a persona specifically around match-eligible donors will be an empowering step toward maximizing your impact. Take it one step further and create personas around new match-eligible donors versus lapsed match-eligible donors.

Make donor love central to your mission

Beyond poor communication, another reason that your organization may be losing donors is the donation experience itself. Review how easy it is to make a donation on your website and, more specifically, how clear your instructions around initiating a matching gift are.

Donor love should be at the center of the giving experience. You can do this by centering fundraising appeals around your organization’s mission and message as well as the donor’s role in making an impact. Make the experience about the donor’s ability to drive change and ensure that your organization is not taking a “me me me” approach to communications.

You can start by taking a hard look at your organization’s website since it will be one of the primary resources that donors use to determine whether they will be giving to your nonprofit.

No matter what your organization does, focusing on your mission will always ensure that donors feel an emotional attachment to your organization.

Donor retention is about ensuring that you are building a lasting relationship with the individual that is giving to you. Matching gifts take that relationship to the next level, involving a generous corporate partner as well as your individual donor. By combining matching gifts with a strategy focused on donor retention, you will be able to chart an exciting path towards sustainability and growth for your nonprofit.

Tim SarrantonioTim Sarrantonio is a team member at Neon One and has more than 10 years of experience working for and volunteering with nonprofits. Tim has raised over $3 million for various causes, engaged and enhanced databases of all sizes, procured multiple successful grants, and formulated engaging communications and fundraising campaigns for several nonprofits. He has presented at international conferences and is a TEDx speaker on technology and philanthropy. He volunteers heavily in his hometown, Niskayuna, NY.

 

Improve your fundraising plan with these 6 tips.

6 Simple Fundraising Plan Tips [With Free Templates!]

Note

Don’t forget to grab our Free Guide to the Top Fundraising Ideas.

Your nonprofit’s fundraising plan is the backbone of your success as an organization.

Without a solid fundraising plan in place, there would be nothing to guide your fundraising efforts and no way to tell if your nonprofit is on track to meet your goals.

Before implementing any change in fundraising strategy, you need to have an official fundraising plan in place. To get you started, here are 6 simple tips to consider:

  1. Gain fundraising plan input from key stakeholders.
  2. Develop goals (and challenges)!
  3. Set a fundraising plan timeline.
  4. Determine your fundraising methods.
  5. Build corporate partnerships into your fundraising plan.
  6. Tailor your case for support.

Bonus! Once your fundraising plan is in place, you should periodically assess your strategy. Check out Double the Donation’s ultimate fundraising strategy assessment to stay ahead of the curve!

Ready to get started on your fundraising plan? Let us break these tips down into a bit more detail.

You can improve your fundraising plan by gaining input from key stakeholders.

1. Gain fundraising plan input from key stakeholders.

Stakeholders are an important part of your nonprofit’s team. Not only do they help fund your organization’s philanthropy, but they typically have final say over big-picture fundraising decisions.

Since a fundraising plan outlines a nonprofit’s key activities, it is important to get support from these board members and other key stakeholders.

There are a couple of ways you can gain input from your stakeholders:

  • Experiential input. You can ask stakeholders directly about what fundraising strategies have worked well for your nonprofit in the past. Inquire about past fundraising activities, strengths and weaknesses. Take their feedback into consideration and be sure to demonstrate to them how you address their input.
  • Consultant interviews. You might find it helpful to bring in a fundraising consultant. They can conduct stakeholder interviews to determine what is most important to your board and how to get everyone on the same page when designing your fundraising plan.

Remember: Your nonprofit’s board members are just as passionate about your organization’s mission as you are. Do not think of their approval as a bureaucratic hurdle to overcome, but rather an important step towards improving your fundraising plan.

You can improve your fundraising plan by developing goals and challenges.

2. Develop goals (and challenges)!

When designing your fundraising plan, your final product should reflect your nonprofit’s primary goals above all else.

It is easy to fall into the trap of vaguely fundraising without an endpoint in sight, but to stay on track your nonprofit needs to actively work toward a defined set of central goals.

Before designing your fundraising plan, your nonprofit needs to sit down and agree upon what goals to prioritize across all levels of your organization. Your goals should be:

  • Specific, actionable, and measurable. Do not just decide to increase fundraising revenue, or plan to retain more donors. Set numeric benchmarks and timelines, and decide how you will tackle these goals.
  • Evaluated against metrics. You cannot accurately assess your progress towards achieving a goal without having metrics in place to track your success. Diligently monitor consistent metrics so you can see how well you are improving and when you need to make changes to your fundraising plan.

(Bonus tip! Be sure to collect valuable data when carrying out your fundraising plan to help evaluate these metrics and shape your future fundraising plans. Check out Fundly’s guide to nonprofit CRMs for an idea of how your nonprofit can maximize the power of your donor database to improve your fundraising strategy.)

Additionally, one way to help your nonprofit stay on track is to identify upfront what potential challenges or obstacles you will face in the process of achieving your goals.

Some obstacles you might encounter could be:

  • Seasonal fundraising dry spells
  • Low donor retention
  • Failure to obtain major gifts
  • Poor fundraising event attendance
  • Inadequate online engagement

For example, an animal shelter that wants to increase donor retention by X% over the summer months might identify the challenge of supporters being less engaged during this season since they may be traveling or caring for children on summer vacation. To reach their goal, they’ll need to recognize this challenge and develop strategies to overcome it.

Remember: Use your nonprofit’s history to guide you in identifying roadblocks and deciding on goals. Every nonprofit has its unique strengths and weaknesses and when designing a fundraising plan, it is important to know going in what is reasonable to expect from your organization.

You can improve your fundraising plan by setting a fundraising plan timeline.

3. Set a fundraising plan timeline.

Staying on top of your goals also means staying on top of your fundraising plan’s timeline.

Fundraising plans typically plot out a 3-5 year timeline for your nonprofit, with the first year being very detailed and the following years becoming less defined.

Your fundraising plan’s timeline should be developed into an annual fundraising calendar that details the year’s worth of activities for your organization.

Set a fundraising plan timeline.

When developing your timeline, keep a few things in mind:

  • Milestones. Structure your timeline around a set of core milestones. These will both guide your progress and help you regularly assess your fundraising strategy.
  • Accountability. Your timeline (and subsequently, your fundraising calendar) should clearly identify what departments are responsible for individual fundraising activities. This will help keep the different arms of your nonprofit on track and help your departments prioritize tasks throughout the year.
  • Accessibility. Your timeline and calendar should be easily accessible to all members of your team, regardless of their department or role. Every team member should be aware of what other departments are up to; this way, they will have a better sense of the big picture of your organization and how your core fundraising goals are being achieved.

Not sure where to start when designing your fundraising plan timeline? Consider enlisting the help of a fundraising consulting firm. If you need a recommendation, DonorSearch has got you covered with their list of the top 11 fundraising consulting firms in the field!

Remember: During the design process, your fundraising timeline should be as specific as possible and you should hold yourself to the timeline as much as you can. However, if you find you are not progressing as quickly as you had planned, identify the roadblock and always give yourself room to edit the timeline if necessary.

You can improve your fundraising plan by determining your fundraising methods.

4. Determine your fundraising methods.

A common thread among these tips has been specificity and when plotting out your fundraising plan, it is doubly important to specifically determine your fundraising methods.

It is not sufficient to simply say you will raise $XXX by such-and-such date. You need to plan out how you will raise that money and from whom you will solicit donations.

Fundraising is not a one size fits all process, and you should curate your fundraising methods with your prospects in mind. For example, consider these fundraising methods and how they serve prospects:

  • Online donation pages. If your donors cannot all come to you, meet them where they are. Online donation is simply convenient; for nonprofits interested in prospects in varying geographical locations, utilizing optimized online donation tools is a must.
  • P2P fundraising. For nonprofits seeking to grow their network of donors, P2P fundraising is a great way to engage constituents online and leverage the power of their social network to help your organization reach a broader audience.
  • Text-to-give. Mobile giving is a fundraising style that has been growing in popularity over the last several years. Like online donation pages, text-to-give fundraising makes it convenient for donors to give. Additionally, because donors are not tied to a desktop, they may consider donating more frequently.
  • Fundraising events. A strategic fundraising event help you engage donors and bring in major donations, too! Just make sure you plan out your fundraiser well in advance so you have plenty of time to consider important elements, such as the type of event, when and where to host it, and what technology you’ll need to pull it off.

Remember: You should consult your nonprofit’s existing data when determining which prospects to pursue and which fundraising methods best serve your prospect pool. Consider past data and metrics when determining fundraising methods, as well as what has worked for other nonprofits of a similar donor makeup and mission as yours.

You can improve your fundraising plan by building corporate partnerships into your fundraising plan.

5. Build corporate partnerships into your fundraising plan.

Corporate partnerships can be important sources of revenue and support for nonprofits.

When designing your fundraising plan, develop a strategy that will help you achieve corporate partnership so that you do not bypass such a valuable asset.

If you already are partnered with a corporation, consider these ways to leverage that relationship during the fundraising plan design process:

  • Event sponsorship. Your corporate partner could agree to sponsor a fundraising event for your nonprofit. With their name and notoriety attached, prospects may be more inclined to participate in your fundraiser.
  • Challenge grants. Your corporate partner might be amenable to offering your nonprofit a challenge grant. With a challenge grant, your organization and your partner agree upon a specific fundraising goal. If the goal is met, they might match the amount of funding raised or commit to donating an agreed-upon sum.
  • Matching gifts. One of the simplest ways to incorporate corporate philanthropy into your fundraising strategy is to seek out a matching gift tool. In a matching gifts program, a corporation agrees to match the donations of their employees either to a certain percentage of the donation or to a consistent maximum value. With a tool like this one offered by Double the Donation, donors can quickly determine whether their donation might be matched by their employer.

Take a look at DTD’s matching gift tool in action! The donor simply types the name of their company into the tool, and then DTD searches their database to see if they are matching gift-eligible.

Partnering with a corporation for a matching gifts program is an effective way to boost fundraising efforts.

Remember: Every nonprofit has unique needs and that extends to any relationship you have with corporate sponsors. You do not have to go after a partnership with a multi-million dollar company if that does not suit the scope of your organization. Partnering with small local businesses can get the job done, especially for regionally-focused nonprofits.

You can improve your fundraising plan by tailoring your case for support.

6. Tailor your case for support.

Your case for support underpins the success of your nonprofit, but it is often taken for granted when designing fundraising strategy.

Organizations and hospitals often create cases for support when they launch a capital campaign. These documents outline every detail of the campaign from how the funds will be used to the ways supporters can contribute.

Moreover, the case for support acts as an effective promotional tool to help educate potential donors on the importance of your cause. The content in your case for support can easily be posted on your website or published in a brochure.

While they’re common practice for capital campaigns, organizations should create a case for support as a part of any fundraising strategy.

Donors will not give to your organization unless you have a compelling case for support, so you need to take the time to thoughtfully develop your case.

Your case for support should answer these important questions:

  • What is our mission?
  • Why should donors give to this cause?
  • Why should they give to our organization in particular?
  • How much should donors give?
  • What specifically will our nonprofit do to achieve our mission?

At all levels of engagement, your nonprofit should actively communicate with donors the ways that your fundraising strategy addresses your case for support. The more compelling your case, the more likely it is that donors will give to your organization.

Remember: Your case for support should govern your fundraising strategy. Just as you should choose fundraising methods that target your prospects, you should similarly design your fundraising plan with your case for support as a foundation.


Your fundraising plan is the single most important tool in your arsenal when enacting a new fundraising strategy. Get closer to achieving your nonprofit’s fundraising goals by designing a detailed fundraising plan today!

Additional Resources

  • Conduct a Fundraising Feasibility Study: 6 Steps to Success. Capital campaigns can help your nonprofit reach larger goals as part of an effective fundraising plan. But first, you need to conduct a capital campaign feasibility study before your campaign can begin. With our step-by-step guide, your feasibility study is sure to give you the information you need to succeed!
  • Top 5 GoFundMe Alternatives. After developing a fundraising plan, your nonprofit may decide to pursue crowdfunding as a way to meet your fundraising goals. You might initially consider GoFundMe as a crowdfunding host, but don’t make your choice so quickly. There are many other crowdfunding sites just like GoFundMe (but better)! Check out our guide for some awesome alternatives.
  • 14 Charity Auction Tools. Similarly, your nonprofit might choose to hold a charity auction as a fundraising event. Not only are auctions great ways to raise funding, but they’re also useful events to strengthen your donor relations. Be sure to consult our guide to the 14 best charity auction tools that are perfect for nonprofits of any size!
Check out these 11 online fundraising ideas to take your digital campaigns to the next level!

11 Online Fundraising Ideas: Raise Money in the Digital Age!

Note

Don’t forget to grab our Free Guide to the Top Fundraising Ideas.

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:

  1. Crowdfunding
  2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising or Virtual Events
  3. Matching Gift Drive
  4. T-Shirt Fundraising
  5. Online Donation Forms [Free or Paid]
  6. Online Giving Days
  7. Text-to-Give Campaign
  8. Online AuctionsAdvanced Styling
  9. Viral Fundraising Campaign
  10. Online Cashback Websites
  11. Donation for a Vote

Tools mentioned:

Let’s take a look at each of these online fundraising ideas in more detail.

Crowdfunding is an online fundraising idea that uses social sharing to raise money and awareness.

Online Fundraising Idea 1: Crowdfunding

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:

Fundly's crowdfunding pages make online fundraising quick and simple.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Bonus: Start your crowdfunding campaign today!

Peer-to-peer fundraising is an online fundraising idea that uses supporters to fundraise on your behalf.

Online Fundraising Idea 2: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising or Virtual Events

Peer-to-peer fundraising or virtual events are a type of fundraising that many nonprofits pair with fundraising events like walkathons, marathons, and in-person events that need to be transitioned to virtual.

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns typically follow this structure:

  1. A nonprofit sets a goal, determines a timeline, and plans a peer-to-peer event.
  2. The nonprofit reaches out to loyal supporters and asks them if they want to participate in the fundraiser.
  3. 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.
  4. Individuals reach out to their networks to ask for donations on the nonprofit’s behalf.
  5. Supporters’ friends and family members make donations via the individual’s peer-to-peer fundraising page.
  6. The nonprofit collects the donations, acknowledges and thanks supporters and donors, and hosts the (typically active) event.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Bonus: Check out the top 15 peer-to-peer fundraising platforms for nonprofits!

Organizations can hold matching gift drives to double the impact of their supporters.

Online Fundraising Idea 3: Matching Gift Drive

Take online giving one step further by encouraging your donors to search for the matching gift programs for which they might be eligible. Companies of all sizes will often match (or more than match) their employees’ donations to nonprofit organizations!

There are even useful tools you can embed directly onto your websites or campaign emails. Here’s how the National Audobon Society incorporated a user-friendly search tools directly into their ways to give page:

Check out how the National Audobon Society incorporated matching gifts tools into their site.

For a fundraising campaign, create some buzz by asking a local company or major donor to match donations made on a particular day. Time sensitive drive campaigns 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.

Best of all, and unlike ongoing corporate matching gift programs that apply to eligible employees, matching gift drives don’t have restrictions on who can participate!

The key to a prosperous matching gift drive is promotion. Get the most people to participate by sending emails to your donors on the days leading up to the event. 

Social media is also an effective place to promote your online fundraiser. If your museum is running a matching gift drive, for example, you can publish posts on Facebook and Twitter that tell donors any tickets purchased or contributions made during your drive will be doubled by your sponsor.

Also, let donors know about the many ways they can contribute. Provide your donors convenient ways to give, such as:

  • Donation pages.
  • Text-to-give.
  • Mobile-responsive forms.
  • Crowdfunding pages.

The more fundraising options donors have, the more likely they are to make a donation.

Additionally, 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. 

Always ensure 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, check out another example of how Mercy Corps helps their supporters determine if their employer matches donations on their branded matching gifts page from Double the Donation.

Another online fundraising idea is a t-shirt fundraiser.

Online Fundraising Idea 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.

T-shirt fundraising is a great way to raise money quickly.

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!


Organizations should accept donations through online fundraising forms.

Online Fundraising Idea 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.

There are many vendors available that offer both free donation forms and paid donation forms.

Here is an example of what your online donation form could look like:

Optimized online donation forms are key to success in digital fundraising.

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 choose 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.

If you’re using a fully customizable platform, you’ll be able to create a form that is unique to your organization or recruit a technology consultant who can design a form catered to 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.

A great fundraising idea for nonprofits is holding an online giving day.

Online Fundraising Idea 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:

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!

Bonus: Take a look at these #GivingTuesday promotional resources.

Holding a text-to-give campaign is an excellent online fundraising idea.

Online Fundraising Idea 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:

  1. A donor will text a keyword to a specific number that has been assigned to a nonprofit.
  2. The donor will receive a link as a text message.
  3. 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 by this fundraising trend!

Bonus: Check out the ultimate guide to text-to-give.

Online auctions are a great digital fundraising technique!

Online Fundraising Idea 8: 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.

For your digital venue, you can opt to use auction software or an online marketplace like eBay to host your online auction. 

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. Plus, with dedicated auction software (like OneCause) you can track the progress of your online auctions in real time:

Online charity auctions make it easy to engage your donors and raise funds.

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.

Viral media campaigns are a very effective online fundraising idea.

Online Fundraising Idea 9: 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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Cashback websites are a great way to boost your online fundraising!

Online Fundraising Idea 10: 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:

  1. Someone in your nonprofit needs to buy office supplies or something else online.
  2. The staff member begins their search for office supplies at an online cashback site.
  3. Once the items have been purchased, a percentage of the total amount is deposited into a cashback account.
  4. Your nonprofit can withdraw the cashback amount at regular intervals (typically monthly or quarterly).

Common cashback sites include:

 

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!

Donors love online voting campaigns!

Online Fundraising Idea 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:

  1. Create a list of silly challenges that your staff or volunteers are willing to complete.
  2. Create a poll, asking your supporters to vote (with a donation) for the challenge they’d like to see your team complete.
  3. 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.


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:

  • 80+ Fundraising IdeasCouldn’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 IdeasIf 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 IdeasSchools 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!

5 Ways to Encourage Donors to Submit Employee Matching Gift Requests

As a fundraising leader, you’ve put a lot of thought into how to market matching gifts before and during the donation process. But for the donor, clicking submit or mailing their check often feels like the final step.

We’ve put together a few ways to encourage your donors to take that next step and submit their matching gift requests.

1. Send a follow-up email

Send a quick email to your donors that specifically asks them to take the next step and submit their matching gift requests. Make sure that this email includes an explanation of matching gifts and truly illustrates how easy they are to request.

Even better, use Double the Donation’s 360MatchPro portal to send automated outreach to your donors about matching gifts. When your donors make a contribution, they are automatically sent an email that includes their company-specific matching gift information and a link to their employer’s submission form. Though sent from 360MatchPro, these emails are branded to match your organization, which makes the appeal more personal for your donors.

2. Pick up the phone

Sort through your donations and identify your top contributors. Call these donors to thank them for their gift and encourage them to submit their matching gift request. Many donors would be happy to support your organization in this way, they simply know about matching gifts.

Lack of donor awareness is the biggest hurdle to increasing matching gift revenue. If you’re able to walk them through the process on the phone and provide them with information about the process and the guidelines they need, they will be more likely to submit and more likely to tell their friends.

3. Send a note in the mail

Good old-fashioned postage is still a great way to touch base with your donors! Send a postcard, letter, or buckslip to share information about matching gifts. You can also use these mailers as a call to action that encourages the donor to submit their matching gift request.

Many companies have very generous matching gift request submission deadlines. This window is often between three months and over a year, which gives donors plenty of time to get their donations doubled!

4. Educate your Staff

You can easily raise your match submission rates among your donors by looking inward. Make sure that your organization is cultivating a knowledgeable staff, with every employee understanding your organization’s procedure for processing matching gifts. When your team knows the basics of matching gifts and feels confident explaining the process, you can work together to create an outreach strategy that is specific to your donor base.

5. Market Matching Gifts Everywhere.

The most effective way to encourage donors to submit their matching gift requests: mention matching gifts as often as possible! Include matching gift information in your acknowledgment letters and emails, on your website, and in your social media posts. Check out a few examples here, and download our Ultimate Guide to Marketing Matching Gifts for even more information.