Nonprofit Fundraising Guide [With FAQ, Strategies, & Tips]

Use our favorite nonprofit fundraising strategy: fundraising letters!

You’re looking to change the world in one way or another. More than likely, that’s how you ended up in the nonprofit sector in the first place. However, it’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) to do so without the proper funding—which is where nonprofit fundraising comes in.

Here at GivingMail, we work with all sorts of nonprofits and other fundraising organizations to help them raise the money they need to pursue their missions. By equipping your teams with the right fundraising resources, we enjoy being a part of your positive impact on the world. 

That’s why we’ve written this comprehensive nonprofit fundraising guide to assist nonprofit professionals like yourself in raising the critical support you need. In this resource, we’ll cover the following: 

Now, are you ready to dive in to learn more about all aspects of effective nonprofit fundraising? Let’s get started.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions concerning nonprofit fundraising.

Nonprofit Fundraising: Frequently Asked Questions

Many people have questions when it comes to nonprofit fundraising. Thanks to our years of experience in the nonprofit sector, we have a lot of the answers you’ll need.

Let’s discuss some of the most-asked questions by fundraising professionals like yourselves:

What is nonprofit fundraising?

Nonprofit fundraising emcompasses a wide variety of processes used to gather critical support necessary to sustain a charitable organization and its mission. 

While this is often in the form of monetary donations to the organization, other examples of nonprofit fundraising may include product sales, in-kind gifts of items, time, or expertise, grants, or corporate contributions.

Why is fundraising important for nonprofits?

Nonprofit fundraising is a huge undertaking for charitable organizations looking to garner support for their missions. After all, a significant portion of nonprofit funding comes from individual donations and other nonprofit fundraising strategies.

Without effective strategies like these, nonprofits are likely to fall short of the funding required to maintain their day-to-day operations. As a result, these charitable organizations would have to close their doors and pause (or ultimately end) their engagement with constituents. And you certainly don’t want that!

How do nonprofits raise money quickly?

Many nonprofits have been able to raise record amounts of money in limited time. If you’re new to the fundraising space or are simply looking to optimize your nonprofit fundraising strategy, you might be asking yourself how you can get your own organization to do the same.

Most nonprofits that have seen spectacular fundraising results have a few things in common—they invest in the right tools (such as a fundraising platform and donor management software) and they forge authentic connections between their supporters and their mission. By focusing on these two overarching goals, nonprofits like yours can begin bringing in significant funding in no time.

What are the main types of nonprofit fundraising?

As previously mentioned, nonprofit fundraising can take place in a variety of ways, depending greatly on the organization itself as well as its existing network of support. Nonprofits typically fundraise by targeting individuals, corporations, and grant-giving foundations—each with its own unique set of strategies. 

Corporate giving and nonprofit grants can be excellent sources of supplementary funding as well. But, for the sake of this guide, we’ll be focusing on the importance of individual contributions in the realm of nonprofit fundraising.

Here are some of our favorite nonprofit fundraising strategies.

10 Nonprofit Fundraising Strategies to Explore

There are a number of top nonprofit fundraising strategies that have shown great success for organizations across the world. This list is by no means exhaustive, but we believe it provides nonprofits with a solid foundation to start with.

Here are a few of our favorite nonprofit fundraising ideas, and how they can benefit your organization:

1. Direct mail fundraising

Direct mail is a powerful nonprofit fundraising strategy. For one thing, it has one of the highest ROI (or return on investment) as compared to any other fundraising channels. 

Plus, direct mail fundraising can go hand in hand with each of the other strategies below. For example, a nonprofit fundraising campaign that incorporates both direct mail and a digital aspect typically yields a 28% higher conversion rate than a direct mail strategy alone. 

If you send a direct mail appeal (such as a fundraising letter or postcard) along with a virtual fundraising tactic (such as an emailed donation request), your recipients will be more likely to respond with the intended behavior than if you had chosen a digital-only strategy.

Fundraising letters and postcards are two of our favorite nonprofit fundraising strategies.

Your direct mailings provide supporters with a physical reminder of your organization and its mission and help you add a more personal touch to the campaign.

2. Fundraising events

Fundraising events are a great way to engage with donors and raise money for your cause. Some of the most popular fundraising event ideas include charity auctions (both live and silent), galas, walk-a-thons (and other pledge fundraisers), and talent workshops (such as cooking or art classes).

Due to COVID-19 and subsequent social distancing guidelines, many fundraising events have been transitioned to the virtual space. While this is certainly a new idea for most nonprofits and their supporters, many virtual events have proven to be successful in terms of both revenue and engagement. 

To raise money at a nonprofit fundraising event, you can sell tickets (or accept sliding donations), as well as merchandise and/or concessions during the big event.

3. Crowdfunding campaigns

Crowdfunding leverages the power of social media to widen your reach and receive small to mid-sized donations from a variety of donors. If you’ve never held a crowdfunding campaign, you might be surprised at how quickly your revenue can add up!

This type of campaign is particularly useful when you’re raising money for a particular need (such as building renovations or a new outreach program) rather than simply to fill your annual fund. 

To get started, partner with a crowdfunding platform, and you can get your fundraiser up and running in no time. Then, begin sharing your online page, and the donations can start streaming in.

4. Mobile giving

Mobile giving is one of the newest and most impactful nonprofit fundraising strategies for organizations of all shapes and sizes. Mobile-friendly fundraising strategies allow donors to give from wherever they are, whenever they want, and on a device they already have. This sets your organization up for a near-constant stream of support. 

Plus, it’s super quick and easy to get started. Your organization begins by partnering with a text-to-give provider, who then assigns you a dedicated mobile giving phone number. Once you’ve set your specific text keyword(s), donors can contribute by texting the predetermined trigger word to your mobile giving number. They’ll be met with an automated response and a link to a simplified donation form to confirm and submit their gift.

5. Virtual fundraising

Virtual fundraising encompasses any fundraising strategy that is held online, rather than through traditional in-person or direct mail counterparts. These virtual fundraising strategies can range in intricacy—from simple online donation forms to all-out virtual events.

Due to COVID-19, nonprofit organizations are relying more on virtual fundraising than ever before. However, even before the introduction of social distancing guidelines, virtual fundraising was increasing in popularity nonetheless. 

Plus, existing technological infrastructure has made this transition as easy as possible. By partnering with a virtual fundraising platform, your organization can get started with virtual nonprofit fundraising in just about no time at all.

6. Merchandise sales

Branded merchandise is a great way to raise money while giving supporters something in return. When you work with an intuitive product fundraising platform like Bonfire or ABC Fundraising, this idea can be as simple as promoting a virtual web store online! 

Plus, every time your dedicated supporters sport your branded merchandise, they’re essentially functioning as a walking billboard for your mission. Popular merchandise options include custom t-shirts, mugs, hats, and even face masks—but the possibilities are endless.

7. Peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising (also known as P2P or social fundraising) allows dedicated supporters to fundraise on your behalf, which often increases an organization’s reach. P2P fundraising is a specific virtual fundraising strategy that leverages the power of social media and other digital sharing tools to get the word out about your campaign far and wide.

To get started, gather some of your most involved donors, supporters, and volunteers who are willing to raise money for your cause. Then, equip each individual with a customizable donation page (by partnering with a peer-to-peer fundraising platform) which they’ll then share with friends and family to solicit donations for your organization. 

8. 24-hour giving days

24-hour giving days leverage nonprofit fundraising best practices such as gamification, social proof, and urgency to raise a ton of money in a very limited time frame (24 hours, to be exact). These dedicated giving days create a sense of urgency which leads to more donations, especially for donors who are on the fence about giving.

Giving Tuesday is by far the most popular example of this powerful phenomenon, although you can always feel free to launch your own day of giving if you’d rather not fight for donors’ limited attention on the international fundraising holiday. Either way, you’re sure to drum up a good amount of support with this nonprofit fundraising strategy!

9. Matching gifts drive

Did you know that more than 18 million individuals are employed by companies with corporate matching gift programs? More than likely, a good deal of your own donors work for these companies as well. For this unique nonprofit fundraising strategy, you’ll inform eligible (or likely eligible) donors about these powerful programs and encourage them to request a match from their employer.

Corporate matching gifts have the potential to make an individual’s donation go further without asking them to reach back into their own pocket. Plus, the companies themselves get to build increased corporate social responsibility and improve their standing with employees and customers. It’s a win-win!

10. Recurring gifts

Recurring gift fundraising is a specific nonprofit fundraising model that has the power to provide steady revenue for organizations of all shapes and sizes. When donors choose to become recurring supporters, they simply set a gift size and frequency, and that donation will be automatically transferred until they cancel it.

To start collecting recurring donations, it’s a good idea to include the option in every one of your fundraising appeals. This can be as simple as a checkbox at the bottom of an online donation form that says “click here to make this a monthly recurring gift.” You might be surprised at how many people opt for a recurring donation just because the choice is there!

Consider these nonprofit fundraising best practices.

Raising More with Nonprofit Fundraising: 9 Best Practices

Regardless of the nonprofit fundraising tactics you choose to implement, there are a few industry-standard practices that can help you maximize your efforts.

These tried-and-true fundraising tips can help you raise more through practically any fundraising channel or strategy:

1. Include a brief description of your mission in every ask.

Make sure supporters know the issue that their prospective donation is going to help solve. You can’t expect people to contribute to funding your mission if they don’t even know what your organization is doing!

By including a brief description of your nonprofit’s mission in every fundraising ask, you can ensure that recipients have the basic knowledge of your organization needed to make their giving decision. This can even be as simple as, “Your donation of $X will provide impoverished students with school supplies.”

2. Set lofty, yet achievable nonprofit fundraising goals.

Working towards a lofty goal encourages both donors and your fundraising team to push out of their comfort zone and raise more for your organization. However, an unrealistically high goal can actually have a negative impact on your efforts by discouraging participation.

We suggest looking at previously collected fundraising data to determine the average fundraising revenue from past campaigns and slowly increasing that number to set future goals.

3. Segment your audience of supporters.

Audience segmentation is a fantastic way to create targeted donation appeals that are more likely to resonate with each recipient. For example, you wouldn’t want to send a catch-all donation request to a supporter who has been regularly contributing to your organization for years. Instead, you could thank them for their continued support and ask for an additional gift of $X to provide an even greater impact.

Segmenting your audience can lead to more successful nonprofit fundraising.

Luckily, working with dedicated donor management software makes it super easy to categorize your supporters by location, giving method, communication preference, gift size, or other relevant characteristics.

4. Personalize your nonprofit fundraising outreach.

Personalization, like segmentation, is a great way to craft individualized appeals for each donor. The key difference between the two ideas, however, is that personalized nonprofit fundraising appeals directly refer to the information being leveraged. 

Here's an example of personalization in your nonprofit fundraising appeals.

For example, simply using a recipient’s name makes them more likely to read and respond to your message by an average of 14%. Thus, it’s always better to address your supporters by their first (or preferred!) name, rather than “Dear Donor.”

5. Include specific suggested donation sizes.

Specific donation requests are important in your nonprofit fundraising appeals.

Including suggested donation sizes in your fundraising appeals leverages social proof to demonstrate what the “right” donation size is. And luckily for you, this practice often leads to higher donations. 

For example, imagine John has decided to donate to your nonprofit. He originally plans to submit a $10 gift. However, he opens your online donation form and sees that your organization is suggesting gifts of $20, $50, or $100. Chances are, John is going to opt for the $20 choice, rather than his original plan of $10. In hardly any effort at all, you’ve increased his donation by 100%!

However, it’s important that you leave the option for donors to input their own donation if they’d like to go higher, lower, or in-between suggested gifts.

6. Take a multi-channel approach to nonprofit fundraising.

Most fundraising organizations incorporate a combination of nonprofit fundraising channels to maximize both revenue and engagement. For example, your organization might send direct mail appeals alongside a digital strategy that includes email messages and social media.

This is a fantastic fundraising strategy because it provides an increased number of touchpoints, and results in your organization staying top of mind for longer. In fact, studies show that a single-platform fundraising campaign misses out on a significant portion of their supporting audience. You definitely don’t want that to happen!

7. Incorporate gamification elements into your nonprofit fundraising.

Strategic gamification has the power to bring any nonprofit fundraiser to the next level. By incorporating elements of traditional gameplay (such as healthy competition, setting and reaching goals, winning prizes, etc.), you can encourage your supporters to get further involved in your campaign.

For example, a peer-to-peer fundraiser (as mentioned above) might include a constantly updating online leaderboard so that participants can see who’s winning and become motivated to see their own names. Alternatively, fundraising thermometers and campaign countdowns can motivate donors to act fast and help you reach your overall goals.

8. Show your appreciation to every donor.

Most online fundraising software includes automated acknowledgments with every transaction. However, that’s typically not a one-and-done deal when it comes to appreciating the individuals who make your mission possible. 

While you’ll likely dedicate more of your time and resources to thanking your major donors, it’s important that you don’t neglect your low- and mid-level donors at the same time. Popular ideas for any type of donor include handwritten thank-you notes, branded merchandise gifts, and social media recognition.

9. Be sure to communicate the impact of each donation.

Here's an example of demonstrating your nonprofit fundraising impact.

Once your supporters have given to your nonprofit fundraising campaign, it’s time to begin the continuous process of donor stewardship and cultivation. One of the key components of this strategy is making sure your donors see and understand the impact of their donations.

Many organizations combine this with the previous step of showing appreciation to donors because the two go hand-in-hand. The difference here is that while your donors should certainly know that your nonprofit appreciates their contributions, they should realize that your constituents appreciate their gifts as well. 

One simple way to communicate this is by including a section in your donor acknowledgments to emphasize the impact that their donation has on your mission. For example, you might inform a donor that their generous gift of $X helped feed Y hungry families. When they see the tangible impact that their gift has on their community, they’ll be more likely to continue supporting your nonprofit fundraising efforts going forward.

Hopefully, this guide has provided you with some unique and valuable insights into the world of nonprofit fundraising. We believe that with the right tips, tools, and tactics at your fingertips, your organization will be off to a fantastic start. Good luck!

For more information on strategic nonprofit fundraising, check out our other educational guides:

Use our favorite nonprofit fundraising strategy: fundraising letters!

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