10 Successful Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits

There are so many different fundraising techniques, methods and ideas to consider for your nonprofit. It can be overwhelming to know where to start! We have narrowed down the list to 10 successful fundraising ideas for nonprofits that will help raise money and build strong, long term relationships with donors.

Need help getting start? The team at GivingMail is here to serve you. GivingMail is powered by over 70 years of experience in nonprofit direct mail fundraising. We’ve worked with hundreds of the world’s largest charities, raising millions of dollars! We would love to help create and plan effective fundraising strategies.

Here are 10 ideas for you to consider.

1. Welcome New Donors and Ask for a Second Gift

Acquiring new donors is such an important part of fundraising. But many nonprofits forget the job is far from donor when you receive that first gift. You want to welcome new donors to your nonprofit and inspire them to make a second gift. 

Getting that second gift can be difficult to do! According to Blackbaud’s 2019 Charitable Giving Report, just 24% of new online donors make a second gift within the first 12 months. The offline donor rate is only a bit higher at 27%. Either way, that’s a whole lot of new donors your organization is losing. 

Spend the time and resources to put together a plan in place for communication to new donors. You will want to execute on it in a timely manner as there is a relatively short window of time to secure that second gift. 

Here are some recommended steps:

  1. Thank the new donor and make him or her feel appreciated. 
  2. Show the donor the impact of his or her donation- what did it help accomplish and why does that matter. 
  3. Inspire the new donor to make a second gift within the first 3 months. That means asking! Don’t shy away from a direct ask. Remember, donors want to help!

2. Invest in a Monthly Giving Program to Fundraising for Nonprofits

Donors who commit to automatically give to your nonprofit each month are incredibly valuable. The best part of about a monthly giving program is that donors love it as much as nonprofits do! 

They appreciate the convenience of a sustainer program. Donors sign up once, and their gifts are made automatically and at a frequency of their choosing. This gives donors both flexibility and convenience. Donors are already used to a monthly payment schedule as many pay their bills this way and subscribe to monthly services. So monthly giving really is easy for donors to understand and incorporate into their lives.

A monthly giving program brings many benefits to your nonprofit. Recurring donations provide a reliable source of income during unpredictable times. You can count on this income month in and month out, regardless of the fundraising environment. 

Normally, monthly donors have a much higher retention rate and give more. Sustainers are making smaller gifts, but their total giving over any given year will be larger. All this, plus you will save valuable resources because you will be able to mail donors less frequently! 

So spend the time putting together a comprehensive plan of how you will inspire donors to become monthly donors.  

3. Reactivate Lapsed Donors 

The best nonprofits understand the value of reactivating lapsed donors. Too many nonprofits make the mistake of focusing solely on acquiring new donors and fail to pay attention to the many lapsed donors they already have on file. 

To state the obvious: the value of lapsed donors is that they have already made a contribution to your nonprofit. This means they have indicated some level of interest to your organization and are at least somewhat familiar with your nonprofit. Just because they have not made a donation recently doesn’t mean you should give up on them. Lapsed donors often don’t even realize they haven’t given recently! 

The beauty of reactivating lapsed donors is that it is much less expensive than acquiring new donors. That’s because you already have the donor’s contact information, and don’t have to pay any list costs like you do for acquisition efforts. A reactivated lapsed donor also gives a higher gift on average than new donors. 

When you are sending reactivation appeals to lapsed donors be sure to reference their past giving and thank them for their previous gifts. Remind them of what they helped accomplish through your nonprofit and update them on new initiatives. Make it clear how much the donor means to you, and that their support is sorely missed.

4. Don’t Forget about Mid-level Donors

Many nonprofits focus on their major gift program and their housefile program. Mid-level donors get lost in the mix. They are either moved up too quickly to the major gift level, or thrown in with lower dollar donors. 

Neither strategy is correct. 

Mid-level donors deserve their own unique program, ideally staffed by one team member focused just on this important group of donors. The goal of the program should be for these donors to get a similar level of attention as major gift donors, but on a much larger scale and with a lower cost. In other words, you should use the best direct marketing techniques and pair those with major gifts style cultivation.

A well-run program will yield not just stronger renewal rates and increased revenue. It will also create a pipeline of potential future major gift donors!

5. Do you want to raise money for nonprofits? Tell stories!

If you want to raise money for nonprofits, tell stories. There is nothing more powerful than a good story! Stories connect with donors in a way that no other communication method can. Stories help the donor more clearly understand the need for their support in a memorable way.

Nonprofits typically have powerful and emotional stories. Unfortunately, too many nonprofits fail to tell these stories in a compelling way to donors or to tell them at all. 

Spend time collecting the best stories that will show the donor what a difference they are making. Remember that the best stories have certain elements: a main character, conflict and resolution. Remember to include details and emotional language throughout that will draw the donor in. 

Remember, you aren’t telling the story just to tell a story, you are seeking to motivate donors to contribute. So be sure to end the story with a clear and compelling call to donate.

6. Build Relationships with Donors through Cultivation Mailings

Don’t forget that your goal is to build a strong relationship with donors so that they grow in their loyalty and giving. That means you don’t want all of your mailings to be asking for money. You want donors to feel like a partner in your work.

To inspire donors to grow in their loyalty and commitment, nonprofits need to build trust and credibility. One of the best ways to do that is through cultivation mailings. These mailings are not meant to directly raise money. 

Instead, cultivation mailings give you the opportunity to thank the donor, and to share stories about how she is making a difference. Do not ask for a donation. Think of how you can show your appreciation best, in a way that is thoughtful and even unexpected. 

Here are some ideas to consider:

• Newsletters

• Impact reports

• Handwritten thank you notes

• Personal emails (from an actual staff member)

• Send a postcard from someone who was directly impacted by the donor’s contribution

• Thank you phone calls

• Send a surprise gift in the mail

• Birthday cards

• Anniversary cards

7. Plan a Compelling Year-End Campaign

The end of the year is a vitally important time for all nonprofits. Did you know over 30% of all donations are made during the month of December?

Donors are more generous between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but that does not necessarily mean they will be donating to your nonprofit. You need to have a compelling and well-planned end of year campaign to help your nonprofit stand out in donors’ minds. 

Start planning as early as the summer. It sounds early, but it’s the most important campaign of the year and you want to give you and your colleagues a chance to think through ideas, determine goals, and set yourself up to successfully execute.  

Your year-end campaign should have an overarching narrative or theme. This should be something that will inspire donors and relate directly to your mission. Don’t stray far from the messaging that has been working this year. 

You want consistency across channels, but you also will want to allow for creativity and variation across channels. The goal is for the messages to reinforce each other. 

8. Consider a Matching Gift Campaign

Matching gift campaigns are a frequently used fundraising technique for good reasons! Matching gift work great at motivating donors to make larger gifts, often two to three times larger than the donor’s typical contribution. 

The most successful matching gift campaigns include the following:

  1. A specific and appealing offer. You want the offer to be easy for donors to understand and to be inspiring. Make it clear you are giving the donor a chance to multiple the impact of her gift to do even more good. Donors love the idea of not only supporting the cause, but also helping your nonprofit access even more money because they gave.
  2. A deadline. Your match should have a real and believable deadline. This creates urgency and inspires donors to give now! 
  3. An income goal. Include details on the total amount of the match. This gives donors a specific goal and again creates urgency. 
  4. A feeling of community. A match is something donors do together for the good of the cause. Be sure to lean into that in your copy so donors feel an important part of a team. 

9. Be Ready to Mail an Urgent Appeal 

While we can’t predict when a crisis will emerge, we can be ready for it. Whether it is a natural disaster, a food shortage, or an election, nonprofits are occasionally presented with times when their work is urgently needed. 

Do not shy away from asking donors to contribute! Donors passionately believe in your cause, and want to make a difference. This is a time when they absolutely want to hear from you and want to help. 

Time is of the essence and you will want to get a direct mail letter as soon as you can. Pick a format that is easy to print and mail. Consider having a certain number of preprinted envelops and letterhead on hand just for emergency appeals. Have procedures in place so the copy can be written and approved as quickly as possible. 

Most of the time, longer copy wins in direct mail. Urgent appeals are one exception to this rule. Here you want to get straight to the point and keep it simple. Keep it short and sweet, and focus on the needs of those you are helping rather than the needs of your own nonprofit. 

10. Test and Learn from your Tests

The best nonprofits understand that fundraising can be counterintuitive. Even the most experienced fundraisers have learned that their own instincts as to what will work or not work are often incorrect. Fundraising is tricky like that! 

But it’s not all bad news! Direct marketing fundraising allows for testing. Which means you can learn the answer to so many questions about what works and does not work through testing, and, even better, you can build upon those findings to strengthen fundraising results.

Keep a list of tests you would like to do in the future. These could be a test on the format or copy of a direct mail package, or a longer-term test like determining how many mailings a donor should receive within a year. 

Be sure to keep track of test results. All the work will be for nothing if you don’t remember to document you results! 

Fundraising is rewarding and challenging! If you are looking for a partner to help guide your nonprofit’s fundraising, GivingMail is here for you.

GivingMail has over 70 years of experience in fundraising. We have worked with hundreds of the world’s top charities, raising millions and millions of dollars. Most importantly, we have the experience and knowledge to help you strengthen relationships with donors, inspire them to contribute, and increase fundraising results.

Our all-in-one fundraising platform can help your nonprofit with every aspect of direct marketing fundraising. We want to simplify fundraising for you, so you can focus on the most important thing: making the world a better place.

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