Everyone knows that nonprofit organizations don’t exist to make money (ie ‘nonprofit’). They exist purely to benefit the greater good in some way.
But, that doesn’t mean they don’t need money to do so. Which is exactly why collecting donations, receiving grants, and fundraising play such a huge role in their success.
Whether you’ve been fundraising for years, need a little refresh, or you’re brand new to nonprofit fundraising altogether, this must-know info is just a lil’ something you’ll want to keep in your back pocket.
The next time you gear up to fundraise, you’ll have everything in your corner to be successful!
What Is Nonprofit Fundraising & How Does It Work?
The key to fundraising is understanding what it’s all about. At its very core, nonprofit fundraising is the process of collecting money to support a charitable cause or organization.
Essentially, you’re planning and executing a strategy to raise as many funds as you can for a particular goal that benefits your nonprofit or your overall cause!
It’s important to note that nonprofit fundraising isn’t the same as traditional fundraising — as in for a for-profit business.
Traditional fundraising has a different end goal, typically to execute an idea or further business operations. This obviously isn’t what nonprofits set out to do!
Why is nonprofit fundraising important?
It’s important to know the difference between non- and for-profit fundraising because the donor’s motivation matters. For example, donating through a traditional fundraiser might mean furthering an individual’s financial interest in that company or operation, whereas donating to a nonprofit is simply the act of doing something good for the community.
How Can I Get Started With Fundraising?
Getting a nonprofit off the ground takes drive and commitment, but if you have a vision and a team, the sky’s the limit.
Step #1: Establish Your Nonprofit
First, figure out what purpose your nonprofit will serve. Bring your passion and interests to bear on a real community need.
For example, if you’re enthusiastic about education, you can use your knowledge bank to address issues in your community around literacy, education access, library resources, etc. If animal welfare is where your heart is, you can make a big impact when it comes to shelters for abandoned pets or homeless dogs in your region.
Draw up a business plan and get a dedicated team of volunteers together who share your vision. The more enthusiastic folks in your corner, the better!
Step #2: Get Educated On Nonprofit Fundraising Guidelines
If you’re operating in the US, there are legal requirements for 501(c)(3) organizations putting together fundraising. The strict guidelines vary depending on the event which is why it’s extremely important that you make sure your efforts are in compliance. This can help you avoid penalties and ensure those donating can use it as a tax deduction (a huge value add for you)!
But it doesn’t stop there–some states have different provisions like requiring a separate bank account for those funds or considering it “unrelated business income,” meaning you would owe taxes on it. Bottom line: do the research, read the fine print.
You may also want to consider partnering with a fundraising platform, like RallyUp, which has the ability to conduct raffles and auctions for you.
Not only can they provide additional knowledge about how it works but they completely streamline the event ensuring the money is going to the right place (eliminating the manual process).
Step #3: Consider Your Goal
Planning your nonprofit fundraiser starts with defining what your ultimate goal or mission is. Imagine it as the why behind your event. What do you hope to achieve from this fundraiser?
This will ultimately help to point you in the right direction when planning. For example, if the goal is to provide a new piece of equipment for the local children’s hospital, you know how much you need to raise.
This can also help you determine what type of event to put on. If the new equipment is $100K, a bake sale isn’t going to cut it. Based on what your end goal is, you need to choose a type of fundraiser that fits what you’re looking to achieve.
Small goal = Smaller fundraiser – Think bake sales or cake walks
Big goal = Bigger fundraiser – Think a 5k run or a gala
Step #4: Choose Your Fundraising Method
While there are endless ideas for nonprofit fundraisers, there are also major things to consider before choosing the best option. Before kicking around fundraising ideas, which we’ll do later in the article, begin by asking yourself the following questions:
- What’s your budget?
Often goes the saying, you have to spend money to make money. While this can be true, it’s important to be extremely conservative with the budget. Consider making it a subgoal to have most overhead costs donated; like the location and any supplies needed.
- How much manpower will you need?
Even if you’re looking at a smaller event, you’re going to need help. How much help plays a huge role in what type of event you can handle. A gala, for example, takes a year of planning by a committee of volunteers. And that’s just the planning portion!
Think of all the volunteers needed to pull off a 5K? Knowing you have volunteers dedicated to your event is crucial when choosing what type of nonprofit fundraiser to plan.
- What’s the donation potential?
This is when it’s time to break down the event and see how many opportunities you have to make money. Let’s go back to that gala.
At first glance, you’d imagine only seeing the money from ticket sales, but there are other avenues that can bring in additional funds such as a huge silent auction, games for prizes, and sponsored tables. You could even charge for donated alcohol (that’s straight profit)!
- What’s your marketing strategy?
This should go without saying, but if nobody knows about your fundraiser, then there’s no point in planning it! We’ll break down marketing approaches later on in this article. For now, it’s enough to say that unless you’re advertising your event like it’s going to be the biggest party of the season (which it is), you’re not doing marketing right.
Step #5: Get Plenty of Help
You’re in a pretty good place if the biggest problem you face is having too many volunteers! If you’re putting on a fun event, don’t be surprised if people start coming out of the woodworks to offer up help.
Don’t turn them down. Even if you’re not sure if you need them. Why?
- They could provide added insight or expertise that you haven’t thought of
- When issues happen during a fundraiser, it’s much easier to manage with extra hands on deck – even if it’s as little as getting more ice
- This is also an opportunity to expand your network of people for future events
If you don’t have enough help…
Don’t fret. Use those clever nonprofit marketing strategies to get help.
- Consider reaching out to local high schools or colleges where kids are looking for opportunities to get volunteer credit
- Ask other businesses working with you or sponsoring your event for help
- Advertise it on your Facebook page
Top Nonprofit Fundraising Methods
The options for successful fundraisers are endless. You can rely on favorite standbys (hello, bake-off!) or get creative with something really quirky (bounce-a-thon, anyone?).
Whatever method you opt for, fundraisers tend to fall into the following categories:
- Raffles involve a random drawing for prizes. Since every participant buys a ticket, raffles can raise serious money, so they’re a no-brainer. After making sure that raffles are legal in your region, approach your supporters for donating something awesome that everyone will be excited to own. Then sell tickets (say, $10 per person, and maybe even $20 if the prize is something fancy-schmancy).
- Auctions award prizes to the highest bidder. Whether the winner gets an item (ice cream maker? Yes, please!) or a service (a spa day at the local salon!) auctions are an exciting way to increase revenue. While live auctions deliver up that charged who-will-win atmosphere, it’s super easy to hold charity auctions online, too.
- Events can include marathons, galas, movie nights, talks, dinners, game nights… pretty much anything you can think of! Fundraising events bring your supporters together and help communities make fun memories. Just remember to advertise far and wide before, during, and, yes, even after you sell tickets!
- Crowdfunding is one of the easiest ways to get your nonprofit noticed while raising funds online. Crowdfunding platforms like RallyUp leverage the latest tech tools to help you set up a successful crowdfunding campaign, inspiring as many people as possible to donate to your cause.
- Sales fundraisers are stellar options because they’re so diverse. From setting up hot cocoa stands at your kid’s football game to partnering with local companies to sell their services, you can target different age ranges and interests. Garage sales and used book sales count, too!
- Live Streaming is a fun and innovative way to reach a broad audience with your message. Whether video, audio, or both, you can let your supporters keep tabs on your activities with live streamed interviews, conferences, parties, auctions, dance-a-thons, or raffles. Or livestream yourself doing something — it has to be fun! — for an afternoon or even for 24 hours.
- Pledge fundraisers are a popular method to increase cash flow because they let your supporters root for their fave participants. Best of all? Those participants are doing the fundraising for you! Whether you’re pledging $10 for every mile your BFF walks or $1 for every page your daughter reads, it’s an effective way to get everyone involved in your cause!
Make a Winning Fundraising Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve chosen your nonprofit fundraising idea it’s time to come up with how you’re going to reach the masses with it! As we’ve covered, keeping overhead costs down is crucial, this includes your nonprofit marketing initiatives. There are so many options for marketing, from social media to digital to print.
The key? Be strategic:
- Leverage your community of followers to share the word for you so you don’t have to pay for digital ads
- Use your network or the network of volunteers to find sponsors and/or news outlets interested in sharing your event
- Don’t be afraid to ask for donated advertising. Companies these days really strive to be more involved with philanthropic initiatives each year – make yourself one of them.
Marketing Strategy Tip #1: Consider Going Virtual
Virtual fundraising events have continued to increase in popularity. It expands your reach allowing people from anywhere to participate, provides more options for the type of fundraiser, and instantly decreases overhead costs.
While virtual events can easily stand on their own, you may even consider making it an option for your in-person event. Here are some great ideas:
- Virtual Race: This can be done at home (on a treadmill) or outside. Participants must simply track their time and compare it to other runners. Get multiple sponsors for the event and have an entry fee. The best part – once the race is over, there’s no clean-up!
- Sell Items: This is a great peer-to-peer fundraising option where volunteers sell to their friends and family. This could be anything from donated candy bars to t-shirts to wrapping paper.
- Online Silent Auction: This can be so easy to pull off! Simply set the date and time, photos and descriptions of the auction items, and use an online auction fundraising platform to help manage the auction and collect the donations.
Marketing Strategy Tip #2: Take Advantage of New Technology
Fundraising no longer means writing down each donation, tallying up the total, and storing the results in a giant filing cabinet. New technology provides solutions to many problems you didn’t realize you had, essentially streamlining your efforts (AKA making you more efficient).
Worried about the price tag? Don’t be.
There are affordable options that can help nearly every aspect of nonprofit fundraising. For example:
- Mailchimp is an email marketing platform that enables you to input up to 2000 contacts, design emails, and schedule them for FREE.
- Hootsuite and Buffer are social media schedulers, FREE for the basic packages. With Hootsuite you can even manage engagement.
- RallyUp is a fundraising platform that covers everything from marketing to donor processing. You can customize a nonprofit fundraising page, accept donations, and track the results for FREE.
Marketing Strategy Tip #3: Offer A Digital Option
A dedicated fundraising page was once a pipe dream for nonprofits that often don’t have a large budget. But new digital platforms, like RallyUp, make it a no-brainer. The benefits are undeniable:
- Gives you the ability to share updates and information about your cause
- Provides a place for people who can’t attend the event to donate
- Can create a virtual attendance option
- Alleviates the need to manually track donations
At RallyUp, we offer these features and more with a dedication to making fundraising efforts easier and more successful. We continue to release new, fun ideas that can help you market and manage your event from one digital place.
Nonprofits no longer have to skimp on the experience because of tight budgets – we make sure of that.