Best Practices on Raising Money Through Donation Boxes

Keeping a donation box at your location or event venue significantly helps you receive more donations for your organization. Learn everything about setting up an efficient donation box for your nonprofit and tips to modernize it for the present time. Keep reading!

5 minutes read
Best Practices on Raising Money Through Donation Boxes


Donation boxes are a simple but effective way to raise extra funds. Once they’re in place, they act as a passive fundraising tactic.

If they’re located in the right places, they can raise hundreds or even thousands for your organization.

With the right strategy, donation boxes can be a key part of your fundraising strategy. In this post, we cover tips on including donation boxes for raising funds.

Table of Contents:

Where to Place a Donation Box

Donation boxes usually sit next to the cash register in stores. This makes them highly visible and more successful.

If they’re anywhere else in the store, it’s easier for people to ignore them.

How to Choose a Venue For Your Donation Boxes

Choosing locations for your donation boxes can be challenging. Some businesses won’t be a great fit, and you’ll need to select your partnerships wisely. Here are some general tips that can help.

1. Choose a Business With Plenty of Foot Traffic

Think of it as a numbers game. Not everyone will put their coins in a donation box. You want to increase the chances that some people will be generous.

The more people who see your donation box, the more donations you can receive.

Choose a location that gets plenty of customers on an average day.

A few examples of this include:

  • Medical pharmacies
  • Convenience stores
  • Gas stations
  • Newsstands
  • Sandwich shops
  • Stationery shops
  • Sports shops
  • Religious organizations such as churches and temples

Pro tip: Reach out to mom and pop stores and other small businesses. You’ll often find them more receptive than big chains like Walmart, Olive Garden and Pizza Hut.

2. Choose a Business With Plenty of Cash Transactions

Some businesses are more likely to attract customers who use credit or debit cards.

They probably won’t donate loose change— they’re making big purchases on plastic.

Car dealerships or bridal shops are two examples of this. Very few people will buy a new car or pay for a wedding dress in cash. These types of businesses can be poor choices for donation boxes because of this.

donation collection boxes

A business that receives smaller transactions can be a much better bet. When people are paying in cash, there’s a bigger chance they’ll put a coin or two from this in a donation box.

Pro tip: Convenience stores and gas stations can be great for donation boxes. Since most people make smaller transactions, they’ll likely pay in cash and receive change.

3. Choose a Business That Doesn’t Have a Tip Jar

Businesses that have a tip jar for staff are often reluctant to have a donation box. You’ll be competing for attention with the tip jar — which often won’t be a big hit with the staff!

Although it’s not best practice to add donation boxes in restaurants, cafes, and other businesses with a tip jar, we always recommend you test this out for yourself.

Maybe you could speak to managers in a couple of restaurants and see how they feel about having a donation box. You might be surprised to see how receptive they are to the idea.

Pro tip: Restaurant chains can be open to having donation boxes  — particularly upscale ones.

4. Have Donation Boxes At Fundraising Events

Don’t forget to have donation boxes at your fundraising events. Even if it’s a ticketed event, some people may still choose to give small cash donations too.

5. Use QR Codes On Your Donation Boxes

donation box fundraising

Donation boxes don’t have to be solely about coins and notes.

Incorporating QR codes on donation boxes helps widen the pool of potential donors. QR codes can take donors straight to your donation page, for example.

Getting Permission For a Donation Box

Once you decide where to put your donation boxes, visit the businesses in person and speak to the manager.

Share the impact of your donation boxes. How many extra children can you feed or how many animals could be rescued? This helps businesses feel they can make a real difference by having a donation box on their premises.

Time-sensitive goals can be a smart move too. As part of your pitch, you can explain that you’re hoping to achieve this impact in the next 3 months, for example. Making businesses feel they can play a key role in making this happen can convince them to get involved.

If you don’t get the go-ahead for having a donation box in the long-term, see if you can secure a trial run. Even if the initial test only runs for a week, you can often extend this if it’s successful.

fundraising with donation box

Pro tip #1: Take one of your donation boxes when you visit locations and meet with the managers. This saves time if they agree to have one on the premises. It can be placed and secured right away and you’re more likely to have a big say in where it’s located.

What Should a Donation Box Look Like?

For small organizations, donors may find out about you through your donation boxes. It’s a great chance to make an impact.

Your organization’s branding helps your donation boxes to stand out. Even with limited space, you can help potential donors recognize how their cash will be spent.

  • Eye-catching images can help your donation boxes grab attention. Choose one that links back to your mission and tells a story about your work.
  • Including a short, powerful caption can work well — especially if it evokes emotions. Keep this brief— one or two lines can paint a picture.
  • Hard-hitting statistics can encourage people to donate their loose change.
  • Including your organization’s contact details helps people find out more about you. This also provides social proof for potential donors and builds trust.
  • Businesses may allow you to display brochures or leaflets next to donation boxes. This provides more information about your organization. It’s also another form of social proof.
  • Keep the design simple and minimalist — you can overwhelm potential donors if it’s too “busy”.
  • A transparent donation box can encourage more people to give. They can see that others have donated and may jump on board too. What happens if your donation box is brand new or you’ve just banked the donations from a full box? Try “seeding” your donation box with some coins or notes.
  • Are donation boxes a long-term fundraising strategy for your organization? Choose one that’s made from robust materials. If it’s a short-time campaign, a “tin can” donation box will often work fine.

Collecting Your Donations

Depending on how quickly your donation boxes fill up, you can arrange to empty them each week or month. Send a key staff member or volunteer or board member to do this.

Collecting donations regularly helps improve security — there’s less cash to tempt thieves!

When you collect your donations, show your gratitude to the staff for allowing you to have a donation box.

tips for donation boxes

Thank you notes or verbal thank you messages can work well for this. You can also reiterate how the donations are helping your mission.

These may seem like very small things but they help build stronger relationships with your partner businesses.

Analyzing Your Donation Boxes

Like any fundraising strategy, weigh up how well it’s working for you.

You might find donation boxes in certain locations bring in more donations, for example. This helps your nonprofit decide where to locate donation boxes in the future.

Security Tips for Donation Boxes

If they’re not secure, donation boxes can be stolen. Donation boxes with built-in security features are available. If this isn’t feasible, make sure it’s not easy to steal your donation boxes. Cord or cable ties can fix donation boxes to counters, for example.

Locating them next to cash registers is a smart move. Staff can keep an eye on them during opening hours, which discourages thieves.

Empty donation boxes regularly as an added security measure. Full donation boxes can contain lots of money— which can be very attractive to thieves!

To tackle this, we have also introduced a Text-to-Give Feature for Nonprofits. Donors can directly donate to your nonprofit from their smartphones.

Here’s a useful resource on Text-to-Give Fundraising.

Over to You

Donation boxes can help raise more funds for your organization. They can keep raising funds on your behalf with minimal effort.

The trick is to partner with the right businesses. This helps maximize the potential for getting more donations.

Always be on the lookout for new businesses to partner with!

You’ll still want to have a donation form on your website as most donations will come this way. An optimized donation page is also recommended.

Take a look at our nonprofit blog for more fundraising advice and tips on maximizing your donations.

Sally Aquire is a copywriter with a background in crafting communications and fundraising for a women's center. She writes about fundraising, nonprofit management, and wellness initiatives.

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