Fundraising and building donor relations can be one of the most daunting parts of running a nonprofit. It can feel all-consuming, too, since it’s such a critical aspect of running your organization.
Successful, long-term fundraising is all about organization, building trust, and being genuine with your audience. Think about why this is important to you, how it will make a difference, and why people should give their money to your cause.
Below, we’ve rounded up some practical and effective fundraising tips to help you with your nonprofit. With some preparation, optimism, and the desire to listen and try new things, you can create successful campaigns that will help you get consistent donations for years to come.
20 Fundraising Tips for Nonprofits in 2021
Whether you’re just starting out with a small staff, or you’re a burgeoning fundraising professional looking for some ideas, here are 20 practical and effective tips for fundraising:
- Make a Plan
- Make a Timeline
- Build a Budget
- Know Your Audience
- Use a Variety of Strategies
- Be Consistent
- Invest in a Fundraising Platform
- Ask For Help
- Make It Easy
- Make It Personal
- Be Specific and Direct
- Use Positive Language
- Show Impact
- Create a Sense of Urgency
- Use Compelling Imagery
- Follow Up
- Offer Recurring Donation Options
- Track Donations
- Show Your Appreciation
- Engage Your Volunteer Base
1. Make a Plan
This step may seem obvious, but you should start off with a clear idea of what you’re raising funds for, your goal, and your work capacity.
Think about how much you need to raise and how much you hope to raise. Having something to aim for will help you stay motivated, but it’s also an important storyline for donors that can make an ask feel more concrete. Get some helpful tips on how to set fundraising goals, and then how to meet them, here.
2. Make a Timeline
Your timeline will help you build your structure, a campaign calendar, and create a sense of urgency with donors. Are you fundraising for an event, in response to something, or is this for evergreen donations?
Also, think about how much of your time you can dedicate to this campaign. Different structures and ideas take different amounts of time. If you and your team have a lot of other tasks, think about extending your timeline to reduce the weekly load.
3. Build a Budget
Once you have an idea of how much you want and need to raise, start thinking about how much you can spend to get there. While there are free options with social media and volunteer events, spending money can make a big difference in how much you end up receiving.
While it may seem counterintuitive to spend money when you’re trying to raise money, and it may feel like all funds should go directly towards your mission, you can often make a bigger impact by putting a percentage of your proceeds or budget towards fundraising endeavors.
Ads in newspapers, on social media, and on radio or tv can go a long way in reaching a broader audience, and new potential donors. Events like galas can inspire donors to give more while giving you the chance to tell your organization’s story.
Figure out what makes sense for your nonprofit and don’t worry about starting small, but don’t be afraid to aim high.
4. Know Your Audience
Before you can successfully reach out to people, you need to know who you’re communicating with and who you’re targeting. What is the typical gender, age, and locality of your audience? Who is most likely to give, and how much? Where do they consume content: on their phone, over email, through physical mail, or in person?
You can find information like this on Google Analytics, through audience surveys, through your staff and volunteers, and by looking around at in-person events. A truly important part, though, is to listen to your audience. You need to be able to meet them where they are, and understand what drives them to attend and support your organization.
Keep track of information like this so you can refer to it in the future.
5. Use a Variety of Strategies
Your audience is probably pretty diverse. They have different interests and needs and they’re comfortable on different platforms. Not everyone will respond to the same outreach strategy, so it’s important to know all the ways your donors engage with your organization and use them to the greatest effect.
Social media can be an effective way to spread the word widely. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn are all important places to share information about your campaign. Instagram and Facebook even have built-in donation buttons.
Options like applying for a Google ad grant can get you external support that can make a big difference.
Physical mail and email are other important ways to reach out to people, particularly your dedicated audience. You can share more information with these methods, too, and get creative with your content and design.
Think about ways to reach new audiences, as well. Newspaper ads, radio spots, TV promotions, and cross-promotions with sympathetic organizations can help you cast a wide net and grow your audience.
Events like galas, fundraisers, or simply having signs and donation options at pre-scheduled events can make a big difference too. When people can actually experience what your organization does, and feel personally tied to your mission, they’re more likely to support it.
Pro tip: Use all the tools at your disposal, and don’t be afraid to try something new! Crowdfunding pages, text-to-give campaigns, and QR codes are all relatively new fundraising strategies that have become very effective.
6. Be Consistent
A successful fundraising campaign will use several different mediums and strategies, but the language, message, and imagery should be consistent across platforms.
Be clear on what you’re fundraising for, where the money’s going, why people should give, and what your goals are. A descriptive and catchy slogan, as well as a hero image, are great ways to tie your outreach methods together.
You should check out Muso‘s website for a consistent design packed with great images, impact data, and slogans that elicit emotion.
7. Invest in a Fundraising Platform
One of the most important parts of any nonprofit fundraising strategy is the donation landing page on your website. You’ll use this for evergreen donations, can update it for specific campaigns, and it’s the home base where you’ll direct the majority of your individual donors. It should be easy, safe, and user-friendly.
Pro tip: Choose a fundraising platform that also integrates with your existing tools or the website builder you’re using. That way you can safely keep your data intact without having to migrate or build something from scratch. Donorbox integrates with WordPress, Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, and more to make the job easy for you.
Some other key features to look for in your fundraising platforms can be – customizable donation forms, recurring intervals, goal meter, different payment methods, crowdfunding, automated donation receipts, etc.
If you’re looking to integrate the fundraising tool with your existing website, Tarjimly is a great example for you. With simple content and an embedded, recurring donation form, it manages to keep the fundraising page user-friendly for its donors.
8. Ask for Help
You are not alone when it comes to fundraising. When you look around your network, you’re sure to find seasoned fundraisers who can help you get started. Most people are happy to share fundraising tips and tricks, explain how they dealt with a similar situation, and support you where they can.
Ask for help with spreading the word, too. Work with sympathetic organizations, leverage community partnerships, organize your team and volunteers, and brainstorm with your board. Plus, don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family to spread the word and donate.
9. Make it Easy
The easier it is to donate, the more likely someone who is interested in donating will actually give. Make the donation process take as few steps as possible, and limit the number of website redirects you ask your donor to take.
First, prioritize your donation page. Make it easy to find on your website or social media account with eye-catching design and bright colors. A pop-up donate now button on your various pages is another effective method. Don’t try to be subtle about asking for donations; this is how your organization is able to do the work that your audience loves.
Look at the below popup donation form that comes up upon clicking the Donate button on the Boo Boo Zoo website. It’s simple and a quick way to make donations.
Pro tip: Make sure that your donation page and information are optimized for different environments: hyperlinks for online sites, QR codes for in-person or crypto options, and mobile optimization of your donation page.
10. Make it Personal
Why are you doing this? The best way to sell your organization and mission to donors is to remember why it’s important to you in the first place.
How can they help? Tell them about your organization and what a difference it’s making. Remind them of the personal difference they make to your nonprofit as individual supporters. Give your donors a sense of ownership so they feel personally tied to your nonprofit, like you.
And, don’t forget to remind people about donation incentives. Many countries have tax benefits for nonprofit donations, and you can share thoughtful and personalized gifts with repeat donors as thanks.
11. Be Specific and Direct
When you’re asking people to donate, don’t be vague about how it will help your organization, be specific and ask them directly.
What will a $2,000 donation pay for, as opposed to a $200 one? Where is the money going and who is it helping? You don’t have to give them your full business plan, but transparency is an important way to build trust and communicate the difference they’re making.
Donorbox’s customizable donation forms actually allow you to make tiered, suggested donations with an explanation of what each level will do. This can inspire people to give more and helps give them a sense of what you need and what others are giving. Here’s an example –
12. Use Positive Language
The language that you use in your fundraising campaign is incredibly important. You want to let people know who, and how, they’re helping. You also want them to know that they’ll be making a difference.
Use positive language telling them about positive outcomes, instead of negative situations. Tell a story of how things can be, rather than how things are. Also, don’t use guilt-tactics to encourage donors to give more, making them feel bad about not giving “enough.” Focus on what their support means and how a bigger donation can make a bigger difference.
You want them to leave feeling good about themselves and their decision so that they’ll want to give again when they can.
13. Show Impact
Encourage potential donors to give, or give more, by showing them how you’ve used previous donations. Give specific examples, like a new program, building, or initiative that was funded through individual donations. Highlight previous donors on your page, in your building, or during events.
Show people how others have made a difference to help them visualize how they can make a difference.
14. Create a Sense of Urgency
If you have someone’s attention with a donation plea, they are most likely to follow through if they do it in the moment. Ease is one way of encouraging people to donate when they first consider it, but another is urgency.
Why should someone donate today? Is there a specific goal with a deadline, like a new building? Do you think the need is immediate, like a relief effort? Is there a company or individual match that has an end date?
15. Use Compelling Imagery
Many people respond better to images and video than language. It creates an immediate, visceral reaction to actually see what your organization does. While your language can build positive futures explaining what this support can do, your images can help illustrate your story and build sympathy for your cause.
Make sure you select images or videos that reinforce your message, tell a story, and feel consistent. Visually arresting images, either with color, backdrop, or activity will draw the eye and encourage people to read your content. It also helps to humanize your campaign by selecting images that include people.
Healthcare for the Homeless Houston uses images on its donation page to show people how homelessness hurts and what they can do to help.
16. Follow Up
One of the most important fundraising tips is to follow up with your donors. Whenever you send personal letters or emails, you should always follow up. Everyone is busy and many people appreciate a reminder. If someone has pledged a donation, donated in the past, or has been an active member of your nonprofit’s community, a second personal message is always worth sending.
You can even follow up with your bulk newsletters and mailings. Plan to send more than one message on any and all platforms, spacing them far enough apart to be memorable without spamming. This will vary based on your timeline, but monthly physical mailings and bi-monthly emails leading up to a deadline can be effective.
17. Offer Recurring Donation Options
If a person has donated once, they’re likely to donate again. Make recurring donations easy and affordable so that donors only have to fill their information out once and don’t have to remember to donate again.
Pro tip: Give donors the freedom to manage their recurring donations and amounts. This helps build trust in them, also makes it sound convenient right away. More people will feel comfortable giving on a recurring basis. Donorbox enables donors to log in and manage their own recurring donations.
18. Track Donations
Keeping track of donations is important on a few levels. It will help you remember who donated, when, and how much, which will help you with personalized outreach in the future. You can also keep track of donor’s emails to build an email list for future outreach. Tracking what platform they donated through will help you learn which ones have better completion rates, and thus better know your audience for the future.
Donorbox is an effective donor management tool that includes software that will help you gain insight into your donors’ habits, track metrics, and improve your campaigns based on your audience. You shouldn’t have to build every campaign from scratch. Instead, learn from each campaign to make the next one better than the last.
19. Show Your Appreciation
Fundraising is about relationships. You want to make people feel like their donation was special and made a unique difference because it did.
Send thank-you letters out after campaigns and fundraising events. For major donors, send out gifts, remember their birthdays, and recognize special events. If you keep up with donors and show that you appreciate them as individual supporters, rather than sources of income, you’ll make them want to donate again.
Also, send out surveys and ask questions after events and campaigns. Let your donors know that you care about their experience and opinions. Not only will this help you build better campaigns in the future, but it will also show them that they matter to you.
Pro tip: A physical or virtual donor wall is an elegant way to make donors feel appreciated while encouraging your audience to donate as well. You can build it into your building or website design and use your organization’s brand to make it unique.
20. Engage Your Volunteer Base
Volunteers are one of the most important assets of fundraising. They not only help you on the ground but also enable you to raise funds in more than one way. It could be through peer-to-peer fundraising, social media promotions, writing solicitation letters, and even advocating your cause to their network.
Their skills and experience can truly enhance the way you fundraise and engage with your donors. Hence, what’s obvious is that you need to attract the best volunteers.
But that’s not all. Motivating them and finding ways to retain them is even more important.
Pro tip: Create a well-researched volunteer engagement program once you’ve started to attract volunteers. Know what motivated them to join you, what their strengths are, and what might turn them off. A great way to achieve this is to run a survey or take their feedback. We have discussed these points in detail in our blog here.
Start Fundraising Today
With these 20 practical and effective fundraising tips for nonprofits, you’re well on your way to building a compelling campaign. Whether it’s an evergreen donation page, a fundraising event, or a short-term push, you can easily build a plan to start raising funds for your nonprofit.
Try some of these methods today, and keep working to make a difference!
For more nonprofit tips and resources, please check out our blog.