Learning how to raise money for a nonprofit can sometimes feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Many people are eager to support your organization’s amazing work, for all kinds of reasons.
Your role is to create opportunities for donors to give in ways that feel easy, secure, and appreciated.
If you’re new to the world of fundraising – or if you’re a seasoned pro seeking fundraising best practices – look no further!
In this post, we’re sharing 11+ simple tips to follow when raising money for nonprofits in 2021.
It might sound like a lot, but we’re breaking down each idea step-by-step for you. Let’s dive in!
How to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit: 11 Strategies for 2021
- Create a donation page
- Launch a Text-to-Give campaign
- Send out fundraising letters
- Launch a crowdfunding campaign
- Host a fundraising event
- Send out segmented emails
- Enable recurring donations
- Ask for sponsorships
- Launch a phone-a-thon
- Try peer-to-peer fundraising
- Apply for a grant
1. Create a donation page
Make it easy for donors to support your nonprofit’s work by having a secure, up-to-date, and on-brand donation page.
A donation page is a web page where donors can easily and safely make a gift to your cause.
A professional, polished donation page can help establish your credibility and build trust with your donors. Keep your donation page simple, clear, and easy to understand.
To make the process hassle-free, engage a software like Donorbox that provides an all-in-one donation page solution and support.
Pro Tip: Be sure to test your donation page on a mobile device! According to CharityNavigator, 40% of website traffic for nonprofits comes from mobile users.
A few best practices:
- Make sure your donation page is easy to find on your organization’s website.
- Include an option for recurring donations to make monthly giving easy (more on this below!)
- Customize your donation page with your organization’s colors, fonts, and other brand elements.
Bonus resources: Read more donation page best practices in this blog post: 27 Donation Page Best Practices for Nonprofits – Tips and Examples.
Learn how you can set up a state-of-the-art recurring donation system in just 15 minutes – with no set-up fees, no monthly fees, and no contract!
2. Launch a Text-to-Give campaign
A text-to-give campaign allows donors to make a donation to your cause simply by sending a text message with their mobile phone.
You’ve probably seen text-to-give campaign messages during emergency relief efforts after natural disasters, like the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Text-to-give messages often sound something like, “Text ‘HELP’ now to [shortcode] to make a $10 gift.”
Did you know that 90% of text message reminders are read in three minutes? Texting your donors with a compelling prompt to give can be a highly effective way to get their attention and support.
Text-to-give campaigns allow donors to support your cause in a quick, convenient way that requires very few steps or effort.
Depending on how you set up your campaign, there are two ways the donation can be made. The charge can be added to the donor’s mobile cell phone bill. Or, you can instantly and automatically text donors back with a mobile-friendly payment link.
- Use text-to-give campaigns selectively to avoid overwhelming your donors.
- Consider text-to-give campaigns for emergency fundraising initiatives, time-sensitive special projects, and significant milestones.
- Keep it simple and on-brand. Your text-to-donate information should be short, easy to remember, and relevant to your mission.
Bonus resources: Become a text-to-give whiz with our free guide, Text-to-Give Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide for Nonprofits.
3. Send out a fundraising letter
Mailing a fundraising letter is a classic way to raise money for a nonprofit organization.
A direct mail fundraising packet typically includes an outer envelope, a compelling letter asking for support, a donation reply card, and a reply envelope.
Your mailer can also include supporting materials that you think might interest prospective donors. For example a brochure with more information about your organization’s work. Or, share a one-pager with information about how to volunteer.
A direct mail campaign can be as simple or as complex as you wish. You can print fundraising letters on your letterhead and put everything together in-house.
Or, you can outsource any parts of this project you might need support with, especially if your mailing is large. This might include a graphic designer, copywriter, printer, and/or mail house.
A mailed fundraising campaign can help boost online fundraising, too! Nonprofit Source reports 24% of Boomers were prompted to give online because of direct mail they received.
- Combine direct mail with digital fundraising. Campaigns with direct mail p[us 1+ digital media have a 188% lift in response rate compared with direct mail only.
- Track the success of your mailed campaigns by reviewing the funds raised compared with your design, printing, and postage costs.
- Keep expectations based on reality. Direct mail response rates tend to be around 5% for in-house lists and under 3% for prospect lists.
Bonus resources: Looking for more guidance on how to do a mailed letter fundraising campaign? Check out this blog post: Fundraising Letters: Asking for Donations Made Easy (+ Free Template).
4. Launch a crowdfunding campaign
A crowdfunding campaign is when a “crowd” (most often, a group of people online) funds a project or program.
Each person contributes an amount toward an overall goal. Nonprofit Source reports that the average nonprofit crowdfunding campaign raises more than $9,200.
In many cases, people hear about a crowdfunding project online. Social media can be a valuable tool for these types of fundraising projects.
To get started, you’ll need to choose your donation platform and set up an appealing crowdfunding page.
You don’t have to go the DIY route – Donorbox can guide you through the process to create a crowdfunding campaign in just fifteen minutes.
Once donors support your campaign, encourage them to share the word with their network on social media.
- Include a fundraising thermometer on your donation page to track your progress. This can help boost your fundraising total by 35%.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly! 17% of crowdfunding donations are made on mobile devices.
- Be sure to update crowdfunding donors about your project and your progress along the way.
5. Host a fundraising event
Fundraising events provide an opportunity for donors and prospective supporters to engage with your cause.
You can host a COVID-conscious in-person event, a virtual fundraising event, or a hybrid event.
To get started, determine your event goals. What would a successful fundraising event look like? There’s no right or wrong answer – instead, focus on your organization’s needs.
Then, create your vision and budget. For in-person events, consider the costs of a venue, refreshments, entertainment, decor, invitations, and staffing. Online events have fewer costs but still may require tech support and staffing.
If you’ve never planned a nonprofit fundraising event, ask another organization if you can volunteer at their event to learn. This can be a win-win: you’ll lend a hand to another worthy cause while learning the ropes yourself.
After your fundraising event, be sure to debrief with your team. What worked? What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped? What could be done differently or improved next time?
- Engage a committee of supporters and stakeholders to help plan your fundraising event. This group can help sell tickets and sponsorships to their network.
- Keep your event true to your organization’s personality and donors’ interests. You don’t have to host a gala or a golf tournament. If your donors are a “blue jeans and BBQ” crowd, embrace it! Unique events can be especially memorable and fun.
- Even the most carefully planned events can have a hiccup or two! What matters most is how you handle these moments. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or ask for help.
6. Send out segmented emails
You’re probably already sending out fundraising emails from time to time. But, are you segmenting your emails?
“Segmenting emails” means separating your recipient audience into distinct groups. From there, you can send emails to those groups that speak to their specific interests, values, and goals.
This is a great idea for how to raise money for a nonprofit with a relatively small investment. Segmenting can take some time, but it’s typically a low-cost task with a smart ROI.
You might decide to segment your audience by approximate age, gender, donor status, interest, or something else.
A segmented approach can be more effective than a “one size fits all” email fundraising strategy.
One study found that when marketers segmented their email lists, 39% experienced higher open rates. Furthermore, 24% saw greater revenue.
To get started, review your existing email list. Many email systems allow you to “tag” recipients with a wide variety of data fields.
From there, experiment with sending customized, segmented emails and see how they perform.
For example, you could send a special program update and a note of gratitude to all your volunteers.
Or, send your lapsed donors a special “we miss you!” message. You can recognize their past support and invite them to reconnect with the organization.
- Start with the basics. If segmenting your email list feels overwhelming, try “tagging” straightforward criteria, such as board member or volunteer status.
- Speak directly to your audience. An email to local supporters might say something like, “We know how much you care about supporting your local community.”
- Consider asking for some segmentation data in your email sign-up form. For example, you can ask new email subscribers what topics interest them, and the month and day of their birthday.
7. Enable recurring donations
How do nonprofits raise money during challenging times? Recurring donations can help.
Recurring donations, sometimes also called “sustaining donations,” are gifts that a donor agrees to give on an ongoing basis. One of the most common recurring donation programs is a monthly giving program.
Recurring donations provide the donor with an easy, hassle-free way to support causes they love. Monthly giving programs can also provide nonprofits with a consistent, steady, predictable source of income.
Having a steady source of support can be even more important during times of unpredictability or economic uncertainty.
The easiest way to start a monthly giving program is to add a recurring donation option to your donation page.
One report shows recurring donors give 50%-300% more after signing up for a recurring donation compared with previous years.
- Promote recurring donations in your organization’s e-news, social media posts, and other communications.
- If you’re sending a direct mail fundraising campaign, include a checkbox option for donors to make a recurring gift on your donation reply card.
- Thank your monthly donors! It can be easy to overlook these loyal donors since their giving happens automatically. Make it a habit to connect with them in a personal way now and then to say thank you.
Pro Tip: Donorbox’s recurring donation tools are a breeze to set up. Create a customizable recurring donation form to collect weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually recurring donations.
Donorbox’s interface is friendly and straightforward for donors to navigate. And, donors can create an account and manage their gift commitment.
8. Ask for sponsorships
Sponsorships can help you raise money for your nonprofit while providing corporate supporters with visibility in the community.
The most recent Giving USA report showed that giving by corporations increased by more than 13% in 2019, totaling $21.09 billion.
The report also shared that companies can be “highly responsive to changes in corporate pre-tax profits and GDP [Gross Domestic Product], and its year-over-year trend lines tend to be more turbulent as a result.”
In other words – the likelihood of securing corporate sponsorships might be hit-or-miss, depending on economic and political conditions and timing.
Even so, there are plenty of worthwhile corporate sponsorships out there. Consider whether you have an upcoming event, program, or initiative that might be appealing to a corporate funder.
A few common sponsorship benefits include recognition on digital and print materials, signage, invitations and events, verbal recognition during a speech, etc.
- Be mindful of tax implications related to sponsorships. The IRS has rules about what counts as an advertising purchase versus a sponsorship.
- Ask prospective sponsors which recognition benefits are most important to them. Within reason, you can create a sponsorship package that suits their goals.
- Get it in writing! To prevent any confusion, be sure a representative from each organization signs a sponsorship agreement detailing the arrangement.
9. Launch a phone-a-thon
During a phone-a-thon, donors receive a phone call asking them to support your cause. They are typically asked to give a specific amount, such as increasing or matching their gift from the previous year.
You can organize a phone-a-thon in-house using your existing staff members. Or, you can engage a company that can handle the details (and the calls) for you.
Whether or not you choose to engage outside help, consider making a few phone-a-thon calls to your donors regardless. This is a priceless opportunity to interact with your supporters.
While the goal of the call might be to secure a donation, you can learn a lot in the process.
During a phone-a-thon, you can ask donors why they choose to support your work. You might also ask them what other causes they support.
One favorite question is: “What is the most meaningful gift you’ve ever given, and what was so special about it?” You’ll learn a lot about your donor’s philanthropic values from this question! And, you’ll form a genuine connection that can lead to greater long-term support.
- Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone! After a year of physical distancing, you might be surprised how many donors are craving connection.
- A solicitation call is also an opportunity to steward the donor for their past giving. Be sure to share your gratitude for their past support!
- Build trust and connection by sharing who you are and what your role is with the organization. You can also share what motivates you to stay involved with the cause.
10. Try peer-to-peer fundraising
Raising money for nonprofits can be more effective and efficient when your supporters help champion your cause.
Peer-to-peer fundraising means encouraging and empowering your supporters to fundraising on your behalf with their peers.
Worldwide, 14% of donors have created an online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
A common example of peer-to-peer fundraising is a charity walkathon. A donor signs up to support the cause. Then, they raise money from their network of family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc.
Another common example is a Facebook fundraiser. Many people commemorate their birthday by raising funds for a favorite cause.
Peer-to-peer fundraising involves a combination of social media, email outreach, and word of mouth.
To get started read Charity Navigator’s guide: 3 Strategies for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising This Giving Season. The post was written with holiday giving in mind, but the tips are relevant year-round!
- Equip your peer-to-peer fundraisers with photos, graphics, and templates for emails and social media.
- Make it as easy as possible for participants to spread the word by simply hitting send!
- Encourage friendly competition by recognizing your top fundraisers in a special way, or giving them some special swag items from your organization.
11. Apply for a grant
Grants can be a highly effective way to raise money for a nonprofit. Grants are typically offered through government agencies, foundations, and corporations.
If you ask a Development professional how to get funding for a nonprofit, applying for a grant will probably be one of their first suggestions.
You might need to do some research to find grant opportunities that fit your organization’s mission, location, and programs. To get started, browse the Philanthropy News Digest’s list of grant RFPs (Requests for Proposals).
The process of securing a grant can vary by the funder. Most often, you’ll need to fill out a grant application provided by the funder.
The grant process may also include meeting (virtually or in-person) with a representative from the organization.
After your nonprofit receives a grant, you might also be required to fill out a report detailing how the grant funds were spent.
Remember to also steward your grant funders and include their representatives in your organization’s updates and events.
- The grant application process can feel impersonal, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a rewarding habit to get to know the people behind the process and form relationships with grant funders.
- Be sure your grant applications are grammatically correct and free of errors and typos.
- Ask a coworker (or several!) to read your application before you submit it.
Pro Tip: Take Advantage of Google Ad Grants for nonprofits.
Google Ad Grants “helps nonprofits share their causes with the world.” Qualifying nonprofit organizations can access up to $10,000 per month in search ads shown on Google.com.
You can use Google Ad Grants to raise awareness for your cause, attract donors, and recruit volunteers.
Start Raising Money Online Today
With a variety of ways to raise money for your nonprofit, your biggest challenge might be deciding which ideas to pursue first!
Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time to build a strong giving program over the long term. With persistence, optimism, and the right tools, you can take your fundraising efforts to the next level!
At Donorbox, we specialize in making fundraising logistics easy for busy professionals. Check out our Nonprofit Blog for more free resources. To learn more about how Donorbox’s fundraising solutions can help you, drop us a line – we’d love to connect!