If you're a nonprofit, chances are you rely on a constant stream of revenue to power the good work you do. The fundraising strategies you employ will be critical to your success in both the short term and the long term. It’s never too late to hone your strategy, and in this article we’ll give you 26 expert fundraising strategies to create and engage more donors, generate additional revenue, and take your nonprofit to the next level.
- What Is a Fundraising Strategy
- Fundraising Strategies for Mobilizing Donors
- Fundraising Strategies for Marketing and Advertising
- Digital Fundraising Strategies for Nonprofits
- Partnership Fundraising Strategies
- Event Fundraising Strategies
What is a Fundraising Strategy?
Your nonprofit has a mission and programs to support that mission. You also have a budget to complete all the things you need to do to achieve your mission. A fundraising strategy is your plan for generating the revenue that makes all those things possible.
Fundraising strategies are not abstract concepts or thoughts locked away in your head - they are explicit instructions, goals, and processes put down in a document for all to see, including your staff, supporters, board members, and the public.
Think of your fundraising strategy as your financial roadmap to success! Your fundraising strategy can have many parts and will consist of tried and true methods you repeat each year and others that might be new to your organization’s outreach.
The tips that follow are 26 tools you can add to your fundraising strategy and get started on the path to success!
Fundraising Strategies for Mobilizing Donors
The key to successful fundraising is to find the best way to engage your donors and spark them to action. Understanding what sparks them to action is where the work comes in. In this article we’ll give you a few tips and strategies to engage your potential supporters and to turn a critical eye toward the work of your own fundraising team too.
Here are some tips for mobilizing your fundraising strategies:
- Incentivize Your Top Fundraisers
- Launch Donor Recognition Programs
- Facilitate Grassroots Fundraising
- Exert Influence on Public Opinion
- Get to Know Your Donors
The more passionate your donors are about your cause, the more likely they are to contribute. Passionate fundraisers create passionate donors. Having a well-informed and well-incentivized staff is the first step to success.
1. Incentivize your Fundraising Staff
Many people think fundraising starts with major donors, but it really starts with your staff. A good development team will help you identify major donors, partnership opportunities, and advocates that share your values and mission. So why not reward them for it?
There's a big divide in the nonprofit world in terms of compensation. On one side you have large organizations, like hospitals and universities, who have embraced incentive pay for top fundraising pros.
On the other side, you have everybody else--the ministries, animal shelters, human services agencies, and more--who feel that it's inappropriate for employees to receive bonuses or other incentive-based compensation models.
If you haven’t tried incentive-based compensation before, you might reconsider compensation structures at your organization using the guidance below.
Here are six questions you need to ask to determine whether incentive-based compensation might be a fit for your nonprofit:
- How will we attract and retain outstanding talent in the future?
- Is our mission alone enough to motivate employees?
- Should we fundraise separately for our cause and operations?
- Can our compensation structures be flexible enough to meet generational expectations?
- Would the added productivity/motivation/loyalty make up for increased compensation?
- Would annual incentives for all employees lead to more widespread commitment?
The conclusions drawn will vary depending on your organization's size and leadership. But it's worth noting that while higher education and healthcare are leading incentive pay structures, charities in other nonprofit verticals are testing it as well.
Here are a few examples of organizations that have implemented incentive-based compensation and awarded bonuses to fundraising staff:
Discuss incentive programs with your directors and your board, and consider surveying your employees. Ask them what would motivate them more or make them more committed to the long-term financial success of your organization.
Their answers might surprise you! Even small incentives can motivate your employees to go the extra mile.
Checkout Nonprofit Impact’s statewide nonprofit salary studies for more information on how salaries vary state by state in the nonprofit sector.
2. Launch Donor Recognition Programs
But the best way to engage your existing donors and to turn them into recurring donors is to thank them. Donor recognition programs call attention, both publicly and privately, to the people who help your organization realize its impact.
Donors support your organization for many reasons. Some common ones include:
- They believe in the mission
- Someone they love cares about the mission
- They've been personally impacted by the cause
- They feel guilty
- They feel it's their duty
- They want to feel good about themselves
- They want to leave a legacy
Donors, especially major donors, love being publicly recognized for their philanthropic efforts. The problem is that most organizations don't have donor recognition programs in place to adequately recognize their contributors.
Smart Engagement technology makes it easy to acknowledge your donors with donation thank you letters that go out immediately after a gift is received.
On average, organizations lose 81% of their first time donors - and often this is simply because they don’t focus on thanking the donor for their gifts. Using your fundraising CRM to automate donation thank you letters will dramatically lower your donor attrition rates and increase the likelihood of developing recurring contributions.
3. Facilitate a Grassroots Fundraising Strategy
Incentivizing your employees and recognizing your donors will go a long way in terms of fundraising results, but to grow your audience you need an army of grassroots supporters that is well-equipped to spread the word.
One of the best ways to increase grassroots support is through Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. This type of grassroots fundraising is an effective way to reach the friends and family members of your supporters. By mobilizing your existing donors to fundraise on your behalf, you are gaining an introduction to people who might not have otherwise connected with your organization.
To get started executing a successful grassroots campaign, you'll want to purchase peer-to-peer fundraising software, complete with an event/campaign microsite and unlimited personal fundraising pages. With this type of software, each grassroots supporter can form their own fundraising page, complete with personal cases for support, photos, videos, and fundraising trackers. Your supporters can then advocate for your cause and raise funds online from their friends, family, and their own personal networks. All these individual pages tie back into the main event microsite, where potential supporters can track progress on the overall campaign goals, register for events, or create their own pages and expand the fundraising campaign further into new networks.
Advocacy software can also help you reach the grassroots. Asking people to take action on issues important to your community is a great way to expand your reach and call attention to your cause.
Petition signatures, letter-writing campaigns to elected officials, phone banks, legislator lookups, and texting campaigns are all effective advocacy tools your organization can employ to expand your grassroots reach.
4. Exert Influence on Public Opinion
For some nonprofits, bringing about policy change is a bigger priority than raising funds. Exerting influence on public opinion the surest way to affect policy changes with your legislators at all levels of office.
There are many types of organizations that seek to sway public opinion, such as:
- Human rights organizations
- Healthcare organizations
- Environmental protection organizations
- Animal rights organizations
- Political groups
- International, foreign affairs, and national security organizations
To impact public opinion, your marketing must be multi-dimensional. It can’t only be pointed toward the legislators. It must also be directed toward the public and to the press, who have the ability to bring your story and your campaign to an even wider audience. When the public rises up, the press covers it. When the public and press are working toward the same goal, politicians and decision-makers listen.
In other words, if your nonprofit wants to be heard, you need to reach the public, the press, and the politicians.
Online Advocacy software allows nonprofits to more easily mobilize their supporters to take action, with features to accommodate tactics like:
- Emergency email appeals
- Targeted messages to politicians
- Social media posts
- Collecting contributions
- Legislator lookups
- Texting campaigns
Each of the above tactics is a way for your grassroots supporters to increase public visibility of your advocacy campaign and your cause in general. Keep in mind that with every action you are gaining valuable information from your donors and supporters. This is a great way for you to better understand the motivations of your supporters and to use that for future marketing.
5. Get to Know Your Donors
Perhaps the best strategy for mobilizing your donors is to get to know them. These days, more and more supporters are expecting an individualized approach when it comes to their relationships with organizations.
They don't want to see the same message over and over. As people who are investing money in your cause, what supporters really want is for you to get to know them and present your cause in a way that's compelling to them.
Taking a personalized approach to each of your donors is easier than ever, thanks to the help of donor management software.
Donor management software makes it possible for nonprofits to centralize donor data and contact information for the greatest insight into their donors. With this type of platform, you can track valuable donor information such as:
- Biographical and contact information
- Familial, household, business, and other bidirectional relationships
- Interaction history including donations made, event attendance, + volunteer work
- Social media accounts
Organizations can create rich donor profiles by supplementing them with customizable fields, notes, document attachments, email activity, and more.
With this information on hand, you can get to know your donors better and segment them into criteria-based lists, targeting them with individualized outreach strategies that feature more relevant content, such as donation appeals that match their last donation amount or their current income levels, personalized email marketing, direct mail, even texting campaigns.
More relevant content equals higher engagement levels, which equals a greater likelihood that supporters will contribute to your cause.
Fundraising Strategies for Marketing and Advertising
Marketing and advertising are key to increasing the likelihood you'll reach more potential donors to raise more money for your cause. Nonprofit organizations are sometimes wary of using techniques typically used by for-profit businesses, but by framing your marketing material with the guidance shown here, you will present your organization in a way that matches your mission and conveys the proper tone.
Here are some tips on how to use nonprofit marketing and advertising can to increase your fundraising:
- Explore rebranding
- Run sophisticated advertisements
- Don't forget traditional media
- Write a clear case for support
- Make the ask explicit
- Use Smart Engagement Technology to Automate Your Fundraising Strategy
1. Explore Rebranding
Branding is often misunderstood, and many struggle to see the value of a full rebranding effort.
Branding is, in fact, so much more than just aesthetic. Good branding can convey emotion and draw in supporters and donors. Great branding becomes synonymous with your organization to the point where just using your logo can inspire action.
Remember, branding takes time to pay off. A consistent look and feel and message will eventually work in your favor. Sarah Dunham, president of Big Duck, commented that "50% of nonprofits that rebrand report an increase in revenue over a three-year span."
Try to keep your message focused on your brand. This includes consistent usage of colors, logos, and fonts, and other styles.
Turn a critical eye toward your current branding to make sure it is still consistent with your message. Outmoded content should be brought current. You might consider doing this when you perform major website upgrades, changes to your mission statement, or with a new overall marketing strategy.
Below is an example of how PMP Research Foundation evaluated their old branding and made it more contemporary.
PMP's old website was archaic, as was their general look and feel. Over time, they evolved from a research foundation into an organization focused on three things--informing, researching, and curing--so they needed to find a new approach.
NEW, HOPEFUL BRANDING
This refreshed brand is a hopeful one, with goal-oriented messaging that is exciting a new generation of donors.
2. Run Sophisticated Advertisements
If you rely on using the same advertisement to cater to every person in your audience, you're missing out on a big pool of potential donors.
Segmenting your constituents and audiences is easier than it's ever been for nonprofit marketers and digital fundraisers, thanks to the rise of nonprofit donor management software. Not only can segmentation help you better target your donors when it comes to your outreach and marketing campaigns, but it can also help you advertise smarter.
Facebook reaches more than 81% of the US digital population. Their advertising platform is accessible to most nonprofits, with the ability to run advertising for just a few dollars a day. It’s also easy to use. You can hyper-target your ads on Facebook through custom audiences segmented in your CRM based on any number of demographics, locations, activities, interests, or custom fields. Interaction with these ads tends to increase since the message is personalized through your segmentation. This leads to higher conversion rates and additional donors for your nonprofit.
You can also retarget visitors to your website with ads that follow them on any device they use. This is a highly valuable way to reconnect with a number of potential supporters who don’t convert on their first visit to your site. It’s also a great way to follow up with additional information related to the content in which they showed interest. For example, a visitor lands on a donation page for a specific program but chooses not to make a donation at that time. Your retargeting ad about that specific program will be shown to that visitor the next time they visit facebook on their mobile phone or their computer encouraging them to click back and finish what they started.
3. Don't Forget Traditional Media
With nonprofits increasing digital media budgets every day, it's easy to overlook more traditional advertising methods like flyers, direct mail, and print advertising.
These can be effective fundraising methods used alone, but when used in combination with digital efforts they can supercharge your fundraising strategies.
In fact, studies suggest that donors who are prompted to action through direct mail and online channels are 50% more likely to give than those who are just prompted online.
Varying the delivery method of that message is important too. Remember, people also have different preferences when it comes to how they communicate. While one donor might prefer being addressed through social media, another donor might prefer direct mail. Using only one or the other limits your potential.
Using more channels to reach out to your base means increasing your chances of reaching donors in the way they want to be reached. And contacting donors through their preferred communication channels means they're more likely to engage with your organization.
4. Write a Clear Case for Support
There’s a lot of noise out there and if you’re going to be successful you might rise above the din to get noticed. Create a clear reason why supporters should donate their hard-earned money or spend their valuable time with your organization.
When you make appeals, be sure to include an impact statement that shows the potential donor how their money will be spent and what that gift will achieve, either for your organization or the people you serve.
Your case for support or impact statement should cover the following key points:
- Why you're raising money and a breakdown of how the funds will be used.
- A list of events and fundraisers related to your campaign that donors can attend.
- A clear call-to-action and information on ways supporters can get involved.
- How your project will impact (or already has impacted) the community and people you serve.
Having a clear, detailed case for support is important because it shows donors that you have a direction and plan for their money.
Not only can the case for support motivate your donors, it can also be a valuable tool for your staff and volunteers; they can use this resource to help strengthen their pitch when they ask potential donors to contribute.
5. Make the Ask Explicit
An untold number of campaigns have failed because they broke the cardinal rule of fundraising: they didn’t make an EXPLICIT ask for donations.
ALWAYS MAKE THE ASK EXPLICIT.
If you don’t specifically ask for a donation you can’t assume the person reading it will understand it to be an appeal for money. You can talk about all the good results and impact in the world, but if you don't ask there are some people who just won’t convert.
No matter what channel you choose to engage or to make the appeal always include an explicit call to action.
A call to action lets supporters know exactly how they can contribute and directs them to where they can complete that action. Because the intended action is clear and convenient, there's a greater chance that person will convert.
Remember, not all of your calls to action need to be monetary appeals. The explicit ask concept works with other actions like volunteering, downloading reports, advocating for issues, sharing a message on social media, or just simply signing up to receive your newsletter.
6. Use Smart Engagement Technology to Automate Your Fundraising Strategy
Tools like Salsa’s Smart Engagement technology can help automate parts of your nonprofit fundraising strategy.
Software that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning analyzes previous donation amounts and current income levels to create a donation appeal that most closely matches the donor’s ability to give.
Thank you letters are generated and sent automatically without needing staff intervention.
Email marketing automation software like Salsa Engage can place major donors into segmented lists in your CRM for special communication and drip email communications over time
Administrative tasks can and should be automated, along with communications you can put into series, like emails that disseminate information that doesn’t change often (program pages, mission-oriented material, etc), and messages that move supporters and donors to the next step in their relationship with your nonprofit.
Digital Fundraising Strategies for Nonprofits
According to research by Double the Donation, more than 50% of donors prefer to give online. It’s imperative you include virtual fundraising strategies when you consider your overall fundraising plan.
There are a few digital techniques you can use to increase online engagement with your supporters and encourage a culture of online giving.
- Master video
- Split-test online donation pages
- Tweak your website
- Improve Your Social Media Fundraising Strategy
- Be mobile responsive
- Artificial Intelligence and Smart Engagement
1. Master Video
The July 2015 issue of NonProfit PRO magazine touted video as a communication channel that every nonprofit must master. Since then, video has been one of the fastest growing and most used mediums in nonprofit communication and advertising.
If your nonprofit doesn't have a video strategy yet, here are a few ways to get started.
Live video is a great way to open the curtain and give supporters a peek inside your day to day operations. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, TikTok and others prioritize video streaming and will notify your followers when you go live. This is a fast and inexpensive way to reach the masses and increase your conversion rates.
Not sure what to record? Consider the following nonprofit activities that others have been successful with:
- Emergency fundraising appeals
- Relief trip updates
- Thank you videos from those you're helping
- Volunteer stories
- Campaign or fund progress updates
If you’ve got the budget to work with video professionals, you can put together a sophisticated product that enthralls and delights. If not, remember, don’t get stuck on endless tweaks or with analysis paralysis. With amateur video, it's important to remember that "good enough is good to go." Social media audiences are very forgiving of low-budget (even low quality) video work when the message is for a good cause. The important part is getting your message out there and giving it a chance to succeed.
2. Split-Test Online Donation Pages
The best digital fundraising operations are vigilant about their online forms and design them in ways that encourage the audience to convert.
The optimal donation page varies from nonprofit to nonprofit, but the goal is to make the experience as convenient as possible for your donors so they're more likely to contribute. Finding the content and design of the optimal page can be a moving target. You can use split testing, also known as A/B testing, to gauge which version of your donation form will be the most engaging.
Your fundraising forms should be singular in focus, responsive, and user-friendly. Combine your form with Smart Engagement features from your CRM and it will automatically fill important details like name, address, even donation amounts. This will speed up the donation process and make for a much more streamlined experience for your donors.
Consider this: 65% of nonprofits are still using an online donation form that requires three or more clicks to submit a donation. If you can bring that number down to one, your organization will have an advantage over all of them!
Split test by creating alternative versions of your donation page with only one difference per version; a new title, a new form field, a different color button, etc. Send portions of your audience to different versions and track which form converts the most donors. When the test is done, rework your final form to mirror the look and functionality of the winning version from the split test.
For more tips on designing your form, check out our article on how to write a nonprofit fundraising call to action.
3. Tweak your Website
Your website is likely the first place potential donors will encounter your nonprofit. It’s important that you make a good first impression because you might not get the chance to make another one.
A nonprofit’s website is an important part of its overall digital fundraising strategy. As such, the goal for any nonprofit website is for it to be compelling, informative, and to serve as a useful tool to steward supporters toward donation.
When designing your website, keep a few of these strategies in mind:
Focus on fundraising. Your nonprofit's website should emphasize fundraising functionality. Be sure that donating online is easy for visitors. Include streamline online donation forms, elevate mobile donation platforms, and embed compelling calls to action throughout the site.
Create cohesion. All aspects of your website should reflect your brand, so users are always aware of your organization while they're browsing. Stick to one color scheme, formatting, and font throughout to avoid confusing your visitors.
Tell your story. Websites that feature a heartfelt story are more likely to engage browsers. When readers understand why you're so passionate about the cause, they'll trust your organization and want to follow along.
Include engaging content: The best marketing strategy is providing users something of value. Include informative articles, videos, case studies, audio, and more to let users know about your campaign and cause and to help them see the value in it.
Stay social. Your organization's website should prominently feature links to your various social media pages. In turn, your social media platforms should direct friends and followers to your central website. Share your website on these pages, as well as encourage social media engagement on your site.
Keep content easily readable. Avoid overwhelming your readers with huge blocks of text. Content that's broken down into short and punchy paragraphs is easier to digest, increasing the likelihood that visitors will stop and read your message.
Use visuals. Visuals create interest, break up chunks of text, and are a proven engagement strategy. Although you should incorporate them wherever it's logical, avoid incorporating too many or they'll lose their impact.
Make it user-friendly: Nothing is a bigger buzzkill than a complicated website. Make sure your navigation is clear and that you feature the most important links (like the one to your donation page) in an obvious place, so that when people want to find them, they can.
Check out our guide to creating a nonprofit website. It’s jam-packed with helpful tips to creating an engaging website that will create a culture of philanthropy for your organization.
4. Improve your social media fundraising strategy
As of 2020, 80% of all adults use at least one social media site. If your fundraising strategy doesn’t incorporate social media appeals you might be leaving some money on the table.
Social networks are excellent places to identify potential donors and start engaging them on their terms.
The beauty of social media is that there are many different sites to help you with your fundraising efforts. Each of these sites has unique capabilities, allowing you to share your message in unique ways.
Pew Research completes a study each year that shows user demographics of the various social networks. Try to match the demographics of your unique audience to the social network that features that same audience. Doing so will bring you higher chances of engagement and likely conversions.
If your audience is highly-educated and likes research material, perhaps LinkedIn is the first place you should share. If your audience is younger, one of the newer networks like SnapChat or WhatsApp might be more appropriate. Test your message on different social networks to see which brings the best conversion rates and other important nonprofit KPIs, then adjust your plan accordingly.
Check out Salsa’s Recipe for Increasing Your Nonprofit’s Engagement on Social Media and remember: always include a call to action in your posts.
5. Be Mobile Responsive
2015 was the first year where mobile devices were used to access the web more often than desktops. Since then, mobile usage has continued to increase across all sectors, including the nonprofit space.
Yet a survey from Nonprofit Hub found that less than half of nonprofit websites are mobile responsive. That means far too many nonprofits are missing out on an entire platform for engaging their donors and likely also missing out on countless fundraising opportunities.
Accepting mobile donations is the pinnacle of convenience because it allows your supporters to contribute to your organization wherever they are and when the moment presents itself.
Optimize your mobile giving channels by making sure your online donation forms are easy to use from mobile devices, especially smartphones. Most modern web platforms have this capability built in when designing form. If you’re using a fundraising CRM like Salsa Engage, your donation forms are automatically mobile responsive whether hosted with us or embedded directly on your site, so they’ll look good on any device and always be easy to use.
You can also implement text-to-give campaigns that allow supporters to donate via sms messaging. You send them a link via sms and it opens a donate page on their phone where the contribution can be completed. This is a great way to capture immediate interest from supporters at events or watching live stream video.
6. Artificial Intelligence and Smart Engagement
Nonprofit CRMs that feature artificial intelligence and smart engagement can take your digital game to the next level. Information from your CRM is automatically completed on contribution forms, volunteer forms, advocacy petitions, and other calls to action. This speeds up the process even further for your users and can make the engagement process much more user-friendly.
Machine learning can analyze previous donor contribution levels and mix that information with current demographics, appended data like income levels and affinity group interests, and recommend to you a fundraising appeal strategy that is unique to the donor. This makes your email marketing efforts much more personalized and more likely to convert.
As you continue to implement artificial intelligence and smart engagement techniques in your nonprofit make sure you don't lose that personal connection with your audience. Be deliberate about staying human-focused in your mission.
Partnership Fundraising Strategies
As the saying goes, “there's strength in numbers.” Strategically pairing up with sponsors can be an excellent way for your nonprofit to expand its reach.
Here are a few ways that teamwork can help you make the dream work:
- Corporate partnerships
- Leverage celebrity endorsers
- Online Partnership Programs
- Matching gift opportunities
1. Form Strong Corporate Partnerships
While individual contributors will likely account for the majority of your fundraising dollars, there are a host of nonprofit partnership opportunities in the corporate and for-profit industries that can support and sustain your mission. A good corporate partnership is mutually beneficial and helps the sponsor achieve their goals too.
There are a few types of corporate partnership opportunities you may want to explore:
Many corporations encourage their employees to get involved with local charities. Some even give employees time off to volunteer. Empower a corporate champion to post flyers, put up a table near the cafeteria, ask colleagues for donations, assemble volunteer groups, or form corporate teams for your next 5k.
Challenge Grants: Your organization can strengthen your fundraising strategy by participating in corporate challenge grants. With challenge grants, a corporate sponsor agrees to donate a certain dollar amount once your fundraiser has met an agreed-upon fundraising goal, such as a percentage of dollars raised or a flat fundraising benchmark.
Consumers often patronize businesses because of their support for local nonprofits. By teaming up with your organization, corporations can fulfill corporate philanthropy requirements as well as benefit from low-cost advertising and the good-will that comes with helping good causes.
2. Leverage Celebrity Endorsers
Associating your cause with an athlete, entertainer, or politician can be highly rewarding for your organization.
If you discover a personal connection between your organization and a celebrity it might be worth reaching out and making an introduction. If you’re lucky, the celebrity will even reach out to you. That’s what happened when the Delaware Humane Association planned their Indoguration™ campaign and they were contacted by singer Josh Groban who loves animals and offered his talents for the big fundraiser. In the end, the event went viral and DHA was able to shatter their $10,000 goal with more than $200,000 of online donations!
Do your research and see what celebrities are talking about, the causes they support, and the issues they get involved with. When you find a match, make the intro.
3. Consider online Partnership Programs
If you know where to look, you can often form corporate partnerships right from the comfort of your home office! These online partnership programs are offered by large retailers and media companies that give back by splitting a portion of their profits or sales with nonprofits. You’re not likely to receive donations as large as your typical corporate sponsorship, but online partnership programs can generate steady income without requiring much work on your part.
Goodsearch is a company that pays you to search the web by splitting its advertising earnings with you. Amazon's Affiliate program will pay nonprofits commission to help the site advertise certain products and drive traffic to their web store.
4. Find Matching Gift Opportunities
There are scores of corporations that will match the donations made by their employees to local nonprofits. Taking part in a gift-matching program essentially doubles the donation you receive without having to expend double the work. It’s a win-win for you, the donor, and the donor’s employer, who, like with corporate sponsorships, gets to partner with a local organization and do more good in the neighborhood.
When outlining the fundraising plan for your nonprofit's next campaign, be sure to allow adequate time for research matching gift opportunities. Not sure where to start? Check out Salsa’s Ultimate Guide to Gift Matching Programs.
You can also check out Salsa’s Quick Guide to Nonprofit Corporate Sponsorships for more information on adding this valuable tool into your fundraising strategy.
Event Fundraising Strategies
Another way to improve your fundraising game is to set aside time in your fundraising calendar for regular events that engage your existing supporters and encourage new members into the fold.
Events motivate supporters because they reward giving with a fun experience and connect supporters to the greater community. But in order to really be successful with your event fundraising, just as in any other effort, you need to have a solid strategy in place.
Fundraising is generally the ultimate goal at these events. And while your focus is normally to retain existing donors, these events can be a great way to convert prospects into new donors. Use your CRM to invite anyone who has shown interest in your organization to your upcoming events. If your appeal is compelling, you’d be surprised at just how many people turn up.
If you’ve postponed in-person events in favor of online-only events, check out Salsa’s guide on how to convert your offline nonprofit event into online success.
Here are a few of tips for running world-class nonprofit events:
- Enlist help
- Host a major event
- Create a Recurring Tradition
- Embrace new and innovative opportunities
- Reduce your costs
1. Enlist Help
Fundraising events are easy in theory, but in actuality, they are highly time-consuming logistical nightmares that you should never do alone. There are several tools that organizations can use to plan world-class events.
For your next event, enlist the help of good event ticketing software such as ShowClix. ShowClix integrates with Salsa CRM and can help you sell and manage general admission, reserved seating inventory, marketing, memberships, and more. You'll be able to keep your VIPs happy and easily handle last minute or walk up registrants too.
Everyone knows that nonprofit staff often wear multiple hats around the office. But some events require professionals, and occasionally it’s a smart move to hire a coordinator to make your big event run smoothly. This way, you'll spend less time on logistics, so you can focus on delighting your donors and supporters and maximizing the event ROI potential.
Speaking of ROI, here are the events that statistically are producing the highest ROI.
2. Host a Major Event
A major event is one big event that includes many smaller events. Think conferences, multi-band concerts, or even fairs with multiple booths and programs.
Try partnering with local businesses, artists, or celebrities. Just make sure you have a volunteer or staff member in each place to take contributions and help you oversee the effort.
Major events can be challenging to pull off, but they can be immensely rewarding if you have the resources.
3. Create a Recurring Tradition
Once you’ve held a successful event, why not recreate it? That’s the idea behind most walk-a-thons and other annual events. Nonprofits that document the process they went through to hold the first event are in a great position to replicate that process year after year and to benefit from the additional exposure they gain in your community.
Be careful though. Many nonprofits fall into the all-too-easy habit of running the same, predictable event year after year, inviting the same people, and hoping that this year’s event will be better than the last. Other nonprofits spend all year just planning that one recurring event, only to make a few extra dollars over the expense of putting on the big show.
At some point, every nonprofit needs to innovate and embrace new opportunities.
4. Embrace new and innovative opportunities
If your supporters are getting tired of the same old thing, try to branch out with new engagement opportunities. In order to keep donors coming back for more, you want to keep exciting them with new surprises.
If an annual dinner/auction is the norm, why not bring in some slot machines and gaming tables and make it a casino night?
With this strategy, you'll still get the benefits of an annual event, but without running the risk that your event will become so predictable that your supporters will lose interest.
5. Reduce your Costs
Some events might not bring in quite as much as a major event, but they cost little if nothing to run and they require less staff investment.
Here are a few ideas for affordable events.
50-50 Raffle: Your organization raises money by selling a raffle tickets to supporters. Once the allotted time is up, you and the winner will split the proceeds evenly, so there nothing but upside for the nonprofit.
Skills-Based Events: These are fun because they bring your community together to enjoy the talents of another supporter.
Some popular ideas for skill-based events include:
- Talent shows
- Battle of the bands
- Spelling bees
- Trivia competitions
- Comedy nights
All you need are an event space and people who are willing to volunteer their talents for your cause. To raise money, charge an admission fee and offer a 50/50 raffle. If the talent has something to sell, like music or t-shirts, see if they’d be willing to split the proceeds with you.
As you can see, there are myriad ways to enhance your nonprofit’s fundraising strategies. And while any one of these tactics by itself can improve your results, combining tactics will often result in the most effective and comprehensive fundraising opportunities.
It's important to remember that your fundraising is always a work in progress. Don’t dwell on the misfires or the events that don’t bring in as much as planned. Turn a critical eye toward your analytics. Pay attention to your metrics. Take time to plan your communication outreach. And always keep honing your craft.
If there’s a fundraising tip you’d like to share, send us a note on Facebook and we’ll add it to the list.
If you want to unlock more strategic fundraising tips, check out these additional resources:
Free Download: Digital Fundraising Checklist. 50 online engagement best practices to build long-lasting, authentic constituent relationships.
Free Course: Driving Engagement Beyond Sign Up. Discover a repeatable framework for dramatically growing your list and driving up the value of every interaction with your supporters!
Free Guide: Clear and Complete Guide to Fundraising Software. Learn 34 features and 5 integrations you need plus the 4 best ways to sell your boss and board on new software.
Free Demo: Salsa's Fundraising Software. See how your nonprofit, campaign or 501c3 organization can leverage our online and offline fundraising tools!