5 Fundraising Lessons to Boost Your Nonprofit's Impact

Mark Kelly
February 1, 2018

These fundraising lessons can help all nonprofits bring in more money and increase their impact in the community.

Smart nonprofits know that there's always room to improve. The more you focus on innovating and fine-tuning your approach to fundraising, the better results you're sure to see.

But with so many different fundraising and donor engagement strategies out there for nonprofits to try, it's tough to know which will be most effective for your organization.

Luckily, we've put together a list of 5 fundraising lessons than any nonprofit can benefit from learning: 

  1. Embrace creative forms of online fundraising.
  2. Find nonprofit software that can grow with your goals.
  3. Diversify your engagement opportunities.
  4. Mobilize your community through peer-to-peer fundraising.
  5. Prioritize supporter recognition.

These strategies won't just help you bring in more funds for your mission; they'll also help you strengthen your relationships with your donors and create a powerful community around your cause. 

If you're ready to start empowering your supporters and raising more funds, read on!


Try out creative online fundraising strategies to get your supporters excited about your cause.

1. Embrace creative forms of online fundraising.

In the age of the internet, online fundraising is far from inventive on its own. To make your digital fundraising strategy stand out and capture donors' attention (and funds!), you'll need to look for tactics that are both effective and engaging.

One way to push your traditional fundraiser to the next level is to combine the power of two or more online fundraising strategies. By putting two proven tactics together, you can introduce a creative edge to your fundraiser without sacrificing any potential for success. 

Want an example of this innovative approach in action? Look to one of the most popular forms of online fundraising around—the t-shirt crowdfunding campaign! 

This type of online fundraiser doesn't just help you bring in major dollars for your campaign; it also helps you engage with constituents by providing them with a new way to express their support for your campaign.

In fact, pairing a t-shirt fundraiser with an online crowdfunding campaign comes with a few unique benefits you can't get from any other strategy:

  • Branded merchandise raises funds while promoting your cause in the community. Just think how much of an impact you can have when all of your supporters wearing shirts with your organization's name on them! 
  • T-shirt fundraisers engage all types of supporters. Everyone wears t-shirts, so there's no excuse not to participate in t-shirt fundraising campaigns. Plus, with the right online retailer, you can set your own prices to make sure they're reasonable for your audience.
  • You can reap the benefits of social media through crowdfunding. Inherently social, a crowdfunding campaign thrives when your supporters share your fundraising page on social media. When they have a fun product to show off, your donors are even more likely to get the word out on their profiles.

Because this new fundraising model is so easy to succeed with, there are plenty of online fundraising platforms with built-in t-shirt design tools. Just make sure to choose one that offers plenty of flexibility in terms of design and pricing.

Your nonprofit software can have a major impact on your fundraising strategy, so look for tools that can grow with you.

2. Find nonprofit software that can grow with your goals.

Whatever your fundraising goals, we can guarantee there's a fundraising software solution to help you meet them.

However, one lesson nonprofits often learn too late is how to choose the right software to serve their needs now and as the organization evolves over time. 

Whether you're implementing CRM software or just searching for a crowdfunding tool, make sure you know how scalable your technology solutions are so that you don't end up outgrowing your tools only a few years in. 

What do we mean by scalable? Let's break down exactly where your software should have some room for growth: 

  • Users. If your nonprofit brings on new team members, make sure your software can accommodate all of them. Many solutions are priced based on the number of users they allow, so leave yourself a little wiggle room if you anticipate any fluctuations in staff.
  • Constituents. Similarly, many database solutions are packaged based on the number of supporter profiles you can store within them. Always anticipate some growth here! Even if you're not primarily focused on donor acquisition, you'll (hopefully) steadily add to your supporter base over time.
  • Functionality. Look for a software vendor who offers a variety of tools within their suite of solutions. Even if you start off with a basic set of donation tools and database features, for example, you may find yourself in need of more innovative fundraising tools over time. 

Keep in mind that finding a flexible solution doesn't mean breaking your budget for an overly aspirational product. Instead, you should search for a provider who understands your trajectory and has a wide range of solutions that can meet you at different points. 

Sticking with the same provider or product family can save you plenty of time (and money) searching for, implementing, and learning an entirely new vendor's services. Trust us: a little extra research on the front-end will be worth it in the end! 

Offer a variety of ways for supporters to connect with your nonprofit in order to have the most impact.

3. Diversify your engagement opportunities.

Raising money is vital for your cause, but that doesn't mean your supporter interactions should always end with their signing a check or completing an online donation form.

Think of it this way: your supporters are all unique, and each of them brings their own set of skills, interests, and passions to the table. If you're only capitalizing on their wallets, you're missing out on a ton of potential benefits that they could be offering! 

To flip the script, offer a variety of engagement opportunities that allow supporters to participate in ways that are exciting for them. 

Your engagement options will depend on your organization's goals as well as your supporters' interests. However, if you need new ways to involve your donors, try starting with these:

  • Advocacy campaigns can empower supporters to take action in more ways than one. Consider starting a social ambassador program or circulating an online petition to inspire supporters to let their voices be heard in their communities. 
  • Volunteer opportunities can get supporters involved on the ground level of your nonprofit. Bring on helpful hands at your next fundraising event or search your database for skill sets that could be useful at your office or during your next campaign.
  • Membership programs add an extra incentive to becoming a recurring donor. With an annual dues payment, these supporters gain access to exclusive content and perks. More importantly, they'll prove their long-term dedication to your organization by joining a community to promote your cause! 

If you're not sure what types of engagement are most appealing to your donors, you can always ask! Send out a survey asking what they'd be most interested in doing for your nonprofit.

Then, store that data for future use so you always know which supporters should receive communications about your different opportunities.

Peer-to-peer fundraising continues to be one of the best fundraising strategies to engage your donor community and raise awareness.

4. Mobilize your supporters through peer-to-peer fundraising.

You know your supporters care about your cause, so give them the power to raise money and spread awareness all on their own! 

Peer-to-peer fundraising gives your constituents a chance to show off their devotion to your cause and take ownership of their impact in a big way.

With the right peer-to-peer fundraising software, you can equip your most loyal supporters with the tools they need to start their own campaigns to raise money for your nonprofit. But even though they'll be taking the reins, it's still your organization's responsibility to lead the fundraising campaign to success by:

  • Educating your fundraisers. Make sure your fundraising teams know exactly what every donation will help accomplish. That way, they can more confidently spread the word about how powerful your cause is.
  • Tracking fundraising progress. Using your software, you can measure the success of individual and team fundraisers to reward those who've gone above and beyond and pay extra attention to those who aren't on track to reach their goals. 
  • Offering marketing resources. Your fundraisers will primarily be sharing their donation pages on social media, so provide templates they can quickly (and successfully!) use to secure gifts and promote your campaign.

Don't forget that events are a major aspect to most peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, too.

Whether you're hosting a walkathon or another community-focused event, use your peer-to-peer event planning tool to set up a dynamic registration page with plenty of ticket options. You can offer special discounts to early bird registrants or groups, create ticket pages that include special merchandise, and more! 

Focus on supporter recognition in order to raise retention rates and enhance your fundraising strategy.

5. Prioritize supporter recognition.

Arguably one of the most important lessons for any nonprofit to learn is how to keep supporters involved and invested long-term. 

Luckily, there's one easy way to connect to your supporters and inspire them to stay engaged over time—remind them how much you value their contributions!

Showing gratitude to your constituents takes more than an automated thank-you email, though. To truly put supporter recognition at the forefront of your strategies, you'll need to prioritize it on a consistent basis and in a variety of ways.

Here are just a few tips for how you can take your appreciation strategy to the next level:

  • Don't just focus on donors. You naturally thank donors every time they make a gift, but financial contributions aren't the only type of support you should be recognizing. Send a thank-you note or post a social media shout-out for volunteers, advocates, event sponsors, and anyone else who has positively impacted your cause. 
  • Show supporters what they've accomplished. Telling your supporters how thankful you are is great, but you can take it up a notch by actually showing them what they've achieved for your organization's mission. Be specific, and make sure to use "you" language to reiterate that these feats wouldn't be possible without their help.
  • Take a personal approach. Thanks to modern software, you can automate almost anything. The downside? Your supporters can often tell when they're receiving a canned thank-you message. Keep your thank-yous genuine by always including a supporter's first name and referencing their specific involvement. 

As with all of our lessons, the key to a smart supporter recognition strategy is how you follow through on it. Don't be afraid to thank your donors, volunteers, members, and more as often as you can. 

And if you're ever in doubt of how to show a supporter you value them, just pick up the phone or find them at your next fundraising event! You might be surprised what a spontaneous, genuine show of gratitude can do for your retention rates.

For nonprofits, learning the latest and greatest fundraising lessons could be a full-time job. Even though there are always new strategies to learn and innovative ideas to try, these easy-to-implement nonprofit lessons should put your team on the path to success.

Want to learn even more about nonprofit strategy? Check out these amazing additional resources:

  • Top Online Fundraising Tools. To put your fundraising plans into action, you'll need a way to accept donations. Take a look at our favorite online fundraising options! 
  • 5 Steps to Planning an Advocacy Campaign. If your organization relies on grassroots advocacy campaigns, we've got the guide for you! Learn all you need to know about planning an advocacy campaign.
  • Salsa's Donor Management Software. Smart fundraising and donor engagement relies on a strong understanding of who your supporters are. Get to know your constituents with our donor management solution!

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