Fundraising is an old game, so it can often seem like there's nothing new to try. It's often too easy to slip into feeling uninspired. In reality, this couldn't be further from the case! There are always new and interesting ways to spice up your fundraising, and luckily, the rise of online giving and communication channels only opens up more possibilities for nonprofits.
By using digital fundraising channels, your organization can make giving more convenient for donors and appeal to more of your supporters' preferences. Not to mention, you'll be able to open up many of your efforts to a larger segment of your donor base, since you won't be constrained by geography.
With the power of digital fundraising on your side, you can make a significant impact on your audience and your organization!
If your fundraising is feeling tired, you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll cover 9 outstanding online fundraising ideas that your organization should try in the new year, including:
- Matching gift drives
- Peer-to-peer fundraising or virtual events
- Prospect research
- Amazon Smile
- Online auctions
- Selling merchandise
- Facebook fundraising
- Online donation forms
- Checkout Charity
These unique and engaging fundraising ideas should help you give your fundraising a breath of fresh air while also appealing to modern donors who enjoy engaging with your organization online. Let's get started!
1. Matching gift drives
Matching gifts are an easy way to increase gifts to your organization without having to exert a lot of extra energy or expend too many extra resources.
To quickly refresh, gift matching is a popular form of corporate giving. Donors who work for companies with matching gift programs can submit their donations within the matching gift deadline, and their employers will then submit a donation of equal (or sometimes greater!) value to your organization.
It's essentially a way to receive double the funds for the same amount of work!
Matching gifts are nothing new in the fundraising world. However, you can give them a new spin and incorporate them into your online fundraising strategy by hosting a matching gift drive.
Matching gift drives are essentially online giving days with a huge twist: if your donors reach the goal within 24 hours, a generous donor (usually a company) will match the amount you raised.
Because they're so urgent and donors have to drop what they're doing and give now, giving days in and of themselves are an excellent way to raise a lot of money quickly. Add a matching gift component to that, and your fundraising can really skyrocket in just the span of a day!
How do you get started?
Of course, for this strategy to work, you'll need a donor who's willing to make a matching gift. Current corporate partners are always a good place to start, but if you don't have one who's willing to participate, you can also leverage your donors' professional connections.
The easiest way to spot connections among your base and gain insights into which companies have matching gift programs is to use a matching gift tool (check out Double the Donation's). By integrating this tool with your online giving software, you can place a field directly on your donation form where donors can input their employers' name and see if they have a matching gift program.
That way, you'll have a whole list of potential matching gift donors to draw from once your next (or first!) matching gift drive rolls around.
To sum up: Matching gift drives are an excellent online fundraising idea that can help organizations raise a lot of money quickly by doubling (and even tripling) donations.
Nonprofit crowdfunding is an oft misunderstood strategy. Many nonprofits are under the assumption that crowdfunding is only for individuals, when in reality, it can help organizations give their online fundraising a boost and acquire a wealth of new donors in a short amount of time.
When running a crowdfunding campaign, nonprofits fund a specific cause or project by collecting a large number of small donations from an extensive base of donors.
How do you get started?
To run a campaign and accept donations, your organization will need to use a crowdfunding website (like Fundly) to set up a campaign page that features your goal and reasons for raising money. These platforms also include social sharing tools so you and your supporters can easily spread the word to your networks over email and social media.
When choosing a platform, you should look for:
- Mobile-responsive fundraising pages: With more and more people using their phones to browse the internet, you want your donors to have a good experience on your page no matter what device they use.
- User-friendly interface: You should pick a platform that makes it easy for you to set up your page, and donors should find it easy to make a contribution.
- Space to add images and videos: To persuade donors to give, you'll need to tell your story and explain why you're raising funds. Images and videos can enhance your narrative and keep potential donors engaged.
- Compatible software integrations: If possible, your crowdfunding platform should integrate with your CRM and payment processor to help streamline the donation and data gathering process. Many crowdfunding platforms will also have social sharing integrations and give organizer's the option to import their contact lists from software like Gmail, Constant Contact, and more.
Use this list of features (and a list of your own must-haves!) to help you narrow down the many crowdfunding platforms available to you. There are over 190 crowdfunding platforms in the United States alone, so there is no shortage of options to choose from.
Between platforms designed for specific types of campaigns, like creative projects, to platforms that accommodate a variety of campaigns, it's important that you zero in on the crowdfunding website that makes the most sense for your organization.
Since its fiscal and actual goals are so clearly defined and it relies on widespread sharing to be successful, crowdfunding is an excellent way to reach and appeal to new donors.
First-time donors often feel more comfortable giving when the purpose of their gifts is clear and tangible, and crowdfunding leaves no uncertainty.
To sum up: Crowdfunding is an excellent online fundraising idea that lets organizations reach a wide base of new donors.
3. Peer-to-peer fundraising or virtual events
While often used interchangeably, peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding aren't one and the same.
To clarify, while crowdfunding is something the nonprofit does, peer-to-peer fundraising is something that an organization's supporters do on the nonprofit's behalf.
Using peer-to-peer fundraising software, donors-turned-fundraisers create their own personalized donation pages and share them with their friends and families to help the organization meet a greater fundraising goal.
Personal pages are tied back into the main campaign page so that the nonprofit can oversee individual fundraising and the progress toward the overall goal.
Like crowdfunding, peer-to-peer has many benefits. Here are just a couple of its main advantages:
- It's an active way to connect with current supporters. With peer-to-peer, supporters are literally stepping into the fundraiser's shoes and working on behalf of your organization. As such, there's really not a more active way to involve your supporters in furthering your mission, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to connect with current supporters throughout the campaign.
- There's a natural element of trust. Leveraging your partners plays a huge role. Since prospective donors are receiving an appeal from someone they already know, peer-to-peer campaigns solve for the trust problem that nonprofits often face when convincing new donors to give. During P2P campaigns, donor acquisition usually receives a nice boost.
We could go on and on about the benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising, but we can sum it up and say that it's an excellent way to engage old donors and appeal to new ones. One might say it's a win-win!
Additionally, online peer-to-peer fundraising is going to be the perfect complement to many fundraising events, especially active ones like walkathons and road races.
Another type of popular alternative to in-person events is virtual fundraising or virtual giving events. These are often used when in-person events need to be rescheduled or transitioned to a virtual setting.
Virtual events differ in some ways from peer to peer fundraising so if you're interested in learning more, we suggest checking out OneCause's helpful guide on virtual fundraising.
To learn more about peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and software, check out our ultimate guide.
To sum up: Peer-to-peer fundraising is a stellar strategy because it helps nonprofits both connect with their existing donors and reach a lot of new ones.
4. Prospect research
Prospect research is nothing new to fundraising, but it's important to reconsider it in conjunction with your online fundraising strategies.
To quote this helpful resource from DonorSearch,
"Prospect research is a technique used by fundraisers, development teams, and nonprofit organizations to learn more about their donors’ personal backgrounds, past giving histories, wealth indicators, and philanthropic motivations to evaluate a prospect’s ability to give (capacity) and warmth (affinity) toward an organization."
Nonprofits conduct prospect research to help them pinpoint prospective major gift donors among their constituent bases so they can better allocate their resources and focus their cultivation efforts.
Conducting prospect research is especially crucial when it comes to your online donors.
Since donors don't usually give major gifts online and many online giving strategies naturally result in smaller donation amounts, it can be easy to miss out on major gift donors if you don't know where to look.
To clarify, let's give an example. Say a donor with the capacity to give a large gift landed on your crowdfunding campaign page to make a contribution. Since crowdfunding is a collective effort, your organization has set your donation tiers at a lower range than you would on your standard donation form.
Seeing the options that are laid out for them and following the spirit of the campaign, the donor selects the highest gift amount (let's say, $100). They had the capacity to give a much higher gift (say, $10,000) but didn't feel comfortable making such a large contribution in an online setting.
Without conducting prospect research, your organization would never have known that that donor has the potential to give a much larger gift if the relationship is cultivated in the right way.
To sum up: Prospect research works well as an online fundraising idea because it is a great tool to help organizations pinpoint major donor prospects.
5. Amazon Smiles
Chances are, there are many among your donor base who use Amazon to make purchases regularly.
Did you know there's a way that they can also support your nonprofit in the process?
It's not too good to be true! With Amazon Smile, your supporters can go about their regular online shopping and donate to your organization in one fell swoop.
How do you get started?
Your organization will first need to register here. Once you're registered, your supporters can select your organization as their charity of choice so that each time they make a purchase through the Amazon Smile URL (https://smile.amazon.com/), it's associated with your organization.
That's all there is to it! Each quarter, your organization will receive .5% of all total transactions made from Amazon accounts that are linked to your nonprofit.
It may sound like chump change, but if a lot of supporters participate and they're making frequent purchases, it can really add up.
Getting set up is easy; it's raising awareness that's the hard part! To get as many supporters on board (and funds in your pocket) as possible, make sure to promote Amazon Smile and provide the link in your outreach.
To sum up: Amazon Smile made this list of online fundraising ideas because it creatively manages to meet donors exactly where they already shop all the time.
6. Online auctions
Charity auctions have been a popular event fundraising choice for years, but organizations have given them a modern twist by hosting them online.
And for good reason! Online auctions are a powerful event fundraiser and online fundraising strategy rolled into one.
Here are just a few of the many benefits of hosting one:
- They're incentivizing. With auctions, donors are exchanging their donations for an amazing item or experience. Since there's the possibility of walking home with something, auctions can incentivize giving more than other types of fundraising events.
- They're cost-effective. Live and silent auctions can be more costly and involved to plan. Hosting an auction online cuts many of the costs associated with a live event, such as the venue, entertainment, catering, etc.
- Supporters everywhere can participate. Since you're not hosting an in-person event, supporters near and far can participate in an online auction. You'll be able to open up your event to a much wider portion of your donor base, and thus, increase your fundraising potential.
How do you get started?
If your organization is considering running an online auction, you'll need to enlist the help of auction software.
This type of platform will enable you to build an online event site where you can list photos and descriptions of all auction items.
Attendees register by inputting their names and credit card information and can then peruse items and place bids right from the site.
Don't forget to promote your online event and share the link so supporters will know you're hosting an auction and can start getting excited about all of the incredible items for sale!
To sum up: Online auctions can help you conquer online fundraising because they take the tested fundraising practice of auctions and modernize it.
7. Selling merchandise
Nonprofits were once only able to sell merchandise to their supporters at fundraising events or during other rare in-person occasions.
Now, with the rise of online fundraising technology, organizations can set up shop and sell products right from their website (or email or social media pages) at any time!
In fact, many schools sell products to raise money. Branded items — like water bottles and t-shirts — make great keepsakes for students and teachers. Plus, students can contribute to their school and be rewarded for their support.
Not only can these school products be sold online, but schools can also sell merchandise during sporting events and other fundraisers.
Selling merchandise can also raise awareness for your cause. When students wear your t-shirt, other students will ask them where they got it. Thus, spreading the word about your fundraiser.
The best part is that these benefits apply to any organization (not just schools!).
If your organization needs an effective way to raise a little extra money (and who doesn't!), consider opening up an online storefront where you can sell branded merchandise to your supporters.
How do you get started?
You don't even need to do the work yourself. With unique product crowdfunding companies like Bonfire, you can design custom merchandise (think: t-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, etc.) and sell it through an online storefront.
Bonfire and similar companies will even stock and ship merchandise for you on an order by order basis, so you never waste money on overstock and you never have to worry about forgetting to fulfill an order.
Selling merchandise online is a relatively easy way to raise some extra money, and many donors feel more comfortable giving when they're receiving something in return. Not to mention, your brand will get a boost every time one of your supporters rocks your products!
Just don't forget, you have to promote the fundraiser and really sell, sell, sell!
As this fundraising ideas resource explains, with product fundraising you need to, "Make sure you have a sales plan in place from the get-go."
To double-down on your efforts, you can promote the merchandise in person (as well as online) and then direct donors to your online store. This is a great idea for day-of purchases at the event, as well. Instead of setting up a merch table, have kiosks that take direct to consumer orders at the event and accept cashless payments. Simply place staff in the area who can offer assistance if anyone needs it.
To sum up: By selling merchandise online, you raise money, your donors get cool gear, and you get free promotion when your supporters wear / use the items.
8. Facebook fundraising
Considering that social media has become one of the main ways that people connect, it's important for nonprofits to incorporate social channels into their online fundraising strategies.
However, social media is still an uncharted territory for many nonprofits, and organizations are often unsure about how to utilize it effectively.
One easy way to get started with social media is by looking into Facebook fundraising. The social media king has taken many steps as of late to help nonprofits raise more money over social media.
The main development is the introduction of the "Donate" button. If your organization's page is listed as a nonprofit, you have the option to add it right onto the cover image at the top of the page.
The button won't allow donors to contribute directly from Facebook, but it does take them to the online donation form on your website.
While this is technically an extra step in the donation process, it can work to your organization's advantage, since:
- Donors land on a branded page. Instead of filling out a generic donation form, supporters will be taken to a form that's branded and customized to your organization. Being sure that they're interacting with your brand establishes more trust among your donors.
- Donors are taken to more information. By arriving at your website, supporters have plenty of opportunity to interact with you further. If they're not ready to make a donation, they can also click on your logo to learn more about your organization, furthering the engagement.
- All data is automatically collected. If your online donation form is integrated with your donor management software (which it should be!), then all of the data you collect on new supporters will automatically be recorded in your donor profiles. With a Facebook-generic donation page, you would have to manually compile that data and input it into your database, which aside from being a hassle, also opens up room for human error.
Adding a "Donate Now" button to your Facebook page won't cause your online donations to skyrocket overnight, but it can help you raise more through social media.
Supporters will have a readily apparent place to go to make a donation, which is an important first step to increasing your online revenue. When getting from point A to point B is as clear as possible, donors will be far more likely to follow through on their
To sum up: Facebook fundraising is a great online fundraising idea because it helps you appeal to donors who like to engage with your organization over social media.
9. Online donation forms
One of the most popular ways to fundraise online is through online donation forms. When it comes to donation forms, there is plenty of room for customization, making them an online fundraising staple.
Essentially, your nonprofit can create a donation form (or many forms for different fundraising efforts) and customize them to match your nonprofit's brand.
Donors can access your donation page and contribute. If your donation form is integrated with your nonprofit CRM, your donors' information will be transferred to your donor management tool.
Since not every online donation tool offers the same features, it's important to choose the one that best fits your nonprofit's fundraising needs.
As you consider online donation tools, look for a platform that has:
- Mobile giving capabilities. Mobile giving methods are rapidly rising in popularity because donors can give whenever they have their phones available. Plus, mobile giving tends to have a simple, quick process that makes giving even more convenient.
- Recurring giving. A must when searching for an online donation tool is recurring giving. With recurring gifts, donors can schedule an automatic donation on a monthly or annual basis. Having this feature is convenient because supporters don't have to remember to donate.
- CRM integration. As we mentioned earlier, when an online donation form integrates with your CRM, all your donors' information will be transferred to your donor profiles. Having information in a central location makes it easy to track trends in giving habits, which can lead to improvements in your overall fundraising strategy.
Online donation forms are a vital tool for online fundraising. In fact, the majority of your online fundraising will come from some type of donation form. Therefore, it's important to choose a provider that has all the features you need.
To sum up: Online donation forms are the quintessential online fundraising tool, and they're a necessity in this modern era of philanthropy.
10. Checkout Charity
Checkout charity has become an increasingly easy way to accept additional donations. It’s the extra, “Would you like to donate $2 to ABC charity to help students in need?” at the end of the checkout process. Their wallet is already open and their card is out, now it’s your turn to compel consumers to follow through with a donation.
Checkout charity can encourage impulse donations from supporters or customers who wouldn’t otherwise interact with your nonprofit. Because of this incredible opportunity to engage with old and new donors alike, nonprofits have taken to developing their checkout charity techniques beyond a traditional ask from a cashier.
With the advent of donation kiosks, nonprofits can create a distinct donation experience for customers without the immense pressure (and discomfort) that comes with traditional checkout charity.
And think about it. If you have 50 transactions, and your checkout charity tactic is successful at receiving 2 dollar donations with every transaction, you’ve already raised $100. With checkout charity and a giving kiosk, it’s easy to rack up donations.
But how does all this in-person fundraising correlate to your online fundraising? We’re glad you asked. Here are some ways checkout charity can boost your online fundraising:
- Create brand awareness with checkout charity
- Give donors a call to action to follow up
- Engage checkout charity donors through other means
- Take a cause marketing approach
- Build trust with new donors
- Feature your donation kiosk on your website
Read on to learn how to use your giving kiosk to skyrocket your online fundraising.
Create brand awareness with checkout charity
If you place your kiosk, branded with your logo and name, next to the cash register at a store, every customer who makes a purchase at that store will see it. You’ll be sparking interest and gaining exposure, ultimately expanding your potential donor base.
Your brand is vital for connecting with old and new donors. Your brand isn’t just how your organization presents itself to the public, but how your organization is perceived.
The more awareness you can generate through your in-person fundraising efforts, the more likely your organization is to be recognized — and subsequently, trusted — by those who’ve encountered your brand in their day-to-day lives.
Think of it this way: customers tend to frequent their favorite grocery stores or retail locations. If they get into the habit of seeing your branded donation kiosk at the end of every purchase they make, they’re more likely to recognize your organization when they see it through other channels.
Here’s where your online fundraising comes into play.
With the help of checkout charity, donors are more likely to:
- Recognize your nonprofit when they see it on online channels. As such, they’re more likely to follow through with making an online donation than someone who’s unfamiliar with your nonprofit.
- Seek out your online donation page themselves. Many customers will see your nonprofit’s name and turn to the internet to find out what your organization supports. Because what do we do when we want to learn more about something? We Google it.
To capitalize on the brand awareness that checkout charity generates, ensure your website is up-to-date with information on your cause and projects. Make sure your donation form is easily accessible from your homepage as well.
Most importantly, your brand should be consistent between your website and your donation kiosk.
Give donors a call to action to follow up
Give your new donors something else to do, another way to get involved besides sliding their cards through your perfectly positioned donation kiosk.
After all, checkout charity donations tend to be small. It’s important that donors know exactly where to go if they want to find out more information or make a larger donation.
Giving begets giving; donors who are willing to make smaller checkout charity donations are the very same demographic who is likely to fill out donation forms online. That’s why clear call-to-actions are so important for maximizing your checkout charity’s potential.
At the very least, give donors something else to read. Above your kiosk, consider placing a small sign that advertises your website, so your potential donors don’t have to do as much work to follow up with and learn more about your organization.
Specifically, your call to action should include:
- Your website’s URL or a QR code that donors can easily scan on their phones.
- Clear, direct language that invites donors to “learn more” or “see your impact.”
- Information on your most relevant social media pages, so that donors can choose how to engage with your organization online.
The goal is to compel them to visit your website by making it as easy as possible.
As you plan your call to action, be conscious of where exactly you direct your donors. Is the homepage your best option? Or are they better served on a success stories page (remember, these visitors have already donated!)? Sending these donors immediately to another donation form can actually decrease your online fundraising. Give them time to breathe before the next ask.
Engage checkout charity donors through other means
This step is simple. You won’t want to leave your potential new donors with only the image of your giving kiosk and your website URL. You’ll really want to engage them with your organization so they feel included and interested!
You can place a sign-up sheet for your email newsletter next to your kiosk for interested individuals. This way, you’ll be able to engage them with your weekly, biweekly, or monthly letter that will provide updates on your nonprofit’s progress and any upcoming events.
Though it’s true that most donors won’t opt to sign up (it is, after all an extra step!), those who do will likely be valuable leads for your organization. And since emails are an effective way to keep donors engaged in your nonprofit, these interested parties can be converted into true supporters as long as they’re targeted with the right messages.
First, don’t just add your checkout charity donors to your existing email campaign! Make sure that your first email thanks them for their donation at your retail location and introduces them more intentionally to your nonprofit.
Showing your donors that you’re aware of their unique giving experience can make them feel like they’re part of your organization, even if they’ve only given $1.
Plus, from your emails, you can invite your new supporters to share your updates and projects on social media so your work will reach an even broader audience. In other words, you can use online advocacy to your advantage with the help of your new donors.
Take a cause marketing approach
One of the benefits of checkout charity is the relationship you establish between your nonprofit and your retail partner. Taking a cause marketing approach will service both the store you’re partnering with and your nonprofit.
As you’re probably aware, checkout charity benefits your retail partner because it boosts corporate social responsibility. Customers may be more inclined to support a business that operates charitable programs. Thus, nonprofits should develop a cause marketing strategy with their retail partners — one that promotes both the retail partner’s efforts to raise funds and your nonprofit’s mission.
A cause marketing approach will allow you to advertise your giving kiosk across multiple channels and to different audiences; as a result, you can reach and direct more potential donors to your online fundraising efforts.
Promote the donation kiosk on the store’s social media as well as your organization’s social media to double your exposure. The giving kiosk will intrigue both your supporters and the store’s customers. With proper advertising, you can encourage regular customers to donate and encourage your supporters to shop at the retail location.
But your cause marketing strategy shouldn’t only focus on your in-person fundraising efforts. Boost online fundraising by working with your retail partner to direct social media posts and advertising to your website as well.
Cause marketing can increase online fundraising when donors understand the relationship between the retail partner and the nonprofit. In other words, make the connection clear on your website and show how the partnership furthers your mission.
Build trust with new donors
Your giving kiosk is a good point-of-entry for donors of various giving levels.
Unless you have a dedicated online marketing strategy, such as peer-to-peer fundraising, relying solely on your online giving platform means you’ll be recycling through the same donors you’ve had for years. This also means you’ll have to be careful about not repeatedly asking the same supporters for donations, which can make them feel unappreciated and discourage them from future involvement.
There are many reasons that it’s difficult to reach new donors online. Primarily, new donors may be worried when it comes to typing their credit card information into a nonprofit's website if they've never encountered the organization in person.
But luckily, they’ll have seen your giving kiosks in their favorite local stores, so they’ll know all about you! Your donation kiosk will supply your supporters with the in-person interaction they need to give online.
Checkout charity introduces the donor to the nonprofit and invites them to make a low stakes donation of a few dollars. This can help nonprofits reach many new donors and build familiarity at the same time.
Therefore, it’s important to be conscious of your pricing points! Build trust by starting out small with your donation kiosks. Then, consider providing entry-level donation amounts on your online donation forms as well. Someone who gave $3 at a checkout charity may be shocked if your minimum suggested donation amount is $100 online.
Feature your donation kiosk on your website
Aside from promoting your giving kiosk on social media, feature the device on your website as well! Your supporters will be visiting your site for updates and news concerning your projects and cause, so this is the perfect place to inform them about a new way of accepting donations.
When your donors see that they can give at their favorite local store, they’ll be thrilled that you’ve made contributing to your organization even easier for them.
But even more so, showing pictures of your checkout charity in action can encourage donors to give immediately online.
Seeing people donating can encourage others to donate as well. If donors are already on your website, they probably care about your cause. When website visitors see everyday people contributing to a cause that matters, these visitors will be more inclined to do the same.
Often, nonprofits rely on footage from fundraising events to create this same effect. But most nonprofits don’t hold events very often, so footage can quickly become outdated. Checkout charity can be a year ‘round affair (or at least, it provides a unique motivator without the to-do of planning an event).
Seeing good often gives people an impulse to do good — immediately. You can capitalize on this feeling with clear calls to action on your checkout charity page that direct site visitors to your online donation form.
Now that you know that charity checkout can boost your online fundraising in 6 huge ways, partner with a local store to set up your giving kiosk and get started!
If you want to unlock more online 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 Guide: Unique (And Easy!) Fundraising Ideas. Consider these engaging fundraising ideas to generate revenue and rally up support for your cause.
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!