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7 Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas to Break Out of Your Creative Rut

Nonprofit Fundraising IdeasAre you stuck in a fundraising rut?

The bar for engaging and impactful fundraising campaigns is rising. Here’s looking at you, #IceBucketChallenge! And you’re feeling the pressure, right?

Videos, crowdfunding, text-to-donate and peer-to-peer campaigns (sigh), what’s a fundraiser to do?!

Take a breath. From small, local and regional organizations to large worldwide relief groups, there is some very creative and inspirational nonprofit fundraising going on.

Here are some stand-out campaigns and programs to get your creative fundraising juices flowing:

UNICEF: Tap Water Project

: UNICEF’s Tap Water Project, now in its fifth year, combines mobile engagement with the best of online fundraising. The concept is modern, straight-forward and powerful - the longer you go without your cell phone, the more you can help UNICEF provide clean water for children. This app actually tracks your lack of cell phone usage. 10 minutes can provide a child with clean water for a day.

Sponsors and major donors make a donation to the UNICEF tap project based on the time you went without your phone or you can make a donation yourself.

Why it works. It’s easy to get pulled into this well-designed, mobile friendly scrolling site. The use of a how-to video in addition to multiple clean graphics makes this site all the more engaging.

But it’s not just cool to look at - the “Donate” button in the sticky navigation is a constant reminder of the ultimate goal. The ladder of engagement doesn’t end there, the site also displays prominent opportunities to volunteer and share via social media.

And here are a few more tips to improve mobile and social media strategy from social media expert, Heather Mansfield.

Another good thing to note is how UNICEF incorporates their sponsors into the mix. Their participation is time-sensitive, which lends well to ramping up urgency and audience engagement during those key dates.

Love146: Tread on Trafficking

Background: Love146 is a human rights organization that works to end child trafficking and exploitation. To help bring about this change, the organization doesn’t just invite its supporters to donate, but to step up as fundraisers as well.

Love146 uses a crowdfunding model for their “Tread on Trafficking” project. “Treaders” ask friends and family to sponsor them during some sort of physical activity - everything from biking to work every day or running a marathon with friends, to hosting a community 5k event. Each treader has a personal fundraising goal, custom donation page, target date and opportunities to join forces with other teams.

Why it works. Basically, because it is a win-win. As treaders do the things they “love” (running, biking, swimming, walking), money is raised to benefit Love146. A supporter can choose what they want to do in terms of “treading” and when they do it; they win physically, and monies are earned for the organization. Seriously, how can that not work?

Soles4Souls: Barefoot on the Boardwalk

Background: Soles4Souls is dedicated to fighting poverty by collecting new and used shoes and clothes, then distributing those items by direct donations and by programs designed to create jobs in poor and disadvantaged communities. The Barefoot on the Boardwalk initiative is a 2 km barefoot walk where participants collect pledges to get shoes on the feet of those in need.

Why it works: The premise is a “walk a mile (or 2K) in my bare feet”. The end result is a creative take on how it feels to walk without shoes and give back to the organization - and in this case - the community. Kind of a cool idea AND people get to walk around without shoes for a while. Freeing and helpful! (albeit, potentially stinky).

World Vision: Sponsor a Child

Background: World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to tackle the causes of poverty and injustice. By now, we’re all probably familiar with the Sponsor a Child model - Stanford Social Innovation Review recently published a report on it.

World Vision has one of the oldest Sponsor a Child programs. Basically, donors choose a boy or girl to sponsor, and receive a photo and information in a Welcome Kit, along with ways to connect with your newly sponsored child. As a sponsor, you’ll help provide a child with sustainable access to nutritious food, clean water, healthcare, and education.

Why it works: If you go to the WorldVision website, Sponsor a Child is just one of many programs they offer potential donors. But, Sponsor a Child is unique because you aren’t sponsoring an anonymous child, with funds going into a general pool. Instead, the organization facilitates a personal and instant connection with just one child. The donor has a say in gender, age, birthdate, and location. And for many donors, that is key to being a continued donor: commitment and responsibility. Trouble deepening connection with your donors? Read this blog on conquering common fundraising challenges.

Oxfam America: Unwrapped

Background: Oxfam America is a global organization that works to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. It partners with people in more than 90 countries to create lasting solutions. Oxfam Unwrapped is a catalogue of gift options based on actual projects funded by Oxfam worldwide: From giving a goat ($50) and mosquito nets ($18), to helping build a girls’ school ($1500) and providing manure ($24) (yes, that’s correct.) By purchasing any of the charitable gifts, you are making a difference.

Why it works: Go to the Unwrappedprogram website. I’ll wait. Cute, right? Like heartstring cute. The pictures are appealing, and the goat is well, adorable. I mean, how would you not want to give this goat to someone? And the visuals are just the tip of the iceberg. What really works best about this program site is that the monetary donation options are vast. Supporters are invited to be a part of something more than your typical shop for a cause experience, but they get an education in so much more. And you can even donate manure. (I just can’t let this go).

The American Red Cross: Ways to Donate

Background: The American Red Cross provides compassionate care to those in need. A strong network of generous donors, volunteers and employees share a mission to prevent and relieve worldwide suffering. Unlike many other nonprofit organizations, the Red Cross has a long history and is recognized worldwide.
Because of this, the organization has established many programs through which people can give, both monetary and non-monetary. We especially like the program that allows supporters to donate airline miles, credit card rewards, or hotel points - and even cars.

Why it Works: American Red Cross has an option to donate that works for just about everyone’s lifestyle. It provides ways for people who travel frequently and have earned points, miles, etc., to give in a not-so-obvious way. The organization provides donation options that are suitable and most convenient for the donor; not necessarily what is easiest for the American Red Cross itself to accept.

But keep in mind that the Red Cross has been at this donation thing for a LONG time. Because of this, the organization has established many partnerships, including airlines, hotels and credit card companies.

Honestly, this model is not going to work for every nonprofit, but it is certainly a valuable lesson in meeting donors where they’re at and not where organizations need them to be. From helping to unite military families to providing a temporary roof over a family’s head after a natural disaster, this program is pretty spectacular.


Blood:Water partners with countries in Africa to end the HIV/AIDS and water crises. In more than a decade, they have reached many milestones: 819,000 with clean water, 49,00 patients served in HIV-prevalent areas, and more than $22M raised. This summer, they launched a Lemon:Aid campaign where kids (or anyone!) can set up a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds which will go towards providing clean water to a community in Africa.

Why it works:
Aimed predominantly at younger donors, this campaign is a great way for children to get involved at an early age in not only fundraising, but the entrepreneurial spirit! Kids can set up a lemonade stand in their community and then donate the proceeds to Blood:Water and be part of the larger, giving community. Not only does this experience help establish the children as donors, but hopefully jumpstarts their lifelong love of giving back. Best part: it is kids giving for the benefit of kids.

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Topics: Fundraising