Fundraising is the backbone of the nonprofit world, but what happens when you start to lack ideas? Here are some unique fundraising ideas for nonprofits who want to try something new!
It’s nice to have your annual events for supporters to look forward to, but throwing in some new fundraising ideas keeps people interested. There are so many avenues of fundraising that, paired with a little creativity, can keep you going for years to come.
Crowdfunding is a great way to fundraise in the digital atmosphere. You essentially pull together an online community to support your cause. GoFundMe (view our guide to getting the most out of GoFundMe), Kickstarter, and Fundly are some of the larger crowdfunding websites. You can also use your nonprofit’s Facebook page and donate button as a form of crowdfunding to draw in new donors. The key is to stay authentic and make the public feel connected to your cause. Provide a story and enough details to make people want to hit donate.
A Harvard class decided to start a Fundly account to raise money for ALS research after a classmate passed from the disease. They posted a video where they all dumped a bucket of ice cold water over their heads to raise money for the cause. This video (named the ice bucket challenge) went viral and soon showed up on many people’s social media feeds. Participants completed the challenge and nominated their friends to partake. The ALS Association received an astounding $115 million dollars in donations. This raised their funding by 187%. Success can greatly be attributed to the power of social media and a concept that catches the viewer’s attention. Making it a “challenge” also made it more enticing for people.
Hosting events is not only a great way to fundraise, but also a way to connect with others in your community. There are always events like walkathons or 5ks to get you started; however, hosting a unique event that appeals to your community is a great way to boost funds. You can team up with local businesses to create a collaboration and advertise the partnership on social media. You can host a themed gala or auction to bring in a larger number of people. The choice largely depends on your audience.
Gathering of the Vibes was a music festival that took place up until 2015. The festival partnered with nonprofit organizations to create a village dedicated to giving back. They also hosted a food drive at the festival each year. They collected 48,000 lbs of food over the years.The fundraiser was a success for so many years because a music festival is an event many people look forward to annually. The fact that it gave back to multiple nonprofits only made the concept even better. This idea can be taken into your community on a smaller scale. Make it a destination for people and reach out to local musicians to see if they’ll perform to support your cause.
Taking your events into the digital space is more important now than ever. Utilize every aspect of social media to market your events and create an online community people want to be part of. In the age of technology, you can livestream almost anything for your supporters. Be sure to market the online version just as heavily as your in-person events. You can host everything from a virtual happy hour with donors, to a virtual arts performance for your supporters. Use free services like Zoom and Google Meet to keep everyone involved.
The Dayton Ballet knew they couldn’t keep their doors shut forever, but wanted to offer an option that was accessible for everyone at home. Through the support of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, a local nonprofit, they offered a livestream of their performance and a virtual stream membership to keep people engaged more long-term. Memberships range from $100-$500, with the option to donate at any time on their website. They made it easy to get involved and support the arts. Just like watching movies online, the ballet now offers a similar experience.
This is where your corporate connections come into play. In a gift matching program, when employees donate a certain amount to a nonprofit, the company they work for matches that donation amount. This is a win-win because you increase your donations, while the company can support a cause they care about. They satisfy the social responsibility needed to remain in good standing with the public.
Another angle of this fundraising concept is rounding up your change to support a nonprofit. Large corporations will often ask if you’ll round up your change to the nearest dollar and give these proceeds to a cause they support. This is a great form of fundraising because it’s so simple and people often contribute without a second thought in the moment. Taco Bell got in on the action and asked customers to round up their change for their Live Más Scholarship program.
Gap is a great example of gift matching. They promote giving to their employees and will match contributions made to nonprofits. They also offer donations based on volunteer hours from their employees. Their qualifying employees can take up to five hours every month to volunteer. They contributed over $12 million to the community in 2018. They heavily promote giving back within their company, so employees are encouraged to feel that same sense of responsibility. Find a corporation near you that believes in your cause and see if they’re willing to match employee contributions. Be sure to advertise partnerships on your social media and work with the company to create a meaningful collaboration.
Although similar to crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising is a little different. This is the concept of using the strong donors and connections you already have to fundraise on your organization’s behalf. An easy way for them to support is to post a call to donate on their social media platforms. They can share their personal connection to your organization in hopes that their social circle will also donate. They can even go the extra mile and host an event dedicated to giving back to your organization.
Cycle for Survival is a fundraising event that started with peer-to-peer fundraising. Jennifer Goodman Linn, a patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering, started the concept with her husband after she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The event is an indoor cycling ride that raises funds for rare cancer research. What started out as a single community ride quickly grew into a partnership with Equinox, a major fitness studio. This event has raised over $260 million since 2007. It shows that an idea can snowball and quickly become a huge fundraising campaign. Talk to your donors and board members to see if they have any connections and would be willing to host a fundraising event on your organization’s behalf.
You probably send emails out to your team members frequently, but make sure you include potential and current donors to keep them in the loop. Email marketing is an easy way to draw in a few donations and keep people updated on your cause. There are many programs such as Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor to get you started. Include a direct link to your donation page in each email and make sure you provide meaningful content each time. This can be done through the form of a newsletter or a one-time call to donate sent to all of your previous contacts. Be sure not to overdo it and only send out content when it includes necessary information—no one likes a flooded inbox!
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital produces engaging emails for their supporters. They include weekly news, ways to get involved, and thoughtful thank you notes. Including photos helps break up the email and providing ways to get involved redirects people to their website. They also include all of their social links at the bottom of the email. They inform subscribers through the email, but offer the option for more information through link clicks. Be sure to analyze your own click-through rate so you know which emails are resonating with your subscribers. This allows for more success in future email marketing campaigns.
Other Unique Fundraising Ideas
Now that we’ve covered some of the more common fundraising ideas, let’s dive into some you may not have tried before. Tailor them to your organization’s needs, charge a small fee for participants, and let the donations come flying in!
- Intramural teams for a cause
- Virtual movie night
- Pint night at a local brewery/team up with local coffee shop
- Pay to bet on football games
- A night to support your organization at a local restaurant
- Sell t-shirts/merch
- “Dog show” for adoptable pets
- Polar plunge
- Comedy show
- Talent show
- Bake sale
- Local company competitions/charity drives
- Work with universities and schools
- Karaoke night
- Arts and crafts night (great for kids)
- Trivia night
- Community fashion show