Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

25+ fundraising strategies to support your nonprofit

October 19, 2021
Close up of a young adult woman using her laptop to donate to a nonprofit

Chances are your nonprofit organization relies on a constant stream of revenue to fund your work and continue generating social impact. Whether your organization is breaking personal donation records or working to boost incoming revenue, it’s always a good time to hone your nonprofit fundraising strategy. 

In this article, we’ll explore effective fundraising strategies to engage donors, generate revenue, and take your nonprofit to the next level. 

Eager to revamp your fundraising approach? Let’s kick things off with a quick overview of fundraising strategies for nonprofits.

What is a fundraising strategy?

Fundraising strategies refer to your nonprofit’s plan for generating the revenue needed to run campaigns, engage donors, and power all programs related to your purpose. 

Fundraising strategies are not abstract concepts—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.

Now that you know what a fundraising strategy is, let’s dive into some of the most effective fundraising ideas and tools to spearhead your campaigns!

Nonprofit fundraising strategies for mobilizing donors

1. Incentivize your fundraising staff

Fundraising staff helps identify major donors, partners, and advocates who are passionate about your purpose. By rewarding them for their hard work and dedication, you can boost their retention, morale, and motivation to help you reach your fundraising goals.

Consider which incentives would be meaningful to your specific workforce. Common examples include: 

  • Project milestone bonuses
  • Annual performance bonuses
  • Paid time off
  • Personalized gifts

Discuss incentive programs with your directors and your board, and consider surveying your employees. Ask what would make them more committed to the long-term financial success of your organization.

2. Launch donor recognition programs

The best way to engage your existing donors and inspire recurring gifts is to thank them. Donor recognition programs call attention, both publicly and privately, to the people who help your organization realize its impact.

To get started, use your fundraising CRM to automate donation thank you letters after a gift is made. This will help improve your retention rates and increase the likelihood of earning recurring contributions.

3. Facilitate a grassroots fundraising strategy

In order to grow your audience, you need grassroots supporters who are well-equipped to spread the word about your cause. One of the best ways to drive grassroots support is through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. By mobilizing your existing donors to fundraise on your behalf, you gain an introduction to people who might not have otherwise connected with your organization.

Encourage supporters to create their own fundraising page, complete with their personal cases for support, photos, videos, and fundraising trackers. Then, they can begin advocating for your cause and raising funds online from their friends, family, and personal networks. 

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 is the surest way to affect policy changes with legislators at all levels of office.

Invest in advocacy software that allows you to mobilize your supporters to take action. Look for a solution with features to accommodate activities like:

  • Signing petitions
  • Sending out emergency email appeals
  • Identifying local legislators 
  • Conducting texting campaigns

Keep in mind that with each of these actions, you gain valuable information from your donors and supporters. Get to know their motivations and leverage them for future marketing.

5. Get to know your donors

Rather than sending out a mass appeal, get to know your donors and present your cause in a way that's compelling to them. Creating customized, relevant content helps boost engagement and inspire more meaningful support. 

Plus, taking a personalized approach to each of your donors is easier than ever, thanks to the help of donor management software. Use the tool to track valuable donor information such as:

  • Biographical and contact information
  • Familial, household, and business relationships
  • Giving and involvement history

With this information, you can better understand your donors and segment them into groups based on shared characteristics. Then, you can target them with individualized outreach strategies that feature relevant content, such as donation appeals that match their last donation amount.

Fundraising strategies for marketing and advertising

1. Explore rebranding

Branding helps your nonprofit stand out against the competition. Every
nonprofit should have a brand that is easily identifiable through letterheads, business cards, signage, brochures, and online ads. This includes consistent usage of colors, logos, fonts, and other styles. With the right design strategy, your brand should automatically communicate who you are and what you stand for.

Turn a critical eye toward your current branding and make sure it sends the correct message. 

2. Run sophisticated advertisements

Retargeting ads allow your nonprofit to show targeted ads to the users who visited your website and didn't complete a conversion. 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 the current marketing focus on digital media, 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. Use each method to reinforce your message and pursue a well-rounded multichannel marketing strategy. 

Even with the prevalence of digital giving channels, 16% of donors still prefer to give via direct mail. While younger donors might prefer communicating through social media, older donors typically prefer direct mail. Using only one or the other may limit your potential audience. 

4. Write a clear case for support

When you make appeals, be sure to include an impact statement that shows potential donors how their money will be spent and what their 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.

5. Make the ask explicit

No matter which channel you choose to engage donors, 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 a person who sees it will convert.

Remember, not all of your calls to action need to be monetary appeals. The communication strategy 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.

Digital fundraising strategies for nonprofits

1. Master video

Video is one of the fastest-growing and most used mediums in nonprofit communications. Consider using video for the following activities: 

  • Emergency fundraising appeals
  • Relief trip updates
  • Thank you videos from those you're helping
  • Volunteer stories
  • Campaign or fund progress updates

If you have the budget to work with video professionals, you can put together a sophisticated product that enthralls and delights. If not, don’t get stuck on endless tweaks. With amateur video, it's important to remember that "good enough is good to go." Social media audiences are very forgiving of low-budget 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 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. You can use split testing, also known as A/B testing, to gauge which version of your donation form will be the most engaging.

Conduct split testing by creating alternative versions of your donation page with only one difference per version, such as a new title or a different color donation button. Send portions of your audience to the different versions of your donation page 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.

3. Tweak your website

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 making a donation.

When designing your website, keep 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 streamlined 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.

You should also 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.

4. Improve your social media fundraising strategy

Social media platforms are excellent places to identify potential donors and start engaging them on their terms. Each platform has unique capabilities, allowing you to share your message in unique ways.

If your audience is highly educated and likes research material, perhaps LinkedIn is the first place you should start posting content. If your audience is younger, TikTok and Instagram might be 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.

5. Be mobile-responsive

Accepting mobile donations 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. 

You should also implement text-to-give campaigns to encourage supporters to donate via SMS messaging. This is a great way to capture immediate interest from supporters at events or those on the go.

Partnership fundraising strategies

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 your purpose. 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:

  • Volunteerism and volunteer grants: Many corporations encourage their employees to get involved with local nonprofits. Some give teams time off to volunteer. Others will even donate money to a nonprofit if their employees dedicate a certain amount of time to the cause! Empower a corporate champion, like an existing donor or volunteer, to post flyers, ask colleagues for donations, assemble volunteer groups, or form peer-to-peer teams at work.
  • 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 while also benefiting from low-cost advertising and the goodwill 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. 

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. 

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 donations 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 community.

Event fundraising strategies

1. Enlist professional help

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 attendees and maximizing the event ROI potential.

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 at each activity to take contributions and help you oversee the effort.

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 benefit from the additional exposure they gain in the community.

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 and hold your supporters’ interest year after year.

5. Reduce your costs

Some events might not bring in quite as much as a major event, but they cost little to nothing to run and require less staff investment.

Here are a few ideas for affordable events:

  • 50-50 raffle: Your organization raises money by selling raffle tickets to supporters. Once the allotted time is up, you and the winner will split the proceeds evenly, so there is nothing but upside for the nonprofit.
  • Skills-based events: These are fun because they bring your community together to show off their skills and enjoy watching the talents of other supporters. Some popular ideas for skill-based events include talent shows, battle of the bands, and spelling bees.

All you need for these activities is an event space and people who are willing to volunteer their talents for your cause. To raise money, charge an admission fee. If the talent has something to sell, like music or t-shirts, see if they’d be willing to split the proceeds with you.

Innovative fundraising strategies for nonprofits

1. Apply for Google Ad Grants

Google Ad Grants is a campaign where charitable organizations are given $10,000 a month in ad credits to digitally engage, inspire, and market to audiences. As search engines have become an important medium in people’s everyday lives, these grants are an easily-accessible and effective tool for social good organizations to maximize their reach. 

As long as you meet the eligibility requirements for the program, Google Ad Grants is a no-brainer to fund online outreach and enhance your digital identity.

2. Utilize crowdfunding

Crowdfunding involves setting up an online donation page and collecting small donations to reach a specific goal or accomplish a particular project. This approach encourages your supporters to band together and do their part to pitch into the campaign, no matter the size of their donation, and pass the message along to friends, family, and anyone else who might participate. 

This is a great marketing tool, as it involves people sharing your campaign across different platforms in a way reminiscent of a peer-to-peer campaign. Additionally, this straightforward online fundraiser allows every social good organization—from small charities to huge nonprofits—to engage their audiences and stir up a groundswell of support.

3. Collaborate with nonprofit influencers

Social media marketing and fundraising have become one of the most powerful additions to many nonprofits’ toolkits. To expand your reach on popular platforms, consider reaching out to an influencer and asking if they’d be willing to share your content with their followers. 

Nonprofit social media influencers command a considerable amount of respect and attention in their own niche realm of the nonprofit sector, giving them direct access to audiences that are likely receptive to your cause. By partnering with these figures on social media, you can strengthen your reputation and reach some of the most important target audiences for your brand.

4. Invest in content marketing

Content marketing is a critical tool that can help nonprofit organizations bring in new leads from the top of the engagement funnel. It involves the creation of educational content, which ideally has been optimized for important topics that your audience may be searching for or interested in. For example, you might create:

  • Educational articles 
  • Nonprofit news & reports
  • Informational webinars & video content

By curating content about your cause, activists in your field, or whatever other topics your supporters may be curious about, you can lead them to your site and convert casual readers into passionate donors. You could even create a blog to organize these resources and build an ongoing engagement and lead-generation machine directly into your website.

Launching your new fundraising initiatives

Remember that your fundraising strategies should always be a work in progress. Turn a critical eye toward analytics and hone your craft accordingly for the greatest outcome. 

  • Nonprofits
  • Fundraising ideas