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A complete guide to different types of fundraising

April 01, 2022
These nonprofit professionals are sitting around a table with papers and clipboards discussing which fundraiser type would be most effective for their organization.

Fundraising drives your nonprofit organization’s long-term growth and allows you to fulfill your purpose. While some nonprofits charge fees for their services and many rely on federal, state, and private funding to support their work, most organizations must incorporate fundraising from individual supporters into their revenue streams to remain successful.

When we hear the word “fundraising,” a wide range of events and initiatives come to mind, such as selling chocolate bars and cookie dough, hosting galas, and organizing silent auctions. To achieve the maximum results from your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts, it’s essential to understand the different options at your disposal. 

In this guide, we’ll walk through some popular approaches and strategies for fundraising to help you determine which method works best for your organization’s needs and goals.

What are the different types of fundraisers?

Relationship-building lies at the heart of all fundraising efforts. By articulating your nonprofit’s purpose and demonstrating the impact of your work, you’re connecting with community members and offering them opportunities to support a cause they care about.

Your organization’s fundraising success depends on how effectively you communicate the power of donor contributions and cultivate lasting relationships with your supporters. There are two main approaches to fundraising: personal cultivation and mass-market.

Personal cultivation fundraising

Personal cultivation fundraising focuses primarily on securing major gifts by building connections with individuals who have the capacity and affinity to donate large amounts to your nonprofit. These efforts, which involve personalized, one-on-one interactions, tend to require a considerable investment of time and resources.

At the same time, the results of successful personal cultivation can be extremely rewarding—generating significant revenue and securing loyal donors for your organization’s purpose. To encourage major donors to get involved, consider inviting a small group of them to:

  • A site visit
  • A cocktail hour
  • A backyard gathering
  • A cafe breakfast

Your nonprofit should have at least a few people, such as the Executive Director, board members, and a major gifts officer, focused on developing personal relationships with individual donors.

Mass-market fundraising

Mass-market fundraising includes any activity that involves sending fundraising appeals and updates to a larger group of people. There are numerous types of fundraising that apply to this mass-market approach, from in-person activities to online marketing campaigns.

Direct mail

One of the most traditional methods of mass-market fundraising is direct mail. The idea is simple—your nonprofit prepares a fundraising appeal and sends out a physical letter in the mail to supporters in your database.

To optimize your results, consider:

  • Personalizing each letter with the recipient’s name and details
  • Including a self-addressed return envelope with each letter
  • Segmenting your donors to include different ask amounts or updates
  • Including a link or QR code to your online donation page

Taking the time to make each letter as relevant and personalized to the recipient as possible will go a long way to securing lasting support for your nonprofit’s purpose.

Fundraising events

With the recent popularity of virtual and hybrid fundraising, your organization has an abundance of choices for hosting an event to gather your supporters together and introduce new people to your work. Whether you’re seeking to strengthen existing donor relationships or build new ones, consider these popular event ideas:

  • 5K race
  • Gala
  • Movie night
  • Walk-a-thon
  • Silent auction

If you’re looking for an event to use as the first touchpoint for fostering long-lasting relationships with potential new donors, your nonprofit could host a simple breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour, or dinner. Enlist your current stakeholders, such as board members, volunteers, and current donors, to create the guest list by inviting several of their friends or colleagues. Pair the meal with a presentation on your organization’s impact and an invitation to give.

Email marketing

Much like direct mail, email is an efficient and cost-effective way to reach many prospective donors at one time. Additionally, you can easily create an ongoing communication channel that helps supporters understand the impact of their gifts on your organization’s purpose. Incorporate photos and videos into your storytelling to draw readers in.

By employing an effective email marketing strategy to report your nonprofit’s impact and communicate appreciation between your fundraising appeals, you’ll succeed in keeping your donors engaged and more eager to give when you seek their support.

Social media campaigns

Social media provides valuable opportunities for online fundraising, such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer campaigns.

A crucial aspect of strong social media campaigns involves enlisting active support from as many existing and prospective donors as possible. Encourage your current supporters to spread the word about your organization’s purpose on your behalf. Their personal networks offer great potential for spreading your nonprofit’s reach even further.

As with any fundraising campaign, focus on sharing a compelling story with impactful details that feature your organization’s beneficiaries while helping potential donors understand the importance of their contributions.

Post-fundraiser to-dos

For any type of fundraising your nonprofit engages in, always remember to follow up with your supporters and thank them for their contributions. Continue sharing the impact of donors’ gifts to keep them enthusiastic about engaging with your organization in the future.

As you prepare for your next fundraiser, plan how you’ll thank your donors and share the impact they’ve made on your purpose. Beyond a donation receipt, consider incorporating other efforts such as phone calls to new donors, handwritten notes from board members, and annual reports.

Take advantage of event software, such as Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Events and Auctions solution, to ensure that your next fundraiser is a resounding success.

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