For nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, fundraising is an incredibly fickle balancing act. You have to consistently work to assess, tweak and innovate your efforts. You have to keep the old machines running smoothly while also testing out new models that may offer additional benefits and value. You have to fight endlessly to maintain a steady intake and simultaneously strive to increase your annual donations
Without a doubt, nonprofit fundraising is no easy task. Especially when you throw in wildcards like economic fluctuations and demographic shifts, which can throw off that delicate balance. That’s why it’s so important to nurture your fundraising on an ongoing basis. You have to invest it with regularly helpings of passion and creativity to keep it fresh and healthy.
In today’s blog post, we’ll provide a handful of creative fundraising ideas for your nonprofit to test out. Hopefully, one of these ideas will resonate with you—or at least spark the fire of inspiration.
Four Ways to Spread Your Fundraising Wings This Year
Whether you’re interested in increasing your fundraising impact and brand awareness on the Web or in the streets, here are some creative suggestions to help you stand out in the crowd.
#1 ODDBALL EVENTS
Anyone can host an annual fundraising run or a walk—and everyone does. The goal is to create an event that is (1) different from everything else out there, and (2) strongly thematically tied to your nonprofit’s mission. It can be something you do at a certain time every year, or an event that can be held all the time in different communities. It just needs to stand out.
Need some examples? Think about the Puppy Bowl, an annual event created to piggyback on the Super Bowl that’s become a sensation (13.5 million viewers this year). Or look at Movember, the annual monthlong “event” to raise awareness about prostate cancer and other men’s health issues. It’s become so popular the term “Movember” has found its way into our national lexicon.
With your nonprofit’s mission in mind, sit down for a brainstorming session and come up with as many ideas for events as you can. Nothing is too outlandish. A few of your ideas are bound to be great—or at least worth testing out at the local level.
#2 DONATE TO WIN
This has become a big trend lately: Make a donation for a chance to win something. It’s a great method of giving your fundraising a quick boost because, let’s face it, we don’t always give out of the kindness of our hearts. Sometimes we want to get something in return.
A great recent example of this is an effort to raise money for the Satellite Sentinel Project on the website Omaze. The prize they raffled off? A night on the town with George Clooney. Every $10 donated bought one entry to win, but the more you donated the cheaper the entries were. It was both a great attention grabber and an effective fundraiser—helping raise a reported $1.2 million.
See if you can get a business to donate your prize in exchange for some good PR. Keep in mind, while iPads and cars are great prizes, they are also pretty commonplace. The more unique your prize, the better. And the more it relates to your mission, the better. Say for example, you are a nonprofit focused on film restoration. You could give away a home-theater package.
Sure, your nonprofit may not be able to nab Clooney. But you can undoubtedly come up with an interesting prize people will want to open their wallets to win (and feel good about themselves for giving to a good cause in the process).
#3 ONLINE VOLUNTEERING
We all like the notion of traveling to a foreign land to help feed starving children. But most of us will never take such a life-altering action because we have jobs and families and responsibilities. People want to get involved, but they also want convenience.
Rather than physically volunteering, give your supporters the opportunity to volunteer online. The Web affords great opportunities for people to reach out to friends and family and activate them in your cause. The key is to inspire your volunteers to speak on behalf of your nonprofit, and insert their personalities into the equation.
The nonprofit’s branding is present, but the power of the campaign comes from the individual. It gives a human face to the organization—and attaches a personal story to it. It also facilitates social media sharing so a single individual’s efforts have the capability to extend to the far reaches of the Web.
Frame online volunteering an opportunity to for your supporters to immerse themselves in your mission, to get out in the field and make a real difference, right from their computers. This type of campaign offers great appeal to the much-coveted Millennial demographic.
#4 SKILL CONTRIBUTIONS
Another great way to get people involved in your cause and give your fundraising a lift involves tapping into the unique skills of your supporters. Sure, nonprofits regularly ask people to give their time or money—but how often do you ask them to contribute their individual skills? That’s what most people really want: To use our personal gifts to help make a difference in the world.
Some great examples of ways your nonprofit can use supporter skills to fuel fundraising can be found on ProBueno, a website that enables people to exchange their skills for donations to their favorite charities.
You can use this same model at your nonprofit. Ask people on social media if they have a unique skill they would like to contribute to your organization. Maybe someone makes ice sculptures, owns a landscaping business or likes to build websites.
Then, figure out how you can best use those efforts to raise money. Maybe it’s setting up a website where people can exchange their skills for donations. Or setting up local events where skills are auctioned off (see #1 above) . Or holding a raffle where people can donate to win supporter contributions (see #2 above). Along with helping to raise money, the people who donate their skills will feel more connected to your organization.
Use Creativity to Keep Your Fundraising Fresh and Passions High
Make it a point to test out one—just one—creative fundraising idea this year. Assemble your team and start brainstorming. See what you can come up with. It doesn’t have to be a large-scale effort. You can make it as small or large as your comfortable with. The point is to get the creative juices flowing and remind people why they are passionate about your cause.
With passion and fun involved, you may be surprised how excited people (both your supporters and your team) get for your creative effort—and how successful it becomes as a fundraising tool.