Choosing a fundraising idea for your nonprofit can be difficult. You need to choose an idea that meets your fundraising needs, appeals to your audience, and is manageable for your team to pull off.
Especially with COVID in the mix, you’re looking for fundraising ideas that will work well virtually in 2021, keeping in mind that later in the year it may be possible to host them in person. Even better are hybrid options: in-person fundraising ideas that also combine virtual fundraising elements for those who feel more comfortable at home.
It’s especially important to make sure that your fundraising is up to date in the digital age. With total online giving up 10% in 2020, and 65%+ of all fundraising web traffic on mobile, your fundraising plans should be ready to take advantage of the upward trend in digital fundraising.
We know this well, as thousands of nonprofits and social good projects have used CauseVox’s digital fundraising platform to raise millions online, especially through virtual fundraising events in the last year. Through this, we’ve seen firsthand what online fundraising ideas nonprofits use to successfully raise money for their cause.
To help guide you through this year of big changes, we’ve pulled our top fundraising ideas for 2021.
- Optimize your donation page
- Find matching donations
- Host a social media challenge
- Create a recurring gift campaign
- Tap corporate teams to boost fundraising efforts
- Promote birthday or itzvah fundraisers
- Fundraise for a specific project
- Fundraise for an individual
- Host a virtual walkathon
- Promote a personal challenge
- Livestream your virtual gala
1. Optimize your donation page
Our first fundraising idea for 2021 to ensure that you’re getting the most donations throughout the year is optimize your donation page. Take a quick look at the donation page on your website.
- Does it send your donors away from your website?
- Do donors have to complete a long and clunky form?
- Is it mobile-optimized?
- Have you set up donation tiers, and given your donors the option to make a monthly gift?
All of these are important elements of making your donation page the best it can be. That’s important, because if you send donors to your website to give and they find it confusing or time-consuming, they’ll simply leave. This page is what converts donors, so you want it to be in tip-top shape for a year that’s sure to be mostly virtual.
Dream Builders embedded the CauseVox form directly onto their donation page so that donors could easily complete their donation without leaving the website.
2. Find matching donations
One of the best ways to get your donors excited about your latest fundraising campaign is to introduce a matching donation component. Donors tend to give 50% more when a matching donation is in place.
You can search grant databases to find an available matching donation, or approach your board, top donors, or local businesses to put one together. The Adult Congenital Heart Association received a matching grant from the Meil Family Foundation to help them fundraise in February. They used it as a chance to create a special fundraiser highlighting the match and showing how far they’ve come towards their goal.
You can build a strong fundraising campaign off of a matching grant. All you have to do is be willing to ask the right people.
3. Host a social media challenge
One of the best ways to gain traction online is to use social media. A fun way to engage your social media followers and bring in donations is to run a social media challenge. For example, you can ask participants to complete a challenge and raise money to support what they’re doing.
Throughout the month of February, Yeah! Yoga challenged their community to do one yoga pose per day and share a photo on social media. They also turned it into a fundraiser! They asked each person who participated to donate $1 per day they posted. Then they asked them to invite friends to donate the same!
It’s a great example of a social media challenge fundraiser. You’ve seen them before in No-Shave November, head-shaving challenges, and even the Ice Bucket Challenge. Brainstorm something that your community members can do, pick a catchy hashtag, and ask them to post online. People love participating in fun challenges, and it can help spur fundraising efforts.
4. Create a recurring gift campaign
According to the most recent data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP), new donor retention was down nearly 8% in 2020.
This means that any strategy that promotes donor retention is a top fundraising idea for 2021. One top strategy to increase donor retention is to create a recurring giving campaign.
After all, according to Bloomerang’s donor retention guide based on research from the FEP, 90% of recurring donors are retained.
Mortgage Professionals Providing Hope ran a recurring gift campaign to upgrade one-time donors to recurring donors. In a short sprint, they were able to keep their donors engaged and create predictable income for their organization.
5. Tap corporate teams to boost fundraising efforts
Do you have a corporate partner that’s a huge fan of your work? Do you get requests for corporate teams to come volunteer at your organization? Why not use those resources to create a fundraiser?
Corporate groups make great fundraisers as they often have connections outside of your community. Many large businesses are happy to pay their employees to do volunteer work or give back to the community, which helps incentivize them to get involved. Plus, their business may match donations.
This year is a particularly good time to offer fundraising as an option to corporate partners because many in-person volunteer options aren’t available.
If you have close corporate partners, see if they’d be willing to host a fundraiser for you, or if they have employees who want to create teams. It’s almost no effort on your part and can pay big dividends.
North Texas Food Bank partnered with Mid America Mortgage to host a crowdfunding campaign that brought in over $27,000.
6. Promote birthday or itzvah fundraisers
Have you ever had a strong supporter of your organization dedicate their birthday to you? Instead of gifts, they ask for donations and pass them along to you. It’s always exciting when it happens, but you don’t have to wait for your supporters to think of it on their own.
With most birthday party options still off the table as we socially distance, people are looking for creative ways to celebrate. Ask supporters to dedicate their birthdays or mitzvahs to you and host a peer-to-peer fundraiser.
Check out this example from Israel Tennis & Education Centers Foundation. They have an entire campaign page to help support Bar and Bat Mitzvah donations. It includes information about how to set up your own Mitzvah fundraiser page, and lists out current Mitzvah fundraisers in progress so that donors can find someone to give to.
This is a wonderful long-term fundraising strategy, so make sure your supporters know that you’re looking for them to fundraise, give them information on how to do it, and voila! You have an ongoing set of fundraisers.
7. Fundraise for a specific project
Is your organization looking to expand a building or start a new program this year?
Having a specific goal with a tangible outcome can quickly inspire donors. They will see the building go up, the program get off the ground, or the new position be hired. We love this for a targeted fundraising campaign that will bring your community together quickly.
If your organization isn’t in a growth phase this year (and let’s be honest, most of us aren’t), you can still point to specific needs. If COVID has hit your organization hard, let your supporters know why you need donations to continue your work.
South Sudanese Friends International did a great version of this in their community garden campaign. They shared with the community that they wanted to install six new gardens in Kenya this year. Their goal was the amount it took to install those gardens. They blew past the goal amount without a problem!
8. Fundraise for an individual
If your organization serves individual clients, a powerful fundraiser can be one that goes directly to an individual. This can work well if your organization has a high-profile piece of work that will draw in new donors and inspire old ones.
This year it’s sure that you’ll see many of your clients in a time of need. Highlighting those needs to potential donors can create an emotional connection between donors and recipients.
The Faith in Action National and Network Federations is working with a woman named Rosa to keep her from being deported. In order to support her, they set up a fundraiser.
While this type of fundraiser may not be appropriate for all organizations (consider the privacy of your clients), if you do have an individual who needs significant support, it can go a long way.
9. Host a virtual walkathon
Ok, ok, virtual walkathons, runs, and other physical challenges may seem overdone but hear me out: The right kind of walk or run is still incredibly creative.
Take Walk the State from Parkinson’s Nebraska. As part of their virtual event, they asked participants to walk a total of 455 miles: that’s the distance across Nebraska. It gave runners a unique challenge, connected different runners during a virtual event, and tied the run to Nebraska specifically. Plus walks and runs are some of the easiest events to move to a virtual format while we’re still in a time of uncertainty.
You can host your run in person or virtually (or a hybrid of both), allowing people to run on their own time or having a date and place. Think about distances or numbers that are special to your organization and work, then create your goal based on that. The more creative you are, the more the event will stick out to donors and participants.
10. Promote a personal challenge
If the idea of creating a full event like a walk or run is beyond your capacity this year, you can also ask supporters to do their own personal challenge. We love this option because it allows supporters to do things on their own time, and in a way that works for them.
Oak Glen School decided that traditional fundraisers like wrapping paper sales weren’t what they wanted to do. Instead, they challenged their students to spend a month focused on wellness. Each day, students spent 30 minutes working on physical fitness, mindfulness, and other elements of wellness. To support the time that they were working, they asked for donations from family, friends, and community members.
Not only did the students get a huge benefit in the work they were doing, it also allowed the school to showcase how they were improving the community and ask for donations.
But this isn’t just a great fundraising idea for schools. If you have clients, volunteers, or any network of supporters, asking them to complete a personal challenge and ask for donations is a great way to engage the larger community and help fulfill your mission at the same time. Think about what kinds of challenges connect to the work that you’re doing, and ask community members to get involved by signing on for the challenge.
11. Livestream your virtual gala
If you can give donors an opportunity to feel like part of a community, they’ll come through for you in a big way. Our favorite way to do that is with a livestream or virtual gala.
Ask your biggest supporters to act as peer-to-peer fundraisers (you can even call them table hosts to make it feel more like a gala), and host a program virtually through a livestream service like Zoom.
The Autism Society of Minnesota hosted a livestream event that included brunch demonstrations from local celebrity chefs, plus stories from individuals on the spectrum. They recruited their board and biggest supporters to raise money as part of the fundraiser.
One important thing to remember is that the virtual nature of a livestream cuts your costs significantly. You don’t have to pay for a venue, food, decor, or any of the other high price tag things that come with a typical gala. That means that your return on investment may end up being higher even if you bring in less money than usual.
Take Summit Assistance Dogs for example. Pre-COVID, they ran an in-person luncheon each year. But, in 2020 they chose to make it virtual, and their costs were $50,000 LOWER. That means their final ROI was 8 times higher.
Efficiency goes a long way.
Focusing your 2021 fundraising
2021 will be a year of playing it by ear. We don’t know when we’ll be able to gather in person again or what that will look like. Your strongest choices for fundraising this year are those that are flexible. Start with fundraising ideas that work well virtually—like social media challenges or livestreams.
As we move further into the year, you can start to look at hybrid events, or even events that have the option to be virtual or in person.
No matter what type of fundraising you do, this year’s fundraising will focus on personal connections. People want to be a part of something . They want to feel as if they’re contributing. The more ways you can give them access to those feelings, the more they’ll come through for you.
Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.