How to Start Nonprofit Fundraising: Tips From the Pros

|7 min read Uncategorized

If you’re looking to start fundraising for your nonprofit, you’ve come to the right place. Nonprofit fundraising is on the rise, with billions of dollars raised each year to support worthwhile causes all over the world. And in the US alone, online giving to nonprofits totaled $410 billion in 2017. Discover how to start nonprofit fundraising with these tips from successful organizations, and see how you can use fundraising to amplify your impact and fulfill your mission. 

Start a nonprofit fundraiser

Seven nonprofit fundraising rules to follow

Follow these nonprofit fundraising rules to maximize donations, as well as increase awareness for your cause. The benefits of nonprofit fundraising do not stop once the fundraiser ends, either: a 2018 survey from the Association of Fundraising Professionals found that around half of all donors give again within the same year. 

1. Plan an email campaign

Email is a great way to connect with the people who already support your cause, and it can really encourage peer-to-peer fundraising to support your nonprofit. Fundraising recruitment through email doesn’t have to be a daunting process, and you can start no matter the size of your organization. Typically, you’ll want to send a sequence of three emails, and stick to the following these best practices. 

  • First email: Use this as a touch point to connect with your supporters. Ask about their experience either as a volunteer, or as a participant in one of your charity events—this will give your organization valuable insight into what’s working well. Close with a call to action to start a personal fundraiser on your organization’s behalf. 
  • Second email: Every follow up should always reference the previous email, and should present a new incentive to start fundraising. Share an example of how your organization has made an impact, and directly reference how funds are used. 
  • Third email: Send this email six days after your second email. This email can be short and sweet. Politely ask the supporter one last time to consider starting a fundraiser. 

2. Use fundraising minimums

Using fundraising minimums for your nonprofit is a great way to include an extra incentive and raise more donations in the process. A fundraising minimum is a donation goal that your supporter agrees to meet, in advance of starting a fundraiser. If they do not meet this goal, they have already agreed to have their credit card charged for the difference. If they do meet their goal, they’re rewarded with a special prize or perk—like VIP seating at a charity concert, or free entry into a black tie gala.  

BvB Dallas, an organization that raises money for Alzheimer’s research through their annual powder-puff football games, used fundraising minimums to help raise nearly $2 million. “When I started, organizers had to raise an even $1,000, and now we’re up to raising $1,300 per person,” says Dani McArthur, Board of Directors at BvB Dallas.  

3. Encourage DIY fundraising

Another great technique to utilize in your fundraising efforts is nonprofit DIY fundraising. Unlike peer-to-peer fundraising, supporters can start a community fundraiser to benefit your organization at any time—without attaching their fundraiser to a specific event. Put together a fundraising guide for your supporters that includes example email templates and social media captions, to make sharing their fundraiser as easy as possible any time of the year.  

4. Make sure your fundraiser is mobile optimized

Social fundraising data clearly shows that fundraisers optimized for mobile devices are a necessity in 2019 and beyond: mobile devices are responsible for 79% of all fundraiser traffic, and 62% of donations are made from a mobile device. Make sure to choose a fundraising platform that is mobile optimized, and is set up to accept donations from a mobile device. 

5. Host a charity event

Hosting a ticketed charity event is a great way to build enthusiasm around your cause, and rally new and existing supporters alike. Offer different ticket packages based on the level of support, with a limited number of VIP packages designed entice your specific audience. Keep motivation high through visual progress.Leading up to the event, share a digital progress bar or thermometer with your audience, letting them know how close you are to meeting your fundraising goal. Announce the results at the event itself in a final push for donations. 

Fundraising for children with cancer, nonprofit Jam Kancer hosts annual charity hockey events to raise awareness and donations. Since partnering with GoFundMe Charity, they have been able to increase their event donations five-fold: “We went from $14,000 and 24 participating teams to 32 teams raising $44,000 on GoFundMe Charity. The following year we went to 36 teams and raised $70,000, and we just keep going. GoFundMe Charity makes life really easy,” says founder Jamie Crimmins. 

6. Use the right motivation

Motivate your donors to give by communicating a sense of urgency within your fundraiser. Why are these funds important to raise now? What is at stake if your organization cannot meet its fundraising goal? 

Depending on your audience, some friendly competition can help raise funds for your cause. The nonprofit Experience Camps offers free one-week camps to children and teens who have experienced the death of an immediate family member, and they’ve raised nearly $1.5 million with the help of team challenges. 

“The ‘Life is Good’ Challenge is the first campaign we did that really made a dent in our online fundraising efforts,” says Experience Camps founder and CEO Sara Geren. “It was exciting for us to have that messaging and ability to get people really motivated and excited about something, because you could win something and you were competing in some way—even though it was all a win-win in the end.”

7. Follow up with a personal touch

Make sure to follow up with your donors through timely post-event engagement. The best time to follow up with an email, text, or social media update is within one hour of the event—a simple “thanks for coming” will do. 

Next, follow up with an email the next day asking event-goers for their honest feedback. This helps open a dialogue with your supporters, and offers invaluable insight into how you can improve future events. The following week, follow up finally with a personalized message—this could be a phone call, a personalized email, or even a handwritten note. Use this last outreach to simply show your appreciation. 

Effective fundraising for nonprofits

Take a look at some examples of effective fundraising for nonprofits, below. 

The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan is a Detroit-based charity on a mission to help the homeless, through education, employment, and empowerment. The nonprofit has used GoFundMe Charity since 2015, and to date has raised more than $440,000 on the platform. 

“On our website, we didn’t just have a donate button, but we also had a fundraise button where people specifically could start their own campaigns and raise money to sponsor coats. That was really unexpectedly successful. We had a couple of people last year that raised close to or over $10,000 just on their own coat campaign,” says Chief Development Officer Erika George. 

EB Research Partnership

Raising money for life-threatening skin disorder research, EB Research Partnership uses the power of online fundraising through self-organized community events. 

Says Executive Director Michael Hund, “From the very beginning, GoFundMe Charity has offered EB Research partnerships the ability to provide an intuitive, clean, fun solution to our organization… To make it as easy and as simple for people as possible—that’s what GoFundMe Charity has always done.” To date, the organization has raised over $1.7 million to fund skin disorder research. 

Start nonprofit fundraising today

Nonprofit fundraising is an excellent way to amplify your impact and expand your reach. Sign up today and register your nonprofit with GoFundMe Charity, so you can start raising even more funds for your cause. 

Start a charity fundraiser


About GoFundMe Charity Team

The GoFundMe Charity Team produces content to help answer common nonprofit fundraising questions and share proven tips and tricks to help your organizations raise more money.