Fundraising is the bedrock for businesses, non-profit causes, hobbies, and most any other venture you may want to take. Gathering voluntary contributions is a challenging process that requires time, and to be effective, know-how. The main issue is deciding how much you need to raise.
Knowing your overall goal helps guide your efforts and find what options are the best for you.
Are you raising $500 to start a podcast? You can probably handle fundraising on your own. Are you raising thousands for a non-profit? You need some help. If you’re anywhere in between, your best bet is still to get some assistance, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Easy Fundraising Ideas
Online crowdfunding is a somewhat new phenomenon where small amounts of money can be raised from large numbers of people. Websites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter made it possible for anyone to try to raise money for nearly any reason. Crowdfunding websites are projected to contribute as much as $1trillion by 2025 If you are confident in your product and your ability to market, crowdfunding is a great option.
One critical aspect of crowdfunding is your pitch. A bland, boring pitch won’t land you a single penny, but a compelling one can raise everything you need. To create a quality pitch, you need a strong mix of design and call to action. Make people want to help you out with your goal, whether that goal is a mission trip to Cambodia or to create a card game you think people will enjoy.
If you’re worried about creating a strong pitch, consider working with a marketing agency or a freelancer for help.
Sell Goods and Services
There isn’t an easier way to make money quickly than selling your things. Craigslist and eBay make this as easy as posting a picture and description, and then waiting for buyers to come to you. But, online marketplaces are not the only option available. Never discount the effectiveness of an old-school yard sale or even bake sale.
You can also look at selling creations at flea markets, farmer’s markets, or online through retailers like Etsy or Amazon. Think outside the box. If you love to make arts and crafts, chances are good other people will enjoy your creations enough to buy them.
More traditional fundraising efforts include car washes, camping outside stores with a table, and change drives where you put jars around town. When every penny counts, there are no bad ideas!
Simple fundraising events create great opportunities for many small payoffs, but the easy route isn’t always the best. Consider organizing a team fundraiser. The beauty of many team fundraisers is that you may not need much in the way of upfront costs. Sports provide a perfect opportunity. If you have the means to cover some upfront expenses, golf tournaments and 5Ks are also great options. It allows teams or individuals to pay an entry fee as well as purchase other add-ons like beverages or merchandise.
If you want something a little less demanding, consider other sports-related tournaments. Fantasy sports are more popular than ever, so a fantasy football league or a March Madness bracket may be great options to collect entry fees, if this is legal in your state.
The majority of fundraising ideas are to gather money for non-profits. Charities and non-profits rely heavily, sometimes exclusively, on donations. If you need to raise thousands of dollars to help a charity operate, you face an uphill battle. Between running day-to-day operations and managing a staff, finding the money to pay for everything is a monumental task. Some charities and non-profits rely on some of the methods mentioned earlier. The Girl Scouts of America tempt us with cookies as we go in and out of grocery stores. UNESCO put jars at checkout counters all over the country.
Other charities and non-profits rely more heavily on events. They are more complicated to orchestrate, but the payoff can be substantial if executed well. An essential resource for event fundraising is a marketing agency. Event marketing is different from product marketing. The purpose is to raise money for a cause. Your goal is to convince people the cause is worthy, and they need to come to your event to help.
Popular events include auctions, banquets, and formal dinners, where you have a group of supporters gathered for you to plead your cause. For auctions, use your cause as a theme for the items for sale. Constantly remind your audience why they’re donating their money. At banquets, make the most of the pre and post-meal informalities by walking the room. Talk to your supporters individually. The human touch is very appreciated, but don’t forget to take full advantage of the time all your guests are seated and focused. Your main pitch should be emotional and thorough. Without that emotional connection to your cause, people are reluctant to give their money away.
We say, “Real business is done face-to-face,” but the same principle applies to fundraising events. People want to know who they’re doing business with, and you are the face.
Cause marketing can be enhanced by branding. Events give you a nice payoff, but to create the residual income you need, branded merchandise is a great option. Marketing agencies and put your logo on just about anything, so be creative in how you present brand.
Despite unique ideas like key chains and magnets, one of the best options for branding is still t-shirts. Printing your logo and slogan on a shirt gives you two payoffs. The first is the money spent on the shirt itself, and the second is the fact you are selling a walking billboard for your organization.
Luckily, you don’t have to do this on your own. For example, you can work with an organization to pay a small setup fee to get your message crafted and shirts printed. Then, turn around and reap up to 90% of the t-shirt sales for your cause. With that, you gave your supporters a way to represent your brand, and donations are more easily collected.
Merchandising will always be one of the most effective ways to spread your brand and raise money.
Partnering with local restaurants and other organizations is mutually beneficial. You can combine your supporters with theirs, and both reap the rewards. You can even negotiate merchandising partnerships like shirts or glasses with both logos.
Creating a network of partnerships can provide another much-needed asset, goods and services to auction away. Partners can donate free meals, a night’s stay at a hotel, a shiny new TV, or whatever else is applicable. Now you can sell donated goods and maintain 100% of the profits. Partnerships provide one of the best options for non-profits to raise money.
Don’t forget to take advantage of a less formal partnership in the form of a coupon book. This version of a partnership is also mutually beneficial. Similar to the Groupon business model, companies can donate offers such as a free appetizer or 20% off a product, and you can sell those coupons for 100% profit. Coupon books are always a popular choice, but printing and distributing them can be cumbersome. If you have the partnerships and the ability to distribute them, coupon books benefit everyone.
If you’ve ever been to a sporting event, you’ve seen a 50/50 raffle. The basic premise is you collect money for a raffle, everyone gets a ticket with a number, you select a number, and the lucky winner splits the winnings with your organization. The concept is excellent, but the opportunities can be limited. If you plan to hold an event, consider a 50/50 raffle to create an incentive for people to stay as well as donate more money. Outside of events, raffles are difficult to coordinate.
Unique Fundraising Ideas
As the saying goes, “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.” In fundraising, that’s only true to an extent. Traditional fundraisers are cliché for a reason. They are tried and true tactics with a track record of raising money, but you have the opportunity to be different. Learn from others. Build on their ideas. Make them your own and do something unique.
To be unique is to be unlike anything else, but here are some ideas to get the creative juices flowing!
Not to be confused with the “crowdfunding” idea mentioned earlier, crowdsourcing is collaborating with a group of people to create something. For example, you can request recipes from everyone in your organization, compile them into a book, and sell the cookbook to raise money. Crowdsource testing of prototypes and concepts can lead to high demand products. Crowdsourcing is a great, inexpensive way to get diverse ideas and viewpoints which you can turn into a fundraising device.
Another example of crowdsourcing to raise funds is to create a theme design competition for your next event. Collect a donation as the entry fee and allow supporters to submit their ideas for your event. Once you’ve picked a winner, you have already collected funds from the entry fees, and you received unique ideas for your design. It is a win-win for any organization.
Nothing helps performance better than some friendly competition. Create a fundraising contest between restaurant locations, schools, neighborhoods, or whatever groups you can challenge. Maybe it’s just putting a jar out for pennies, or perhaps, you’re selling tickets to an event and the winner gets a front row seat. From there, team pride takes over, and the fundraising takes off.
Organize a Scavenger Hunt
Go around the city or neighborhood and hide clues to promote your brand or event, and send people on a scavenger hunt to find them! You can charge an entry fee to raise money and offer a small prize for the first person or team to finish.
You may want to work with a local marketing agency for some help with getting the word out, but you’re offering a great experience for supporters in return for a donation. Organizing something memorable goes a long way the next time you need to raise funds.
It bears repeating. There are no bad ideas when it comes to fundraising. Don’t count out a technique for being too easy or silly or complicated. You won’t know until you try. Some ideas work better than others, but your job is to find out which ones work best for you.
You also need to find the balance between proven tactics and something unique. If you come up with something completely original, you won’t have any ideas on how useful it is or how much you may raise. This is why it’s vital to diversify! Mix in a change drive or coupon book to supplement your new idea while you develop it.
Finally, never be afraid to get help. If you’re new to fundraising, talk with some veterans. In the charity and non-profit communities, this is especially true. Most experienced administrative staff are all too familiar with how difficult it is to raise money year after year.
If you are having trouble getting your message on point or need help with ideas or materials, consult a local marketing agency for guidance. Event marketing, graphic design, video marketing, and merchandising are only a few of the offered services to help you succeed. The most valuable resource they give you is time. Working with a marketing agency on detailed tasks like designing, printing, and selling t-shirts frees up your time to focus on other important tasks. After all, time is your most valuable commodity.
Fundraising is challenging. There is no denying it, but fundraising can also be fun! Get creative and enjoy what you do. Your supporters will see that, and it can only help to build value in your cause. Whatever route you decide to take, be diligent and remember to celebrate successes, learn from failures, and hit your goals!