Creative Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofit Organizations

Every school, church, and charity should be using the tried and true methods of raising money: individual giving, events, direct mail, grants, etc. But what happens when those fundraising sources run dry? What happens when your group is trying to raise more money for new initiatives, or trying to fill in the gaps where some old methods have started to fail you?

The answer is creativity – stepping outside the box and testing new methods of raising money for your organization. Not every tactic will work for every group, so testing is key, but every charity should be constantly expanding its fundraising repertoire and testing new tactics. In this article, we present three creative fundraising ideas for nonprofit organizations:

1. Minor Donor Groups

Almost everyone involved in fundraising has heard of major donor groups… but have you heard of minor donor groups? Minor donor groups target smaller givers—those who normally give $50-$500 per year. Obviously, what qualifies as major giving will vary for each organization. Use minor donor groups to target smaller givers with the goal of motivating them to stay supportive of your organization and give at a consistent level each year.

Much like major donor groups, minor donor groups should have a catchy name and a small list of membership benefits (such as an e-newsletter just for the group, a bumper sticker, etc.) The two groups differ, however, in the amount of time and resources you want to spend on group organization. For example, where a major donor group might meet once per month or once per quarter, you may decide to hold only one minor donor group meeting each year (an “annual meeting.”)

2. Affinity Fundraising

Building affinity fundraising groups is similar to building major and minor donor groups: you are putting together a network of people who will support your organization and raise money on your behalf. The difference is that with affinity fundraising, you are putting together a group of people who have something in common with each other (an “affinity,”) which forms part of the foundation of the group’s efforts. For example, you may have a lawyers group, a young professionals group, or a Cleveland group.

Because affinity fundraising group members share something in common, they often grow virally, with members inviting new people who share the group’s common interest to join, your efforts are multiplied beyond the time and other resources you spend on the group. For this reason, affinity fundraising networks are one of my favorite fundraising ideas for nonprofit organizations.

Affinity groups are perfect for your online efforts. Create a Facebook group, a Discord channel, or hosting regular, informal events that encourage conversation. There are tons of platforms. When you use a platform popular with your target demographic, you make it easy for them to participate, and you create a signal that this group shares their values. Your goal is to foster a community for these people with a common interest. When it reaches critical mass, it generates its own momentum.

3. Super Events

O.K. – you’re already holding events, aren’t you? But are you holding “super events?” Probably not! Super events are a fundraising tactic that some non-profits have started borrowing from political fundraisers. With these events, you recruit lots of event hosts to hold a small fundraising event on behalf of your charity on the same night, and all around the same theme. The events are often tied together by a conference call with the non-profit’s key supporters, board chair, or executive director, or by a live Internet event or video call.

Super events work because they leverage your efforts… in many cases, the amount of time you would spend on supporting hosts who want to hold small ($500-$5,000 net) fundraising events may not be worth the return. However, using super events, you can support a network of hosts who are each raising money for your group, with much higher returns.

For example, you may hold a super event to launch your new fundraising campaign where 10 event hosts each hold an event and raise an average of $2,000 for your organization. If each host held a separate event scattered throughout the year, your staff may spend a total of 30 hours supporting these events (3 hours spent X 10 events). With a super event, your staff may only spend 10 hours supporting the whole effort, and raise the same amount. In fact, super events normally raise more money than individual events, because of the increased buzz around the effort.

Well, there you have it… three creative fundraising ideas for your nonprofit organization. Now it’s time to go out, get outside your comfort zone, and see what works for your school, church, or charity.