Make giving to your cause fun by enticing donors with one of these twelve fundraising campaign ideas for online donations.

One of the challenges that nonprofits face when fundraising is finding unique ways to connect to donors and inspire giving. While simply asking can accomplish much, making donating fun does a lot more. Coming up with fundraising ideas isn’t always easy. So here are a dozen ideas to consider to help grow your donations and donor base.

Finding a balance in how often you set up fundraising campaigns is crucial. Putting your hand out too many times in the wrong way can cause donor fatigue. So, while we love all of these fundraising ideas, don’t try to do them all too close together. Find the ones that you think will resonate with your donors and best match your organization’s mission and goals. Then set them up at the appropriate times.

Keeping donor fatigue in mind, here are 12 fundraising ideas to choose from in 2019.

1) Free Digital Download with Donation

A popular fundraising idea is to entice new donations with a free e-gift. An e-gift requires no or little cost and it’s a great way to incentivize new donors. It’s important to prepare a gift that people will want to receive and set it up properly on your website. Then after a new donation, the donor will receive an email receipt with a link to download their gift from your site.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Prepare your digital gift in advance. This can be a downloadable PDF (think: ebook, white paper, report, printable poster, etc.), audio file, image, etc.
  • Prepare a thumbnail image to use for the gift link. Images are far more appealing than a simple text link.
  • Upload both the digital gift and the thumbnail image to your media library as you would an image. (Note: If your file is too big to upload through WordPress, you may need to add it via FTP.)
  • Create a New Page in WordPress. This is where your donors will download the digital file. On this page:
    • Write a great gratitude statement thanking your donor for their generosity.
    • Give some instruction on how to download the file (i.e., “Click the image below to download your e-book.”).
    • Insert the thumbnail image.
    • Add the digital download hyperlink from your WordPress media files to the thumbnail image.
    • Style the page however you’d like it to look.
    • Turn off search engine indexing for this page. You do not want this page to be optimized for SEO, as this page should only be accessible to those who have donated through your Give form.
    • You can password protect the page, if you would like to, using WordPress’ visibility setting (found in the Publish section of the classic editor and Document section of the new editor).
  • Style the receipt and add the download link.
    • Open the donation form to which you want to attach the gift. Then click the “Email Notifications” tab on the left-hand side, followed by “Donation Receipt.”
    • Add a statement of gratitude to the receipt and then click “add media” to add the thumbnail image.
    • If you password protected the gift page, make sure to include that password here as well.
    • Link the thumbnail image to the new gift page you created in step 3.
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.

2) Crowdsource a Recipe Book

Many times donors wish they could volunteer but lack the available time to do so. Give your donors an opportunity to contribute to your organization with more than just their monetary donation. Giving them an opportunity to contribute to a recipe book allows them to give twice with the same donation!

Have your donors submit a recipe with their donation. In return, they’ll get a copy of the finished version. You can even use the completed cookbook as a digital gift for donation at a later time. (See #1 above.)

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Decide what kind of recipe book you will source. (Any/all recipes? Desserts only?)
  • Set a deadline.
  • Create a Give form using the Form Field Manager add-on.
  • Using the Form Field Manager area of the form, add fields for the recipe information. Include:
    • Name of Recipe
    • Name of Submitter (as they want it to appear)
    • How many servings will the recipe create?
    • Ingredients
    • Instructions
    • File upload (if they have a photo of the finished recipe)
    • Anything else you want to include.
  • Edit your donation receipt for this form to include information on when you will publish the cookbook and how you will deliver it.
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Design the cookbook and create a PDF.
  • Send it out to all of your contributors!
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.

3) Send a Valentine

Valentine Cards fundraiser form grid mockup.

Why not set up Tributes for your donors to send out Valentines? You can also use this same concept for any other holiday throughout the year. This allows donors to donate to your cause while sending out a holiday greeting to family, friends, and other loved ones.

For this fundraiser, set one donation amount so that anyone who wants to send a Valentine will spend the same amount on a donation. Then encourage donors to send multiple eCards with the form content or your donation receipt.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Create a Give form using the Tributes add-on.
  • Customize the Tributes function for this form:
    • Tribute Title: “Send a Valentine”
    • Fieldset Title: “Send a Valentine with Your Donation”
    • Tribute Prepended Label: “Who is Your Valentine?”
  • Set up your e-card:
    • Enable eCards in the Tribute settings of the form.
    • Change your eCard Email Subject to: “{donor_name} has sent you a Valentine and made a {amount} donation because they love you!”
    • Edit the text of the Card:

Dear {notify_name},A Valentine donation of {amount} has been made to our organization by {donor_fullname}, in your honor!

Would you like to send a Valentine, too? Click here to make a donation and honor your Valentine: (add your form link here).

{donor_message}

Happy Valentine’s Day,
{sitename}

  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.

4) Add a Donation to Your T-shirt Sales

Beagle Universe
T-shirt photos borrowed from Beagle Universe, pricing may not match. Read the Give Story here.

If you have merchandise for your organization, you can also use WooCommerce to sell your products and Give to add a donation option to the cart or checkout. If you don’t have merchandise yet, consider creating some T-shirts for your cause. T-shirts for your organization serve multiple purposes. They make some money on markup and they spread the word about your organization every time someone wears one.

This fundraising tactic allows your website visitors, supporters of your cause, and those who otherwise might not donate, a chance to do so. By adding a donation component to your WooCommerce checkout, you have the opportunity to gather even more online donations when someone makes a purchase.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Decide on the T-shirt design you will use and create a cost breakdown per shirt.
  • Determine shipping costs and logistics or create a pickup location (if your donor base is local).
  • Decide how much you will sell each T-shirt for and exactly how much will go toward your cause.
  • Install and set up WooCommerce.
  • Install and set up Donation Upsells for WooCommerce.
  • Add your T-shirt options as WooCommerce products. Include photos, a description, and the breakdown of how much will go toward the cause versus what is needed for the cost of the item.
  • Use the generic WooCommerce Shop pages or set up a landing page for your T-shirts.
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Post videos and photos of your team preparing orders.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.

5) Host a Contest

Another fundraiser involving giving back to your donors in a different way is to host a contest. In this case, each donation before a set deadline is entered to “win” something.

Go crazy brainstorming ideas as to what the prize could be. Partner with a local television station for the winner to do the weather on TV. Set up dinner with your CEO/Director. Create a gift basket of your organization’s swag. Get tickets to a concert or sporting event to use as the prize. Just make sure the prize is something that people would want to win.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Set up a Give form using Form Field Manager to add extra fields and capture the additional information needed. Add required fields for First/Last Name, Phone Number (and address if you’d like to collect it).
  • Add any Terms and Conditions necessary for the contest.
  • Set a deadline for donations to enter.
  • Once you’ve reached your deadline, export the donation information, randomize the donation records, and select a winner.
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Announce the winner and make sure to document the winner receiving their prize.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.

6) Sailboat Races

Sailboat Races fundraiser form grid.

There’s nothing like a little healthy competition to move donations along. For this fundraiser, come up with 4 (or more) things you’d like to see funded that are about the same cost. Then let your donors help you choose with their dollars. The race takes place through progress goal bars displayed through a form grid. The competition adds a sense of urgency that gives donors even more of a reason to give.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Create a form for each of the 4 (or more) projects you would like to fund.
    • Use a different sailboat image for the featured image for each form.
    • Set a donations goal for each form (set the color to blue for the “water”).
    • Explain that any money raised through the non-winning projects will go toward the general fund (or wherever you intend to use it).
  • Create a form grid for your forms on a fundraising page dedicated to this campaign.
  • Once one of the forms has reached its goal, announce the winner and get started on the project.
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors showing the completed project.

7) Organize an Anniversary Fundraiser

Your organization’s anniversary (or founder’s birthday) is another great opportunity for fundraising. Encourage your current donors, constituents, volunteers, etc. to donate the number of dollars equal to the anniversary.

For example, if your organization has been around for 25 years, make a form that accepts $25 donations only (with recurring donations as an option). You can even set a goal to raise by the actual anniversary date. It’s also a good idea to plan an event for the celebration and announce your total contributions there.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Create a form for the fundraiser with a set donation equal to the age of the organization/founder’s birthday.
  • Enable Recurring Donations.
  • Include celebration event information in your receipt to invite anyone who has donated (make sure to include RSVP information).
  • Create and schedule an email campaign. Include interesting historical facts about your organization.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.
  • Document your event with photos and video to include in social media and on your site.

8) Build the Future

We think that some brilliant fundraising ideas center around building projects. If your organization is looking to purchase or construct a new building or add on to an existing space, then this the fundraiser for you. With a “Build the Future” campaign, donors see how much a building costs item by item, and are invited to contribute to the total in ways that make sense to them.

The main idea is to set up a form with all the items and work needed to complete your construction project and their associated costs. Each donation level is associated with one of these items, so donors get to choose what they purchase for you.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Create a form for the fundraiser.
  • Set a goal equal to the total amount of the project.
  • Upload an image of a sketch or blueprint of your finished building as the featured image.
  • Set up multi-level donations equal to parts of a project. For example:
    • $10 for a box of nails
    • $25 for a can of paint
    • $50 for lumber
    • $100 for a 10’ x 10’ square of carpeting
    • $500 for lighting
    • $1000 for electrical work
  • Create and schedule an email campaign. Include photos of the building project in progress if possible.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.
  • Make sure to thank your donors when the project is complete.

9) Fast for a Cause (Give a Pizza)

The main concept behind this fundraiser idea is to ask donors to give the amount that it would cost for them to do something “extra” for themselves, like order a pizza or get a cup of designer coffee. Asking your donors to fast for your cause is basically asking for the cost of a meal. Challenge your donors either to forego that meal altogether or cook at home instead of ordering out. This will encourage them to think about your organization during that time period and not only when they are on your website.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Create a form for the fundraiser.
  • Enable Recurring Donations for them to give a meal every month if they choose.
  • Set up multi-level donations equal to meals or beverages. For example:
    • $5 for a cup of “coffee shop coffee”
    • $10 for a fast food meal
    • $25 for a pizza dinner
    • $50 for a restaurant dinner
  • You can even set up your donation receipt to include a printable or shareable icon that says something like, “I fasted for ‘your organization!’”
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors.

10) Hold an Event

Are you planning an event, like a race, walk or social event for your organization? Whatever event you are using as a fundraiser, you can use a Give form for registration.

Social events are great fundraisers because they not only help raise money, but they give donors an opportunity to participate in a very real way. Some ideas for fundraising events include:

  • A race or walk
  • Paint night (get people together to create paintings with an artist explaining step-by-step instructions)
  • Ice cream social
  • Wine or beer tasting
  • Cooking class
  • Indoor cycling/spinning
  • Afternoon tea
  • Bingo night
  • Family Photo Night

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Decide which event you will host
  • Determine the cost of the event for the organization, and how much each registration must raise to cover the cost and also contribute to your cause
  • Create a Give form with a set donation for the registration or ticket fee (make sure it covers the costs and raises funds). You can also enable the custom amount (with a minimum donation equal to the fee) to allow entrants to donate more than the required amount. Use a featured image that showcases the event well.
  • Add the event information to the donation receipt email for the form.
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the registration period.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors showing images and videos from your event.

11) Dress-Down Day

For this fundraiser, you will need to partner with a business (or several) that are willing to host a dress-down or casual day for your cause. Many businesses host “Casual Days for a Cause” where their employees pay an amount (usually $5 or $10) for the privilege of dressing casually on a designated Friday. Instead of someone in the organization collecting cash in an envelope, you can automate this for them and accept the donations immediately.

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Create a form for each company that participates.
    • Use the company logo for the featured image for each form.
    • Create a set donation for each form ($5 or $10 are popular amounts for a casual day).
    • Add instructions in the email receipt for the donor to forward their receipt to HR in their company (or whichever email address they designate) as proof of their donation. This gives them the privilege to dress down on the specified day.
  • Create a form grid for your forms.
  • Create email and graphics for the company to share with their employees.
  • Encourage the company to make an event of it by providing a pizza or sandwich lunch for their employees that day.
  • Ask the company to share photos and images of their casual day with you for you to use for your newsletter and social media.

12) Virtual Lemonade Stand

Lemonade Stand fundraiser form

Last but not least, this fundraiser brings the fun of a lemonade stand to your website. Why not set up a lemonade stand without the stickiness, bees, and potential weather issues?

Kids’ lemonade stands have been a fundraising archetype for decades (or maybe longer). A lemonade stand in the front yard can only raise money from those who walk or drive by, but an online fundraiser can reach anyone who clicks the link you send them. In this case, the people sending the link are your “salespeople,” and those who donate, “buy a cup of lemonade” from them.

Follow these steps to get your virtual lemonade stand making lemonade out of lemons!

Steps to set up this fundraiser:

  • Form a team of people to be your lemonade salespeople. These people will actively share the fundraiser link and work to help raise as much money as possible.
  • Create a form for your virtual lemonade stand.
  • Use a great lemonade image for your featured image that makes your donors practically taste the sweet citrusy drink when they see it.
  • Use multi-level donations for your “sales:”
    • $5 for one cup
    • $10 for two cups
    • $15 for three cups
    • $20 for four cups
    • $50 for a whole pitcher
  • Enable the Form Field Manager with a drop-down list of your salespeople with the form field label of “Who poured your lemonade today?” Don’t forget to add something like “I poured my own” for anyone who doesn’t know one of your salespeople.
  • Think about customizing your donation receipt with a great recipe for homemade lemonade to really personalize the campaign. You can even include information on how the donor can become a salesperson, too.
  • Create and schedule an email campaign.
  • Schedule social media posts throughout the fundraiser. Use fun sayings like “When life hands you lemons…” and fill in the blank with fun things your staff comes up with.
  • At the end of the fundraiser total up your salespeople’s donation attributions and award the leading person a prize.
  • Follow up with social media posts and email blasts to donors showing them the completed project.

What’s your favorite fundraiser idea?

Give some of these fundraiser ideas a try and let us know which you like best in the comments! Or if you have more fundraiser ideas, let us know.

Michelle Ames

Michelle Ames is the Head of Customer Success at Give. She is the founding organizer of WordCamp Rochester, co-organizer of WordCamp Buffalo, and coordinator for the WordPress Rochester Meetups. Michelle enjoys photography and travel - and especially loves doing both together.

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