Top 2019 Fundraising Campaign Ideas for Non-Profit Organizations


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Charitable giving is on the rise. Last year, giving to charities hit a total of $427.71 billion. Creative fundraising campaign ideas are to thank for this. For example, #GivingTuesday, a movement to increase charitable giving, generated $380 million in donations in 2018. That’s a 27% increase over the previous year.

The audience of potential donors in only increasing. Millennials are more likely to give than other generations. They’re also set to be the beneficiaries of a $41 trillion transfer of wealth from older generations. And this is just one generation of donors. Non-profit organizations who adapt their fundraising strategies to leverage these trends stand to reap significant benefits.

Get the Most Out of Your Fundraising Campaign Ideas

Effective fundraising campaigns must be relevant to your audience. Sometimes this means tailoring your message or approach to resonate with different donor personas. For example, each generation interacts with technology in distinct ways. Consider creating interactive digital experiences to engage millennials. For older audiences, however, you may want to incorporate direct mail into your mix.

When brainstorming new fundraising campaign ideas, thinking outside-the-box is a great starting point. Encourage creativity among your team members. Then, begin refining those big ideas by asking:

  • Does this idea support our overall mission?
  • How does this idea incorporate tactics that are historically successful for our organization?
  • If not, is there a strong enough business case to conduct a test?
  • How can this campaign concept be adapted across multiple channels?

    Creative Fundraising Campaign Ideas Worth Trying

    There are hundreds of fundraising campaign ideas out there. And you’ve likely built your own portfolio of ideas over the years. Here are a few of the biggest nonprofit fundraising trends we’re seeing in 2019.

    Fundraising Idea #1: Target Gen Z

    Reaching millennials has been the focus for years, but now it’s time to move on to the even younger “Gen Z.” Gen Z’ers were born after 1996 and currently make up 27% of the population. By 2020, they will account for 40% of all consumers. And from what we can tell, Gen Z is actively interested in supporting charitable causes, most notably those that support youth, animals and human services.

    DonorBox, a payment gateway for online donations, explains that Gen Z is highly motivated to volunteer their time. This may be the best way to engage them for the next few years. Since a large portion of them haven’t entered the workforce just yet, their ability to give financially is limited. But building relationships with this audience now may be the key to building your donor database in the future.

    When creating fundraising campaign ideas to target Gen Z, this about using:

  • Visuals: Gen Z has grown up in a digital world with handheld devices that are constantly connected. They’re accustomed to scrolling past things quickly. It takes a strong visual — a graphic, video, or striking photo – to stop the scroll and grab their attention. Visuals can also communicate more information in a shorter period of time. For example, instead of blog posts, consider infographics.
  • Concise Messaging: Similarly, Gen Z requires clear, concise messaging that gets your point across quickly. A strong non-profit mission statement and emotionally provocative taglines will create the most impact with this audience.
  • Mobile Technology: Gen Z was born with a device in each hand! When targeting this audience with a campaign, make sure your website is mobile friendly and offers a quick and easy mobile payment option. Consider using a merchant account platform designed for non-profits that streamlines donations, such as DonateKindly, Stripe or Braintree by Paypal.

    How Some Non-Profits Are Reaching Gen Z

  • Hashtags: Water is Life implemented a hashtag #FirstWorldProblems to help spread their First World Problems Anthem video.
  • Gaming: Forbes calls attention to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ recent Dance Marathon and Extra Life video game campaigns. These are great examples of how charities are reaching this younger generation.
  • Peer-to-peer: More than 2 in 5 Gen Z members say they have shared a cause with friends and family. Consider including a “spread the word” call-to-action or a matching component to your next campaign.
  • Livestreaming: Platforms like YouTube, Facebook Live, Mixer and IGTV on Instagram are very familiar to Gen Z. These sites all offer live video components that can be used as a modern take on the classic telethon.

    Fundraising Idea #2: Get Donors Moving

    With growing awareness of health and wellness, it’s a great time to do something active with your donors. Be sure to consider your donor profile to determine what physical events align with their age, lifestyle and interests. These types of fundraisers can be an ideal way to reach new audiences. Often participants will show up simply for the fitness aspect. Give them a chance to cross a 5K off their list or hit the greens. In return, you’ll get a captive audience who you can introduce to your cause. After the event, you can use their registration information to send them a donation request.

    Fitness-Related Fundraising Campaign Ideas

  • Running: Fundraising software provider, Classy, created this 9-week planning guide to help you organize your first 5K charity run. To keep planning simple, they recommend splitting tasks into three buckets: administration, sponsors/supplies and promotions/recruiting.
  • Cycling: Plan a cycling fundraiser in 3 weeks or less with the help of the Indoor Cycling Association. While their tips focus on an indoor cycling event, similar to SoulCycle, the general framework is helpful for an outdoor event as well.
  • Golf: A charity golf event requires serious planning but can be a highly effective way to connect with corporate sponsors. Golf Digest says that the secrets to a successful charity golf event lie in:
    1. – Creating a strong planning committee
      – Building new relationships while working your existing networks
      – Focusing on delivering a great experience to participants and attendees

    Fundraising Idea #3: Feed Your Need

    Dinners are nothing new in the world of fundraising. There’s a reason they’re so successful at raising money. Guests are typically at their tables for an hour or more, giving you a captive audience. This allows you to really speak from your heart and share more of your non-profit’s story than a typical face-to-face interaction.

  • Galas: An annual gala is a great way to express your gratitude for your donors and generate recurring commitments. Before planning a gala, remember these tips:
    1. – Planning should begin at least 12 months in advance.
      – A celebrity guest goes a long way in increasing event attendance.
      – Consider adding additional fundraising opportunities like an auction, raffle or event sponsorships.
  • Restaurant Partnerships: Restaurants are great corporate event partners because they’re already equipped to host a dining event. There’s no need to rent a venue space or chairs and tables. The events are beneficial to restaurants because they can generate repeat business from guests who enjoy the experience. Restaurants also often partner with charities throughout the year by committing a portion of their sales to a cause in exchange for continued marketing and promotion.
  • Food Truck Meet Ups: Food trucks are becoming increasingly popular. Consider bringing multiple local food trucks together to cater an event. Each food truck can commit a portion of their sales to your organization, or you can charge an entrance fee that includes a meal ticket. All you need is a large parking lot, so costs for this type of event are low. You do need to consider environmental factors like outside temperatures, inclement weather and the availability of power and lighting.

    Fundraising Idea #4: Get Up Close and Personal

    In an increasingly digital world, face-to-face fundraising still has a place in your fundraising strategy. Save the Children says,

    “Face-to-face is one of the most successful ways to bring thousands of compassionate supporters to the Save the Children family, as it allows us to speak to more people on a daily basis as compared to other fundraising methods.”

    In-person fundraising is proven to:

  • Generate 10x more donations than a mail campaign
  • Reduce donor acquisition costs to just 10-20 cents on the dollar
  • Convert nearly 70-80% of prospects

    Face-to-face fundraising is effective because you can adapt your pitch in real time to the person you’re speaking with. You can build an emotional connection with people. This makes it more likely that they will support your organization. DonorBox recommends adapting your message by:

  • Tailoring your ask to the gift amount each person is most likely to make
  • Presenting projects that have the strongest appeal to each person
  • Adjusting your messaging to account for generational differences and other demographic factors

    What other fundraising campaign ideas have you tried this year? Which have made the biggest difference for your organization? Share your stories in the comment box below.

    RJ Renna
    I have worked with all levels of government to be the voice for our small business in Lindenhurst. As a Co-Founder of the Christina Renna Foundation Inc., I have successfully advocated for the passing of two laws to fight Children's Cancer. My unique experiences provide me with a diverse skill set that is willing to take on challenging tasks. Through this experience, I am focusing my efforts on developing highly customized strategies for a range of clients in the customer acquisition and donor acquisition sectors.


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