Nonprofit fundraising is exciting. It’s the lifeblood of charitable organizations and can serve as a way to raise awareness of a cause and drum up interest among donors.

Fundraising is also a massive undertaking. Because it’s likely your primary means of income as a charitable organization, raising money can be a burdensome, never-ending effort. It can even seem scary.

But it shouldn’t. Great fundraising can (and should!) be learned and mastered. Building a nonprofit fundraising plan is the best way to equip your volunteers, avoid fundraising pitfalls, and create a sustainable organization.

That’s why we built this guide. Below, you’ll read about the legalities of nonprofit fundraising, the different ways to raise money, and how to build a simple fundraising strategy. Keep reading to get started or use the chapter links to jump ahead.

Nonprofit organizations can be philanthropic, religious, educational, artistic, or scientific in nature. Some churches and universities qualify as nonprofit organizations as they don’t keep a profit — any money received is spent on its cause or on maintaining the organization itself.

Fundraising is often the primary means of revenue for these organizations. That’s one reason why nonprofits and charitable organizations dedicate so many resources to it.

Nonprofit fundraising is heavily regulated by state law. This holds organizations accountable for how they approach and treat donors, and it ensures donors are giving money to the proper parties.

Note: This legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. In a nutshell, you may not rely on this as legal advice, or as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

Understanding the legalities of nonprofit fundraising can help you navigate the wide variety of fundraising methods — which ones you can and can’t do, and which ones are best for your charitable organization and donors.

There are many options when it comes to raising money for a nonprofit — however, there are two major ways to raise money: individual fundraising or company and corporation fundraising

As you review these types of fundraising — and the different ideas behind how to raise money within both categories — don’t be afraid to combine some of the methods, or use the multi-channel fundraising approach.

By using this multi-channel approach, you diversify your fundraising methods so donors have more ways to contribute. Also, donors might be motivated by one method but submit their donation via another method (such as seeing a direct mail piece but donating via text).

Note: Many of the following fundraising ideas can be used for both individual or corporate fundraising — we’ve placed them in the category they’re most frequently used in. For example, you’ll notice we have events listed under both individual and corporate fundraising below.

With individual fundraising — also known as personal fundraising — you can ask people within your network, such as friends, family, or colleagues, to donate to your cause. The process allows you to share your story and ask these people to help and support your cause (or whoever/ whatever you’re raising money for).

A few reasons why you may implement individual fundraising tactics include the need to raise money for an emergency or natural disaster, trips, life events, education, or medical expenses.

Here are some ideas for how you can implement individual fundraising tactics within your nonprofit:

In today’s world, direct mail should only be one of many fundraising tactics you use due to the fact so much content is digital. So, don’t forget to provide a way for your mail recipients to donate online, too (versus mailing in a check … which seems a bit old school these days, doesn’t it?).

Online donations refer to any donations made online — through your website, social media, or on a crowdfunding site.

Lastly, no matter the platform, social media makes it very easy to share content about your cause, why you’re fundraising, and who’s already involved to get others excited to become involved.

These days, people are rarely without their phones — and charitable organizations know it. Nowadays there are multiple ways to donate using your mobile device.

A few reasons why businesses may be looking to partner with a nonprofit include supporting or fulfilling their corporate social responsibility, reputation, and public relations. 

Here are some ideas for ways you can implement corporate fundraising for your nonprofit:

Companies give volunteer grants when their employees have volunteered a certain number of hours. This encourages employees to donate their time and holds businesses accountable for charitable giving. Volunteering can serve as a great team (or company) outing, too.

Corporate grants are sums of money that companies and corporations give to nonprofit organizations. Companies can either give these grants directly to an organization or choose from a pool of grant applicants. Nonprofits should look out for grant opportunities and ways to apply for corporate funding.

In-kind donations describe non-monetary items given to nonprofits from companies and businesses. They usually include food, drinks, or supplies for an event, free professional services like accounting or legal services, or equipment for a construction project. In-kind donations are typically accepted from businesses with which a nonprofit already has a relationship.

Note: In-kind donations are often used as part of fundraising events, like silent auctions.

Commercial co-ventures, or cause-related marketing, is when a nonprofit organization partners with a business to raise money. Examples of commercial co-venture are when a restaurant donates a portion of its proceeds for an evening, or when a retail store gives a percentage their sales, to a nonprofit.

Host a 5K race for employees (and community members) to participate in. To raise money, charge a race entry fee. You can also give participants the option of getting sponsorships and/ or fundraising themselves to participate in the race.

Ask employees to provide one of their favorite recipes to create a corporate cookbook. You can charge the employees who submit their recipes a small fee — then, once the book is printed, you can see the books to the employees as well as local community members.

Give employees a reason to bond, have fun, and raise money for a good cause. Accept donations throughout the night and charge an entry fee — you can also organize a raffle. You might even encourage employees to bring their family and/or friends depending on the type of event you choose.

Here are some employee event ideas for you:

Creating a nonprofit fundraising plan or strategy for your next campaign will help you focus your efforts and guide your day-to-day fundraising efforts when things get tough. It’ll also ensure your fundraising team is aligned on certain tactics or events that may be part of your strategy.

Walk through the steps below to start piecing together your nonprofit fundraising strategy.

Start with the end in mind. What’s your fundraising campaign goal? Better yet, what’s your overall goal for this year? For the next three years?

Defining your mission statement will guide your fundraising “asks”. What do you plan to do with the money from your fundraiser? How will it contribute to your organization’s mission and purpose? Donors will ask these questions, so outline the answers now.

These folks will be in charge of tasks like:

Who are you targeting for your fundraiser? What communities, companies, organizations, neighborhoods, and groups of people will you approach for donations? Can your volunteers, board members, and beneficiaries of your organization help you compile a list of potential donors?

This list will guide your campaign promotion. Whether you decide to fundraise via direct mail, social media, crowdfunding, events, sponsorships, in-kind donations or all of the above, having a prospect list will help you know exactly who to target.

Next, decide how you’ll promote your fundraising campaign as a whole. How will you market your organization and its drive to raise money? How will people hear about your events, sponsorships, commercial co-ventures, and more?

Note: How you receive your funds (fundraising tactics) and how you promote your fundraiser (fundraising marketing) are two separate things. This step of your nonprofit fundraising strategy helps you define both.

Nonprofit fundraising is critical for charitable organizations. By researching tactics and building a nonprofit fundraising strategy, organizations can set themselves up for long-term fundraising success — and impact.

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