Creative Fundraising Ideas for Non Profit Organizations

by Joe Garecht

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 non profit 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 non profit organizations.

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 non profit organization.  Now it’s time to go out, get outside your comfort zone, and see what works for your school, church, or charity.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

sally carmean November 28, 2012 at 12:30 am

Hi
just starting out with the fundraising sideof a non=profit org.{homeless shelter for Animals}. Thanks for the free booklet . I am at ground O about the fundraising side of this org. in hopes that this will be a fun experince and learning one at the same time!!!! Glad your out here with information.
Sincerely Sally

Joe Garecht November 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Sally,

Glad you are enjoying the resources on our site. Be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter as well as check out our “Fundraising Basics” tab.

Best of luck with your fundraising career!

Joe

SuzieDee Pardue August 20, 2013 at 11:01 am

Thank you! Thank You! THANK YOU! This gives me an idea of where to begin. We are lucky enough to have started a ministry that has grown exponentially in a very short time and we are scrambling to fill a need and continue on helping each month. We weren’t sure how to tap into the resources in our community and desperately needed this information in an organized and concise manner. We so appreciate you guys…continue to do your great work…Thank you! Thank You! THANK YOU!!!!

SuzieDee

Joe Garecht August 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

You’re welcome! Thanks for your comments!

Peter March 27, 2014 at 5:25 pm

I am with a non profit that sells products made by people living with disabilities. We are interested in finding companies that would carry our products and in turn make them available for sale by school age children like sally foster, the girl scouts, boy scouts, etc.have done over the years.

thank you very much,

peter

Joe Garecht March 27, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Peter,

In my experience, the only way to create partnerships like this is through “boots on the ground” work – getting out and making presentations to companies (including showing them the business case for carrying products like this) until you find one that fits.

Joe

Susan July 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Hi, Joe. I would love to know more about affinity circles. We are eyeing this as a fundraising strategy for our board. Do you have any supporting documents that you are willing to share to help us get started? Or any other resources you can point us to? We’d like to launch our own version of Affinity Circles by August’s end.

Any help you can provide would be much appreciated!

Thanks!

Joe Garecht July 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Susan,

Thanks for your comment. Affinity groups are run much like donor clubs and giving societies. You can find a 2 part series we did on donor clubs here: http://www.thefundraisingauthority.com/donor-cultivation/donor-clubs-part1/

Thanks again!
Joe

Thomas September 28, 2014 at 12:00 am

Joe,

I wanted to know if you had any advice for getting larger donations for a community based youth mentoring program that offers services and programs to youth 10-19 years old. We are two years old and received our 501c a few months ago. Funding is slow right now and the donations that come in are very slow as well. Thanks in advance

Joe Garecht September 30, 2014 at 1:06 am

Thomas,

The best way to raise start-up funds is from your friends, family, colleagues, business partners, clients, vendors, etc. and from the friends, family and colleagues of your board of directors, early donors, staff and volunteers. There’s no easy path to larger donations. You need to start with your inner circle and work out from there. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it — these folks will become your biggest supporters and lifelong donors!

Good luck –
Joe

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