Revenue and cash flow are critical components of any organization. But while businesses have their revenues to allocate as necessary, charitable and non-profit organizations can rely only on fundraising as the source of finances to sustain their operations. The success therefore, and even the very survival of the charity or non-profit depends on how effective it is at conducting fundraising activities.
Following are five fundraising ideas that worked wonderfully, and that you can use as inspiration for your next event.
1. Get people involved.
In 2009, Clowns Without Borders, a non-profit group that sends clowns to entertain people in crisis zones, hosted an April Fool’s day event. The “clown formal” required guests to dress appropriately, and many did, coming in colorful clown suits, mime outfits and a variety of fun and outrageous costumes. But there were so many more in attendance who were “under-dressed” for the occasion. For these people, the organizers handed out foam clown noses — with a suggested donation.
This simple move allowed guests to become part of the activity, and not be mere observers looking in from the outside. At the same time it generated additional cash for the charity. If people feel that they have a stake in what is happening then they are more likely to contribute to its success.
2. Lock in the donation up front.
The Pan-Massacusetts Challenge is one of the biggest and most-attended charity “thons” in the U.S. Participants in this event are required to sign a contract six times, committing themselves to a minimum donation. Once they sign the contract the donation is guaranteed by charging it on the participant’s credit card.
This move solidified the donor’s commitment, and guaranteed that the charity got the money even if the participant changed his mind and opted out of the event.
3. Set up a fund-raising page on the Web.
More than three quarters of the world’s population is now online, according to research done by Hubspot.com. This represents audience reach that is more enormous than that of any other communication medium to date. It naturally makes sense to tap into this gigantic audience base to look for potential donors.
The Internet has irreversibly changed the face of fund-raising, and yet we have barely begun to scratch the surface as businesses and non-profits slowly make sense of how to make their online presence pay off. At the very least, the online presence provides an inexpensive, persistent information center from which the organization can communicate its message. With recent and upcoming innovations, organizations can run a wide variety of fund-raising campaigns and activities, including targeted sponsorship campaigns, online event ticketing, merchandise sales and electronic donation acceptance among others. The online presence can also be used in conjunction with other, more traditional campaigns to maximize its effectiveness.
Oxfam International consists of 17 international organizations in 92 countries with the common goal of fighting injustice and poverty. The confederation is currently engaged in a number of campaigns in areas such as education, conflicts and disasters, agriculture and climate change. These campaigns are explained in clear detail on the website for those seeking more information about the organization and its activities. On each page throughout the site, the call-to-action is clear and straightforward: donate. When a prospective donor clicks on the distinct “Donate” button on the page, the site launches an online donation process that lets the donor easily transfer funds to the Oxfam’s online account.
4. Express your gratitude to those who helped.
Lisa Krueger committed herself to raising money for a friend suffering from lymphoma. She started with the idea of organizing a dinner gala but cost and logistics issues soon morphed it into an intimate wine tasting party to thank people for their support. She also reversed her plans; instead of asking people for donations and charging for the dinner, she instead announced that she was throwing the party to thank all those who had supported her efforts in any way. At the end of the night, though, when Miss Krueger stood up to convey her gratitude to everyone for their support of her efforts thus far, guests took out their checkbooks and made generous donations.
It is often easy to forget that goodwill flows both ways. Miss Krueger remembered to express her appreciation to those who helped, and in honoring her donors opened up more opportunities for financing her cause. Organizing an event to recognize the generosity of donors and to thank them for their help can be just as effective as a straightforward fundraiser.
5. Use social media.
Charity:water is a charitable organization that seeks to provide clean water to save lives in poor countries. Formed by a former Manhattan nightclub promoter with a gift for wheedling donations from people, the group is now on its third year and has raised more than USD 10 million, and provides clean water to nearly one million people in Asia and Africa.
The organization credits its success to making sure that donors see, know and appreciate the impact of their contributions. It also points to social media as a key to accomplishing this. It recently raised $250,000 through a series of meetings among its Twitter follower, called “Twestival.” The group also invests in producing clever videos that often go viral on the web. One such social media campaign last year asked birthday celebrants to solicit cash to build wells in Ethiopia in lieu of receiving gifts. The campaign raised almost a million dollars!
Regardless of which idea or ideas your non-profit organization chooses to adopt for its next fund raising campaign, it would be extremely helpful to keep in mind that fund-raising is really “friend-raising.” It is important that your focus be on building and sustaining your network of donors, and that requires near-obssessive attention to nurturing relationships.
It is interesting to note that people, in general, do not give to causes; they give to people with causes. Note that all the examples provided here succeeded because each one addressed the needs of people involved, rather than outright pushed the cause and its agenda.