As your nonprofit continues to grow (or even if it’s hit a recent roadblock), you’ll need to develop your nonprofit fundraising strategy. It is easier said than done, though. It can be difficult getting your feet off the ground to make sure your organization stands out among the millions of other nonprofits. As a result, you need to create a compelling approach to receive the support necessary for success.

To fully develop your nonprofit fundraising strategy, you’ll have to craft each campaign carefully. While each campaign is unique, there are a few common elements with which your team should be familiar. 

To help you get started, we’ve compiled the top actionable tips your organization should employ for successful campaigning:

  1. Start with an engaging central idea.
  2. Focus on the supporter experience.
  3. Emphasize the importance of storytelling.

Nonprofit fundraising entails hard work and dedication from your team and supporters. With effective and sustainable campaigns, you can inspire action among the masses and initiate real change. 

Ready to create your most successful fundraising campaign ever? Let’s get started!

1. Start with an engaging central idea.

Your fundraiser’s central idea can make or break your campaign. Because of this, you’ll need to put the care and time into it that it deserves. Don’t just host another bake sale and call it a day. While ideas like that may be solid in the short-term, you need to focus on choosing an approach that prioritizes sustainability. It should be something that peaks donors’ interests and becomes something they look forward to year after year.

Creating a central focus for your campaign enables you to maximize each of your fundraisers and engage more donors. For instance, try combining your campaigns with other fundraisers so that everyone can contribute something.

To create a truly compelling campaign, you’ll need an engaging and unique idea. Our favorite: a running shoe drive fundraiser!

Everyone has unwanted athletic shoes lying around their homes. When they don’t know what else to do with them, they’ll just throw them out, sending them straight to a landfill. Instead of allowing them to throw away perfectly good sneakers, give them the opportunity to repurpose their athletic shoes!

Here’s how running shoe drives work:

  • Step 1: Partner with a sneaker drive fundraiser coordinator.
  • Step 2: With the help of supporters, collect gently worn, used and new athletic shoes.
  • Step 3: Send off the prepaid shipping bags provided by the fundraising coordinator.
  • Step 4: When your running shoes are processed, a check will be put in the mail for your team.

That’s it! Best of all, you can host it as a standalone event or coordinate it with one of your other fundraisers. In other words, you’ll generate extra revenue on top of the funds you receive for the event. It’s a natural addition to any athletic activity. 

For instance, if you host a 5K, runners can donate their extra running shoes before the race. Alternatively, you can offer a discounted registration fee in exchange for a pair of gently worn, used or new running shoes. Just make sure to advertise well in advance so that runners and spectators bring a change of sneakers.

For more information on hosting a successful running shoe drive fundraiser, visit this step-by-step guide by Sneakers4Funds.

2. Focus on the supporter experience.

If you’re not prioritizing the donor experience, you’re breaking one of the top rules of nonprofit fundraising. Your donors are the sole reason your nonprofit can continue striving toward its mission, so treat them as such.

There are innumerable ways to enhance the donor experience and boost engagement. It’s all about getting to know your donors and showing them you care about who they are and what they prefer. You’ll need to approach them with an open mind and create several innovative and engaging opportunities. For starters, dabble in one of the following suggestions.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Encourage supporters to take a hands-on approach by fundraising on your behalf. Give them a taste of what all fundraising entails. As they watch the fundraising dollars rack up, they’ll feel much more vital to your nonprofit’s success. Plus, you’ll tap into their social networks and easily spread the word about your cause.

To host a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, here’s what needs to happen:

    • Step 1: Choose a peer-to-peer platform.
    • Step 2: Volunteer fundraisers set up their personalized campaign pages.
    • Step 3: They share their pages online with friends and family, encouraging donations.
    • Step 4: Generous donors contribute to your cause.

For the best results, tie it to an event to create a sense of urgency. Often, you see peer-to-peer fundraisers tied into walkathons. Leading up to the event, volunteer fundraisers share their campaign pages and collect pledges. Pledges should be based on a per-mile basis. In other words, someone may pledge $5 for each mile one of their friends or family members walk. The day of the event, the further they walk, the more money they raise.

Explore how peer-to-peer fundraising can help your cause with Donately’s actionable P2P tips. These ideas, combined with a philanthropic and motivated spirit, will help your campaign succeed!

Various Donation Opportunities

No two donors are alike. As a nonprofit professional, you already know donors prefer different communication methods, but what about different donation opportunities? By providing several ways to donate, you tell donors that all contributions matter, directly maximizing campaign success. Here are just a few of the many advanced donation options you can offer donors:

  • Mobile-friendly donation pages. Half of all website traffic comes from mobile users. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure your entire site (especially your donation page) is mobile responsive. Otherwise, donors will get frustrated zooming in and out to view your page, possibly leading to page abandonment.
  • Matching gifts. Corporate philanthropy (matching gifts, especially) is a powerful engagement tool. When a donor works for a company with a matching gift program, their employer will match their donations to eligible nonprofits. All donors have to do is submit the necessary paperwork, and voila! Their contributions are doubled (maybe even tripled!) at no extra cost to them. Learn more about matching gifts here.
  • Volunteer grants. Corporate giving entails more than just matching gifts. Volunteers can get in on the action, too! When a volunteer works for a company with a volunteer grant program, their employer supplements their time with a grant to the nonprofit. Even those who can’t contribute financially play a powerful part in fundraising success.
  • Text-to-give. Fully modernize your fundraising plan with text-to-give. When you team up with a provider, your organization will receive an exclusive phone number. Donors can then text in their gifts. Advertise your organization’s number at your events or host a dedicated text-to-give drive. Donors will appreciate this convenient way to contribute.

So long as your donors feel appreciated, your organization will have an influential band of support. Donors want to contribute to your cause. Make sure they have every opportunity to give in a way that’s convenient for them, and they will! 

3. Emphasize the importance of storytelling.

Everyone has a story. It doesn’t matter if it’s joyful, heart-wrenching, or even comedic. It matters, and someone out there wants to hear it. 

Nonprofit storytelling involves talking about those you serve with the intent to inspire action and change. Effective stories motivate supporters to give however they can, whether it’s through donations or volunteerism. It can be anything from supporters expressing their personal connections to your cause in peer-to-peer campaigns to staff members telling first-hand stories about the good work your organization does. Regardless of the approach, storytelling plays a dominant role in developing your brand. In other words, don’t overlook this effective method. 

Storytelling shows supporters the change you’re creating as a direct result of their help. It invokes a sense of urgency by telling readers how they can make a difference right now. By sharing various perspectives from volunteers, staff members, and even those who benefit from your work, you emphasize how much donors’ gifts help.

For the best results, adapt your story based on the platform you’re using. Highlight short stories on social media, and save your in-depth stories for email newsletters. Always consider who your audience is.

When we hear a story, we instinctively immerse ourselves in the narrative. We visualize what the speaker is saying. We empathize with the characters and may even imagine ourselves as part of the story. Any communication with a story-like structure is memorable and can make a great difference in your campaign. In short, these are the reasons why storytelling is so effective. 

Visual Storytelling

Storytelling goes beyond words. When possible, make sure you’re employing visual storytelling with videos and images, too. 

Humans are visual creatures. We want to see the impact we make through compelling imagery. However, don’t clutter up your appeals with excessive graphics as this can slow online pages and distract readers. Instead, use them sparingly in each marketing resource. Stick to a few powerful images as a way to break up the text, so you can maintain a sleek design while still evoking emotion. 

Don’t forget about making graphics accessible to all users. Like verbal storytelling, start by adapting your storytelling based on the platform you’re using. Videos on social media, for example, should include subtitles for viewers as many people disable auto-playing audio.

Employ storytelling methods wherever your supporters encounter you—email, social media, and events, just to name a few. Every aspect of your campaign should create emotion and encourage action. Make sure you’re clearly highlighting your nonprofit’s story in a way that drives change.

Launching a fundraising campaign can seem daunting at first. It requires everyone to be on board to turn effort into action and change. While it takes a ton of planning and preparation, the positive results will undoubtedly be worth it.

Remember, it all starts with a compelling campaign idea (like a running shoe drive fundraiser). For ultimate success, make sure every component of your campaign fully embodies your mission. By taking charge of your fundraising campaigns, you’ll continually improve your strategy and create a meaningful impact. Now that you know these top fundraising tips, get to work and create your best campaign ever!

January 31, 2020


Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Sneakers4Funds, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.