There are hundreds of different ways to raise money for charity. From bake sales to planned giving, nonprofits can pick and choose several options to help generate revenue — and make more impact than ever before.
In this blog, we’ll walk you through exactly how to bring in donations, including the 9 best fundraising ideas to raise money for your charity, including:
- Peer-to-peer fundraising
- Seasonal giving
- Membership programs
- Raffles and lotteries
- Online stores
- Corporate philanthropy
- Planned giving
1. Peer-to-peer fundraising
Like a crowdfunding campaign, P2P fundraising is when individuals raise money on your organization’s behalf. The fundraisers create a donation page or fundraising page where they ask for donations from their friends, family, or colleagues for the cause.
So, instead of the charity raising the money on its own, peer-to-peer fundraisers tap into their own social networks to bring in donations.
Examples of P2P fundraising campaigns include:
- Birthday fundraisers: Individuals create personalized online pages and encourage their network to contribute to your nonprofit as a meaningful birthday gift.
- Social media challenges: In this fundraising campaign, individuals initiate challenges, document their participation, and nominate others to join. The challenge includes a call for donations toward your nonprofit.
- Selling goods: Individuals or groups choose a product to sell, like merchandise, handmade crafts, or baked goods. Profits from sales go toward supporting your nonprofit.
- Walks/runs: Participants register, create an online donation form, and seek contributions from friends and family, promoting fitness for a good cause.
2. Seasonal giving campaign
A seasonal giving campaign is a special effort to encourage people to donate or support a cause during a specific time of the year. These campaigns are usually tied to particular seasons, events, or holidays. Or, at times when people are more charitable like:
- Giving Tuesday: Giving Tuesday is one of the most popular times to encourage giving. In fact, in 2022, over $3.1 billion was donated on Giving Tuesday. When the holiday rolls around, create a campaign on multiple channels, with a suggested donation amount, that encourages people to give to your cause. Plus, be sure to create social media posts and launch a direct mail campaign with the Giving Tuesday hashtag.
- The end of the year: Research shows that 30% of annual giving occurs in December. As the end of the year approaches, reach out to specific donors or create an online fundraiser to encourage supporters to consider giving before the year is up.
- Awareness months/days: Consider campaigning or hosting a fundraising event on days or weeks/months related to your mission. For example, nonprofits that help fund breast cancer research might focus on raising money in October during breast cancer awareness month.
3. Membership program
A membership program allows supporters to be part of your nonprofit organization and enjoy specific perks at the same time. People become members by signing up and often paying a fee. In return, they get special benefits, updates, and the satisfaction of being part of something important. A great way to strengthen donor relationships and secure recurring "donations" (in this case, fees), memberships are often an underestimated way to reach your fundraising goals.
Here are a couple of examples of memberships in which you’d charge fees:
- Professional associations: Members, who share a common professional interest, join the association to access resources, network with peers, and stay updated on industry trends.
- Clubs: Members join a club within the association based on their specific interests, such as a book club, environmental club, or youth club.
- Trade associations: Businesses or professionals in the same industry join the trade association to collectively advocate for industry interests, participate in industry events, and benefit from shared resources.
Events bring people together to support a cause, raise funds, and create awareness. They can range from charity walks to galas and serve as a way for the community to contribute to something meaningful.
If you're looking to host fundraising events, consider ideas like:
- Galas: Galas create a glamorous and enjoyable environment for people to contribute to a nonprofit's mission while celebrating its impact.
- Tournaments: Examples include golf tournaments, soccer tournaments, or gaming tournaments. Participants pay to enter, and the funds raised go to the nonprofit.
- Auctions: Items can range from donated goods to unique experiences. Attendees bid on what they want, and the highest bidder gets to purchase the item or experience.
5. Raffles and lotteries
Make fundraising exciting by adding a bit of luck! With raffles and lotteries, people buy tickets for a chance to win prizes donated by local businesses. It's like a win-win – supporters have fun, and the charity gets funds.
- 50/50 raffle: In a 50/50 raffle, participants buy tickets for a chance to win. At the end of the raffle, one ticket is randomly chosen, and the person holding that ticket gets half of the total money collected.
- Item raffle: Nonprofit organizations often gather donated items or experiences, such as gift baskets, electronics, or event tickets. People buy raffle tickets, and winners are randomly chosen to receive the items.
6. Online store
In 2023, e-commerce made up $284.1 billion of sales in the U.S. To take advantage of this kind of shopping, nonprofits should sell merchandise, products, or services using an online store to support their mission. Goods include:
- Branded merch: List hats, t-shirts, or even sweatshirts with your organization’s logo on them.
- Mission-related items: If your nonprofit raises money for needy animals, for example, sell pet-related products to supporters.
- Other desirable goods: Have some in-kind goods that are too good to waste? List them on your online store!
7. Corporate philanthropy
In 2022, corporations gave more than $21 billion to nonprofits. Take advantage of this corporate philanthropy by teaming up with for-profit corporations to make a big impact.
- Matching gifts: According to research, about $4-$7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed per year.
- Corporate sponsorships: Hosting an event? Ask local businesses to sponsor it in exchange for event perks and benefits.
8. Planned giving
Planned giving is when people make arrangements in advance to donate to a nonprofit in the future. Planned giving allows individuals to leave a lasting impact on a cause they care about and support the nonprofit's long-term goals.
Typically, a planned gift is 200 to 300 times the size of a donor's largest annual gift. Meaning, this is a great way to secure some major donors. Examples of planned gifts include:
- Retirement assets: Supporters name the nonprofit as a beneficiary of their retirement account.
- Wills or trusts: Supporters include the nonprofit in their will or trust, specifying the amount or percentage of their estate they want to go to the organization.
- Stock gifts: Supporters transfer ownership of stocks to the nonprofit, allowing the organization to sell or retain the stocks for funding.
Grants are special funds or financial gifts given to nonprofits by foundations, government agencies, or other organizations to support specific projects or programs. Nonprofits apply for grants by submitting proposals that outline their project or initiative. If approved, they receive the grant money to carry out the proposed work.
Some grant examples include:
- Foundation grants: Foundation grants are funds provided by private organizations or family foundations to support specific projects or programs of nonprofit organizations.
- Government grants: Government grants are funds provided by federal, state, or local government agencies to nonprofit organizations for projects that align with public policy goals.
- Corporate grants: Corporate grants are funds provided by businesses to nonprofit organizations to support initiatives that align with the company's values and corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals.
6 best fundraising tips for raising money
- Use emotional storytelling: Share compelling stories that evoke emotions and connect donors to the cause on a personal level. Emotional stories create empathy and make the cause more relatable. Then, donors are more likely to engage and contribute because of the emotional connection.
- Use multiple channels of communication: Reach out to potential donors through various platforms like social media, email, and in-person events. Utilizing a mix ensures a broader reach and increases the likelihood of capturing the attention of diverse audiences.
- Make language donor-centric: Frame your messages in a way that emphasizes the donor's impact rather than focusing solely on the organization's needs. By highlighting their role in creating positive change, you make the donor the hero of the story.
- Use gratitude: Express appreciation and gratitude towards donors, whether through personalized messages, thank-you cards, or recognition events. Demonstrating gratitude not only acknowledges the donor's contribution but also fosters a sense of connection and encourages ongoing support.
- Make giving easy: Simplify the donation process, ensuring it's user-friendly and accessible across various platforms. People are more likely to contribute if the donation process is straightforward.
- Create a sense of urgency: Emphasize the immediate need for support, conveying that timely contributions will make a significant impact. Urgency prompts quicker decision-making. When donors feel their help is urgently needed, they are more likely to act promptly and contribute to the cause.
6 common pitfalls to avoid when raising money
- Spending a lot of money on an event: Lots of nonprofits think that they have to host expensive events in order to raise a lot of money.
In truth, some of the most successful events are cheap to host. P2P fundraisers, for example, are often fairly cost-effective and incredibly powerful.
- Not doing enough research on the audience: It's easy to want to cast a wide net when asking for donations. But asking anyone and everyone for contributions doesn't always work.
Be sure to do some research on your prospective donors. Find out what they’re interested in, how much they’d be able to give, and what motivates them for better results.
- Using the wrong tools: Raising money for charity requires the use of comprehensive tools. Without them, nonprofits can quickly become disorganized—missing out on some major funds and connections.
Before raising money for your charity, search around for the best tools. Some platforms, like Zeffy, are 100% free and offer nonprofits everything from event ticketing to donation forms.
- Forgetting to show impact: Donors want to know what kind of impact their money will have on your cause. Without information on their money’s impact, donors can feel mistrusting and hesitant to give.
Instead, show supporters detailed reports about the impact, videos from beneficiaries, and more.
- Ignoring existing networks: Nonprofits have to be strategic about what they spend money on. Some organizations too easily overlook the free help they have right in front of them and instead hire paid help.
Consider your networks — volunteers, passionate supporters, and even board members — and ask them to contribute.
- Not following up: Lots of nonprofits stray away from keeping in touch with donors. They don’t want to seem overly eager or annoying. But, when nonprofits don’t follow up to check in or encourage giving, they can miss out on some huge opportunities.
Instead, schedule time email campaigns or SMS campaigns that aren’t too close together. Or, try different kinds of follow-up. Start with an email, and switch to text.
3 best platforms to raise money for your charity
Zeffy is the only 100% free fundraising platform for nonprofits. With customizable e-tickets, QR codes for scanning at check-in, flexible payment types, discount codes, and custom donation forms, Zeffy does it all. Unlike other platforms that charge subscription and processing, and often a monthly fee—not to mention other hidden fees—Zeffy doesn't charge nonprofits a cent.
Plus, Zeffy doesn’t just stop at fundraising. The platform offers donor management too. This means that nonprofits can centralize all of their fundraising events and efforts in one place—for free.
- 100% free fundraising tickets and solutions when other platforms charge 5% transaction fees on average + platform fees
- Automatic tax receipts for ticket sales
- Unlimited and free support
- Tap to Pay App for in-person sales on the day of the event
- Scannable e-tickets
- Accept all payment types
- Discounts codes
- Custom ticketing forms
- Custom questions
- Automated reminder emails and follow-ups
Best for: Nonprofits who are looking for a 100% free option to manage their fundraising efforts. Because Zeffy doesn't charge nonprofits a cent—and offers a full suite of other fundraising tools like donor management and peer-to-peer fundraising—this software is designed for anyone looking to maximize their impact, save time, and raise money.
Pricing & fees: 100% free (no platform fee - no transaction fee)
While every other platform takes fees away from your mission, Zeffy delivers 100% of it to your nonprofit.
Here’s how it works: When someone makes a donation on your fundraising form, they have the option (but are never obliged) to give to Zeffy. Not everyone gives every time and that's okay. Enough donors leave a contribution to cover overhead AND fees.
Nonprofits paid $3 billion in transaction fees last year. Zeffy is ending this with zero fees.
Givebutter is an online fundraising platform designed to simplify and enhance the process of collecting online donations for various causes. It caters to a wide range of users, including nonprofits, schools, teams, and individuals looking to fundraise for charitable purposes. Plus, it even allows nonprofits to sell tickets, create event pages, and more.
Standout feature: Peer-to-peer fundraising
Best for: Nonprofits looking for a quick and easy way to start raising money by using social fundraising like P2P fundraising.
Pricing: Up to 2.9% + 30¢ in processing fees
DonorPerfect is a comprehensive donor management and online fundraising solution designed for nonprofits. It provides tools and features to streamline the online donation process, manage donor relationships, and analyze data to optimize fundraising strategies.
Standout feature: Segmented invitations
Best for: Nonprofits in need of event management software.
Pricing: Custom quote, starting at starting at $99 per month plus 2.5% per transaction
Raise more money for your charity with Zeffy (100% free)
Whether you’re looking to host a peer-to-peer campaign or open an online store for your nonprofit, Zeffy can help you start fundraising in minutes. The only fee-free donation and fundraising platform for nonprofits, Zeffy is designed to help your charity bring in more donations for less.
Unlike other platforms, which charge expensive platform and processing fees, Zeffy doesn’t charge a cent. That means that organizations can run events, sell tickets, host raffles, start a membership program, and even launch a seasonal campaign — all right within Zeffy — without paying a single fee.