As a nonprofit fundraising professional, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a variety of online fundraising methods in the past. Online donation pages, pledge fundraising, crowdfunding, and now Facebook Challenges— online fundraising is immensely popular due to the convenience of giving and unlimited reach of the internet.
At GoodUnited, we work with nonprofit organizations to raise their relationships with supporters through Facebook Challenges. While doing so, we’ve seen firsthand the importance of creating unique, engaging experiences for online supporters to maintain relationships in the long run. Because of that, we’ve assembled this guide to online fundraising. In it, you’ll explore the following:
- Overview of Online Fundraising
- 20+ Online Fundraising Ideas for Your Nonprofit
- How To Optimize Your Nonprofit’s Online Fundraising
Online fundraising has unlimited reach and unlimited potential— but, there’s also the risk of donor fatigue if you don’t keep your efforts unique and interesting. So, let’s start with an overview of online fundraising before examining 20+ ideas to make your calendar pop.
Overview of Online Fundraising
Online fundraising describes any donation or gift-raising efforts a nonprofit conducts through the internet.
Fundraising online has a variety of benefits for nonprofits. Supporters can give at any time and from any place— meaning these efforts have unrestricted reach and access. For nonprofits, this can drastically increase the number of gifts that come in from any single campaign.
Plus, there are now innovative ways to understand, inspire, and grow relationships with supporters directly through online fundraisers. This means that online fundraising can be a great tool to connect with the next generation of supporters and build relationships for the long run.
But, before we dive into how your organization can do exactly that, let’s walk through how you can conduct an online fundraiser more generally.
How do online fundraisers work?
There are a few steps to conducting an online fundraiser:
- Choose an online fundraising platform. You’ll need to choose a platform that can conduct the specific type of fundraiser you want to host. Further, it needs to be easy for supporters to navigate and be trustworthy as far as handling private financial data.
- Plan your fundraiser. This is where you’ll set the parameters for the event. When will it take place, and what will your fundraising goals be? How will you raise funds using internet tools?
- Market the fundraiser. A multichannel marketing strategy that incorporates both online and offline efforts is key to spread the word about your online fundraiser. These communications should be encouraging, excitement-building, and educational for those who may not have participated in an online fundraiser before.
- Raise and receive funds. This is when the fundraiser itself is actually taking place. Remember that while you’re not interacting with these supporters in person, you should still be actively communicating with supporters for the duration to maintain momentum!
- Thank donors and participants. After the fundraiser ends, aim to contact and thank each and every donor and participant in the effort. They should feel the same gratitude as they would with an in-person experience and understand their importance in your organization’s mission.
Depending on the platform and type of fundraiser you choose to host, these steps may differ slightly. However, the general structure will stay the same!
What is the best online fundraising site?
There are a variety of platforms through which to conduct online fundraising. Peer-to-peer platforms, crowdfunding websites, online donation form providers, and social media networks are all channels that your organization can use to conduct online fundraising. How can your nonprofit choose between the many options available?
At GoodUnited, we’ve found that the single best platform to conduct your nonprofit’s online fundraising efforts is Facebook due to its expansive functionality and benefits tailored to the needs of nonprofits. On Facebook, you can host Challenges and maintain an ongoing donation page. Additionally, you can conduct outreach activities to market your campaigns directly on the platform.
More and more nonprofits are discovering the power of using Facebook fundraising as a primary channel for raising donations online. This is because of benefits such as:
- Facebook is a familiar platform for supporters to use. While you could use an unfamiliar third-party fundraising platform to conduct your online fundraising, supporters may avoid participating due to a lack of trust or awareness of how to do so. At the same time, many of your supporters likely have Facebook accounts and use the platform regularly. The social network comes with a significantly smaller learning curve.
- It’s inherently social. Your supporters’ connections with friends, family members, and acquaintances are already built-in. Supporters can share fundraisers that they support immediately with their extended networks, rather than sending a disparate link to a crowded inbox or busy text thread. And, for online fundraisers that involve a prolonged time period (such as a Facebook Challenge), you can use Facebook groups to create a digital community.
- There are no processing fees. Most online fundraising sites deduct processing fees from each donation, ranging from as low as 1% to as high as 6%. However, Facebook has waived all processing fees for nonprofit donations through the platform. On another platform, a $100 donation could actually only result in $94 in funding— on Facebook, you receive the full $100 gift.
- It handles the issuance of donation receipts. Facebook automatically sends every donor a donation receipt containing all information that they would need to receive a tax deduction. This removes some of the administrative burden from your team.
But, what does holding a fundraiser on Facebook look like for your nonprofit? Let’s begin our list of online fundraising ideas with a few social media ideas that you can use Facebook to execute.
20+ Online Fundraising Ideas for Your Nonprofit
Social Media Fundraising Ideas
A Facebook Challenge involves asking your supporters to complete a task— one they wouldn’t do on a normal day— and having them raise funds in support of their effort. Popular examples include a month-long shaving boycott, removing meat from their diet on Mondays, or even volunteering a specific number of hours.
Facebook Challenges are time-bound efforts, meaning that participants complete the task for a week, month, or longer while raising funds. During a Challenge, participants are added to a corresponding Facebook group in which they can experience digital community with other participants and build a strong bond with your nonprofit and cause.
The steps of hosting a Challenge are as follows:
- Choose a Challenge task.
- Create a Facebook group for participants.
- Use Facebook ads to spread the word about the opportunity.
- Comment a personalized thank-you note on each fundraiser that's created by participants.
- Engage with participants within the Facebook group.
Bonus! This can be a large task for nonprofits to tackle, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of Challenge participants. GoodUnited offers a turnkey social fundraising solution to help. Contact us today to learn more.
Facebook Live Fundraisers
Facebook Live, the platform’s livestreaming tool, can now be used to solicit donations as well.
To host a Facebook Live fundraiser, you’ll need to choose entertainment that will appeal to your audience. Popular examples include a comedy show, concert, tour of your facilities, or even a workshop series with an expert chef or artist.
During the event itself, the performer should make live donation appeals and discuss the impact that gifts can have on your mission. Beyond that, however, you can host the event in a closed Facebook group and charge a small admission fee for access to the virtual event itself.
Facebook Birthday Fundraisers
Facebook birthday fundraisers emerged in 2017 and since then have raised billions on behalf of nonprofit organizations. Essentially, these fundraisers allow users to “donate” their birthday to your cause, raising donations for your organization rather than receiving birthday gifts.
For you, the goal should be to encourage users to donate their special day and choose your organization as the beneficiary. While Facebook sends a prompt to users two weeks before their birthday, encouraging them to host a fundraiser on that day, there are steps you can take as well.
For example, you can share the opportunity with supporters far and wide and clearly tell them that you’re participating in Facebook fundraising. You can draw on the power of targeted ads to send advertisements to known supporters of your organization who have birthdays on the horizon. Through these, you can encourage them to consider your nonprofit when creating a birthday fundraiser.
Facebook Fundraising Groups
In recent years, Facebook has started to prioritize groups in its algorithm. This essentially means that your supporters are more likely to see a post made within a group float across their timeline than one made on an individual profile.
There are a few ways you can make the most of this development for online fundraising. For example, you can create a group and invite users that have conducted fundraisers on your behalf to join, or create a group for all users completing a specific challenge— like an extended walk-a-thon challenge.
From there, group participants can contribute to one another’s campaigns, network, share tips to fundraise effectively, and bond over their shared interest in your organization. You can moderate the information shared to ensure it’s in line with your organization’s values and use the groups as a tool to connect with social supporters and raise your relationships with them.
Peer-to-peer fundraising describes a process where your supporters connect with their friends, family members, and extended networks to raise funds on behalf of your nonprofit. This process is made especially easy when using Facebook’s fundraising tools. Through the platform, your supporters can create a fundraiser, share it with their already-connected network of friends, and collect donated funds. Plus, you can pair it with a great virtual peer-to-peer fundraising idea to add an extra layer of excitement!
Bonus! GoodUnited works with large nonprofits to take their Facebook-based peer-to-peer fundraisers to the next level. To learn more, check out our peer-to-peer fundraising services here.
Pledge fundraising is similar to peer-to-peer fundraising in that fundraiser participants solicit donations from their friends, family members, and extended networks. However, the biggest difference is that donations aren’t collected immediately but rather after a specific challenge is completed successfully.
A common pledge fundraising example is a walk-a-thon. In this scenario, participants would raise pledged funds corresponding to their level of participation in the walk-a-thon event itself— so example, a donor might pledge $5 for every half-mile the participant walks. During the event, you encourage participants to go the distance and watch the donations rise!
Flash Fundraiser/Giving Day
A flash fundraiser or giving day is a 24-hour push to raise as many funds as possible. Essentially, you pick a day and ask supporters to make Facebook fundraisers on your behalf within a 24-hour fundraising window. Within that time period, these users share their fundraiser as much as possible to push the funds raised above and beyond their goal amount.
While it’s only one concentrated day of giving, effective planning is key to hosting this fundraiser successfully. You need a strong multichannel marketing strategy— so on social networks, in your email outreach, and even in direct mailings— to ensure as many supporters as possible participate. Further, you’ll want to share tips to help your one-day fundraisers do their best, such as making the first gift and sharing the fundraiser regularly with updates.
Social Media Takeover
A social media takeover draws on the virality of influential supporters in your nonprofit’s orbit. Does your organization have any celebrities, local icons, or otherwise influential supporters? Ask them to join in on the fun and raise gifts for your organization!
Ask them to “take over” your organization’s social media accounts for 24 hours, sharing whatever content they please (given that it remains on-brand for your organization’s mission). They should share posts, livestream, and interact directly with your supporters on the platforms to discuss why they are personally invested in your cause. Throughout the day, make live donation appeals and encourage viewers to give to your organization alongside the influencer. You could even set a goal amount for the influencer to raise within their 24 hours, and have them count down to the goal!
Ambassador fundraising describes the process of appointing specific individuals within your supporter base (ambassadors) to spread the word about your organization and raise funds.
This type of online fundraising is especially impactful when it’s backed by strong social media followings. Look within your supporter base to discover influential individuals with many friends/followers. Then, ask them to boost your digital fundraising campaigns to their full following, and consider sending branded merch to truly solidify their support.
Additional Online Fundraiser Ideas
Matching Gift Drive
Matching gift programs are a type of corporate philanthropy in which an employer makes a donation to a nonprofit matching that made by their employee. These matches are often on a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes they even reach 2:1 or 3:1— meaning your organization gets at least twice the gift you thought, and even up to four gifts in one.
The biggest obstacle to receiving a matching gift is that employees are unaware when these programs exist. Consider investing in a matching gift tool, such as an embedded matching gift database on your online giving page, to empower donors to search their eligibility. Another option is partnering with a business to match all gifts made to your nonprofit within a certain time period— such as all Facebook fundraising gifts made within a 1-week period.
Crowdfunding is similar to peer-to-peer fundraising, in that it involves your supporters sharing an online fundraiser with their networks and asking them to donate to it. However, rather than donating to the supporter’s personal fundraiser and through it, your nonprofit— donors give directly to the baseline fundraiser itself.
The excitement of a crowdfunding campaign is that donors can watch the total donations rise in real-time. Then, you can hold a celebration— even if virtual— to celebrate reaching the fundraising goal!
Product fundraising involves creating a product and selling it to donors for a small profit. This is most often branded merchandise, such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, water bottles, stickers, and more. However, having your supporters craft a design and vote on their favorite can be incredibly motivating as well!
While you can work with a wholesale merchandiser, we recommend working with a merchandiser that specializes in nonprofit products. These partners can often produce your products at a lower price, allowing your fundraiser to have greater donation profit margins.
A text-to-give campaign involves your supporters texting a designated phrase to a specified phone number and giving through their mobile devices. There are two crucial aspects of this: a designated text-to-give phone number and word or phrase associated with your campaign.
You then share the phone number and phrase with your supporters in a multichannel campaign and encourage them to give through the channel. When supporters text the number, they receive a link to your mobile-optimized donation form to complete the transaction!
Amazon Smile is a program run by global online retailer, Amazon. Through this program, supporters can choose to have 0.5% of the money they spend on eligible purchases to the nonprofit organization of their choice. To date, Amazon Smile has resulted in $237 million in donations to charities.
The biggest challenge to receiving the benefits of Amazon Smile is that your supporters may simply not be aware that this opportunity exists. Throughout the year, share educational information about this program with your supporters and invite them to opt-in if they’re Amazon users!
A wishlist drive is ideal for a nonprofit seeking in-kind donations, such as a national animal shelter seeking dog food and beds or an educational nonprofit crowdsourcing children’s books. With this type of fundraiser, you create a digital wishlist on a popular online shopping website such as Amazon or Target.
Then, you share this wishlist with supporters through a multichannel marketing strategy and ask them to purchase items from your list. These purchased gifts are then shipped to your nonprofit rather than the supporter. This can be an incredibly effective gift-raising tool as donors appreciate seeing a tangible impact, a gift, associated with their donation.
Online Donation Form
An online donation form is the cornerstone of online fundraising, and it’s crucial that all nonprofits have one on their website to collect donations from supporters regardless of the time or location.
However, don’t simply link to a questionable third-party payment site from your main website and call it a day. We recommend setting up a dedicated online donation page with an embedded donation form and including call-to-action links across your site that point to it. Then, design your form in a streamlined manner— so, only include form fields for information that you need to know and ensure there is alternative text in fields for users that use screen readers.
Virtual Run, Walk, Ride
The run/walk/ride fundraiser is a popular peer-to-peer fundraiser that has traditionally been held through in-person means. Prior to the event, participants raise peer donations from their networks in support of their participation. Then, during the event, all of the participants gather together to exercise in their preferred method, and the final donation tally is revealed.
This fundraiser can be conducted through fully online means by inviting participants to exercise independently from one another. So, on a designated time and date, each participant runs, walks, or rides the challenge and reports back on their success. You can even create a hashtag or Facebook group to empower participants to connect with one another as they would during an in-person event.
A fitness challenge is similar to a Facebook challenge, except it’s specifically designed to test your supporters’ health. The steps are fairly straightforward— you simply outline the parameters of the challenge, market the opportunity, and ask participants to raise pledged funds from their friends and family members in support of the effort. Some examples include:
- Walking 10k steps each day.
- Doing a specified number of push-ups, sit-ups, squats, etc. each day.
- Removing one unhealthy item from their diets, such as soda or candy.
- Setting aside time to meditate each morning and journal about their thoughts.
The list can go on! These challenges are often held over a specified time period, such as two weeks or a month. The supporter checks in to report their progress each day, and if they complete the challenge, the pledged funds are donated to your organization!
If there’s anything the challenges of 2020 taught us, it’s that most fundraising events can be pivoted to online formats. Rather than canceling your annual fundraising events, utilize live streaming software, online fundraising software, and Facebook groups to ensure the show can go on (almost) as planned.
It’s fairly simple: you create a closed Facebook group, charge a small donation fee for admission, and livestream your event experience directly in the group. Whether a virtual talent show, comedy show, or workshop— the event is sure to be a hit.
Bonus! There are a wide variety of virtual events that can add interest to your upcoming fundraising calendar. Check out our full list of virtual fundraising event ideas for inspiration.
eCards are a way for supporters to “tell a friend” about the opportunity to support your organization. Essentially, your supporter would:
- Navigate to your website.
- Select the eCard they would like to send to their loved one.
- Customize the message shared on the card.
- Enter any required information, such as the email address of the recipient.
Then, the card is sent! While eCards can simply be an outreach tool (“Check out this cool organization!”), they can also be used as a fundraising tool, sending users directly to your online donation form.
To run a successful eCard campaign, you’ll need to design cards with eye-catching imagery and write a “fixed” message that will be shown alongside the supporter’s custom messaging. This gives you some control over how you wish recipients to engage with your organization after viewing the card.
A raffle is a game-of-chance type of fundraising event, in which supporters purchase tickets to enroll in your drawing, hoping to win a coveted prize.
To host a successful online raffle, you’ll first need to source a stellar raffle prize. Depending on the scope of your fundraiser, this could range from a movie-night gift basket to a week-long stay in a luxury resort. Regardless, bonus points for raffle prizes that are donated rather than your team having to purchase them!
From there, you market the opportunity and sell tickets. We recommend creating a set ticket price and allowing supporters to purchase as many as they choose to increase their chances of winning. At the end of the fundraiser, host a livestream where you draw a winner and ship the items to them!
How To Optimize Your Nonprofit’s Online Fundraising
When it comes down to it, successful online fundraising relies on much more than a single donation, a Facebook post, messenger bots, and dashboards. To make the most of your online fundraising efforts, you need to build a unique, one-to-one relationship with each and every supporter so they’ll stick around for the long run.
- Understanding your mission, who your online supporters are, and why they care to support you.
- Inspiring those supporters with unique online experiences, so they’ll want to give their time, attention, and money to your organization going forward.
- Growing relationships with those supporters for the long term.
This is one of the biggest complaints about online fundraising— that nonprofits are unable to do the above when only interacting through impersonal technology. However, that’s where GoodUnited steps in.
GoodUnited offers the only turnkey social fundraising solution to help your nonprofit build intimacy with supporters at scale and transform how individuals are willing to give their time, attention, networks, and money.
Our conversational messaging services include:
- Automated thank-you messages sent to 100% of users that conduct Facebook fundraisers on your behalf.
- Automated custom messaging sequences, tailored to encourage supporters, provide tips, collect information, and continue stewarding them toward long-term relationships.
- Facebook fundraising metrics compiled into an intuitive and actionable dashboard.
With GoodUnited, you can create experiences and raise your relationships with supporters at scale. To learn more, contact the GoodUnited team today.
To continue exploring online fundraising, check out the following additional resources:
- Virtual Fundraising Events: 20+ Ideas for Nonprofits. Are you building your fundraising calendar for 2021? Consider including these virtual fundraising event ideas.
- 20+ Best Virtual Fundraising Ideas for 2021 & Beyond. Are you seeking more engaging virtual fundraising ideas? Check out this list for 20 additional ideas to shake up your planning.
- Virtual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: 6 Best Practices. Virtual peer-to-peer fundraising requires much more than effective technology. Check out the six best practices that can elevate your campaigns.