Fundraising Ideas

It can be said that the life blood of any nonprofit is it’s ability to raise funds! Fundraising is part art and part science and you have to be able to find the right combination within your board, clients you serve and within the community you serve, in order to make it work. There is no one size fits all solution.

How One Donor Spends $50,000 Annually With Planned Gifts Of Over $1 Million

Be Cautious! Don’t Prostitute Your Good Nonprofit Name

A good fundraising event should provide more than an opportunity to just raise funds!
In fact, if money is all you raise, your campaign may not be as successful as you think it is in the long term.
Despite what some may tell you, there is no one guaranteed sure-fire method of raising funds for your nonprofit. No one model or idea is perfect for all occasions, and what works in your city or town may flop in another. The following information will help you focus your energies in the right direction to get the best results!



Reality Check: A recent survey showed that the average amount of time volunteers spent doing board work was only eleven (11) hours in a year. Staff needs to make sure every hour counts!

If your organization does not have enough money to carry out your mission, the ultimate fault falls on the board’s shoulders! Let me assure the reader that I am in full agreement with most that fundraising should be a joint responsibility by both board and staff. However, in most cases I find boards often try to pass off the responsibility of fundraising to only a select few board members or to the staff itself. Most boards and people in general feel very uncomfortable when talking about fundraising. Some boards want to ignore the fact of needing money altogether and want the staff to find money or just apply for grants to solve the problem and not bother the board.

Grant monies are and always should be seen as temporary sources of funding, understanding that those funds may go away at any time. Likewise, nonprofits should not get in the game that is sometimes played by chasing after the grant. Some organizations have taken a dangerous path that leads to self-destruction. These organizations lose all focus on their current mission and allow themselves to chase grants and mold themselves into whatever the specific grant calls for in order to get funding.

Likewise, private foundations are also becoming very restrictive and often times ask specific questions in their grant application as to what percentage of the board is giving and/or what amount of dollars both the board and community give to the current program – trying to weed out organizations that are not serious but just looking for an easy way to get funding.

Overall, fundraising is a major component of what a board’s role is all about. How well an organization is funded determines how extensive their programs can be for their community.

While there are countless ways to raise money these are some of the basic methods:

Annual Campaigns to raise money for operating expenses – Many times this takes the form of a “friends of” program.

Special Events to raise monies for annual operating expenses – These events are often thought of in the community as the organization’s “signature fundraiser.”

Capital Campaigns to raise money for new brick and mortar projects or to replace or upgrade existing facilities.

Planned Giving to help secure the organization’s future.

More and more nonprofits are starting to understand the importance of starting an endowment fund, either their own or through a local community foundation. Starting a fund requires a big commitment of belief by both the board and staff of a nonprofit. A commitment like this, in many cases, is so hard to get because it requires individuals to think first beyond themselves and secondly to think beyond today or even tomorrow and into the future. Establishing an endowment account is taking an active role in securing your nonprofit’s own future! There will always be nay sayers in any organization that will tout the fact, which is true in almost every nonprofit: “We need the money now.” Another common statement made, which mostly comes from fear of making a mistake, is one that says: “We can’t afford to start an endowment account now, let’s wait until later.”

Direct Marketing – In most cases all of these are ways to reach large numbers of people and ask for relatively small donations from each.

  • Direct Mail (newsletters and/or individual solicitation letters)
  • Telephone Campaigns (telemarketing)
  • Paid Advertising (newspaper, radio, TV.)
  • Free Public Service Announcements (PSAs) in newspapers, magazines, radio, TV.
  • Telethons and Other Television Direct Response
  • Door-to-Door

Major Individual Donors – This category includes:

  • One-On-One Meetings with Individuals
  • Planned Giving — Wills and Bequests
  • Some Small Group Meetings

The following should help you identify several possible sources of funding for your organization:

  • Federal Monies
  • Municipal, County, Regional, including Boards of Education, Public Health, Parks and Recreation
  • Small and Large Businesses
  • Corporate Foundations
  • Private Foundations
  • Community Foundations
  • Service Clubs
  • United Way (as regular funders or for special grants)
  • Religious Groups
  • Employee Funds ( Target, Sams, Wal-Mart)
  • Professional Groups (Home Builders Association, Business Women’s Association)
  • Other Nonprofits

All of the above groups have certain guidelines you must follow in order to receive funding. It is your responsibility as an organization to be organized and be specific as to what you want when you ask. A brief plan with budgets and other supporting documentation goes a long way in opening the doors and minds of the people you wish to influence.

Think about money in many different ways:

Time Commitment
Credit Card Donations
In-Kind Donations of Goods and Services
Post-Dated Donations
Monthly Electronic Fund Transfers
Payroll Deduction Plans
Life Insurance
Endowment Funds

It is also important to think about what will bring about good feelings that will open doors for tomorrow:

Contact with People
Increased Commitment
Good Community Relations
Partnership with other Nonprofits

Below are a few helpful reasons you should understand why board members and your donors give:

They believe in the cause, peer pressure, good for business, to give back for services received, change the world, fun – to come to an event, status and ego, recognition, feels good, to get – as with premiums for giving, tax deduction, build community, guilt, fear, to make a difference.

While there are literally thousands of different ideas to raise money and many include holding certain types of special events or selling some type of product. Unless you receive a contribution outright all the events and sales you do to raise funding boils down to you the organization providing the “donor” a value for the contribution they give you.

While everyone wants to be original in finding their signature fundraiser, you really only get credit for productivity and the ability to raise the dollars versus how original your idea may or may not be. Likewise, don’t get stuck doing an event you have done in the past just because you have always done it! Don’t be afraid to ask other nonprofits what has worked for them and what has not worked. Everyone wins when you share information with one another!

Tried and True Ideas for Special Event Ideas!


Get everything FREE – Get in-kind donations for every possible expense
Build a Mailing List
The Ticket Price Should be Double Your Costs or More

Concentrate on Selling Tickets
Combine Ideas to Add Income (Dinner/Dance, Auction/Special Raffle Prizes)
Put a Price Tag on Everything (Sponsor Tables, Sell Center Pieces)
Take Souvenir Polaroid Photos
Get Sponsors to Help Underwrite Your Events or Parts of Each Event

Other Event Ideas:

The `Stay at Home’ Event
The Quit-a-thon or Slim-a-thon or Anything-a-thon

The Food Fair

Parties and Galas
Educational Events
Fairs & Carnivals
New Years or 4th of July Event
Cook Offs
Haunted Houses
Mystery Cruises
Mystery Dinners
Who-Done-It Murder Parties
Treasure Hunts
Polaroid Scavenger Hunts
Road Races
Sport Tournaments

Val-O-Grams – Singing Valentines

Balloon Farm: Sell and Deliver Balloons for Certain Group

Art Auctions

Plant Sales

Pumpkin Sale/Carving Contest for Halloween

Gift Wrapping Prior To Christmas
Curb Painting

Window Washing

Cleaning Out Rain Gutters

Stadium/Coliseum Clean-Ups

Snow Removal

Contract To Clean Up Construction Sites

Removal of Political Candidates Signs Following Elections

Some Unusual Events:
Cow Pie Bingo
Corn Field Maze
Rubber Duck Race
Shoot for the Stars – get free autographed picture etc. of celebrities and raffle them off
Night at the Races – Video Taped Horse Race
Glow Ball Night Golf Classic
Hole In One Games

Additional Resources:

DoJiggy – Online Fundraising Software
14525 SW Millikan Way
Beaverton, OR 97005-2343
(888) 436-1999

DoJiggy™ provides non-profit and community organizations with web-based software to improve online fundraising and event management. DoJiggy offers registration and fundraising services for golf tournaments, school fundraising events, church fundraisers, charity auctions, non-profit galas, and special events such as walk-a-thons, where individuals and teams collect donations and pledges. DoJiggy also offers online solutions for charity donations, recurring donations, and donor management. DoJiggy has the most affordable software in the non-profit industry and offers 14 day free trials on all fundraising services.

DoJiggy is dedicated to helping non-profits better plan, manage and execute fundraising events. DoJiggy offers their Fundraising Resource Center, and strive to provide the best collection of resources to make your events more successful.

Below are articles by Gail Perry author of Fired Up Fundraising!

Successful Fundraising in Tough TimesWhat smart fundraisers need to be doing now!

No-Ask Fundraising: Six High-Impact Jobs for Board Members – How do we harness our board members’ passion for the cause and channel it into productive fundraising activities? Here are practical, easy ways your board members can open the door, connect their friends to your organization, expand your organization’s social networks, and help you find new friends and donors—without having to solicit.

Four Steps to Take Board Members from Fear of Fundraising to EnthusiasmIf you want to get your board members fully active in fundraising, you need to approach them from a new perspective. You have to change their mind-set about fundraising and redefine it from an entirely new point of view. Board members don’t understand how powerful the act of raising money can be—it’s an effort to make the world a better place.

The Myths and Realities of Board Members and FundraisingDespite what you may have heard, most board members are trained to greatness, not born to it.

Many companies and salesmen trying to get you to believe that they have all the answers and that their products or services are the best. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is so beware!

For many staff and executive directors there is the constant tug of war that occurs between what the volunteer boards responsibility is and the role of paid staff. A healthy view that successful boards take is that fundraising is the main responsibility of the board! Paid staff’s role should be both as a motivator an assistant to the board. Yes, staff does need to help in doing the work, but the board should lead the way. This also includes personal giving – both should give $$ to the organization they serve.

Most executive directors and consultants sometimes shy away from talking about personal giving because it is uncomfortable at best. But let’s just make this crystal clear – you can’t expect others to give to the organization, this includes foundations, unless all board members are giving themselves. Many times however board member will remark that they can’t afford to give as much as others. While this situation is understood, it also brings to mind a story involving a “widow’s mite,” and how important a single small gift of the heart can be to an organization. Lastly, the success of a nonprofit organization has as much to do with the heart and soul of the organization as the bank account balance!

Ashoka’s Citizen Base Initiative encourages organizations to build a broad base of support —what they call the “Citizen Base”—to become financially sustainable, less dependent on traditional grants and foundations. The concept advocates creative ways of using earned income strategies, community volunteers, and strategic partnerships. They’ve collected examples on their website, hold regional competitions, and facilitate training to support organizations that are trying to implement such strategies.

If you need fundraising ideas for charity run/walk events or would like to read reviews about fundraising products and need to know more about how to plan an event.
Or maybe you need to see a sample fundraising letters! If so, visit: Step By Step Fundraising Ideas at:

DNS Associates is a trusted advisor that helps nonprofit organizations raise money, evaluate opportunities, develop strategies, train and motivate staff and volunteers, communicate effectively, and use technology to improve efficiency.

DNS achieves results. Over $700,000,000 has been raised through 100 capital and/or endowment campaigns. Since 1982, DNS has served over 350 organizations in communities of all sizes.

Additional Information:

Fundraising Resources | Minnesota Council of Nonprofits