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    The Business of Giving: Unusual Fundraising Ideas that Might Just Work

    By Kayleigh Alexandra

    Image source: pexels


    Anyone involved in running a nonprofit organization will understand that one of the greatest challenges they face is raising money. Simply asking people to cut you another check won’t suffice – just like negotiating a business deal, there are many ways to engage your donors without resorting to endless pleas. It’s all about playing the long game.


    Entrepreneurs form long-term partnerships with investors, and you can do the same when it comes to fundraising for your nonprofit. Here are six unusual fundraising ideas that are surefire ways of compelling more people to donate.

    Related: 5 Tips to Plan Your Best Holiday Campaign



    The advent of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made it possible for nonprofit organizations to put themselves out there and attract people with a vested interest in their work. You can set up a page that introduces who you are, what you’re doing, and include pictures and examples of your campaign’s achievements so far.

    Fundraising has become increasingly digitized, which makes crowdfunding an effective way for charities to have their causes funded by thousands of potential donors online. All you need is a well put-together campaign page. It’s not always easy, and it can be hard to stand out. Here are some useful tips to help you meet your target.

    Another great option is to use a t-shirt crowdfunding campaign, which lets you reward donors with custom t-shirts – the perfect way to attract new donors and to offer them something in return.

    Monthly giving clubs

    Small, regular donations are far more useful to nonprofits from a planning perspective, allowing you to budget and forecast. Make it your mission to create easy opportunities for donors to set up recurring donations.

    You might consider starting a monthly giving program, through which donors can register and donate a small, manageable amount via Direct Debit each month. If you already have a charity website, this should be fairly easy to implement, depending on your CMS.

    When you set up your monthly giving program, be sure to promote it extensively through social media to help you reach more potential supporters. You might consider adding the option to donate at a set number of intervals throughout the year, in addition to the monthly option.

    The way to make the most of monthly giving is to create a sense of community around the donation — almost like a membership to an exclusive club. Give members access to members-only content that helps create an ongoing relationship between them and your nonprofit brand.


    Google Grants

    Google provides a number of tools for charities and nonprofit organizations to make use of, giving you the opportunity to raise your profile to attract new donors and volunteers for free.

    Google Grants works in the same way as Google AdWords, providing up to $10,000 of free online advertising every month. It also gives you access to an expanded YouTube channel, Google Apps software, and the premium Google Earth app – all free of cost.

    Grantees must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for Google Ad Grants, which includes holding a valid charity status, having a website with plenty of related content, and agreeing to Google’s rules regarding nondiscrimination. You must also be based in a qualifying country.



    Setting up an online store can be a simple and inexpensive way to raise more money for your nonprofit. You might choose to sell branded merchandise, like Amnesty International does. If your nonprofit rescues and cares for animals, you could set up an adoption scheme, like WWF. This is another great way to secure small, regular donations.

    If you work in developing countries, employing local people to create custom crafts that can be sold online is another great way to incorporate e-commerce into your funding strategy. Take a look at Ocean Sole: a UK company that sells art made from recycled flip flops that wash up on the east coast of Africa. You could even take this further and sell at local fairs and events.

    Don’t have room to store boxes of merchandise? Dropshipping and print on demand are two viable options that are easy to set up, meaning you handle none of the fulfilment.


    Pay to work schemes

    Some people might prefer to get actively involved in helping your organization, rather than simply donating money online. And we could all use more volunteers. So why not hold a ‘pay to work’ event that brings fundraising and volunteering together?

    Consider holding a volunteer day where you ask participants to donate in return for taking part in the day; a little a reverse salary. You can get creative with the tasks and roles assigned to people in the group. This is ideal for tasks that require a large group of volunteers, perhaps building, painting, or running a demonstration. Make it fun and satisfying – you want everyone to have a good time and leave with a sense of accomplishment.


    Certified mailing campaigns

    Got some exciting news to share with your audience? A certified mailing campaign can be an excellent way to break through the humdrum of your supporters’ inboxes. This is for those who’ve donated to your cause before, and are likely to do so again. However, it still requires some careful planning.

    These campaigns happen in stages: the first email simply prepares them for some ‘big news’ and lets them know to keep an eye out. This helps to build some anticipation. After a day or so, send them a letter spilling the news and letting them know why you’re seeking donations. Be sure to include a return envelope. Since they’re expecting to hear from you, chances are higher that they will read what you have to say.

    If you have a substantial email list of previous donors, this can be one of the most effective ways to generate repeat donations.


    These are just some of the unusual fundraising techniques you can use to promote your nonprofit and generate exposure. Not every idea will be a perfect fit for your organization, so choose carefully and assess which will bring maximum returns for your cause.


    What unusual fundraising ideas have you tried? 



    About the Author

    Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site that donates all of its web revenue to charities supporting startups, entrepreneurs, and other worthy causes. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.