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Fundraising strategies

How to start a fundraiser in only 6 steps

Learn how to start a fundraising campaign that cuts through the noise and brings in major dough for your cause.

Rachel Ayotte
December 29, 2023
September 2, 2020
Nerd Mr Butter

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At a glance, the process of creating, promoting, and collecting funds for a campaign may seem difficult. But as we’ve seen with over 50K organizations creating fundraising campaigns on Givebutter, anyone can learn how fundraisers work and set up a successful campaign in just six simple steps.

We’ll show you exactly what you need to know to start a fundraiser that succeeds—no matter what kind of campaign you’re hoping to launch.

1. Set a clear, realistic fundraising goal 🏆

The first step in learning how to set up a fundraiser is to define your goal. One of the best ways to approach this is by creating a SMART goal. 

That means your goal should be:

  • Specific 💡 Consider exactly what your goal might accomplish. Is your goal to bring in 20 new recurring donors? Reach a specific monetary goal, like $20,000, to fund programs? Raise a specific amount of money to pay for operating expenses?
  • Measurable 📏 Set tangible, numerical targets that allow you to track your progress. If your goal is to raise money to fund programs, specify how many books, computers, or scholarships you aim to fund.
  • Achievable 💪 Take a realistic look at your resources and budget. Are your goals possible within your constraints?
  • Relevant 💛 Consider if your goals align with your organization’s mission. How will your event help raise awareness?
  • Time-bound 🕜 Create deadlines for when you’ll achieve these milestones, and be specific! Will it take you two weeks or two months? 

Here’s a quick example of a SMART fundraising goal:

Help Rescue Dawgs raise $4,000 by August 15 to support our free instructional classes, like “Responsible Pet Care” and “So, You Think You’re Ready for a Dog or Cat?” 

2. Come up with a campaign idea 💰

You need a campaign idea that will hook your target audience and build momentum. Luckily, there’s an endless number of ways to raise money effectively. 

Let’s dive into some of the most popular options:

  • Fundraising events 🥳 Introduce a little friendly competition with an athletic event, or mix-and-match ideas, like a virtual bake sale and cookbook raffle. You may even consider adding a raffle or silent auction to your event!
  • Crowdfunding campaign 👥 One of the best ways to raise money quickly is by running a crowdfunding campaign on social media (remember the ALS ice bucket challenge?). 
  • Matching gift campaign 💸 Get a donor, institution, or local business to match your supporters’ gifts. A donation-matching campaign lets you raise funds twice as fast without using up extra resources. On average, an estimated $2.86 billion is donated through matching gifts each year.
  • Team fundraising 🤝 Ask community members, family members, and coworkers to fundraise on behalf of your cause through a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign—a type of fundraiser that helped America’s top 30 peer-to-peer fundraising programs raise $1.05 billion in 2022.
  • Business philanthropy 🧑‍💼 Companies, large and small, run programs to support and encourage charitable giving. For example, if you’re with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Amazon will donate 0.5% of your supporter’s product purchases to your group. 

3. Assemble your team 👋

Running a successful fundraiser requires teamwork, so before you jump into hosting a fundraiser, be sure to cultivate a passionate and trustworthy team by:

  • Identifying necessary roles 🧑‍💻 Define the specific roles that are essential for running your fundraiser, like a fundraising coordinator and marketing/communications specialist.
  • Defining responsibilities ✅ Clearly outline the responsibilities and expectations for each role so that every team member understands their contribution to the fundraiser. 
  • Recruiting 👋 if necessary, bring in additional help like board members, volunteers, or even new staff. 

4. Choose your tools ⚒️

Creating a fundraiser is only possible with the right tools and platform. When assessing which is right for you, consider a tool that offers:

  • Mobile-friendly donation forms 💰Contributing to your fundraiser should be as simple and easy as possible. Be sure to choose a platform that offers custom donation forms that accept a variety of modern payment methods like Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal so you can collect donations with ease. 
  • Event management tools 🎊 Whether your nonprofit organization is looking to host a P2P campaign or run an auction, your software should help you from beginning to end with event ticketing tools, livestreaming features, and more.
  • Donor management 💸 Great fundraising requires a deep understanding of donors. Find a platform with a built-in nonprofit CRM (or a CRM integration), so your organization can automatically keep track of your donors’ behavior for future initiatives.
  • Marketing and engagement 💌 Use a platform that offers tons of donor engagement tools like social sharing, texting, mass emailing, and more. Plus, be sure to use a platform that offers automatic receipts for every donation, too. 

We recommend making Givebutter your fundraising hub. With a robust suite of fundraising features, donor management tools, and seamless donor communications, Givebutter has everything you need to host events, engage supporters, and exceed your fundraising goals—all at no cost to you.

Welcome to easy, free, and fun fundraising

5. Spread the word 📣

For many nonprofits, promotion is one of the biggest pieces of planning. After all, if people don’t hear about your cause, they can’t donate or attend. 

The good news is that using the right fundraising platform allows your organization to easily harness the power of all the different promotional channels like:

  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Email
  • SMS text
  • Direct mail

Once you determine which channels you’ll use, and plan how often you’ll send these messages out, it’s time to start crafting your donation appeal

When doing so, remember to:

  • Be consistent 📝 No matter what channel(s) you choose, be sure that your call to action is the same across mediums. For instance, include a mobile-friendly donate button that says, “Give $1, save a life” that links to a fundraising page.
  • Make it clear 🧐 Be specific with donation suggestions like “donating $25 will pay for one child’s lunches for a week.”
  • Be creative 🎨 A powerful video, silly gimmick, funny name, or urgent deadline could be the factor that gets people buying tickets, donating, and inviting others to participate.

6. Follow up (and celebrate) with everyone 🎉

This is the moment when you answer, “What did we accomplish?”

Re-group with your fundraising team to assess your success by answering questions like:

  • Did you meet or exceed your goal?
  • Did you fall a little short? 
  • Where could we improve?
  • Where do we exceed?

Regardless of whether the campaign met your goals, don’t forget to always say thank you, too—on social media, in newsletters, or through direct phone calls.

Launch a free fundraiser with Givebutter 

Learning how to start a charity fundraiser, or launching one, doesn't have to be stressful or difficult. Givebutter—a free, all-in-one solution designed specifically for nonprofits—helps you accomplish all of your fundraising efforts and takes the headache out of fundraiser planning. 

With custom donation forms, built-in marketing and engagement tools, and a robust CRM, Givebutter is the most-loved fundraising platform in the industry. 

Sign up for a free Givebutter account today to get your fundraiser off on the right start.

Need some extra help? Check out these free resources:

Get started
Set up your peer-to-peer fundraiser for free in just a few minutes →

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