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How to start a fundraiser online in 4 easy steps

Learn how to start a fundraiser that cuts through the noise and brings in donations for your cause. These four tips will help you prepare for any type of campaign, large or small.

Rachel Mills
September 2, 2020
Nerd Mr Butter

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No matter what cause you’re raising money for, every fundraiser faces the same initial hurdle: getting started. At a glance, the process of creating, promoting, and collecting funds for a campaign may seem intimidating. But as we’ve seen with over 15,000 fundraising campaigns on Givebutter, anyone can set up a successful campaign if they follow four simple steps.

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to start a fundraiser that cuts through the noise and brings in donations for your cause. Whether you plan to host one big annual fundraiser or get a few campaigns rolling at once, these four tips will help you prepare.

How to start a fundraiser: 4 essential steps

Use the steps below to build out your fundraising strategy with your group, nonprofit organization, local business, sports team, or club.

1. Set a clear, realistic fundraising goal

Animation Winning GIF by Disney Pixar

The first step in planning a successful fundraiser is to define your goal. You could aim for a monetary goal, like $12,000 in two months. Maybe you’ll aim to sign up 10 new recurring donors who give $100 per month (which adds up to $12,000 per year).

Or, let’s say one of your driving goals is to raise awareness about homelessness. Set a secondary goal of getting all your donors to share your educational materials with three people. (As a bonus, this will prime your potential donors for your next fundraising effort.)

It’s okay to be ambitious, but make sure your goal is possible based on the number of potential donors you have, as well as your available time and budget. One of the best ways to approach this is by creating a SMART goal. That means your goal should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

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

Help Rescue Dawgs raise $4,000 by August 15 to keep more pets in safe, loving homes and out of crowded animal shelters! Your funds will be used to support our free instructional classes, like “Responsible Pet Care” and “So, You Think You’re Ready for a Dog or Cat?” Our education programs are extremely popular in the fall, so we need to develop more resources and rent extra space to educate the next generation of pet owners!

2. Come up with a campaign idea and messaging

Janet Varney Are You Thinking What Im Thinking GIF by IFC

Now, it’s time to get creative. You need a campaign idea that will hook your target audience and build momentum from there. Luckily, there’s an endless number of ways to raise money effectively, from fundraising events and crowdfunding campaigns to sponsorships and donation-matching. Let’s dive into some of the most popular options:

  • Fundraising events: Sell tickets to raise money. You can introduce a little friendly competition with a family athletic event, or mix and match ideas, like a virtual bake sale and cookbook raffle. (Read our list of quick and easy fundraising ideas or explore 15 virtual fundraising ideas.)
  • Crowdfunding campaign: Ask for online donations and reward your backers with gifts and rewards. Crowdfunding is often used for creative projects and personal fundraisers, like raising money for a loved one’s hospital bills, but it’s a great tool for nonprofits, too. (Don’t forget to read our article on why GoFundMe isn’t the best crowdfunding site anymore.)
  • Matching gift campaign: Get a donor, institution, or business to match your supporters’ gifts. A donation-matching campaign lets you raise funds twice as fast without using up extra resources.
  • Team fundraising: Ask community members, family members, and coworkers to fundraise on behalf of your cause. They’ll create their own personal fundraising pages to drive donations from their social networks.
  • 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. Your supporters simply have to type in your group’s name at checkout.
Apathy is the enemy. People are inundated with requests for their money, time, and attention every second of the day. It’s all too easy for campaigns to fade into the background — so make sure you stand out.

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. So, as you’re choosing a campaign idea, think about the language and imagery you’ll use to boost it up.

3. Build and promote one coordinated campaign

Christmas In Rockefeller 2019 GIF by NBC

Next, you’ll need to spread the word among your supporters, wherever they are. 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. And there are more places and platforms than ever, from websites, social media, and radio to email, phone, and in-person events.

The good news is that, using the right fundraising platform, you can easily harness the power of all the different promotional channels. For example, with Givebutter, you can create your campaign and share it via Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS text, and more in a few clicks. (Plus, there are no platform fees and we enable donors to pay your processing fees, so you keep 100% of every cent you raise.)

Specifically, think about how many messages — emails, page updates, social media posts, texts, etc. — you ultimately want to send out. Plan a rough schedule of posts and have your content ready to go. Have your goal from step one top of mind as you craft each donation appeal.

The most important thing is that your supporters see a consistent message and clear call-to-action wherever they encounter your campaign. For instance, include a mobile-friendly donate button that says, “Give $1, save a life” everywhere you share.

Another pro tip? Try a soft launch of your campaign with a small group of trusted individuals. That way, you can test out your messaging, make sure your donation page works, collect lead gifts, get feedback, and make changes before the big day.

Altogether, these posts and updates should work in tandem to create a huge wave of excitement just as your campaign launches.

4. Follow up (and celebrate) with everyone

Seth Meyers Thank You GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

We’ve nearly covered the basics of starting a fundraiser, but you also need to know how to end a fundraiser properly. This is the moment when you answer, “What did we accomplish?”

Re-group with your donors, attendees, and even the people that said “maybe” to your event but didn’t show up. Did you meet or exceed your goal? Did you fall a little short?  Either way, present the impact of the funds you did receive from your supporters and say thank you. A simple way to do this is to send out a recap email.

Single out accomplishments, success stories, and significant moments, whether in a written post or through images and video. Not only does this provide closure for your campaign supporters and volunteers, but it also shows them the tangible effects of participating — and makes them more likely to support your next fundraising activity.

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