Stuck in the same-old, same-old fundraising rut? Before you hit “send” on yet another end-of-year email pitch for cash (or end-of-fiscal-year, or end-of-quarter, or…), allow yourself to imagine what a more creative fundraising strategy might look like.
It might look a lot like the ideas below. Perhaps it’ll combine a few — the sky’s the limit. Done right, it’ll be something you can be proud of, and something that enables your organization to break free from the neverending cycle of just-in-time fundraising.
1. A “Street Festival”
Positive social interactions tend to put people in a generous mood. Foster this with your very own street festival-style event that showcases goods and services from donor businesses and draws your community together in the spirit of fun.
Your festival should be audience-appropriate. If you’re raising money for a school group, you’ll want it to be kid-friendly and held at a reasonable hour. If you’re centering a particular cause or department within your organization, align the event’s theme accordingly.
And above all else: Make it a good time!
2. A Bake Sale That’s Anything But Average
Let’s be brutally honest. Your home-baked cookies, brownies, or bars are good, but not that good. The best baker in your organization is great, but not that great.
Putting on a bake sale with a real “wow” factor requires something more. As in, professionally-baked goods.
And where would you get those, you ask? Simple: Local bakeries or professional bakers (pastry chefs, commercial foodservice workers, and so on) who support your cause. If your town is big enough to have great eateries, it’s big enough to have at least a few professional ovenmasters willing to cook up a storm for your bake sale.
3. Custom Merch From Your Organization or Donor Businesses
And if you can’t find anyone to bake for you, or you’re really sensitive to your supporters’ food allergies? (Good on you, by the way.)
Then create and sell eye-catching custom merchandise for your organization: home decor, apparel, and the “usual suspects” like calendars and annual planners. Or enlist local businesses to create their own custom merch featuring their name and logo alongside yours.
Either way, the proceeds go to a good cause, and you get some (nearly) free publicity.
4. Lunch With ____
You might not land Warren Buffett or your home state’s junior senator for the grand prize — though never say never! — but you can probably find a few prominent supporters willing to donate their time. You’d be surprised how much folks are willing to pay to sit across from someone they respect for an hour.
A variation on this is “A Full Day With ___.” You’ll find fewer external takers for this, and for various reasons it may not even be advisable to have your supporters shadow someone at their job (regardless of their willingness to allow it). But you can offer up yourself or someone else at your organization, no problem.
5. Free Professional Services From Org Members or Supporters
Donated goods, donated time — why not donated services? Maybe you have a supportive accountant willing to prepare 10 tax returns for free, or a lawyer willing to do a few hours of pro bono work, or a web developer willing to build a few personal websites in their spare time. Think outside the box; your supporters certainly will.
6. Direct Sponsorships
Many charities and NGOs base their business models on direct sponsorships of individuals, families, small firms, educational institutions, and on and on. We all know that 50 cents a day can feed a family of four, or whatever the pitch may be. Put your own organization’s spin on this concept, making sure to humanize the people and/or institutions you’re offering up for sponsorship.
7. A Crowdfunding Campaign With Prizes Donors Actually Want
Crowdfunding is no longer creative because everyone does it, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work as intended. At least, when it’s done creatively and with genuine intent to reward supporters rather than simply take their money. Take some time to think up prizes your supporters will actually want, drawing as you wish on the ideas above.
Creative Fundraising Ideas Stand Out
It’s very easy to phone in a fundraising campaign. The results won’t lie.
So go the extra mile with an engaging, unusual campaign that makes your donors — past, current, and hopefully future — sit up and take notice. Make it about the experience of giving (and being rewarded), rather than the hollow clink of coins in the can, and your supporters will respond accordingly.