Five Basic 501c3 Fundraising Ideas

When I think of “basic” fundraising, I’m thinking about direct mail, email, online, and telemarketing campaigns. They are the bread and butter of nonprofit fundraising. It’s all part of what I wrote about in “10 Nonprofit Fundraising Best Practices.” 

Given that, what are five basic 501c3 fundraising ideas? Of course, there are many more than five. Search the web and you’ll find hundreds of ideas. Even so, we’ve narrowed that list down to five of our favorites.

Contest Fundraising

Contests are fantastic ways to engage your members and draw further attention to your association. Online photo, video, or caption contests can surface some fantastic content which can then be used to attract new supporters. Plus, your current donors will often discover things about your association that they had either forgotten or just didn’t know about.

Other examples include supporters uploading videos to YouTube that tell why they support your organization or your event; uploading a photo of engaging in an event or organizational activity; and posting updates to social media that support your organization. 

Based on their activities, entrants are entered into a prize drawing. Winners are highlighted, encouraged, and promoted in your community. All this generates engagement and is a superb promotion opportunity. 

Event Fundraising

This is really a broader category of fundraising than contests, although contests are also events. The difference is that events happen just one time and usually in person. As with contests, the possibilities for raising money through events is nearly limitless. Here are just a few options to consider:

  • Dinners, including well-known speakers, can attract donors and get your word out. Plus, your prominent donors can host the dinner at no cost to your organization.
  • Auctions of donated items. Again, your only cost is to run the event.
  • Runs and walks with goals that engage family and friends of the participants are another possibility for engaging your supporters and attracting new ones.

Visibility and desirability of the event are the keys. You should also ask yourself these critical questions: Is your intended audience interested in the event? Will they support it, participate in it, and make donations as a result?

It is crucial to match your organization’s specific needs and identity. Plus, you’ve got to make the event exciting for your prospective donors and supporters. For further insight, see our blog post “How to Attract More People to Your Fundraising Event’s Website.”

Seasonal Fundraising

Seasonal fundraising campaigns add interest that can harmonize with your cause or organization based on special dates or seasons. Plus, year-end giving including #GivingTuesday, can take advantage of the tax deadline that hits everyone at the end of the year. These are great motivators to get people interested in giving and doing it now, rather than later. 

In “Year-End Fundraisers – Make the Most of #GivingTuesday” we wrote extensively about this program which highlights making donations on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The promotional materials are very well done and can be customized to fit your organization, coupled with taking full advantage of all the existing promotion around the day. It’s a superb launching point for your end-of-year fundraising.

As you know, year-end fundraising takes advantage of the end-of-year tax benefits. It’s estimated that full 30%of all donations for the year happen during December, with 10%of annual donations between December 29th and 31st. The average gift size increases by as much as 50% in those last days of the year. 

Apparel Fundraising

Apparel sales can be used to support your organization along with your special events. The apparel serves to promote your organization and the sales can generate a fairly large percentage of revenue for your cause.

You can set up an online store or use a service to run the store for you as well as manufacture and deliver your merchandise. From T-shirts to wrist bands, you can provide branded items that will generate funds, motivate your supporters, and attract others to support your cause. These items can carry your message and provide nifty clothing for your supporters.

The key with this method of fundraising is making sure you’re using the best provider by doing comparative shopping among all the potential vendors. That includes closely examining their merchandise, fully understanding their pricing structure along with the exact amount of funds you should expect, and you’ll also need to fully review their customer support. You don’t want to send your supporters to an organization that will alienate them based on poor product and poor customer service.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer word-of-mouth communication that provides a personal perspective is extremely effective in bringing in new supporters and donations. With this type of fundraising campaign, you’re leveraging existing donor enthusiasm to reach new potential donors. It builds relationships, expands your audience, and is very cost effective.

To support peer-to-peer fundraising, you’ll need to provide well thought out materials and social media content to current donors that fully promote the value of your organization in addition to actually asking people to donate. While this is a word-of-mouth campaign, you’ll really need to activate all your marketing channels—particularly your website—for supporting materials. But also use email, direct mail, and social media.  For example, one excellent touch is to build testimonials to support your campaign via your website and social media channels. It’s all about activating your members, providing the tools they need, and, as a result, driving new donations.

We Can Help

When it comes to fundraising of all types, we can help. We've been working with 501c3 nonprofits on all their fundraising initiatives for quite a few years. We can ramp up your efforts and maximize your results.

Give us a call at (855) 329-4327 or

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John Connors

John Connors

John is a passionate patriot and business owner. He launched Campaign Now in 2008 to help free-market oriented, American organizations increase their reach and achieve important results. When he’s not strategizing growth plans with clients, you can find him sharpening his history chops, playing tennis in the Texas heat, or spending time with family.


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