10 Tried and True Fundraising Tips

When I look back, last week’s eclipse was one part rare astronomical event and one part major hype. I was in DC where it was 87% totality with minimal clouds. I had my glasses and thought it was pretty cool to watch the moon shift over the sun and back again. But really, like so many other things, if I had stayed inside or it had been cloudy, it wouldn’t have changed my life.

We learn from this recent celestial event that people are eager to find almost any excuse to get excited. And getting people excited about your nonprofit is always a good thing, especially when the excitement is self-driven. Think about giving days that challenge groups against themselves or an ice bucket challenge.

While you might not be the next ice bucket challenge or solar eclipse here are some lessons why those worked:

  1. They were free (or a minimal cost, if you bought eclipse glasses).
  2. People wanted to share their experience (see the image above).
  3. People seemed to be curious about how other people experienced it.
  4. They could be done individually or in a group.
  5. They had little to do with the real purpose. That is, few people made a connection between throwing ice water on your best friend and ALS. And few people made a connection as to why there was an eclipse. Both just seemed fun. 
  6. They were viral.

Of course, these two examples were each one viral campaign out of (approximately) one million attempts in any given year.

What does all this mean? 

  1. It’s very hard to go viral. However, if you want to make an attempt, consider visiting 8 Nonprofit TikTok Trends To Elevate Your Cause.
  2. There are more tried and true ways to raise money.

Here are MJA’s top 10 tried and true ways to raise funds in 2024. 

  1. Develop relationships with your donors. 
  2. Invest in year-round segmented stewardship for your donors. 
  3. Segment every solicitation by your donor types (think: members, non-members, volunteers, staff, etc.) as well as their recent giving history (think: current donor, LYBUNT, longer lapsed donor, new donor, etc.).
  4. Ask each person — by name — for a specific amount — 10–50% above last year’s gift rounded to an appropriate amount in each ask.
  5. Have a stewardship and solicitation strategy for each segment of your donor population.
  6. Encourage your volunteers to donate and your donors to volunteer.
  7. Understand your major donor capacity and their interests to encourage additional giving for areas that they are interested in supporting.
  8. Understand your mid-level givers and how you can move them up to the major donor level.
  9. Improve your “new donor” retention rate.
  10. Encourage your senior staff to stand in a circle and bounce ping pong balls at each other with tennis racquets while counting how many balls you can get around at the same time. And don’t forget to film yourself. You never know what will go viral.  

And for the record, I did, accidentally, share glasses and watch the eclipse with the cast of Macbeth. If you are in DC, go see it, it was amazing.