Nonprofit Fundraising: How to Run an Effective Campaign

Basic Fundraising

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As your nonprofit organization continues to grow, it’s time to consider fundraising strategies and investing in an effective fundraising platform that truly anticipates your nonprofit’s size and financial needs. 

Think carefully about the cost of your fundraising activities and the long-term impact your nonprofit potentially has. Creating a sustainable, scalable fundraising campaign is just as important as reaching your fundraising goal.

Boost your nonprofit fundraising and check out Qgiv.

Why is fundraising important for nonprofits?

Fundraising is important for nonprofits because it supports the main cause with financial revenue and sets up opportunities for future engagement with donors. With an effective and sustainable nonprofit fundraising campaign, charities have the potential to engage the masses and increase their impact as their funding improves. 

For example, if the charity goes global, sustainable fundraising practices can ensure long-term support and even aid larger projects like funding research.

Learn about how to run an effective and sustainable campaign by reading from the top or jumping to the sections that most interest you:

Are you ready to maximize your fundraising efforts and see real results? Let’s begin.

It's important you develop a strategy when you're beginning your nonprofit fundraising.

Develop a Strategy

Don’t forget that each fundraising initiative has a cost and there is a delicate balance between fundraising revenue and expenses. All fundraisers know that their main goal is to raise money, but not all of them think about sustainability or scalability. Focus on tried-and-true opportunities for growth in order to be prepared for the long-term.

When developing a strategy, your best bet is to concentrate on two areas: your most productive donor groups and high-impact donor recruitment and retention. Create engaging opportunities for new donors, but make sure those opportunities will be profitable in the long run.

You’ll also need to add software and online solutions to your fundraising strategy. But the tools you choose will depend on your nonprofit’s unique needs! Creating the perfect fundraising strategy takes a lot of time and effort, so your best bet to grow and raise more each year is to first lay out a solid fundraising foundation.

Your strategy should include plans for donor acquisition and retention with an emphasis on recruiting high-impact donors. Once you have that part set in place, it’s time to find fundraising tools that will help you meet those goals. This means depending on effective and capable tools to help you make strategic moves based on accurate, updated data. 

Document research

An important foundation for your nonprofit fundraising strategy is document research.

Data-driven fundraising strategies are always the smartest move, so make sure you have the necessary constituent relationship management software (CRM) integrations and reporting tools.

Investing in fundraising tools with CRM integrations is more of a necessity these days than general fundraising advice. Having access to donor data is important for learning donor habits and increasing donor retention.

Additionally, with fundraising reporting tools, you can compile effective reports to help you understand and further document your research. With this research, you can start laying out your fundraising plan.

So, if you know you want to attract high-impact donors and retain them, turn to your data. What groups of people tend to be your most invested donors? Where did you find them? How do you communicate with them? Using your CRM to understand those patterns will help you replicate past successes.

Lay out a fundraising plan

So you know who you want your donors to be. Now it’s time to plan out how you’ll find them!

Nonprofit fundraisers should be based on an established plan. It’s important your fundraising team sets up a:

Nonprofit fundraising takes ample planning, make sure you lay out your fundraising plan.
  • Realistic fundraising goal. Consider how much you should raise to effectively help your mission while keeping in mind budgets.
  • Timeline for the campaign. Time limitations provide a sense of urgency, motivating donors, and encouraging you to establish smaller, manageable goals leading up to your larger one.
  • Budget for expenses. Don’t risk accidentally spending more on your fundraising activities than you raise. 
  • Gift range chart. This notes the number of donations needed to reach your goal, as well as the number of donations at varying levels you need to solicit. You should also note how many prospects you may have to reach out to at each giving level. Base this on your documented research, and follow it carefully

Measure all metrics

Measure all metrics for your nonprofit fundraiser.

No matter how extensive your software features reach, the most important thing is that all of these metrics are stored in a centralized CRM system.

Measure all metrics including donation amounts, donation frequency, donor details, and more!

Evaluate what worked and what didn’t

Make sure you're constantly evaluating what worked and what didn't work during your nonprofit fundraising campaign.

Use your CRM or your fundraising platform’s dashboard to track the number of:

  • New, lapsed, or at-risk donors.
  • Donor retention and churn rates.
  • Donor lifetime value.

If your retention rates start to falter, you know your strategy needs to be tweaked.

Note what performed best and what didn’t

To make sure your nonprofit fundraising improves, note what performed best and what didn't.

After you wrap up each campaign, take time to review what tactics worked and where you can improve. Use your software to compile reports that include data like how users found your registration form and if they registered online or in-person. This way, you can note whether your online engagement strategy or your in-person engagement strategy performed best!

The common thread to follow throughout these strategic steps is that you should base your strategy and fundraising efforts on concrete data and research. Your nonprofit’s fundraising team should be consistently using your data to improve your techniques!

With the right fundraising software solution, you can learn from past campaigns to tweak and develop your strategies. 

It's essential you know the giver's journey to optimize your nonprofit fundraising.

Understand the Giver’s Journey

To truly create a sustainable nonprofit fundraising campaign, you need to fully understand your giver’s journey. Though each of your donors and supporters is unique and different, they all follow a similar journey as they get to know your nonprofit’s mission and make that gift. 

Understanding each stage of that journey will help you resolve sticking points and obstacles your donors may encounter! That will boost your conversion rates, which means you’ll attract more donors and raise more money.

The Giver’s Journey

It’s important to increase awareness of your cause and give your supporters the tools and resources they need to confidently donate to your nonprofit. We’ll define the giver’s journey through these steps:

All donors go through a similar giver's journey in the nonprofit fundraising world.
  1. A potential donor becomes aware of your organization, mission, and work. Make a lasting first impression! You can do this by hosting events to launch your campaign or using relevant media to introduce your cause across various social platforms.
  2. If the potential donor is interested in your organization, they begin to research who you are. Make sure you provide an easy way to access the necessary information. For example, optimize your main organization’s website to be easily navigable and present relevant information so visitors can understand your nonprofit’s main mission and what you specifically do to help.
  3. Give your donor a reason to give. Your donor’s research might spark an interest in researching your cause and other organizations that do similar work. It’s great that you educated someone about your cause, but you don’t want to lead them away from your page or drive them to a different organization. Keep new supporters interested in your work by highlighting the real impact they can have. Share stories and testimonials from the people you help! You can also make sure your marketing material includes case studies and real stories from the people you help.
  4. The potential donor turns into a donor after evaluating their options and donating to the organization. If someone decides to donate to your cause, you need to make this process as convenient as possible. Make sure you have an easy-to-use online donation form, multiple ways to give (like text fundraising!), and other elements like suggested giving amounts, recurring gift capability, and a searchable matching gift database!

As you lead potential donors to make that final gift, make sure the process is positive and streamlined so that they’ll be more likely to donate again later.

After the Donation

The post-donation phase is when donors either feel good about their gift or totally forget about it. This is why it’s important to show donor appreciation and be clear about the donation’s positive impact.

Consider ways to guarantee your fundraising efforts have a sustainable, long-term impact! The two easiest ways to meet that goal are ensuring that the donor recommends your organization to their family and friends and by encouraging the donor to turn into a recurring donor. Use these post-donation engagements:

  • Personalized emails. By integrating your fundraising tools and your CRM system, your communications team can use accurate donor data to individualize email content. Make sure you always include your donor’s names and donation details, but take time to include some feel-good elements, too. Something as simple as a high-quality image and a sincere thank-you message can make a huge impression on a donor. Send out messages as soon as the gift is made! Then, follow up with your donor and share the outcome of your campaign once it’s finished. 
  • Social media outreach. Use your social media platforms to share updates about your donors’ impact, invite supporters to events, and even to ask for feedback on past events and campaigns! Ensure you allow comments and actively participate in the conversation.
  • Phone calls. If you can, call donors and personally thank them for their gift as well as update them on your campaign. However, there is a fine line between developing a personal relationship and annoying donors with constant asks! Identify the best ways to reach out based on your donor data and reports.
  • Direct mail. A physical letter is also a great way to show appreciation for a gift. Similar to your email content, make sure you personalize the content as well as share the positive impact your donor made with their gift.

An effective nonprofit fundraising campaign will focus on raising money as well as creating sustainability for your nonprofit. Make sure you and your staff optimize each stage of the giver’s journey to ensure your nonprofit has a lasting impact on your mission, an opportunity to build relationships with donors, and the groundwork for future success. 

Once your donor makes a gift, it’s time to focus on retaining them! Aim for that golden donation, the second donation your nonprofit receives from a donor. Once you secure that golden donation, the donor is more likely to give a third, fourth, fifth time and so on.

Nonprofit fundraising sustainability can depend on how well your nonprofit can acquire and retain donors.

Focus on Acquiring and Retaining Donors

The sustainability and scalability of your nonprofit depends on your engagements and relationships with your donors. When you build relationships with your donors, you’re not just raising fundraising revenue! You’re building an engaged donor base that will support you for years to come. You need to strategize the best way to grow your nonprofit and pave the way to create long-lasting, durable impact. 

Spending time targeting and prioritizing building relationships with high-impact loyal donors can increase support at a minimal cost to the organization.

How can you best engage potential donors as they begin the giver’s journey as well as retain those after the gift?

In nonprofit fundraising, it's important you work on both donor acquisition and retention.

Communicate

Did you know that one of the biggest reasons people don’t make a charitable gift is because they aren’t asked? Don’t be afraid to ask your donors for donations! Use the communication streams that your supporters use the most, including:

  • Email
  • Mobile text
  • Social media platforms

Donors want to know that their gift will make an actual impact, so let them know why exactly in your fundraising ask. Prospective donors won’t know your needs if you don’t communicate them.

Share successes

Let donors know when they’ve made a difference! As you already know, developing donor relationships is important to your fundraising sustainability efforts. Sharing success stories from your past campaigns creates good feelings and shows tangible outcomes from your donors’ efforts. Make the biggest impact by telling donors that their gift made an impact, then communicate what that impact was.

Be transparent

When donors give to your cause, they’re trusting that your nonprofit will use the money wisely. Be transparent with your actions, and let donors in on:

  • Day-to-day activities of your staff and volunteers through newsletters and your social media accounts. 
  • All fundraising initiatives, whether they successfully reach your goals or not.
  • Past successes and future plans.

Create events

Events are a great way to build relationships with donors. It gives your donors a chance to feel like they’re a part of a larger community and also can create ample networking and sharing opportunities. Encourage donors to bring their friends and family as well!

While at your event, potential donors should be able to get a better sense of what your organization does and how you approach your mission. Fundraising events are a great way to continue educating your donors, inspiring them to make a difference, and encouraging them to give.

Alternatively, you could put together a donor appreciation event that focuses more on thanking and recognizing donors and less emphasis on fundraising.

Segment donors

With your fundraising software and CRM, you can segment your donors and supporters based on specific metrics for more targeted communication. Donors want information that’s relevant to their history with your nonprofit! Segment your audience and individualize your appeals, receipts, thank-you notes, and newsletters with:

  • Giving preferences.
  • Communication preferences.
  • Business affiliations.
  • Event attendance.

Optimize your website 

More likely than not, donors will first turn to your organization’s website for information about your work and how you make an impact on your community. Make it easy for prospective donors to give by including your website link in your social media platform bio, in articles you write, and in your fundraising emails. On your home page, be clear about your mission and how donors’ support will make a difference, then include an easy-to-locate “Donate” button.

In addition to making your website more accessible from outside channels, ensure your actual website and pages are navigable. For example, make sure your “Donate” button is on all your pages and links directly to your online donation page. Draw attention to your “Donate” button with bright colors and CTAs.

Be personal

According to one donor loyalty study, over half of your donors give because they’re passionate about your cause rather than loyal to your organization. 

Think of your nonprofit’s work and impact as a story with your donors as the hero. Tell your story through marketing outlets like your website, social media platforms, and email newsletters. Use media like photos and videos to describe your mission and encourage donors to become emotionally invested in your work. Show them the impact they can make, then show them how to get involved!

Invite readers to get involved

Always invite prospective donors to join you in changing the world. Whether you’re seeking financial donations, in-kind contributions, or volunteers, use your social connection to turn prospective donors into actual donors.

Donor retention

While acquiring high-impact donors with long term support is the key to sustaining your nonprofit’s work, it’s more cost-effective to retain existing donors than it is to constantly acquire new ones. According to one study, over 70% of new donors recruited to a nonprofit never make a second gift. Thus, you have to continuously spend additional money on donor acquisition which most nonprofits lose money on anyway.

Your nonprofit fundraising campaigns should always attract new supporters, but without consistent donor retention efforts, nonprofits cannot grow and be sustainable.

Increase donor retention with these tips:

  • Focus on the “after donation” portion of a giver’s journey.
  • Keep up communications, updates, and donor engagement opportunities to increase the chance that they give again.
  • Encourage supporters to become recurring donors and automate the process for them.
Learn how to leverage nonprofit fundraising best practices.

Leverage Nonprofit Fundraising Best Practices

You already know that your nonprofit software should help establish your web presence and streamline internal processes like your online donation form. However, there are additional ways to leverage your tools and features in order to maximize your fundraising potential and ensure nonprofit sustainability.

Build an intuitive, uncluttered website

It's important you have an uncluttered website to keep your nonprofit fundraising sustainable.

A common mistake is putting too much information on your site that your web pages look cluttered and confusing, causing prospective donors to abandon the window and not visit again. Additionally, your site’s navigation menu should be prominently and obviously positioned so visitors can quickly navigate to different pages. A good way to gauge your navigation menu’s usability is to ask someone to look at it for you. If they can’t find what they want in 3 seconds, it’s too complicated!

Your website needs to reflect your nonprofit in an intuitive way and last for the long term to handle future nonprofit campaigns and fundraising efforts.

Optimize your online donation form

Optimize your nonprofit fundraising online donation form.

After a visitor lands on your website and decides to give to your nonprofit, your online donation form should never give them a reason not to finish their gift! Your online fundraising platform should make it easy to customize and optimize your online donation form. Be sure to:

  • Save donors’ time. Customize your form to ask only for pertinent details. Prevent donors from having to enter the same data more than once with good form design! For example, if a donor’s billing address and mailing address are the same, you can offer a checkbox so they don’t have to enter their address twice. 
  • Include suggested donation amounts (with descriptions!). This gives donors a concrete suggestion for a donation size and will reassure them that their gift will make an impact. Pairing each donation amount with specific descriptions can also encourage donors to make a slightly larger gift than they originally intended.
  • Reflect your nonprofit’s unique brand. Brand your online donation form with your fundraising tools. You can also use your branding to fully customize donation receipts, thank you emails, and donor summaries, which will facilitate a cohesive donation process that connects a donor to your nonprofit’s work at every step.

Your online donation form should do more than just take someone’s financial information—it should reinforce their positive feelings toward your organization. Here’s a checklist that will help you make your donation form user-friendly!

Optimize your website for mobile

Make sure your nonprofit fundraising website can be accessed through mobile phones.

Along with building an intuitive and uncluttered website, ensure that your web pages can be accessed on any device. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, it can irritate donors and reduce your ranking in search engines. 

Make sure your website is mobile-accessible and read our guide on how to design a great mobile donation form.

Leverage text fundraising 

Invest in text donations for your nonprofit fundraising.

Text fundraising can be especially effective during urgent fundraising efforts. It’s great for people who want to give quickly, letting donors contribute whenever it is convenient for them. Add text fundraising to your next nonprofit campaign and encourage sustainability for your future fundraising efforts.


Launching a nonprofit fundraising campaign can feel like a daunting task. It requires your team to do a ton of planning and preparation! While you’re perfecting your fundraising strategy, make sure you use reliable and capable fundraising software to build your foundational fundraising assets. 

Don’t just consider the best ways to raise revenue in the short term. Think in the long term and how your nonprofit can grow your donor base to create the most meaningful impact. With the right tools, you can create a sustainable campaign strategy that will pave the way for future growth. 

Boost your nonprofit fundraising with a demo from Qgiv.

If you’re looking for more information on how nonprofit fundraising or donation software, check out these additional resources:

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