It’s no secret that in the fundraising world, networking is the key to success. Making connections with corporate partners and maintaining strong donor relationships can open doors for your organization. But did you know there’s another way to use networking to take your fundraising strategy to the next level and double your organization’s impact? With network fundraising, you can multiply your fundraising efforts and turn your network into an invaluable fundraising tool for your organization.
What is network fundraising?
Network fundraising is a fundraising method where your organization recruits a group of people who agree to raise money for you. Your network fundraisers can come from anywhere, including your volunteers, corporate partners, board members, and other advocates of your organization. Typically, network fundraisers are passionate supporters of your organization looking to take their involvement to the next level.
While network fundraising is similar to peer-to-peer fundraising in that you’re recruiting people to fundraise on your behalf, typically a network fundraiser won’t have a large-scale event like a 5K, fun run, or any type of “A-Thon” fundraiser. Instead, network fundraising is great for DIY fundraisers where your supporters can take charge and raise money however they choose. With most network fundraising campaigns, it’s common to include a small award ceremony at the end of the campaign and to provide opportunities for fundraisers to network with each other throughout the campaign during social or after-hours events. You can also pair network fundraising with events like galas and trivia nights, or plan them as online, time-sensitive campaigns.
Why should you consider hosting a network fundraiser?
You might not be sure if network fundraising is right for your organization, but there are a ton of benefits to this method of fundraising. Network fundraisers can help your organization expand your reach into your network of supporters. Not only will you be able to build stronger connections with your most dedicated advocates, but you’ll also be able to turn that energy and support into an effective channel of fundraising. Also, part of the appeal of network fundraising for participants is that they get to meet and network with other like-minded folks that are passionate about your cause.
Network fundraising also amplifies your staff and volunteers’ work. While your usual donation asks will go out from your staff and volunteers, you’ll have an additional team of people fundraising on your organization’s behalf. You can double or even triple your fundraising efforts with network fundraising. So, if you’re a nonprofit with a small staff or a nonprofit looking for a way to fundraise without a huge event, network fundraising could be an extremely effective option for raising money.
How do you create a network fundraiser?
From planning a fundraising campaign to building your network, a network fundraiser requires time and, well, lots of networking to pull off. If you can cultivate a strong network, a network fundraiser can have lasting benefits beyond the duration of your campaign, so it’s well worth the effort to plan one. If you’ve never dipped your toe into the network fundraising pool, here’s a guide to creating a successful network fundraiser.
Determine what kind of fundraiser to host
Before you can start recruiting fundraisers, you need to determine what kind of fundraiser to host or come up with a theme for the campaign. If you’re not sure where to start, pay attention to what kinds of fundraisers other organizations in your community have hosted. Consider what elements made their fundraisers successful and strive to emulate that success. Then, consider what you can do to make your fundraiser unique. You want your campaign to stand out to draw attention and encourage your supporters to become fundraisers for your organization. Need inspiration? Don’t be afraid to look beyond your community for inspiration, too! You could take an existing idea that’s been successful elsewhere and be the first to start it in your community.
As you’re planning, work with your board and other internal and external stakeholders to develop your fundraising ideas. Consider making your network fundraiser a part of your annual fundraising strategy or a signature campaign for your nonprofit. If you’ve hosted a network fundraiser in the past and have found significant success, this could be an effective way to drum up excitement for your network fundraising campaign in the future and recruit more fundraisers.
You can also consider pairing your network fundraiser with a fun event for your supporters to raise even more money. If you want to host a network fundraiser with an event attached, decide whether your event will be in-person, hybrid, or fully virtual. You can pair your network fundraiser with a gala to bring your fundraisers together to cap off your campaign and celebrate their successes. Or try hosting a fun, celebratory trivia night to put your various network fundraising teams up against each other for some friendly competition.
If you’re going for a fully DIY fundraiser format, your fundraisers can decide how they’d like to raise money. They can host a bake sale or car wash service, or they can go the route of just increasing awareness and organically reaching out to their networks to spread the word. Just make sure they’re aware of the timeline for your fundraiser and how long they have to raise money so they can plan their fundraising efforts accordingly.
Recruit your fundraisers
Once you’ve started planning your campaign and have an idea of what your fundraiser will look like, start recruiting your fundraisers. Build your list of contacts and connections to find individuals willing to fundraise. It’s best to single out people with influence and large networks of their own to recruit. Reach out to local celebrities, city officials, and influencers who might have a personal connection to your organization’s mission.
You can also start within your organization to find influential people with ties to the greater community. Board members and your most active donors and volunteers are usually your best bet as well-connected network fundraisers and a great starting point. Cultivate your relationships with your current volunteers and donors and discuss your fundraising needs with your board members to see if they would be willing to become fundraisers.
Once you’ve exhausted your organization’s immediate network, research to see if there are any networking events happening in your area. At these events, you can connect with businesses and potential corporate partners. Remember that networking is about making genuine connections, so attend these events ready to get to know people. Do your research about who might be attending these events and what their interests are so it’s easier to connect with people.
If you already have corporate partners, reach out and see if they would be willing to activate their employees to fundraise for you. Many businesses and corporations have internal philanthropy programs where employees are encouraged to volunteer with nonprofits or lead a fundraising team to raise money for an organization. Regardless of whether you’re aware that your sponsors have such a program, always reach out. Make sure to offer exclusive benefits to any business willing to encourage their staff to participate, just as you would with a normal corporate sponsorship.
Provide resources for your fundraisers
After you recruit your fundraisers, it’s vital to provide them with support as they begin their fundraising quests. Your fundraisers need to know that you have their backs and that you’ll be a helpful source if they need anything. You can start by meeting with each of your fundraisers individually to cultivate your relationship with them. Learn about their interests and ideas for fundraising and give them advice for how they can overcome any challenges they foresee.
Start things off by helping your fundraisers set up their personal online fundraising pages. These fundraising pages will be the place your fundraisers direct their networks to when they’re ready to donate. When each of your fundraisers has their own webpage, it’s much easier for them to track how much money they’ve personally raised. You can also gamify your campaign by creating leaderboards that help your fundraisers keep track of how well they’re doing and who’s raising the most money.
To help your fundraisers jumpstart their fundraising efforts, provide them with a list of fundraising ideas to consider. Whether it’s selling baked goods or offering pet-sitting or dog-walking services, create a list of ideas that plays to your fundraisers’ strengths and passions. Giving your fundraisers ideas that interest them will make the fundraising process fun and engaging for everyone.
In addition to a list of fundraising ideas, provide your fundraisers with email and social media templates. They’ll be reaching out to their own networks to solicit donations, and while they may be passionate about fundraising for your organization, they may not have much fundraising experience. With templates on hand, all fundraisers need to do is fill in the blanks and hit send, confident that they’re making donation asks properly and with maximum impact.
Along with templates, try to offer a list of talking points for fundraisers to hit on when asking for donations. These talking points can include statistics about the communities you serve and the impact your organization has had on those communities in the past. Highlighting the needs your nonprofit is trying to fill as well as how successful you’ve been at providing that support will establish credibility with your fundraisers’ networks.
In addition to facts, encourage your fundraisers to share their own personal reasons for supporting your organization. Emotional appeals are highly effective in driving donations. If your fundraisers are willing to share their connection to your nonprofit, they’ll be able to capture the attention of their networks better and drive more donations.
A branding guide can also be extremely helpful for your fundraisers. Not all of your fundraisers will be graphic design experts and content writers. Providing them with a branding guide will help them post on social media and share information in a manner consistent with your organization’s brand and messaging. Give your fundraisers your logo, hex and HTML color codes, font names, and a voice style to make it easier for them to create consistent content for fundraising.
Review and report on your network’s progress
Once your network fundraiser is under way, it’s vital to keep your fundraisers apprised of the campaign’s progress. Provide updates throughout your campaign on how much money your network has collectively raised and how close to the fundraising goal they are. It can be helpful to add gamification elements to your campaign so fundraisers can easily gauge how well they’re doing. Awarding badges when your fundraisers hit significant milestones and adding leaderboards to your campaign website can keep your network motivated to keep raising money throughout the campaign.
Sharing the impact your fundraisers are making on your organization can also encourage them to continue their fundraising efforts. Provide in-depth information about how the money they’ve raised so far will help you with your nonprofit’s mission and how they’re making a difference. Your fundraisers can also share this information with their own networks to encourage them to donate for the first time or give multiple times.
Showing your fundraisers their impact can also be more effective than just telling them. Share photos and videos from the programs and initiatives your network fundraisers helped to fund so that they better understand why the fundraising work they’ve done is so important. Seeing the results of their hard work will make them more likely to agree to become network fundraisers again in the future and stay engaged with your organization between fundraising campaigns.
Incentivize and recognize your fundraisers
Your fundraisers have gone above and beyond the average supporter in helping your nonprofit make your mission possible. To get your supporters excited about possibly becoming a part of your fundraising network and make current fundraisers feel appreciated and important, it’s essential to incentivize and recognize them for all they’ve done for your organization.
With how much work your fundraisers have put into supporting your organization, it’s only fair that they get special recognition in places like your annual report, your newsletter, on social media, and at events. If you’ve chosen to host a DIY fundraiser, highlight various fundraisers or fundraising teams and their projects on your social media accounts throughout your network fundraising campaign and after it concludes. List their names in your annual report when you discuss your network fundraiser’s impact so shareholders recognize who in the community helped make your nonprofit’s successes possible that year.
In addition to name recognition, special perks like free swag, advance ticketing access to events, invitations to exclusive events, and an awards ceremony to celebrate fundraisers’ contributions can be great ways to make them feel appreciated. If your network fundraiser is a success and becomes a yearly event, making your fundraisers feel special year-round will also make them more likely to participate in following years.
Facilitate this retention strategy by creating special alumni groups to keep past fundraisers engaged. You can use social media groups to give your network fundraising alumni an easy place to virtually gather and connect, or create a special, gated webpage on your website where they can go to get updates and stay in touch. Consider making a special newsletter for your network fundraising alumni as well to keep them informed about how the money they’ve raised is making an impact on your organization.
Network fundraising could be an especially valuable fundraising method for your nonprofit. You might already have the early beginnings of a wide fundraising network in place in your board members, volunteers, and donors without even realizing it. If you haven’t before, start considering network fundraising as an effective way to galvanize your network and multiply your fundraising efforts to make an even bigger difference in your communities and the world.