6 Do’s and Don’ts for Fundraising Success this Giving Season


by Michael Wasserman

Last year, charitable giving rose by more than 5 percent compared to 2016, topping $410 billion in contributions for the first time. And individual giving is expected to increase by at least 3 percent and account for 70 percent of all charitable giving this year.

As we head into giving season, nonprofits be creative in order to set themselves apart and reach new donors.

Don’t get squeezed out by the competition. Here are six dos and don’ts to help you raise more money during the year-end rush.

Don’t overlook young donors. Historically, older individuals have received the most attention from fundraisers. That’s understandable because baby boomers and Gen Xers often have more disposable income and may be seeking tax advantages or estate-planning opportunities. However, younger donors like millennials and Gen Z are very socially conscious. They get involved and seek out causes that make a difference in the world. Because these young supporters are digitally inter-connected, they are often aware of needs beyond their communities. Plus, they’re quick to encourage friends to take action online related to causes they care about. Targeting this group can help you reach a new generation of donors who will spread your message to their peers.

Don’t rely on the season alone. Between the drive to give and end-of-year tax incentives, the next two months are prime time for giving. But simply relying on the tradition of holiday giving is not enough, considering that every nonprofit is competing for donors’ attention. Create your own unique “holiday,” campaign, complete with a strategic social-media strategy to help recruit donors. Programs like Giving Tuesday, Gaming Tuesday, St. Baldrick’s Day events and Movember are great examples, but they’re relatively few and far between. Make a statement with your own creative campaign-and who knows maybe you’ll even start a movement.

Let influencers help your cause. Marlo Thomas, Bono, Chance the Rapper, Stephen Colbert, and hundreds of other celebrities have become synonymous with their causes. It might be tough for a small nonprofit to recruit someone who is so famous, but celebrities aren’t the only option. Digital influencers such as popular YouTubers and Twitch personalities, high-profile video gamers, well-known bloggers, and influential Instagrammers can be highly effective at motivating and mobilizing their followers to support a cause. Young people especially look up to these online personalities because they’re more relatable than larger-than-life Hollywood celebrities. For example, Jacksepticeye, an Irish YouTuber with more than 20 million subscribers, raised more than $345,000 last December for Save the Children during a four-hour livestream of his holiday special.

Take advantage of “new media” opportunities. We’re all familiar with the traditional telethon that brings national or local celebrities together to raise money in a singular broadcast event. However, online platforms like YouTube and Twitch, where individuals livestream activities such as playing video games, performing music, or cooking, can provide an innovative way to reach donors who would never tune in to a telethon on TV. Livestream fundraising is especially appealing to younger donors because they can chat with their online idols during the event.

Share the whole story. Today’s donors are smart and technically savvy; they can find information to help them decide how and where to invest in a worthy cause. Yet many organizations try to keep executive salaries or overhead costs a secret, fearing they will be a turnoff to donors who want to see their money going toward the cause.

A failure to be transparent about how you spend your money (administrative costs versus programs) can be a disaster for fundraising efforts. It only takes seconds to research an organization on GuideStar and retrieve a complete Form 990, which reveals this type of information.

Be proactive. Be upfront and candid by sharing this information on your website or in other user-friendly ways, and people will respect you for it. They’ll understand that it takes talent to do great work, and talent comes at a cost. Hiding from it can do more harm than good.

Tell donors what their gifts accomplish. Rather than raising money for your cause in general, help donors to understand the impact of their money. For example, one of the most successful livestream fundraisers for Save the Children explained that a $50 contribution would pay for a baby-care package that included lifesaving vaccines, nutrition, and a medical checkup. During the broadcast, donors saw the tally of packages “purchased,” while YouTuber “Markiplier” and his friends made breakfast, drew body art on each other, and played Cards Against Humanity. The online event raised more than $420,000 in about 8 hours.

Rising above the competition during giving season takes creativity, innovation, and transparency. Follow these proven tactics and harness the power of “new-media” opportunities and digital influencers to show donors that your nonprofit is savvy, modern, and engaging.