How to Start a Fundraiser in 5 Easy Steps

Learn the essentials for creating a successful fundraising campaign for your nonprofit or business.

Illustration of people donating money
November 3, 2022
Kathleen Crampton
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Reading time about 6 min

When you need to learn how to raise money for your nonprofit or small business, it can be challenging to know where to start. What goals should you set? How do you reach current and potential donors? What platforms do you use?

We’re here to answer all of your burning questions about fundraisers. You’ll learn how to start a fundraiser step by step and gain a solid foundation for your next successful fundraising campaign.

#1

Set Fundraiser Goals

One of the most important steps in starting a fundraiser is setting goals. Start by answering three W’s:

  • Who is the money intended for?
  • What will you do with the money?
  • Why do you want to fundraise?

Let’s break these down into specific examples. If you’re managing a fundraiser for a dog rescue nonprofit, the “who” is current and incoming rescued dogs. The “what” could be funding the expansion of rescue operations into another county or state or perhaps bringing on a part-time employee to assist with administrative tasks. Answering “why” may seem straightforward for the nonprofit example. But for, say, a small retail business that wants to open a new brick-and-mortar store, it’s important to convey a clear reason. In the retail example, your “why” could be that you need some more capital to help raise funds for opening a store that current customers love.

After answering these questions, it’s time to create a SMART goal. Using the nonprofit dog rescue example, here is a possible fundraiser goal:

“We want to raise $50,000 in six months to facilitate the expansion of our dog rescue operations into the next state, which we estimate has more than 1,000 dogs in need of safe homes.”

Here is a quick breakdown of this SMART goal:

  • Specific: The amount of money and the why (facilitate expansion).
  • Measurable: The amount of money needed.
  • Attainable: The nonprofit presumably already has experience rescuing dogs in this city or state, so expanding into another state is attainable.
  • Relevant: The estimated number of dogs in need of a home.
  • Time-based: The amount of time (six months).

Graphic of SMART goal bulleted list

#2

Create Incentives

While many businesses hope that explaining the cause will be enough to motivate people to donate, sometimes that isn’t enough in both the nonprofit and for-profit realms. If you’ve ever been asked to take a survey with the possibility of winning a gift card, you probably know that incentives work. So, can they work as a way to raise money?

Some incentives may not be appropriate for certain fundraisers, like relief work, but they can be effective in others. Let’s go back to the dog rescue nonprofit fundraiser. You could consider a tiered incentive approach tied to specific donation dollar amounts, like weekly “pupdate” emails for a lower tier and, for a higher tier, a special day with a trained dog rescue at the shelter.

Businesses can employ a similar approach, including gift cards, VIP access to grand openings, small gifts, and so on. Make sure you message these incentives clearly, so potential donors know exactly what’s in store for the amount they give. And most importantly, confirm that incentives work within your budget.

#3

Customize the Messaging

Remember that messaging is key when you’re wondering how to raise money. What works for one platform may not work for another. For example, perhaps you’d like to send out an email blast to current donors or customers with information about your fundraiser. An email can facilitate much more description than, say, an Instagram post notifying followers. The same goes for text marketing: Keep text messages short and sweet yet informative.

Side-by-side SMS sample messages: One for current customer/donor and one for new customer/donor.

Another critical aspect of your messaging includes knowing which recipients have donated before and which haven’t. This is where keeping a donor list is helpful. For current or previous donors, consider including a thank you in your email or text message for being a valued donor and remind them why your cause is important.

This tactic isn’t just for nonprofits; it can also be used for for-profit businesses. Perhaps you’re the owner of a small restaurant, and you want to raise funds to overhaul the lot next door into a beautiful outdoor patio addition. You could send a text message or email to your current customer list, thanking them for their loyal service to your eatery and letting them in on a fun little secret: You want to expand their beloved restaurant. This type of message makes your customers feel connected to the cause because they have eaten at your restaurant before.

Messaging to new customers on social platforms and your website might not include a thank you but will still be compelling for locals who are interested in donating to a new space.

#4

Market Your Fundraiser

Next up: marketing. There are many ways to promote your fundraiser: through crowdfunding sites, email marketing, text marketing, social media, and your website.

You can create a page on a crowdfunding site, like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Givebutter, and link to it on your website and social accounts as well as in emails and text messages. Communicate messaging that’s clear, heartfelt, and catered to each channel — all while staying consistent.

Rendering of an SMS sample message asking someone to donate, with a text-to-give CTA

But marketing your fundraiser has never been easier than EZ Texting’s text-to-give feature. For an affordable price, you can leverage mobile marketing using the EZ Texting SMS marketing platform to promote your cause effectively. It’s one of the easiest ways to fundraise: You’re not only engaging with current and potential donors but also reaching them instantly and simply. How do you add a contact list, you ask? Easy. EZ Texting allows you to upload your existing contacts, sync them across apps, and even update them through the mobile app.

Utilize the text-to-donate service to provide an easy way for people to donate (with just the tap of their finger) while streamlining your fundraising process. Learn more about fundraising ideas for small businesses.

Screenshot of EZ Texting contacts list upload

#5

Say Thanks and Evaluate Success

Your mom always said to send a thank-you note, and now’s the time to keep up the practice. When someone donates, it’s a good practice to thank them immediately through email or text. Doing so personalizes the donation, fostering a connection between your fundraiser goal and the donor. As a result, they are more likely to give again, potentially helping to grow your business.

Once you have reached your fundraising goal or the time limit, it’s time to evaluate the results. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team post-fundraiser:

  • Did we reach our financial goal? If not, should we assess if it was a reasonable and realistic goal for this project or cause?
  • Which channels received the most donor participation? How can we increase donations on the other channels next time?
  • Which promotion tactics worked best?

Evaluation is important at the project’s end to understand and assess lessons learned to make the next fundraiser even more successful. And don’t forget to congratulate yourself on what went well — equally important.

Final Thoughts

Employing the tactics we've listed here can help you connect with customers and donors, hopefully motivating them to become repeat givers. Whether starting a business or running a seasoned nonprofit, knowing how to start a fundraiser is important for your company's or your cause's future.

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