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Big Money Fundraising Ideas

Big Money Fundraising Ideas

When it comes to raising money for your nonprofit organization or charity, any donation amount from your supporters is appreciated -- in theory, anyway. While small amounts of money can add up to substantial amounts if you use the right digital tools and reach enough donors, the fact is that high-revenue fundraising initiatives cannot be overlooked if you want your charitable organizations to make a major philanthropic impact.

Being able to generate substantial revenue from your fundraising events provides the capitol necessary to support large-scale projects and fuel major initiatives. If your nonprofit's mission involves extensive travel, research, technological innovation, or other activities that come with a high price tag, you invariably need strategies that will ensure your galas are profitable and provide a high return on investment (ROI).

This could mean going after high-value donors who offer substantial grants and major gifts. It can also involve investing in better fundraising tools and support teams that can help you reach your financial goals quicker, enabling you to make more significant changes to your community and further your charity's mission. And it most definitely means your current fundraising ideas need to be better organized, better funded, and better promoted. 

In this article, we'll delve into the strategies you need to adopt in order to turn big money fundraising ideas into reality. We'll look into how you can find, engage, and retain high-value donors who can keep your foundation activities well funded for years. We'll examine how new innovations in digital technology can reshape how big fundraisers work today, as well as any legal or ethical considerations you should be aware of. And we'll explore how to effectively promote your event and regularly scale up your efforts.    

Developing an Effective Strategy for Big Money Fundraising Ideas

As with any nonprofit gala, planning high-income fundraisers requires a clear understanding of your goals and your donors in order to construct an effective strategy. This involves a lot of market research and significant time looking into your donor analytics.

If you don't have the time or expertise to perform such research -- or if you're interested in finding new and more effective ways to use your existing resources -- investing in fundraising consultants and better analytics tools can provide you with the insights you need. Accessing PayBee's network of partners can put you in touch with highly experienced consultants and experts who have already helped many groups upgrade their fundraising events.

For now, make sure your strategy aligns with SMART goals -- or goals that are:

  • Specific: What program(s) will your fundraiser support? How much money do you need to raise? How many donors do you need to attract and what should their average donation be? Establishing specific, quantifiable goals helps determine what type of fundraiser you need to host and also motivates your team to accomplish these goals.  
  • Measurable: What is the minimal dollar amount your gala needs to raise? What percentage increase in donations do you need to achieve? Knowing how to measure your goals, and making sure everyone on your team is on the same page when it comes to measuring them helps your team accurately track your progress.
  • Achievable: Are your fundraising goals attainable based on the previous success of your past fundraisers, the size of your current donor pool, and the generosity of their contributions? Taking time to study past statistics from your gala helps reveal any changes you need to make to your strategies in order to make your goals achievable.
  • Relevant: Who will benefit from your fundraiser? How will meeting your fundraising goals help them and further your mission? Pinpointing how your gala helps your target population lets you communicate your fundraiser's purpose to both your team and supporters.
  • Time-Bound: How long will your fundraiser last? How much time are you allotting to preparing for your fundraiser? Having an established timeline and schedule in place motivates your team to accomplish set goals while planning for a shorter fundraiser can create a sense of urgency in supporters and lead to more donations.

It's also important to spend time focusing on your current donor pool and asking yourself what type of event resonates most with your supporters. While there are events and activities like auctions or luncheons that have statistically proven highly popular and profitable for many charities, the fact is only you know what type of gala connects best with your community and donors based on the past performance of your fundraisers.

Take a closer look at the events and activities that your attendees enjoyed the most. What did they appreciate most about these galas? Can you realistically invest more money and resources into these aspects and attract more guests and support? Could producing such a high-end fundraiser attract the attention of big, high-value donors who have a history of giving major financial gifts to their favorite nonprofits? Could this provide your group with the funding you need to keep your projects going over the long term?

If the answer to these questions is "yes," then you may have the start to turning an existing fundraising strategy into a more profitable big-money fundraising idea.     

Engaging a Lot of High-Value Donors

Let's take a closer look at where to find and engage with high-value donors. One excellent place to start is the reports generated by your own CRM or donor management software. Which members of your donor pool have made large contributions in the past? Which events motivated them to donate more? 

If you decide you need to expand your pool of high-value donors, consider asking your top-tier supporters if they have any family, business, or personal connections who are interested in supporting your type of nonprofit work. Not only can this reveal some potentially valuable supporters, you can also request that your current supporters provide an introduction so you don't have to approach the new donors cold.

Notably, wealthy donors who give generously to one nonprofit are much more likely to contribute to another, so it's worth researching a potential high-value donor's history of philanthropy. Have they given to causes similar to yours in the past? Do they work as ambassadors for similar organizations? They may be willing to provide those type of benefits for your group.

Understand that different nonprofits can have different criteria for what constitutes a "high-value" donor. Some groups consider $5000 a huge contribution. Other organizations that need to raise more funds require their charity event to attract larger acts of philanthropy and go after contributors who regularly write checks in the millions. 

Regardless, you'll want to build and nurture positive relationships with high-net-worth donors. One of the best ways to do this is by engaging in personalized fundraising. Get to know their interests. If you understand that a philanthropist has a keen interest in animal welfare and your charity works with rescue dogs or supports therapy animals, mention this in your letter. Acknowledge their past generosity and reveal that supporting your group will help fund a cause that already means a lot to them.

Invite current and future donors to exclusive donor experiences like luncheons and private parties where they can see the work you do and the impact it has on the community. Create major giving societies that offer extra benefits to high-value donors in return for their support. Offer regular shows of appreciation -- from making them the guest of honor at a charity benefit to naming a new program or building after them -- to provide them with the recognition their generosity. Doing this not only helps you attract but also retain high-value supporters.     

Digital Fundraiser Innovations

Your organization has access to many more fundraising tools today than the nonprofits and charities of the past, allowing you to make your galas and events more effective at raising money and connecting with donors. We've already discussed how your CRM and donor management software can help you learn more about high-value donors and expand your pool of supporters. Now let's see how fundraising tools can turn your big money fundraising plan into a reality.

Today's digital fundraising tools, particularly those offered by PayBee, offer plenty of great features and benefits. These include:

  • Event activity screens: These monitors help both your in-person and hybrid audiences keep track of your fundraising activity and can report on how close you are to reaching your goals. This can stimulate activity and encourage more frequent and generous donations.
  • Reporting and analytics tools: Automated software makes tracking and reporting donor activity much easier. Plus, studying these reports helps inform ideas for future big money fundraisers.
  • Multiple payment options: By making it easier for supporters to donate through their preferred payment method (PayPal, Apple Pay, credit card etc.) you can collect donations much quicker and with greater frequency.
  • Tech support: Unfamiliar with the latest digital fundraising tools? No problem! PayBee connects you with a team of friendly tech support agents as well as an entire network of experienced event production teams. 

While we've been focusing on attracting major philanthropists, the impact of multiple donors cannot be discounted, especially with today's online fundraising tools. Crowdfunding campaigns, for instance, use the Internet's vast reach to connect with hundreds or even thousands of online supporters and ask them to contribute to a worthy cause. Even if the individual donations are relatively small, if your campaign's story is inspiring and contributors have multiple easy ways of donating, then a crowdfunding campaign can raise substantial amounts in a small span of time.

If you'd like to focus more on smaller, generous groups, then hosting a charity auction remains one of the best big-money fundraising ideas we regularly advocate. Thanks to PayBee's online fundraising platform, you can reach multiple bidders by hosting a traditional in-person auction, a virtual auction, or a hybrid auction that allows online and physically present supporters to engage in friendly bidding against each other.

The great thing about auctions is that they can be modified to fit the needs of high-value donors and offer major benefits in exchange for their contributions. Just make sure to study the hobbies and interests of your biggest supporters and select high-end auction items that relate to them.

Do your high-value donors enjoy traveling? Then offering a vacation package to exotic getaways (which you can procure through consignment services) could stimulate a lot of bidding.

Or maybe your supporters are big sports fans. In that case, season tickets to a major sporting event and/or autographed memorabilia will better help you reach your fundraising goals.

Whatever form you want your fundraising activities to take, digital fundraising tools make it easier for all donors, including high-value contributors, to access your events.  

From an Outdoor Movie to a Fitness Challenge: Organizing Major Events

So, what does it take to host a successful, large-scale fundraising event? If you're going to develop and nurture relationships with high-value donors, you'll need to pay particularly close attention to:

Venue selection

Simply renting an event hall or a bowling alley for the night might not be the best choice for a high-end fundraiser (unless your major donors are really into bowling). Instead, you'll want to choose venues that really speak to donor interests and promise an amazing experience.

Let's say your donors are really into supporting the arts and educating the public about classic paintings. Hosting your gala at a major arts museum currently hosting exhibits by their favorite artists would be an excellent draw. To give it an air of exclusivity, see if you can arrange an advance showing or private exhibition of some one-of-a-kind art pieces. Most art lovers would be hard pressed to turn down that invitation.

Or maybe your target audience is more into outdoor events. In that case, consider the type of activities you can offer in your part of the country. Are there beautiful hiking trails in your area? Lakes primed for water sports or fishing competitions? Private gardens that would provide an exotic locale for your luncheon? Spend time with event planners to see which venues you can realistically use for your gala and start coming up with planning checklists for your event.

Event marketing 

When it comes to promoting your fundraiser, any activity can become a major draw if you focus on the unique benefits of attending.

Say you're planning a movie screening for some of the big donors in your support network. Sounds like a run-of-the-mill event, right? Not if you share that you're offering access to an early screening of a highly anticipated film that donors can see weeks before anyone else. Or that your screening of a classic film will be followed by a Q&A with the director and cast, who've agreed to attend your reception and take photos with fans. Or that you can win exclusive autographed merchandise at a raffle and bid on a luncheon with a popular film star.

Bottom line: be unique with your fundraiser offerings -- and then show those unique benefits to your target audience in your marketing materials.

Logistics management     

Any fundraiser requires some serious logistics planning, but this is particularly true if you're hosting a large-scale event. 

Consider hiring a logistics coordinator to work with your event team in the initial planning stages. What sort of budget do you have to work with? What resources do you already have access to, and what additional ones do you absolutely need to make your gala a reality? How many sponsors do you already have in your network and how many more can you add for this event?

Having a clear idea of what goals you want your fundraiser to achieve, and what you need in manpower, tech support, venue, and marketing reach will be critical to give you a positive return on investment (ROI) for your efforts. 

Legal and Ethical Considerations

You might have the best of intentions when hosting a large-scale fundraiser, but if you don't comply with the laws and ethical practices of fundraising, you could be putting yourself into a very difficult situation -- not only with state and federal agencies, but your donors as well.

Be sure to research all state and federal regulations concerning your nonprofit or charity. You'll likely have to register with federal and state offices if you're soliciting donations and report your financial activities on a regular basis to show where your income is coming from and what it's being used for. Be willing to consult with legal experts (like lawyers who specialize in nonprofit fundraising) if you have questions.

If you plan on hosting fundraisers involving gambling or alcohol, you'll likely need state licenses (be sure to know if your state even allows gambling or alcohol consumption at fundraisers to take place within its borders). Perform your due diligence and be open and upfront about your activities.

Beyond legal considerations, it's important to conduct yourself ethically, particularly in your relationships with your donors. Be sure to:

Acknowledge your donors

Sending gift acknowledgments and listing your donors on your website and programs goes on a long way in showing appreciation. At the same time, if any donors request to remain anonymous, it's also important to respect their wishes.

Offer transparency

Donors want to know where their dollars are going -- and as the recipient of their contributions, you owe it to them (and the general public) to share this information. Post this information on your website along with case studies that show the impact of these donations on the community.

Understand donor intent

Any nonprofit would be thrilled to be offered a major endowment by a big donor. But what happens if that donation comes attached with strings that go against your nonprofit's ethical standards? If you see any potential complications with accepting certain financial gifts, it can be in your best interest to turn that donor down. 

Be open about your financial management practices

Reporting on your fundraising earnings and allocations isn't just a legal issue but an ethical one as well. Showing the public that you can use your donors' contributions wisely goes a long way in building trust with your community. Keep track of the money being spent on overhead costs, community programs, and fundraisers. Record the time spent on important activities like grant writing, and be willing to audit yourself to see if your time and money are being used in the most economical and competent way. 

Marketing and Promotion of Major Fundraisers

We've already covered how it's important to highlight the unique and exclusive aspects of your fundraisers in your marketing campaigns. However, it's also important to get this message out through as many media outlets as you can.

Social media remains a highly effective way of reaching your support network. As always, pay attention to which channels your donors frequent. Knowing that you can reach the most potential donors on Facebook or Instagram goes a long way in spending your advertising budget wisely.

Of course, other media outlets can prove equally effective at reaching large audiences and high-value donors. Building relationships with TV news producers or getting a sound bite on the radio could direct a lot of donors your way if their target audience(s) match yours. 

And don't overlook the power of word-of-mouth. Getting your existing support network to spread the word about your upcoming event to their friends, family, and work colleagues is an excellent way to expand your donor pool. High-value donors tend to know other high-value donors, so asking them to promote your event could be one of the smartest marketing moves you make.  

Evaluating and Scaling Your Efforts

Which of your fundraising campaigns could benefit from scaling up? To decide where you want (and need) to expand your fundraising efforts, you'll need to measure your current fundraising success.

Take a look back at the goals you set for your fundraiser. Did you want to:

  • Raise a specific amount of money?
  • Attract a new target audience that could add to your donor pool?
  • Increase participation on specific fundraising activities like an auction?
  • Get high-value donors to return to your fundraising event?

All these metrics for success can be evaluated based on the data you collected at your fundraiser. Study the performance statistics in the reports to see where your gala met, exceeded, or fell short of your expectations. Bring on data analysts if you believe you can benefit from their insights.

Make sure to look at all the data. For instance, when assessing how much money your gala made, don't just look at the donations, gifts, and pledges you collected. Take into account your event costs like venue rentals, food, permits etc. and compare them to your budget. Were you able to achieve any savings through in-kind donations or sponsor contributions? All these need to be taken into account to determine if you achieved the ROI you wanted. 

Determine which of your fundraising strategies can be scaled up to help you reach your goals. For example, if attracting larger audiences is your aim, look at your current marketing efforts. Can you scale up your efforts by adding additional media channels to your advertising campaign? Are you targeting all the social media channels your target audience frequents? Could you attract additional supporters by including other channels like radio, TV, or print news? Could finding new sponsors make expanding your marketing campaign more effective and affordable?

Or perhaps you want to retain more of your current supporters. In this case, putting more effort toward nurturing and cultivating relationships with your donors can help keep regular funds coming into your organization, even during tough times.

For example, during in 2020, independent local news outlet Bay City News raised over $200,000 from its supporters despite the issues with staying connected in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Owner and publisher Katherine "Kat" Rowlands shared that she reached out to donors through multiple platforms such as phone calls and video chats, while also following up with emails and even direct mail. When scaling up this type of communication, it helped to adopt a "buddy system" where team members checked with each other to confirm if they'd sent an agreed upon number of emails or phone calls every week.   

When face-to-face communication was more feasible, Rowlands would host smaller parties and meals to help build a sense of community among supporters. These were not ostensibly fundraisers but often served as excellent networking opportunities to meet new donors, partners, or people willing to promote the organization's mission. Ultimately, she found this contributed to the long-term health of her business and any nonprofit organization.     

Moving Forward

Regardless of your nonprofit or charity's mission, the need for regular funding remains the one constant for making a difference in your community. As such, nonprofits need to regularly innovate and adapt to the changes involved in big money fundraising.

By looking at the current state of fundraising, it seems all but inevitable that online fundraising will be the new normal in the future. This does not only mean hosting virtual or hybrid fundraisers but also reaching out to donors through social media and nurturing relationships via multiple media channels including video calls, email, and text.

That being said, at their core, good fundraising strategies never really change. Building relationships with donors requires a strong sense of empathy, regardless of whether it needs to be conveyed through an email or a face-to-face meeting. Likewise, supporters want to be kept in-the-loop and inspired by the work your nonprofit does, which requires your team to regularly craft content and share the impact of your mission -- and your recognition of your donors' contributions to it. 

In this sense, online fundraising should be seen as a tool that can help facilitate -- not replace -- classic big money fundraising tactics. Being able to reach thousands of people around the world through virtual events and hybrid galas goes a long way in creating the sense of large-scale community required for big money fundraising. Similarly, creating online newsletters and social media posts that regularly highlight your programs keeps everyone informed about your activities and builds trust in your organization. Far from being an impersonal means of reaching out to supporters, digital tools can be a great way to keep people around the world connected -- if you can maintain a sense of empathy in your communications.

If you'd like to learn more about how an online platform can enhance your fundraising ideas and help you generate more revenue, sign up for a free demo of PayBee's user-friendly system. We'll show you how classic activities like charity auctions can reach new audiences via digital tools and online auctioneers. You'll also have a chance to ask any of your questions to our team of experts and experience first-hand how intuitive our system is. There's no better way to begin adapting to future fundraising techniques by seeing how they work for yourself, so sign up for a free demo today! 

FAQs

How do I create a compelling storytelling strategy for my fundraising campaign?

Be concise. Effective storytelling needs to educate your audience about your mission, your challenges, and your goals within a few powerful sentences and/or images to keep their attention. Spend time honing your mission into a key statement that everyone will easily remember.

Share statistics and facts about your nonprofit -- who you're helping, what measurable impacts you've made in the community, how much money you've raised (and still need to raise) -- to appeal to the analytical side of your audience. Share impact stories and case studies of actual people who've benefited from your work to appeal to the emotional side of your audience.

Use different forms of media in your storytelling. Video, written copy, graphics, and social media posts are all effective forms of sharing your story.  

How can I ensure that my fundraising event appeals to a global audience?

Make your fundraiser easy for people around the world to attend and contribute to. Use digital tools that help you accept donations in multiple currencies and forms of payment (PayPal, Apple Pay etc.). Promote your mission and fundraiser across multiple media platforms that your global audience frequents so that people are aware of what they're supporting.

Take time zones and international schedules into account when planning your fundraiser. If your fundraiser takes place when half your target audience is asleep or occupied, this will affect your success. Likewise, scheduling galas during national holidays can affect attendance. If offering a livestream event for everyone is impossible, make recordings available for later viewing. 

How do I balance between online and offline strategies in my fundraising campaign?

Understand the needs of your audience. Are most of your donors comfortable participating in virtual and hybrid events? Do they follow busy schedules that necessitate attending events via mobile devices and video calls? Then knowing how to build a user-friendly online fundraiser is key to securing their participation.

On the other hand, do your target donors respond better to face-to-face communication? Then taking the time to offer in-person events -- particularly for high-value donors -- can help nurture a valuable relationship. Understand that not all of your events need to be large-scale galas -- often, hosting small-scale networking sessions and parties can secure the contacts needed for big money fundraising.

Also, don't discount offline strategies in marketing your event. While social media provides you with a wide reach, word-of-mouth can often reach key supporters -- and a hand-delivered invite can provide greater incentive to attend.

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Michael Jung

Michael-Jung

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