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Supporter-driven fundraising

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Question:

How can nonprofits engage supporters to fundraise on their behalf?

Answer:

The traditional way for supporters to help an organization has been through a substantial fundraising event such as a walkathon or marathon.

Through just this sort of event, the concept of personal online fundraising was established.

But both this large event-centric strategy and the nonprofit’s role as primary organizer are rapidly changing. Two new approaches to fundraising have proven to be very effective:

* Events as determined by the individual fundraiser

This is an approach I think is compelling and is being adopted by many charitable organizations and their supporters.

Many times it’s the supporters coming to the charities by themselves, saying, “I want to raise money for your charity by putting on this particular event.”

This approach is similar in many ways to traditional event fundraising, except that the supporter’s central role in organizing the event greatly lessens cost and logistics for the charity.

These types of fundraising campaigns are most effectively conducted online.

Last December, for example, a food blogger raised over $60,000 for the UN World Food Programme through an online fundraising page. She’s a great example of an individual who had a passion, and without organizing an event of any sort, found a very effective way to engage her community to do a lot of good for an organization.

Any charity, no matter how small, can engage in this type of supporter- driven fundraising; it’s not necessary to have a large staff or lots of money available.

* Collaborative fundraising efforts.

Another way to approach person-to-person fundraising is for a nonprofit to engage multiple supporters in individual fundraising campaigns for a common goal.

For example, any organization that has an awareness month or day can use its network of supporters to reach as many potential donors as possible.

PanCAN, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, had 70 supporters create 70 individual online fundraising pages for November’s Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and raised thousands of dollars through these efforts.

This approach to fundraising has the benefit of being personalized and immediate.

An animal shelter may create an online fundraising page for a dog in immediate need, post a compelling photo and post periodic updates on the dog’s treatment, all while the dog is benefiting directly from the dollars donated.

These areas are growing rapidly because so many people now are not only using email, but also connecting through blogs and online social networks.

Nonprofits can link their online fundraising pages directly to such virtual networks; it makes a fundraising effort portable and lets a fundraiser tell their community about it.

The way in which blogs and social networks are expanding helps create an environment in which person-to-person fundraising can occur more effectively, and that’s the biggest reason why we’re seeing such growth in these two approaches.

–Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd


Mark Sutton is CEO of Firstgiving, an organization based in Somerville, Mass., that helps nonprofits create online, person-to-person fundraising campaigns.

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