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How to expand into DIY fundraising

The Sierra Club’s Team Sierra DIY fundraising site.

Nontraditional, creative peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, such as do-it-yourself (DIY) fundraising, can be an effective way to supplement traditional peer-to-peer events — such as runs, walks , and rides — especially during the months between events. DIY fundraising campaigns allow participants, who are typically a nonprofit’s strongest supporters, to create their own campaigns on behalf of the nonprofit and invite their friends and family to participate in and donate to those campaigns.

What is DIY fundraising?

With DIY fundraising, an organization provides an online environment for supporters to set up their own fundraising page in support of a campaign created by the nonprofit. The organization often will establish fundraising categories such as “workplace giving,” “athletic,” “in memory/honor,” or “special occasion” to help participants get started. The campaigns can be seasonal, annual, or “evergreen” (with no specific end date).

What nonprofits need to do to create successful DIY campaigns

Although DIY fundraising campaigns do not require the same level of investment as a physical event (including logistics, waivers, etc.), organizations sometimes forget to allow for the proper resources, time, and money to market their campaign. To get started, you’ll need to:

  • Get organizational buy-in — Bring together the stakeholders in your organization.
  • Set goals — Consider how much funds you aim to raise and how many supporters you want to sign up to participate.
  • Set a budget — Consider costs, including: fundraising platform licensing; staff time for campaign strategy, copywriting, microsite and database management; marketing costs for graphic design, printing of flyers, postage for direct mail, and advertising.
  • Create a campaign committee — Bring together a team to make your campaign a success.

Tie the campaign to your nonprofit’s brand and mission. To get your supporters excited about helping you raise funds, you need a compelling story to tell them and for them to tell their friends and family. Start by brainstorming ideas for your campaign, and then review the ideas with your campaign committee. Consider the following aspects of the campaign with your team:

  • What type of campaign options will you offer? For example, an individual physical challenge, a birthday, a tribute or a memorial? Each type has specific needs.
  • What mission-critical problem does your campaign solve, e.g. why should someone participate and donate?
  • What difference does a donation make? Make sure to quantify this to help participants help donors understand the impact of their donation.

Build your marketing and communications plan and calendar. Write down the date of the last communication you will send for your campaign, and then work backward to add all of the other communications and prep work you’ll need to do leading up to that last communication. Consider multiple channels for getting the word out about your campaign — email, social media, direct mail, advertising. Be sure to coordinate with your marketing and fundraising departments so you aren’t “competing” with your organization’s other communications or activities, such as a newsletter, other fundraising campaign communications, or special events. At the same time, find out if you can promote your campaign through your organization’s existing communications.

If your campaign is evergreen, think about how you can continue to promote the campaign after you have launched it. Your participants need a way to create their own online fundraising pages, send emails to friends and family, use social media, and accept donations online. You’ll also need to track the campaign, manage your list of fundraisers, and communicate with them. In addition, to ensure your campaign doesn’t fizzle out, you need to coach, support, and motivate your fundraisers.

Take advantage of social media. Post images and stories about your campaign, your organization’s mission, and those who benefit from your organization’s work. Don’t forget to ask your fundraisers to re-post, re-tweet, and share your posts. Creating a hashtag for your campaign can make it easier for participants to share messages. Also, make sure to pick up the phone to ask your fundraisers how things are going, and thank them for their hard work. Consider writing a personalized note, perhaps signed by your executive director or a member of your board, to thank them. Use SMS to send quick, virtual high-fives to fundraisers as they reach milestones.

There are more aspects to planning a DIY fundraising campaign than one article can cover, but these tips will get you well on your way. As you work through your campaigns, be sure to take notes on what works and what doesn’t so you can make your next campaigns even better.

This is a guest post by Mark Becker, Founding Partner at Cathexis Partners. For more than a decade, Mark has used his deep experience with CRM and CMS software for nonprofits to help organizations get the most from their existing technology tools, implement new technology to address gaps, and find the best overall approach to using technology to support their missions.