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Wayne Elsey 27 min read

Effective Fundraising: 5 Ways to Boost Donations from Supporters

What do you do when your nonprofit has thousands of supporters but comparatively few donors?It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for 5 minutes or 50 years—any fundraising professional understands that individual gifts are necessary to fuelling your work.

From newer supporters who just signed their first petition, to years-long advocates who attend all of your events, your supporters drive your mission forward and empower you to make a positive impact on the world. 

Yet while moral support certainly factors into success, you also need donations to keep the lights on and your work moving forward. After all, donations from individuals who support your mission most likely make up the bulk of your funding. However, not all supporters have taken a step toward giving financially.

It’s time to plan how to boost your nonprofit fundraising efforts, starting with the audience that already cares about your work. As you start revamping your overall strategy, test these effective fundraising tactics to engage your supporters and encourage financial involvement:

  1. Use effective communication practices.
  2. Understand your audience.
  3. Integrate specific calls to action.
  4. Improve your social media presence.
  5. Request in-kind donations.

Donating is the ultimate testament to someone’s support. If you can inspire them to give, they’ll be more likely to stick around. Ready to encourage new supporters to take the plunge so you can lock in long-term support? Let’s dive in.

1. Use effective communication practices.

Communication is a core component of engaging with your supporters, from sharing new projects to giving campaign updates.

Effective communication is an art you’ll need to master, though. Correspondences should be clear and specific, especially if you ask for something. At the same time, you don’t want to bombard your audience with constant requests for money or offend those who opt not to give.

Effective communication helps your organization increase awareness, create strong emotional connections, and develop constituents’ loyalty. The following are four main channels to communicate with supporters, each offering a unique set of perks.

You may reach supporters via email, text, direct mail, or phone call. Let’s take a closer look at each of these channels and their best practices.


Likely the most popular outreach method for nonprofits, emails are an excellent way to share information with large audiences and drive supporters to give. In fact, Funds2Orgs’ list of fundraising ideas for nonprofits notes that email campaigns account for a considerable chunk of all online revenue — but only if leveraged effectively. 

Here are some easy ways to improve your email communications:

  • Use optimized templates to speed up the writing process.
  • Leverage segmentation within your email tools to personalize messages with each supporter’s name and history with your nonprofit.
  • Include a specific call to action at the end of each email (a strategy that we’ll further dive into in a later section).

When you put thought into your emails, the result will be effective messages designed to convert casual readers into donors. Best practices for email are constantly evolving, so be sure to continuously adapt your messages based on effective fundraising and communication trends.


Reach your supporters with a device they’re using daily: their cell phones. Over the past several years, nonprofit communication software has evolved to take advantage of the power of texting for fundraising and day-to-day supporter communication.

For example, consider these effective strategies for keeping in touch with supporters and inspiring donations:

  • Send mass text messages customized for each recipient, marketing important fundraising campaigns in a compelling way.
  • Pair your messages with images to help tap into readers’ emotions and inspire them to take action.
  • Leverage text-to-give tools to direct recipients to a mobile-friendly donation form so that they can give right then and there.

Especially with younger generations, a text message is most often preferred over other methods, leading to higher open rates and increased response levels. Just be sure to honor the short and sweet nature of the texting medium, getting straight to the point with your messages.


Of these communication options, a phone call is the most personal and can more quickly establish an emotional connection between your organization and its supporters.

Phone calls should be standardized to ensure all the correct information is getting across, but also adaptable and authentic between yourself and the supporter on the other line. This is where your CRM comes in handy. The team member tasked with calling supporters can quickly reference any giving history or personal notes recorded by other team members. Then, they can tailor the core message to appeal to the unique supporter.

Remember, this type of communication will naturally take longer than simply hitting “send” on a mass email, so be sure to reserve phone calls for certain supporters, such as your major donors. 


In the mostly digitized world of recent years, the many benefits of direct mail can sometimes fall under the radar. While digital communication is essential, traditional mail can significantly boost your fundraising success, as it: 

  • Sticks out to recipients, offering a contrast to your usual virtual messages
  • Is considered more trustworthy by many donors than digital messaging
  • Provides a more memorable, physical reminder of your mission

You can apply several email best practices to your direct mail outreach, including tailoring it to the recipient and having a clear call to action. However, one key difference is how you’ll have them donate. You might include a QR code that leads to your donation form or a pre-stamped return envelope they can use to send a check if you successfully inspire them to give.

Final Thoughts: When you choose your favorite methods or a combination of a few, make sure to emphasize your organization’s voice in any communication. Try to find the perfect mixture of information and emotion to get supporters ready to take the next steps, and be sure to use the proper channels to thank them after any donation, too!

2. Understand your audience.

To create a more personal relationship with your supporters and solicit donations, you’ll need to know your target—find out what makes them tick.

What is essential to this particular audience? What motivates them? Why did they choose to support your organization in the first place? Answering these questions is an excellent way to target a more segmented group rather than a more generic approach.

Here are some popular involvement opportunities you can offer for more effective fundraising:

  • Social activism: Social activism is anything that seeks to bring social change, specifically to improve society by making things better and fairer. Individuals become activists when they take action and join the fight for societal improvements, and they often choose to do so by financially backing socially-active organizations. If this is something of interest to your audience (or a segment of it), you might put social change at the core of your appeal. Further, you could offer other involvement opportunities, such as signing a petition or reaching out to policymakers.
  • Current events: Local, national, and international happenings can impact individuals’ desire to get involved in charitable organizations. For example, many nonprofits take advantage of the “election effect” during Presidential election years. Also referred to as “rage giving,” social, political, and environmental nonprofits see an influx of donations in response to news stories and policy changes.
  • Noticeable impact: Many choose to support organizations making big differences in the world because they know their donations will have an impact. These tend to be big-name charities with well-known influence. One way to brand yourself as an impactful organization is by sharing stories of your past successes.
  • Community involvement: Others choose to focus their support on nonprofits making a difference in their communities, such as an animal shelter, youth program, or food pantry. These tend to be nonprofits on a smaller scale and are backed by a more personal desire to help those in close vicinity.

By making a solid effort to know your supporters better, you discover what motivates them. Whether you want to learn by trial and error or take a more direct approach by asking them, you need to know what inspires people to stay involved with your cause. Once you have that information, it’s easier to encourage supporters to give to your organization by appealing to that donor motivation.

3. Integrate specific calls to action.

A fundraising call to action (CTA) is the part of your campaign that tells the donor precisely what you want from them and what specific next step they need to take—in many cases, a donation. This CTA can include phrases like “donate now,” “make a difference,” or “take action.” When clicked, a donation button sends users directly to your donation page for a simple, convenient giving experience.

However, some CTAs can also lead to all sorts of other involvement opportunities: such as “learn more here,” “volunteer now,” or “subscribe to monthly updates.” These are often the first steps in building a relationship with an organization before someone contributes their hard-earned money. Your supporters may have already taken these steps with your nonprofit, so now you are trying to solicit donations.

Here are three tried-and-true tips to keep in mind while crafting an effective fundraising call-to-action:

  • Offer a suggested donation: Blank donation requests can be intimidating. Providing a recommended amount can relieve some of the pressure of deciphering a standard donation amount. For instance, your donate button might say, “Donate $15 to make a difference,” to take out the guesswork and provide some guidance.
  • Keep it simple: An effective fundraising CTA is attention-grabbing and quick to read—about five to seven words is optimal. Exclude flowery language, and instead state the desired action and provide a link, directly encouraging supporters to take this next step.
  • Link to an optimized donation page: Make sure your CTA sends users to an optimized donation page. Even if an individual follows your CTA with the intent to donate, a poorly-designed, difficult-to-use webpage runs the risk of form abandonment. Key features to optimize your form include simple payment options, concise language, and customization to fit your brand.


If your CTA is successful, new donations will naturally happen. Your CTA is the most direct path for a supporter to take to become a donor, and as such, solid calls to action have been known to see a significant increase in conversion rates. 

For most effective results, include your CTA everywhere. Popular locations include embedded in your website’s header or homepage, integrated as a popup message, and at the end of email or social media marketing outreach. 

4. Improve your social media presence.

One of the best ways to reach hundreds or thousands of supporters at a time is through social media. Although these tactics are much less personal than traditional communication, social media has substantial advantages when used effectively.

Chances are, you’ve already created your social media pages and probably post every once in a while, but is your approach to social media as effective as it could be? Here are the three primary reasons nonprofits should focus on their social media presence:

  • Interact with your audience: One of the greatest benefits that social networking provides to organizations is interacting with their audiences casually. You can gather insights into your audiences through polls, respond to comments, and answer private messages and other questions. 
  • Inform your network: Social media is a great way to educate your followers with photos and graphics. Use your platforms to tell compelling stories that use emotion and personalization to deepen connections. You can share the mission behind your organization, updates on current projects, and how individuals can get involved. 
  • Improve brand recognition: By becoming more involved with your followers, you create a persona that represents your organization—and demonstrates how you care about people. You can use this persona as a way to improve your nonprofit’s image and how others think and feel about you.

When you leverage social media as part of your fundraising strategies, you pave the way for supporters to become more involved through a combination of education and encouragement. 

5. Request in-kind donations.

Some supporters still won’t be ready to write you a check just yet, and that’s alright! To keep them involved in your work, make sure these supporters know about the various ways to get involved with your organization without making a financial gift through in-kind donations.

In-kind gifts given to an organization aren’t monetary donations. They come in three main forms—including goods, services, and time. Each works as an excellent stepping stone between a supporter and a donor. 

Let’s explore three ways you can take advantage of in-kind gifts.

In-Kind Donation 1: Goods 

Consider asking for physical products in place of monetary donations. This is a great way to put a unique spin on your approach to fundraising and help supporters feel like they’re truly giving.

Common types of donated goods include office equipment, auction goods, and venue space for events. One effective fundraiser that falls in line with in-kind donating and works particularly well for any cause is a shoe drive fundraiser.

With this type of fundraiser, you partner with a shoe drive fundraising coordinator who supplies you with collection bins and other materials for your campaign. Then, call on community members to donate gently worn, new and used shoes to support your cause. Once your campaign wraps up, notify your shoe drive fundraising coordinator, who then collects the donated shoes (contact-free!) in exchange for a check for your organization

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By repurposing something they already have, donors can make a difference in your cause and the environment without pulling out their wallets. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

In-Kind Donation 2: Services

Next to goods, services are among the most popular types of in-kind donations. Those who offer professional services free of charge to your organization might include corporations, small businesses, and individual professionals. These in-kind gifts are typically not tax-deductible. 

Some examples include:

  • An accountant providing accounting services 
  • A lawyer providing legal advice
  • A web designer creating or revamping your nonprofit’s website
  • A marketing professional creating social media posts for your nonprofit to publish
  • Carpenters or local handypersons fixing up your office

No matter what types of services you need, this is a great way to increase support and inspire people to give back in new ways that don’t necessarily require donating money. If you aren’t sure what your team could benefit from, ask what your supporters have to offer!

In-Kind Donation 3: Volunteering

One of the most powerful ways to deepen someone’s connection to your cause is to have them engage in on-the-ground work where they can see what goes into your work firsthand. Let your supporters know you are looking for volunteers, and you would appreciate their time, whether for a particular event or regularly. 

To make the opportunity even more enticing, many companies offer volunteer grants when an employee volunteers at a nonprofit! According to Double the Donation’s corporate giving statistics, 80% of employers with volunteer grant programs provide between $8 to $15 per hour volunteered. Because most eligible individuals are unaware, be sure to encourage your volunteers to check, or better yet, research their eligibility for them.

Final Thoughts: When you request these non-monetary donations, you can attract a new set of donors who may be less trusting of nonprofits and less willing to cut a check. Additionally, it’s a great way for supporters to become further involved if they can’t give financially for the time being.



Integrating these five effective fundraising strategies into your efforts will inspire casual supporters to become committed donors. This will increase your fundraising revenue, engagement with your supporters, and nonprofit best practices. Meanwhile, the new donors feel the increasing impact of improving the world around them. Now get out there and start inspiring your supporters!



Wayne Elsey

Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.