When developing a fundraising plan for your nonprofit, you’ll need to consider a number of ways to bring in revenue. To earn as much as possible and reap various other benefits, consider how you can create a variety of nonprofit revenue streams.
Diversifying your nonprofit’s revenue streams comes with several benefits. For instance, you’ll create a sustainable fundraising model and have reliable funding coming in throughout the year that you can put toward various budgeting needs. You’ll also be able to attract new supporters who have diverse interests by offering multiple ways to get involved with your organization.
In this article, we’ll walk through six standout ideas to diversify your nonprofit’s revenue streams:
- Online shopping fundraisers
- Restaurant partnerships
- Product fundraising
- Recurring events
- Matching gifts
- Google Ad Grants
By using these ideas to diversify your nonprofit’s revenue streams, you’ll get the added benefit of increased community networking. Besides attracting new donors, you’ll also have the opportunity to partner with businesses and platforms that will support your fundraising efforts, widening your reach. Let’s dive in!
1. Online shopping fundraisers
An online shopping fundraiser allows supporters to contribute to your nonprofit by making everyday purchases. When supporters shop at participating retailers using your fundraising program’s app or browser extension, a portion of their total sales will go back to your nonprofit at no additional cost to you or your supporters.
ShopRaise’s guide to shopping for a cause outlines how you can get started with an online shopping fundraiser in four easy steps:
- You partner with a shopping fundraiser platform. Research shopping fundraising programs and partner with one that has connections to retailers your supporters already shop at. Once you’ve set up your fundraiser, you’ll have access to the program’s app and browser extension.
- You spread the word to supporters. Marketing is essential to a successful shopping fundraiser since many of your supporters likely won’t have participated in one before. They’ll need instructions to get started and regular reminders to use the app or browser extension when shopping online. Marketing this fundraiser sounds more challenging than it actually is—some fundraising programs will create web pages and other marketing materials branded to your organization so you can easily distribute them.
- Shoppers make purchases online as they normally would. Items purchased during a shopping fundraiser are the same price as they would be otherwise, and participants still have access to any regular coupon codes or discounts. The only difference is that supporters will go through the fundraising app or browser extension when making the same purchases they would have anyway.
- You receive a percentage of each participant’s total sale. This comes in the form of unrestricted revenue, so your organization can put the funds toward necessary but often underfunded operating expenses or future budgeting needs. You’ll also be able to track your results through the shopping fundraiser platform so that you can use the data to adjust your ongoing marketing strategy and thank your supporters.
Online shopping fundraisers have a variety of benefits for both your nonprofit and your supporters. Any size organization can run this type of fundraiser to bring in reliable revenue year-round. It’s also a no-ask sale for your nonprofit—participants benefit from being able to support a good cause without spending any extra time or money.
2. Restaurant partnerships
In addition to bringing in revenue, fundraising through restaurant partnerships can help your organization to spread awareness about your cause by associating your name with a popular business in your community. To secure your nonprofit a partnership with a restaurant, you’ll likely have two options:
- Local business partners. Local restaurants (or even food trucks) are often eager to support good causes in their communities, making this a strong option for smaller nonprofits. The challenge here is that you’ll have to handle the negotiations with the business yourself.
- Chain restaurant partners. Many popular restaurant chains—including Chipotle, Panera Bread, and Panda Express—have established fundraising programs for nonprofits to apply for partnerships. This way, you won’t have to negotiate and can set up a passive fundraiser. Most programs only accept nonprofits that already have widespread name recognition, though, so this option won’t work for every organization.
Once you establish a restaurant partnership, they’ll either host events where a portion of sales on a designated day goes to your organization or put out a donation tip jar where supporters can contribute whenever they visit. The type of restaurant fundraiser will depend on the partnership program your organization enrolls in or the policies that you negotiate with your local partner.
3. Product fundraising
Another way to bring in revenue for your nonprofit that involves making purchases is product fundraising. In a product fundraiser, your supporters help your organization by selling specific items either by sharing a web link with their family and friends or having people fill out paper order forms, and a portion of the profits goes back to your nonprofit.
One advantage of product fundraising is its versatility. Many types of organizations can benefit from product fundraisers—such as schools, community groups, and sports teams—in addition to traditional 501(c)(3) nonprofits.
Double the Donation’s guide to product fundraising also lists a wide range of ideas for products to sell, including:
- Merchandise branded to your organization, like t-shirts or mugs.
- Specialty food items, such as gourmet popcorn or cookie dough tubs.
- Holiday decorations and wrapping paper.
- Household goods, whether they’re as small as candles or as large as mattresses.
Product fundraising does involve shoppers going out of their normal routines, but it still gives them a reward in return for supporting your organization. To make your product fundraiser into a reliable source of revenue, you could host one annually or even set up a year-round online merchandise store.
4. Recurring events
You can turn your nonprofit’s fundraising events into reliable revenue sources by making them into annual traditions for your organization. If an event that you run one year is particularly popular, evaluate what went well and what could be improved. Then, use those insights when planning the next year’s event.
Some fundraisers that especially lend themselves to becoming annual traditions include:
- Giving days. Giving Tuesday is already a national fundraiser for nonprofits, so your organization could encourage supporters to participate even more by offering a special benefit every year. You could also run an annual 24-hour campaign on another significant date to your nonprofit, such as the anniversary of your founding.
- Galas or auctions. Galas and auctions can be very profitable for nonprofits, and each one you put on will likely run more smoothly than the last. You’ll also build relationships with sponsors by making these events recurring, allowing you to secure speakers, entertainment, and in-kind donations of auction items more easily each time.
- 5K races. Scheduling a 5K to support your nonprofit at the same time each year can provide reliable revenue, and you can give it a seasonal theme (like a Turkey Trot in November or a Cupid Chase in February) to cement it as a tradition for your organization.
- Family fun events. Movie screenings, game nights, holiday craft times, and other family-friendly activities all make great recurring events for kids and parents to spend time together while supporting a good cause.
The more times you run an event, the more streamlined your planning and setup will become. Saving time in these areas of your process will give you the opportunity to try out different marketing strategies, such as posting new forms of social media content or creating a microsite devoted to the event, to attract more attendees in future years.
5. Matching gifts
Make the individual donations you receive go even further by adding matching gifts to your nonprofit’s revenue streams. When an employee of a business with a matching gifts program donates to a nonprofit and submits a match request, the business will contribute to that nonprofit as well. Sometimes the business will match the original donation exactly, sometimes they’ll give a percentage of that amount, and sometimes they’ll double or even triple their employee’s gift.
Matching gifts can bring in reliable funds for a nonprofit—if their supporters are aware of the program. Studies have shown that up to $7 billion in matching gifts funding goes unclaimed every year, mainly because donors whose employees offer matching gifts often don’t know that the program exists. However, 84% of donors are more likely to give when they know their contribution will be matched.
Your nonprofit can increase awareness of matching gifts programs by promoting them through several marketing channels. On your donation confirmation webpage, add a link where donors can check their matching gift eligibility. You can also send emails explaining how matching gifts work and remind supporters about the program through social media posts.
6. Google Ad Grants
Google Ad Grants are different from the other revenue streams listed above since they’re a way to save your organization money on marketing instead of bringing in funds directly. But by leveraging this revenue source, your nonprofit can reduce its marketing budget and put more resources into other areas of your nonprofit.
If your nonprofit submits an application and meets the Google Ad Grant eligibility criteria, you’ll receive $10,000 worth of Google advertising funds each month, whereas organizations without the grant would have to pay per click. These grants differ from others in that an unlimited number of organizations can receive them. Your nonprofit can spread awareness about multiple initiatives at once and attract new supporters at no additional cost.
Adding new revenue streams to your nonprofit’s fundraising plan can bring in more reliable funds and expand your network at the same time. The ideas listed here are just six of the many possibilities that you can explore to create a combination of revenue streams that works for your nonprofit.
About the Author
Korri Piper, Sales and Marketing Consultant & Director of Vendor Relationships at ShopRaise.
"Relationship director, project manager, writer and general life enthusiast. Let me tell you how online shopping can solve the world's problems."
This collaboration was arranged through a listing on Nexus Marketing’s HAPO (Help a Partner Out) page. HAPO is a free service that connects members of the social good sector for cross-marketing and educational opportunities, such as webinars, podcasts, and conferences. For more information on HAPO or Nexus Marketing’s other offerings check out their website, nexusmarketing.com.
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