5 Donation Jar Ideas For More Cash & Credit Card Donations

Whether you’re raising funds during a fundraising event, checkout charity campaign, or another in-person situation, donation jars are a simple and easy way to collect funds.

Why are donation jars so efficient and convenient?

Having a branded donation jar to display in public places is like having a volunteer or staff member present to solicit gifts—and they’re great for potential donors too! Your supporters have the option to donate without being pressured or made to feel guilty if they decide not to give.

Plus, with recent technology, you can implement donation jars that accept credit card donations, so none of your supporters feel left out.

If you want to use donation jar ideas to jumpstart your in-person fundraising efforts, we’ve got 5 tips to help you.

  1. Choose the right donation jar idea.

  2. Design your donation jar.

  3. Call your donors to action.

  4. Secure your donation jar.

  5. Place your donation jar in a prime location.

With each tip, we'll explain why it’s so important and provide you with best practices that you can use on your own donation jars.

What are you waiting for? Let’s get right into the tips!

1. Choosing the right donation jar idea

A successful campaign starts with picking the right donation jar. As we mentioned in the introduction, there are more ways than ever to accept cash and credit card donations.

With a plethora of options available, it’s crucial that you evaluate your nonprofit's needs to determine which option is suitable for your organization.

When looking for the right donation jar idea, you should ask yourself the following questions before starting your search:

  • How will our donation jar be used? You may just have one specific use for your jar like The New York Public Library that uses a digital donation jar to accept gifts after their audio tours. In contrast, you may have multiple scenarios where you want to implement donation jars. List out how you will use your jar so you can find an idea that is versatile enough to meet your needs.

  • Do we want to accept cash and credit card donations? Your answer should be "yes" as you'll have more fundraising potential, but this question is still important to ask. You may need to utilize two donations (one jar for cash donations and another device to fulfill credit card contributions) to collect different types of gifts.

  • Where will our donation jar be placed? The donation jar’s location will affect what size jar you choose. For instance, if you're using a jar for a checkout charity, then you should pick something that’s small enough to fit near the cash register and portable in case you have to move it often.

Assessing your nonprofit’s needs will help you determine what type of donation jar will work best for your circumstance.

Let’s look at how The Salvation Army used donation jars in their Red Kettle campaign:

As you can see from the image, The Salvation Army used two different donation jar ideas to collect both cash and credit card donations. While their traditional red kettles have been effective in raising money, they missed out on a large group of potential supporters that didn’t carry cash.

That’s why they decided to implement the portable and simple DipJar to accept credit card donations.

Using a device like DipJar allows The Salvation Army and other nonprofits to implement long-term giving solutions as fewer people are carrying cash on the go.

The Salvation Army is just one example of how you can use two different donation jar ideas to have a well-rounded giving strategy that allows you to raise even more money for your cause. We’ve rounded up some other creative ways that customers are using DipJars as a daily donation jar and during fundraising events.

2. Design your donation jar

Having a well-designed donation jar is about more than just making it look visually appealing (though that does help to attract potential donors!); it’s about gaining your supporters' trust as well.

Designing your donation jar is time well spent because it helps:

  • Donors recognize your brand. Your donation jar won’t always be in a context where people will be familiar with your organization. By creating a donation jar that matches your brand, donors will know who’s receiving their donations as well as begin to recognize your organization at other events and in-person fundraising situations.

  • Raise more money for your cause. By using current design trends and best practices, you can actually increase the amount of money you raise. A well-designed donation jar stands out, which is especially important when you’re vying for donors’ attention at events with multiple organizations. When you have an interesting and unique donation jar, it will draw donors in (and, hopefully, encourage them to contribute).

  • Evoke the positive feelings that make a giving experience memorable. When a donation kiosk is branded, it immediately connects donors to your cause. As such, donation jars that are designed to encourage and uplift donors help make the experience of giving more enjoyable.

Designing your jar is one of the most important steps. In other words: with unbranded donation jars, donors will be more tentative about donating because it isn’t clear how their money will be used.

Since donation jars can be used in a variety of situations, it’s especially important that your donation jars are designed to grab attention, ease your donors’ concerns, and inspire them to give.

Use these best practices to design your own cash or credit card donation jar:

  • Brand your donation jar with your nonprofit’s colors. Go with a color that stands out rather than using the muted colors in your brand’s palette.

  • Include your logo and/or slogan so donors instantly know it’s your organization. Plus, including a slogan gives donors some context on how the funds will be used.

  • Find a device that is designed to make the giving process easy for digital donation jars so that supporters are more likely to give.

  • Use a transparent container for cash donation jars. Clear donation jars are more effective because donors like to see how much other supporters have given and follow suit.

If you’re using cash and credit card donation jars, make sure they are designed to look well together and try to create the same giving experience for each device.

For example, with DipJar, donors just “dip” their cards into the device to give, which is like placing cash in a jar. That way, every donor has a quick, enjoyable process—no matter what method they use.

3. Call your donors to action

Depending on your situation, you won’t always have a representative to tell donors about your nonprofit’s story or the cause the money will go toward. Therefore, it’s important to include a message that not only clarifies your cause but also motivates your donors to act.

Your approach is going to need to vary from situation to situation.

For example, imagine you're running a fundraiser connected to an urgent need, such as recovery after wildfires, and you've found a few shops within the affected region that will participate as well as a few shops across the country who will also let you set up jars.

All of your donation jars will need to include calls to action, but those near the affected region should have a different call to action than those farther away.

The local giving kiosks can use signs and wording that talk about the problem in a more personal way, since the passersby are more likely to have been directly impacted by the wildfire.

Alternatively, the calls to actions elsewhere need to be more explanatory, catching passerbys up on the situation while encouraging them to provide financial support. 

For further explanation, let's look at how the Specialty Food Foundation managed to explain their cause and motivate donors to give:

For their donation jar, they’ve decided to use a DipJar so they can accept credit card gifts. On their sign, they’ve explained:

  • How to use the device.

  • The contribution amount.

  • How the money will be used.

In just a few words, donors can confidently give knowing all the facts. Plus, the copy is direct and engaging. There is no ambiguity as to how donors can show their support—all they have to do is dip to donate $5.

You can use the same (or very similar) techniques on your own donation jars to encourage your supporters to give. You can call your donors to action by:

  • Offering suggested donation amounts. Giving your donors direction when it comes to the donation amount is a tried-and-true best practice that has been known to help increase individual donations. Ask donors to give a small amount (think: $1-$5). This will also help speed up the donation process as supporters don’t have to decide on a gift themselves.

  • Placing signs beside your donation jar. Just like in the Specialty Food Foundation example, you can use signage to explain your cause and how to give. Include images and your logo and use your nonprofit’s colors on your message so that it grabs attention and maintains a consistent brand.

  • Using catchy phrases to encourage people to donate. It’s important to be direct when asking for donations—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, too! For example, the Children’s Miracle Network uses the phrase “Put your money where your miracles are” on their DipJar to encourage donations. Not only is the message direct, but it’s also catchy and a phrase people will remember even if they don’t donate.

Every nonprofit will have a distinctive voice when it comes to developing their call to action. In the aforementioned example, the Children's Miracle Network put a positive spin on medical fundraising which creates that feel-good giving atmosphere that donors love!

Similarly, you can use a combination of these strategies to zero in on the right tone for your organization and motivate supporters to give. Remember to have fun with your message as this will hook your donors' attention and create a giving experience that is pleasant and memorable.

4. Secure your donation jar

Donors want to know where their money is going and ensure that it gets to the organization. This is especially true when you have a checkout charity with multiple retail partners involved.

When it comes to cash donation jars, it’s important to set them somewhere that can easily be seen by employees. With constant monitoring, you can ensure that all the donations go to a good cause.

For digital donation jars, the giving process may be unfamiliar, so donors might be more hesitant about using a device if they’re not sure it’s secure.

Put your supporters at ease by choosing a device that is PCI-compliant. A provider that is PCI-compliant adheres to a strict set of standards created by the Payment Card Industry to ensure that your donors’ information is safe and protected.

Of the many standards they employ, providers have to secure donations using either encryption or tokenization, which are processes that take sensitive information and transform it into nonsensical code that can only be translated by the payment processor.

With secure donation jars, donors can give with confidence, knowing that their money will go to your cause. Plus, if you're accepting credit card donations, a PCI-compliant device will protect your nonprofit from fraudulent transactions.


5. Place your donation jar in a prime location

Imagine you’re at a fundraising gala and want to donate to an organization but can’t find the donation jar. You might continue searching for a couple of minutes or ask someone (if there is anyone around), but after a while, you’ll likely give up on donating.

In fact, many supporters might skip the search and decide not to give. Don’t lose potential donors because you’ve placed your donation jar in a spot that’s hard to find.

Additionally, placing a donation jar in a location that’s easy to spot means that other people will see donors giving and using your donation jars. The act of seeing others contribute can spark potential donors’ interests and motivate them to give as well.

Depending on your situation, different locations may work better, but in general, you should place your donation jar in a prominent spot that’s front and center.

We’ve compiled a list of the best locations to place your donation jar for 3 common fundraising situations:

Here is an example of how the Susan G. Komen Foundation placed their donation jars at an event:

While there is a lot of signage and other marketing materials on their table, the foundation chose to place the donation jars at the front of the display. It's the first thing potential donors see when they walk by. 

Placing your donation jar in a location that’s easy to spot increases your chance of raising more money for your cause.

The classic donation jar has always been an effective way to raise money, and when paired with newer versions that accept credit card donations, you can raise even more funds for your cause.

With these donation jar ideas, you can find an ideal solution for all your in-person fundraising needs!

Additional resources:

  • Daily collection vs event collection Whether you’re collecting passive donations with a collection jar at a local community hot spot or hosting your own annual event, there are creative ways to solicit donations. Read how 4 other organizations are using DipJar as a donation jar.

  • In-Person Fundraising. Fundraising face-to-face is a fundamental solicitation strategy that isn’t going anywhere. In fact, with technological advances, it’s gotten easier (and more effective!). Learn how to fundraise in-person with these tips.

  • Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Square for Nonprofits. You’ve probably heard of the portable card reader called Square. While many nonprofits are using this device to accept credit card donations on the go, we’re here to tell you that there are better devices! Check out this article to learn more.

  • Less is More in Fundraising. Asking for a specific donation amount has been proven to increase gifts because the fewer options (or donation amounts) supporters have to choose from, the more likely they are to give. Learn more about the science behind less is more.