Fundraising Fundamentals & Types of Fundraisers

Fundraising Fundamentals & Types of Fundraisers

Fundraising is quite varied with lots of choices.  It is important for non profit organizations to analyze their current fundraisers and be open to discovering new fundraisers. 

Don’t be surprised if fundraising outcomes vary year by year yielding different outcomes based on current audience and donor population.   Some audiences like familiarity and donating in the same fashion over and over, some prefer diversity and change.  Use your own data to make the best assessment for your audience.  Just because an event or product sale worked for the school, gymnastics group or football team doesn’t mean it will work for the band or arts center.  Evaluate potential donor base that may have joined or left the family.  Don’t be afraid to get feedback, change, or modify fundraising events, techniques or tools.

fundraising fundamentals




Survey the Audience

Taking a survey among stakeholders has a two-fold benefit.  

  1. Learn what type of fundraiser the audience is willing to participate in
  2. Stakeholders that are involved in the decision making have an inherent obligation to support it.  

When taking a survey use a tool to make it anonymous.  Run the survey for about a week.  Review and report the findings in timely manner to prove that the findings are important.   


Scheduling a Fundraiser

Create a master calendar to record all events fundraising and non-fundraising to map out overall commitments for volunteers and supporters.  Try not to overlap fundraising efforts, asking too frequently is a turn-off.  Do offer the calendar as far in advance as possible.  If you can’t provide exact dates give a general time frame.

 Time of year can make or break a fundraiser.  Scheduling an outdoor event like a walk-a-thon in the dead of winter is probably not ideal,  nor is trying to do cookie and chocolates in January when New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight are in full swing.

Do  schedule time for:

  • Thank you notices 
  • Appreciation for donors, volunteers and employees
  • Reporting fundraising results 
  • Regular and milestone updates when fundraising monies are being spent for the cause.


Hyper Scrutinize Past Donor Data

Top donors, quantity and reason for giving.  Get a high level view of past fundraising efforts and evaluate success levels.  Hyper-scrutinize the past few years fundraisers and outcomes.  Analyze volume of donors, frequency of participants, donation and participation levels.  Bust out the calculator and or spreadsheet and identify trends.  BY trends this may be just one or ah-ha moments.  


For example an elementary school was reviewing past fundraiser reports trying to streamline their efforts.  They were running 3 large events per year, it was taxing on the volunteers and had some negative feedback that “how many times so we have to give?”.  They identified that two of the fundraisers, auction fundraising and walk-a-thon, had very diverse top givers.  In addition, there were more people that gave to the walk-a-thon at lower amounts yet the auction brought in as much money but from a different crowd.  During the same year a product fundraiser was conducted that did ok.  The supporters of the product fundraiser tended to participate additionally to either the auction or walk-a-thon or all 3.  None of the product fundraiser supporters were exclusive to that activity.  


Do the donors overlap in donation activities or do they only donate to a single type.  By eliminating or changing a fundraiser will you be emilimanting the donation?  What works, what can be enhanced? What can grow? How can you repeat or broaden the base?  What communication channel worked, didn’t work, or can be expanded?  


Fox Tip: A lessor number of fundraisers may produce a higher amount for funds raised.


Using Incentives

Incentives create excitement and motivation for fundraising goals.  The key here is to incentivize not alienate participants. They purpose of incentives should be to get all parties to participate in some way.  Small tokens at low level participation where each person can earn a prize works well to increase widespread activity.  In a school based fundraiser consider rewarding the adults as well as the students.  Teacher, grade level and parents too enjoy being appreciated.   Incentives don’t have to be expensive.  


Small souvenirs are nice but a classy and professional  public appreciation is even better.  Shout out in newsletters, social media and public forum the supporters of the fundraiser.  Thank each person for participating by showing them how their money makes a difference.  


Threshold level incentives are good options as well.  Those that sell #X of $X get to ________ fill in the blank.  Offer ‘valuable; options that may not cost much,  For example school based stat after for a pizza party, no uniform day or week.  Offer one ‘grand’ prize of a sought after electronic device and a few lower level prizes for 2nd and 3rd place.



Communication before during and after a fundraiser program is critical to maintaining credibility and transparency.  Provide updates frequently as the fundraising event is underway.  Show and tell how the funds will be used and how close to goal the fundraiser is in achieving the goal.  Communicate and engage to provide updates on promises kept and accomplishments achieved.  Keep all communication channels and social feeds updated.  Continue to grow the cause with photos, videos encouraging supporters to share and broaden the base.


Types of Fundraisers

Product Sales

Product fundraisers focus on selling products people already are buying or want to buy.  By offering items people already buy at a great price and for a good cause, people are more likely to participate.  Tend to be catalog based and  range from common household goods, to niche and exclusive and branded and non-branded.  Product sales are a 2-step process: 1) selling product typically from a catalog or flyer, funds are typically collected at the front end of the fundraiser;  2) distribution of goods.


The benefit to a product fundraiser is that it’s not just asking for a flat donation, goods are exchanged for the donation.  The group selling the goods receives commission or percentage of goods sold.  


Product sales can be catalog based.  Catalog based fundraisers make the sales process easier to offer multiple options and increase sales potential.  It is possible to offer multiple catalogs together to expand the options even more diversely.  


Product fundraisers vary extensively, here is small sampling:

  • Batteries
  • Baking pans
  • blankets
  • Candles
  • Garbage bags
  • Gift cards
  • Household goods
  • Kitchen tools
  • Magazines
  • Magnets
  • Trash bags
  • Tickets to sports events
  • T Shirts
  • Water bottles

PROS: There are so many to choose from.

CONS:  The fundraising margins need be well understood before signing a contract to avoid disappointment.

FOX TIP:  Do sample the goods to be sure the quality is commensurate with the pricing.  

SHOW ME: Product Sales Fundraising Vendors



Food Sales

Already prepared or ready to cook or consume.

Food fundraisers focus on selling food products that are are either a simple commodity or niche and unique.  Food fundraisers tend to be catalog based with a theme such as candy, snacks, popcorn, cookies, cookie dough.  Food sales can be raw product such as cookie dough or popcorn bags, OR already prepared foods such as candies, jerky and lollipops.   Already prepared, ready to cook, ready to consume.  Snacks, meals, treats, sweet, salty, kosher the choices are vast.  


Food Fundraisers vary extensively, here is small sampling:

  • Coffee
  • cookbooks
  • Cookies
  • Cookie dough
  • Candies
  • Jams
  • Jerky
  • Lollipops
  • Popcorn


PROS: Everyone eats food.

CONS: Choosing the right food that will sell

FOX TIP: Offering 2 or 3 options of food sales diversifies the fundraiser.  Some vendors offer a catalog to also provide diversity.

SHOW ME: Food Fundraisers Vendors



Crowd Funding

Direct ask to stakeholders for donations

A fundraiser to raise money from small amounts of donations from a large number of people. This is typically done through the online and relies upon social media sharing to engage in giving.  Directly ask for donations.  Historically the go-fund-me type of crowd funding was used by individuals for catastrophic events.  Crowdsourcing has evolved rapidly and now much more widely used for many ongoing fundraising organizations.   The fairly new for organizations yet powerful.  


PROS: Requires very low volunteer effort to set-up a crowdfunding event.

CONS: Requires a robust social media following that can and will share and engage.  

FOX TIP: Make the crowdfunding event meaningful.  Keep the social media feeds active with stories, pictures and videos.

SHOW ME: Crowdfunding Fundraising Vendors



Retailers and restaurants use give back programs to promote local philanthropy.  Most of the requests to participate are online applications.  Once an application is approved typically the company supplies flyers, either print or digital, to distribute.  The fundraising group then rallies friends and supporters to dine or shop on a given day AND show the flyer so the group can receive credit for the sale.  Giving Back fundraisers allow your donors to dine or shop at their favorite places and do-good at the same time. Restaurants and retail shops ranges widely from 10-50% back to the cause.


PRO: Supporters are already eating out and shopping the stores; this is a good reason to do so and help a cause.  

CON: Restaurants and retailers offer give-back days mid week.

FOX TIP:   Book in advance but remind your supporters multiple times about the give-back day.  Use a digital flyer the day before, the night before, the morning of and one more time during the day to increase participation.  

SHOW ME: Giveback Fundraising Choices


Fundraising Software

Get organized with a fundraising platform.  Alternatively you may notice software these days is web based Software as a Service (SaaS).Long term planning is easier when there is hub to track all fundraising transactions.  This type of software helps to streamline fundraising by managing volunteers, memberships, donors & overall record keeping.  Tracking everything leads to better reporting and better reporting leads to better planning a fiscal management.  


Track events, donors, and planned giving with donors and maintain clear channels of communication. Harness the data from all your events and stakeholders, fundraising & volunteer, and stay connected with the giver turning the single experience into a long term relationship.  Be sure to choose a program that can import and export data soyou can integrate when needed to other platforms.  Never allow your own data to be held hostage.   


PRO: Keeps the data organized all in one place.  

CON: Need full tema commitment to use the software to stay current and accurate.

FOX TIP: Fundraising software may be borrow the acronym from the business side CRM, Customer Relations Manager

SHOW ME: Fundraising Software and SaaS vendors





Special Events

Events with a purpose make fundraising intersting.  A fundraising event that occurs for a limited time with a specific purpose.  Special events tend to be themed with an activity to trigger short term interest yet with a specific impact.  Using a special event brings freshness, ignites new passion and unique donors.  Events with a purpose to fundraise are fun.  When people are having fun they donate more generously.  Having donors feel emotionally tied to your cause will in turn  give longevity to your donor base.


Special events are fundraisers which attract people who want to engage in a social activity such as:

  • Run or walk 5k, fun run, a-thon
  • Auction- Live silent or online
  • Raffle
  • Adult game night- casino,
  • Family based event- bingo, movie, carnival, field day, fair day  
  • Meal based- spaghetti night, pizza night,

These types of  fundraisers are time consuming so be sure your team is onboard.  The reward can yield exceptional results and long term goodwill.  Special events take time to grow.  Although the first year may might not meet expectations the same event can ‘gain traction’ and grow in the following years.  


PRO: Special events can become crown jewel in the overall fundraising strategy.

CON: Special events require lead time to plan and promote as well as reliable volunteers to follow through on the entire event.

FOX TIP: It’s ok to spend some money to make money.  Special events will take marketing dollars to promote the event in order to boost participation.

SHOW ME: Special Event Fundraising Vendors


Fundraising with an Expert Advisor


Professional consultants, coaches and event coordinators specializing in fundraising.  Utilizing experts can move fundraising efforts from ordinary to extraordinary.  Investing in the time and money with experts can optimize fundraising campaigns.  Expert advisors offer 1:1 coaching, webinars, team meetings, board brainstorming and get results.  


Just like folks hire computer experts to fix their computers, and mechanics to work on their cars, smart organizations realize they need a seasoned professional to fully maximize the impact of their events. After all, if an organization is spending a lot of money to host an event, they want to make sure they are doing it right and ensure the best return on their investment.

“The reality is that you only get one chance to get a live event right…so you don’t want to make mistakes that can easily be avoided by hiring a professional.”

A.J. Steinberg, Queen Bee Fundraising

The most common professionals hired to help with events are event planners, auctioneers and auction companies. These consultants have spent years learning their crafts, so there won’t be any painful mistakes born from inexperience. A really great consultant should help the organization make far more money than the cost of their consulting fee.


PRO: Experts have a wide range of tools and advice that an organization can value from an outside advisor.

CON: Experts are an investment in time and money.  

FOX TIP: Look for an expert that aligns with the groups long term vision.  Ask for and talk to references.

SHOW ME: Expert fundraising advisors


Even More

Unique and do it yourself fundraising.  Fundraising activities that don’t fit in the box.    Inspirational fundraising special interests, projects, DIY.  Assorted philanthropic services to enhance fundraising. Unique Fundraising activities draw interest and show high impact.  Specific teacher donation funding programs or a post-event donation match.  Event enhancers  such as no-risk auction items and donation matching can all help the fundraiser soar.   


PRO: Unique fundraisers attract attention.

CON: Thinking outside the box takes some time to understand, but worth the effort.

FOX TIP: In the United States $6-10 billion in matching gifts go unclaimed each year.  Donation match programs help nonprofit organizations and schools increase fundraising from corporate matching gift and employee volunteer grant programs.

SHOW ME:  Even more fundraising vendors



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