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6 Group Fundraising Ideas to Energize Your Donor Base

Author: Sonia Urlando
October 25, 2022
🕑 8 min read

As a nonprofit, finding ways to continually engage your donors can be challenging.

We face a bit of a paradox today—between online fundraising, events, social media, virtual offerings and other outlets, there are more ways than ever to connect with supporters. But this increased volume makes it harder to stand out from the crowd of other organizations and businesses trying to do the same!

Standing out while asking for support and forging more meaningful connections is vital. The key is to shape your appeal to donors in ways they’ll find relatable, enjoyable, and meaningful.

One of the best ways we’ve seen to do this in recent years is group fundraising.

What is Group Fundraising?

Group fundraising can take several forms. Depending on a campaign’s unique structure and goals, this type of fundraising can also be called social, team, peer-to-peer or challenge fundraising. In these campaigns, supporters might:

  • Gather as a group to participate in or run an event for your nonprofit
  • Promote your fundraising campaign to friends and family online
  • Form teams for fundraising challenges and activity-based events

Group fundraising is community-based, meaning supporters’ social connections and the social proof of their support are what drive success.

Nonprofits have long relied on group activities and events to engage donors and grow their public visibility, but the rise of online peer-to-peer fundraising and the evolution of hybrid campaigns and events has broadened our understanding of group fundraising.

It’s also proving extremely effective—we’ve found that social giving through group-style fundraising is on the rise. 29% of US adults gave through social fundraising campaigns and events in 2021-2022, and this form of fundraising consistently attracts younger and more diverse groups of donors (OneCause Giving Experience Study).

The benefits of leaning into group, peer-to-peer and social events and campaigns are clear:

  • Deepened connections with donors
  • Increased public visibility for your cause
  • Improved donor retention and acquisition
  • New opportunities for engagement

Whether you want to host an in-person event, an online campaign, or some combination of the two, incorporating social and team aspects into your favorite fundraising ideas and events is a smart choice.

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Our Favorite Group Fundraising Ideas

So what are a few of the best group fundraising ideas? We’ve rounded up a shortlist of reliable fundraising ideas that span a full range from in-person group events to peer-to-peer fundraisers to hybrid challenge campaigns.

1. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

One of the most impactful ways to engage your supporters with group fundraising is by letting them take the steering wheel with a peer-to-peer campaign. Peer-to-peer fundraising is an extremely flexible approach that can yield incredible results (in terms of revenue, engagement, and expanded online reach) when planned and executed well.

Here’s how a general peer-to-peer fundraising campaign works:

  • You set a campaign goal and timeframe.
  • You set up your main page to promote and explain the campaign.
  • You recruit your nonprofit’s supporters to create their own individual participant pages.
  • The participants share their campaign pages with their own online networks of friends and family.
  • You track the campaign’s progress and provide continued support, motivation, and resources.

When you call on your supporters to reach out to their networks on your behalf, you’re paving the way toward not only a wider outreach for donations, but also for more awareness of your cause.

Plus, these campaigns are easily adaptable for group fundraising. Recruit team leaders to launch their own giving pages, then have them compete to see who can build the largest, most generous teams of supporters. This technique works especially well leading up to events.

Imagine you’re planning a 5K. You could use peer-to-peer fundraising to raise money and awareness of your cause while creating urgency to reach your goal before the event itself. Your recruited team leaders will serve as “familiar faces” for their friends and family as they promote your organization, give them a compelling reason to donate to your cause, register to run as part of the team or just show up on the big day to cheer everyone on.

2. Ambassador Fundraising for Auctions and Events

Auctions and galas can be highly effective fundraising events for nonprofits, especially around the end of the year. Want to give your year-end events a little team spirit? Turn them into team fundraising opportunities led by ambassadors!

This technique is similar to peer-to-peer fundraising in that you’ll recruit volunteers to fundraise on your behalf. However, ambassadors take a much more active role in promoting your events, raising funds and reporting back to you on their progress. You’ll also provide them with plenty of training and resources to ensure they can succeed. Your ambassadors can:

  • Promote your upcoming event online
  • Raise donations and pledges before the event
  • Secure more registrants for the event
  • Kickstart the process of teasing your auction items and explaining how your mobile bidding tools work
  • Take part in fun challenges before or during the event to up the energy

Ideal ambassadors are well-connected supporters in your community who themselves have wide networks of friends, family, and colleagues. Their own connections will be more inclined to get involved through the power of social proof—seeing their own friend working hard for a meaningful mission that’s clearly worth their time and support.

When your ambassadors’ connections donate or register, they’ll join that ambassador’s team, helping them reach their goals and maybe inching them closer to having to complete a funny dance challenge or being the lucky recipient of a pie to the face.

This adaptable strategy is well suited to larger events and can generate a lot of engagement from the broader community when backed up with plenty of structure and support for your ambassadors.

3. Golf Tournaments

Charity golf tournaments are a great way to engage donors because they can have fun on an outing with their friends while also competing to take home a big prize! But these types of fundraisers are also useful in another way: they give you the chance to identify and steward potential major donors.

Here are a few ways to make your charity golf tournament successful:

  • Have your board members and community ambassadors connect with supporters in person and encourage day-of donations. Focus heavily on major and mid-level donors and prospects.
  • Seek out local companies to sponsor your tournament. Sponsors can help take some of the stress of planning and logistics off your shoulders.
  • Recruit corporate sponsors and donors with major gift potential to play. This can help you court prospects who have a high giving potential or businesses with corporate philanthropy programs.

These events are an excellent way to connect your team with those who are not only supportive of your cause and role in the community but also have the potential to make outsized impacts on your work.

Your golf tournament will have a lot of moving parts and will require plenty of upfront planning, but remember that it’s an investment in your long-term relationships with these valuable supporters.

4. Walkathons

Walkathons are excellent fundraising ideas because they’re built on group participation—meaning tons of engagement and expanded reach in the community.

Registrants will promote the event ahead of time to collect pledges from their friends and family for each mile/lap/time increment walked. They can also encourage their friends to register, creating walking teams that give your fundraising an exponential edge.

Here are some tips to get your walkathon started:

  • Plan early. If you’re running a peer-to-peer fundraising event prior to the walkathon, launch it at least a few months beforehand.
  • Set your goals and budget. Be aware of your fundraising goal and include some wiggle room. Planning any event will cost your team money, such as paying for staff, marketing materials and other expenses for the walkathon.
  • Get creative. Come up with a creative concept to structure your event around, like a clear brand and message.
  • Use an online fundraising leaderboard. This is so participants can see how others compare to the amount they’ve raised. On the day of your event, recognize the leaders with badges, t-shirts and more.

Walkathons are one of many effective fundraising ideas that help raise money and awareness of your cause. There’s a reason why organizations of all sizes, from international nonprofits to local elementary schools, rely on these fun events to raise funds and reconnect with the people who power their missions.

With more awareness comes more engagement, so be sure to incorporate this event into your next fundraising strategy. The OneCause walkathon planning guide covers all the essentials to get you started.

5. Car Washes

A car wash is easy and inexpensive to plan, meaning it can be very profitable for nonprofits. It’s classic, simple, outdoors and only requires an investment in soap, sponges and promotion. Plus, they’re an excellent team-building activity in a relaxed environment.

Coordinate with a local business to use their parking lot for a day, or if you’re fundraising for a school, library or other organization, use your own premises.

Recruit a few key volunteers to help lead the event and then get started promoting it to the community. Choose a reasonable fee, gather supplies, snacks, water bottles and sunscreen—then get ready for a day of squeaky clean fundraising!

While simple, these types of group events can be extremely beneficial in the long run. They’ll help deepen your volunteers’ connections to your cause and to each other as they wash cars, blast tunes and enjoy refreshments.

6. Community Contests

Contests are a flexible way to fundraise while encouraging supporters to form teams, support one another, and rally together for your cause.

Let’s take the classic example of a cook-off. In order to plan this event, you’ll need plenty of willing participants and a theme. Charge an entrance fee for the chefs and sell tickets to the main event. Cook-offs are great group fundraising ideas because:

  • They’re low-cost and offer a high return on investment.
  • You can encourage all your local foodies to enter a dish, and you can also reach out to local restaurateurs and culinary experts to participate or judge.
  • If you work with a local business or well-known individual, this will help you promote your event to their customers and fans and could also lead to sponsorships.

Cook-offs are an excellent way to encourage engagement from your supporter base and stir up some friendly competition, which will boost your donor retention rate as well. Get creative to come up with the perfect contest for your own mission and community of supporters—talent shows and battle of the band events are other classic examples.

Have Fun With Your Group Fundraiser!

Not all fundraising ideas are created equal.

That’s why deciding your campaign goals ahead of time and determining exactly what your nonprofit needs are essential steps to take first. Take a look at your budget, the size of your organization and what exact goal you’re working toward.

If that goal involves boosting donor and community engagement, a group fundraising idea or team-style fundraising event could be the perfect fit!

Have any other great ideas you’d like us to add to this list? Or any advice for other organizations who are planning a group fundraiser? Comment below and let us know.

This is a guest post from Kelly Velasquez-Hague, Director of Content Marketing for OneCause. It has been updated.

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