November 24, 2023

Practical tips to design an effective fundraising campaign

A guide for nonprofits on how to raise funds by leveraging the spirit of giving during cultural events and festivals.

7 min read

India’s retail industry has a long history of festive sales. While Diwali and Independence Day sales create trade records, Black Friday too is a lucrative economic event now, especially in the e-commerce space. What’s unique about these sales is that they aren’t about a particular brand putting their products up on discount, but all brands coming together with a common slogan—come and shop, everything is on sale. The corporate world has realised that instead of having sales at different times of the year, the amplified voice of multiple brands during a single event brings more benefits at a lesser effort.

There are several such shared moments when people gather for something they consider larger than themselves. These shared moments are a great time to run fundraising campaigns and build a community around your cause. However, this isn’t necessarily a new concept for nonprofits. GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement celebrated on November 28 this year, is popular across the world, and the social sector in India often uses Diwali and Daan Utsav as opportunities to raise money. In fact, the How India Gives report, 2021–22, by the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy shows that religious festivals are a major motivation for donors in India. But planning a campaign during an event can still be challenging, and so here’s a stepwise fundraising guide that nonprofits can follow.

Start by setting SMART goals and sub-goals

If a nonprofit wants to run a resource mobilisation campaign in the next two to three months, they need to start planning now. The GivingTuesday Data Commons’ research shows that campaigns with a goal and plan of action have a higher likelihood of success than those without.

The first step in the process is to set SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable yet aspirational, relevant, and time-bound.

Here’s how these goals work in the context of fundraising:

  • Specific means that a campaign can’t just be about raising more money. It also needs a defined objective such as how much money and for what reason.
  • Measurable means attaching numbers or any other indicators to the goal against which its success or failure can be evaluated. This also helps in planning the next campaign better.
  • Achievable means that the campaign needs to be realistic for the individual and the organisation planning it. However, at the same time, it should be exciting enough to sustain the engagement of the team members and the giving community.
  • Relevant means that the campaign’s pitch should be relatable for the project and the community. 
  • Time-bound means that a campaign must always have a deadline. This helps create a sense of urgency and pushes people to take action.

Let’s use the example of an organisation whose goal is to raise INR 5,00,000. Now let’s convert this into a SMART goal.

To make this goal more specific, let’s say that INR 5,00,000 is to be used to purchase 200 chairs for a classroom. This makes the goal measurable. If the organisation can raise the money and buy 200 chairs, then the campaign is a success. The question of aspiration is something that will differ from organisation to organisation. However, this goal can be made time-bound so that it is more effective: Raise INR 5,00,000 to purchase 200 chairs for the classroom on GivingTuesday (November 28, 2023).

Once the SMART goals are ready, it is time to focus on sub-goals so that the primary aim of the campaign can be broken down. For example, your sub-goals could be:

  • Raise INR 1,00,000 from diaspora donors.
  • Raise INR 1,00,000 through the board members’ network.
  • Raise INR 1,00,000 by converting past donors who gave INR 1,000 to now give INR 2,000.
  • Raise INR 50,000 from first-time donors through social media.
  • Raise INR 1,50,000 from three volunteer fundraisers who could bring in INR 50,000 each.

Breaking your larger goal into smaller and more actionable steps like these will help you plan better.

Hindi Facebook ad banner for English website
a woman holding a placard that says "volunteers needed"_fundraising
A common trait of fundraising champions is that they know the story behind the project and share its passion. | Picture courtesy: Julia M Cameron

Get the narrative straight

According to GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding platform for grassroots nonprofits, a potential donor spends no longer than 4.2 seconds on a fundraising campaign page. So it is very important that the message is clear, engaging, and precise in its communication. Here are some things to consider for efficient storytelling.

1. Choose a platform

The fundraising campaign can be hosted on the nonprofit’s website and word about it can be spread using social media and e-mail, or it can be hosted on a fundraising platform with additional features that the organisation would otherwise have to create on its own.  

2. Pick the right title

The project title is the first thing donors see and it determines if they will keep reading and stay on to donate, so it’s important to have a title that reflects the organisation’s work. The title should be clear, short, and descriptive. It is also what gets pulled up on Google and other search engines when donors search using keywords. That one phrase you choose should answer the following questions:

  • Where is the project based?
  • Whom is it helping?
  • How many people are benefitting?
  • How is it benefitting them?

For example, the title could be: Help 40 children in a village in Bodh Gaya by providing them education.

3. Select a powerful image   

Images grab the attention of potential donors and help them understand the organisation, programme participants, and the community that is being served. Positive and empowering imagery works best. Further, images focused on one individual or a small group tend to get more clicks than images that have too much going on.

4. Write an effective project summary

The project summary is the next thing the donor sees. It usually appears at the top of the project page under the image. It should convey:

  • Whom is the organisation helping?
  • What are they doing, how, and why?

Here’s an example of Seva Mandir, a Rajasthan-based grassroots nonprofit, and their project to provide support and rehabilitation, counselling services, legal aid, medical, and psychological care to women suffering from violence and harassment in rural India, specifically in Udaipur. Their summary answers all the above questions and gives the donor a clear sense of the project without having to read lengthy paragraphs.

Beyond these points, it’s about the fundraiser putting themselves in the shoes of a donor who doesn’t know anything about the nonprofit and doesn’t share the same passion for the cause. It is necessary for the nonprofit to ask themselves whether the campaign will appeal to such a donor.

Map and leverage networks

A common misconception about crowdfunding is that it’s meant to find a new community to draw resources from. But it’s actually about reaching out to anyone who is already a part of the network available to an individual or an organisation and to engage this network to expand outwards.

1. Map one’s network

Network mapping can be invaluable to crowdfunding because it helps an organisation and its individual team members ascertain the size of the network they already have and then plan to grow it. Mapping in this context means visualising a network and categorising it into different groups. For example, a person’s network could be as following.

  • First tier: Groups of people they could personally reach out to today without thinking too much. The preferred mode for these groups could include WhatsApp, Facebook, SMS, and calls.
  • Second tier: People they could reach out to but it may need to be more formal or require an introduction/reintroduction. The ideal mode of communication for this group would be an e-mail. 
  • Third tier: People they should or could know but it might take an introduction or a networking event (fundraiser or community event) to build a connection that could lead to a donation. The mode of communication could be newsletters, radio, and mass e-mail.

Additionally, here’s a helpful tool on GlobalGiving’s website for network mapping.

2. Recognise the dynamic potential of people

While mapping a network, it is essential to remember that not everyone needs to be a donor. The comprehensive list of individuals is necessary so that a fundraiser can analyse what each member is capable of giving, because everyone has something they can offer to the campaign. If a person can’t give in terms of money, they can still provide their time, talent and expertise, and testimony that lends credibility to the campaign. It’s easier to remember them as the 4 Ts of giving: time, talent, treasure, and testimony. They could also be people with a lot of contacts or with the ability to influence others—the CEO of a company, a local government body representative, and a social media influencer are some examples. So, technically speaking, everyone in a network is giving in some way or the other.

They can also be people who are advocates for the project, and can be termed fundraising advocates, fundraising champions, or volunteer fundraisers. This group of people is extremely useful in peer-to-peer fundraising. Data shows that, even today, peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the best strategies to access new donors. According to the How India Gives report, 2020–21, critical sources of information for giving to “non-religious organisations” remain “in-person outreach by volunteers or agents” (37 percent) and “word from family and friends” (20 percent).

A common trait of these fundraising champions is that they know the story behind the project and share its passion, which gradually makes them a part of the core campaign team. However, a fundraising champion needs advance notice, pre-prepared materials that they can share with donors, goals (such as reaching out to five donors), and regular communication with the nonprofit’s fundraising team/lead.

Build a system for outreach and accountability

Once the campaign is ready, multiple e-mails should be sent in the days leading to the campaign/giving moment. On the day of the event, multiple e-mails should go out to people. This group of people can be segregated into the board, donors, and somebody who already gave, and can be managed using customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

The nonprofit must also add the event to the supporters’ calendars so that they receive a notification that it is time to give or time to support the organisation in any way they can. A tool like AddEvent can make this possible while protecting the e-mails of the recipients.

Finally, once the fundraising starts, the nonprofit’s job is to set up an accountability system with the entire fundraising team; this can be done through daily calls or by using an e-mail thread. The accountability system helps to keep the excitement alive and ensures that you are able to measure and celebrate every milestone.

The How India Gives report, 2021–22, shows that the total quantum of giving by households in India went up to INR 27 thousand crore from INR 23.7 crore in the previous year. However, the report also mentions that the main reason people don’t give is because they are not being asked. This can be a positive lesson for the nonprofit sector as it works towards raising money for social good. What we need to learn is how to engage with a giver depending on where they are in their journey with the cause, and how to collectively create and leverage giving moments like GivingTuesday to galvanise the generosity of our communities and direct it towards the systemic change we are all seeking to create.

Know more

  • Listen to this podcast to learn how to harness the power of giving for a cause.
  • Read this article to understand how nonprofits can tap into the potential of individual giving.

Do more

  • Build your fundraising campaign by using this toolkit prepared by GivingTuesday India.

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Kavita Mathew-Image
Kavita Mathew

Kavita Mathew is the India partnerships adviser for GivingTuesday, a global generosity movement. She was formerly the India partnerships consultant for the world’s first and largest nonprofit crowdfunding platform, GlobalGiving. Kavita also spent a couple of years in investment banking with Goldman Sachs and is a postgraduate in child rights law from NLSIU, Bangalore.