Six Unique and Unconventional Fundraising Ideas

“How are we going to bring in more money? Let’s get creative, folks!”

Employees at nonprofit organizations of varying shapes and sizes have heard this from upper management in one way or another. There are only so many sources of fundraising revenue, and traditional foundation grants, corporate grants, and annual appeals can become stale very quickly.

We wanted to show you that there are several ways to think outside the box, and give you a few unconventional ideas that might spark a creative fundraiser for your organization!

Corporate Matching Gifts

How much of your fundraising revenue comes from individual donors? Did you know there is potential to literally double the donations that come in from these donors? Matching gift programs are the oft forgotten younger sibling of major grants because they don’t “bring in the big bucks.” But think about this: in 2012 alone, corporations gave more than $18 billion to charities via, in part, matching gifts.

A quick summary: matching gift programs are corporate giving programs that are set up to match employee donations to eligible nonprofit organizations or educational institutions. Most companies with these programs offer one-to-one matches though the ratio can vary from .5:1 to 3:1. Minimum and maximums also vary significantly depending on the corporation.

Verizon, for example, will match a donation between $25 and $1,000 to most nonprofit organizations, and even up to $5,000 for educational institutions. All an employee has to do is fill out the appropriate form for their employer, and simple as that, the donation has effectively doubled!

The biggest obstacle to receiving matching gifts is knowing where your donors work, and if those employers offer matching gift programs.  However, to make this easier, there are online matching gift services that provide all the information necessary to your donors to make it as easy as possible for them to follow through with matching gift requests to their employers.

View ten of the top companies which match employee donations.

Cause Marketing

Are you familiar with Cause Marketing? If not, I encourage you to browse Selfish Giving’s Cause Marketing website. According to Joe Waters, cause marketing is a “mutually beneficial business and nonprofit partnership that sees a company put the power of its brand and marketing behind a cause to generate profits for both.”

Two opportunities for organizations of all sizes include:

  • Point-of-sale fundraising: Allow a company to get behind your cause by offering pin-ups or paper plaques at the cash register. Funds could go to support your organization while the business associates itself with a good cause.
  • Percentage-of-sales fundraising: Consider partnering with a local restaurant or retailer on a certain day or week. Your nonprofit can promote the business in exchange for a percentage of the day’s or week’s sales.


What if, every time you performed an Internet search, your nonprofit organization received money? Seems too good to be true, right? You can stop pinching yourself because that’s what services like Goodsearch provide.  

Goodsearch is an online “movement” powered by YAHOO!’s search parameters that allows internet users to pick a nonprofit organization of their choice, and allocate the money raised from searching the web to that charity. It’s really as easy as that!

According to Goodsearch’s website, more than 15 million people used Goodsearch to browse the Internet, which in turn supported more than 100,000 nonprofit organizations and schools. Since 2006, more than $9 million has been raised through daily Internet searches! Goodsearch offers various other ways to raise money for nonprofit organizations, but the primary method is through web searches.

While you may not get rich with it, all you have to do is add your nonprofit organization to the list of participating charities (if it’s not on the extensive list already), direct your supporters to use Goodsearch to browse the Internet with, and start earning!

Learn more about Goodsearch.

Volunteer Grant Programs

Similar to matching gifts, another frequent source of missed income is volunteer grant programs. Through these programs, also known as Dollar for Doer programs, corporations offer monetary grants to nonprofit organizations at which their employees volunteer on a regular basis.

These work in two different ways:

  1. Corporations provide a set monetary donation for every hour an employee volunteers. For example, CarMax will provide a $10 grant for every hour volunteered by a CarMax employee (to the organization at which that employee volunteered).
  2. A corporation will set a volunteer threshold and submit a monetary volunteer grant at the end of the service (i.e. 3M offers $250 grants for nonprofits once an employee has volunteered 20 hours).

This is a bit easier than matching gifts for nonprofit organizations to follow up on because of the close contact with volunteers. Ask your volunteers if they know whether their employer offers a program like this, and you may be bringing in funds you didn’t know existed! And of course, make sure your nonprofit is registered on websites like Causecast and VolunteerMatch where corporate employees go to find volunteer opportunities.

Learn more about top Dollar for Doer companies.

Non-Cash Donations

Second-hand equipment isn’t always the worst kind. While this may not pertain so much to direct fundraising, has your nonprofit ever considered making a list of items your office and team could use to better your services, and then asking corporations around the area for these items as donations?

For example, maybe you’re thinking of upgrading your computer system soon because your old equipment just can’t keep up with the ever-improving technology required to keep your nonprofit running smoothly. See if there are local companies in the area that may agree to donate some used equipment in return for tax credits.

Or maybe instead of technology, what your nonprofit organization really needs is school supplies to provide to low-income students in your area and the bargain prices for bulk supplies is still just too much this month. Again, these wish lists for non-cash donations may just get fulfilled if publicized the right way.

Amazon’s Affiliate Program

This is one of the more unconventional ideas we’ll discuss today. Amazon’s Affiliate Program allows you to become an affiliate marketer to advertise specific products (or a generic link to Amazon’s homepage) on your website. This will drive traffic back to Amazon, and allow you to collect commission (somewhere between 4 and 8%) on products sold via clicks from your site!

Learn more about Amazon’s affiliate program.

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