Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 25 seconds

giving tuesday-2018-550It seems that by now, we should be already maximizing the full potential of online fundraising. And in many ways, we are. #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving fueled by social media and collaboration, smashed records last year and raised an estimated $274 million for charitable causes. This is a great example of the power of online fundraising.

So, with success stories like this making clear the potential of online fundraising, why was only 7.6% of total charitable donations in the U.S. last year raised online? While the report indicates an increase on previous years’ online fundraising, it also means that many initiatives missed out on potential funds from online donors.

Clearly, online fundraising needs a revival that surpasses simply creating a GoFundMe page and hoping for the best. The crowdfunding market has become saturated, and we’re now mostly immune to many of the appeals we see on our social media daily. Online fundraising needs some fresh new input that really involves those that are donating, so nonprofits can maximize their potential for raising serious cash for some great causes.

Here are three creative and exciting ways for both individuals and nonprofits to make the most of what online fundraising can bring them.

From Challenge to Cha-ching
It’s no secret that people like watching their friends do something daring, embarrassing, or simply uncomfortable when it’s for a good cause. Whether it’s a five-second challenge that has the potential to go viral, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to month-long commitments, like Movember, which raises awareness around men’s health, or ‘Go Sober for October’, which raises funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

In fact, peer-to-peer fundraising that’s based on completing sponsored challenges raised $1.45 billion in the U.S. alone in 2017. Filmable challenges are a great way to generate content and connect people directly to your cause.

The Power of “A-Thons”
Seeing how far you can really go by pushing yourself to run just ‘one more mile’ or do just ‘ten more pushups’ is a commonplace feeling amongst many. So, imagine the motivation increase when donations to a charitable cause go up as that number does.

“A-thon” style fundraisers, where donors pledge to give a certain amount based on miles run, or days completed for example, can attract a significant amount of donations. Just take a look at Make-a-Wish Florida’s success with their annual #HourPushUpChallenge, which raised more than $100,000 last year. The event, which is held in collaboration with fundraising platform, sees participants collect monetary pledges and complete as many push ups as they can in 60 minutes.

“A-thons” are great for getting people on board by directly linking their contribution to the length and effort going in to the fundraiser’s challenge.

Sweepstake Sensations
Raising funds by offering a seriously impressive sweepstake prize is another way to attract donors to your cause, promising them not only the satisfaction of having ‘given’, but also the chance to win something cool.

Getting a celebrity or popstar involved in your fundraising campaign by offering concert tickets or even a ‘Meet-and-Greet’ is a sure-fire way to get some serious attention, and hopefully, donations. A great example is Drop4Drop, a charity that funds sustainable clean water solutions, who recently partnered with Ed Sheeran in a drawing where fans donated for the chance to win VIP access to Ed’s concert.

Ed engaged with fans personally via his social media channels, and encouraged them to promote the effort on their own pages. The initiative garnered a lot of attention, with over 800,000 people from around the world visiting the campaign page to participate.

These are some fresh ideas to get people excited about an effort and provide a level of hands-on involvement that’s missing from much of today’s fundraising. Creative, gamified, online campaigns make donors feel directly connected to the cause and create more user-generated content, giving you the potential to raise more than ever before.


Steve Bernat is a serial technology entrepreneur who's been working with social responsibility software for over 20 years. He's the founder of the nonprofit fundraising sites and Challengely.

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