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Figuring out Fundraising: 5 Lessons in Volunteering

WRITTEN BY Sheri Henderson

Every now and again I like to think back to my very first time volunteering for a nonprofit and all my subsequent experiences. Doing so can help nonprofit professionals, like myself (and you!), relate to the individual volunteers behind your campaigns and in-person fundraising events. I’d like to share with you five lessons I learned while volunteering that have made me be a better fundraiser and have helped me bring in thousands of dollars for several nonprofit organizations.

1.  Be Passionate About Helping Others

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When I first started fundraising, it was around the time when I was in the Girl Scouts. As a Girl Scout, we learned a lot about philanthropy and the importance of helping others. It was a driving factor in everything we did (yes, even in selling those famous cookies). As I got older, we would have mandatory school fundraisers for a good cause, selling magazines or wrapping paper. Definitively less exciting than cookies. These formative years lit a spark in me. I now have a basis of passion that continually motivates helping other nonprofits in achieving their mission, even when it’s a challenge.

2.  Sometimes You’ll Have to Rely on Yourself

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When my sister invited me to join her 5K team for a company she worked for, I started thinking about how exactly I was going to reach my $500 goal. A goal that was only a sliver of the million-dollar one set by the organization, but still seemed like a lot. I was determined to do my part. 

The organization for which I was raising money provided software to help collect, process and track donations. However, they didn’t provide any best practices, sample messages or overall guidance. I literally had to figure out all the fundraising details on my own. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, but I did it. Thank goodness I didn’t need to go door to door with pen and paper asking for money like I did when I was a kid (though I could have). Over the years I’ve tripled that starting amount, but I’ve often had to rely on my own resourcefulness to get there.

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3.  Multichannel Approaches Work Best

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What online communication approach is the best way to get people to donate? First of all, not everyone is on Facebook and since many people I know check their email regularly, I opted to start by emailing everyone I knew a link to my fundraising page. Then, I moved on to Facebook and sent a private message to ALL of my friends. No joke, all of them. Lastly, I sent an email to myself with a link to my fundraising page, copied it and sent it via text message to everyone I know. 

I know, it sounds perhaps excessive (and I don’t recommend doing it all at once), but it’s important to cover all of your communication channels. You never know who is going to check what, when and you want to ensure you’re greatest chance at visibility. It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned about online fundraising campaigns like crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising. These tools make being audacious in your passion for a cause (and raising more!) so much easier and make a great companion to a robust multichannel campaign.

4.  Your Family & Friends Aren’t Enough

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As donations started to flow in, I made a point to not only thank them via their personal communication preference, but also on social media. If they were on Facebook, I would thank them publicly on my own page by tagging them and placing a link to my fundraising page. What did tagging them do? It placed my acknowledgment on their Facebook homepage so now their friends could see it with a link to my page where they could donate. Doing so powerfully extended my reach beyond my own friends and family to help capture new donors.

5.  Your Work as A Volunteer Will Stay with You Forever

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Needless to say, I was able to meet my $500 goal within about two weeks every time. Over the years, I have raised tens of thousands of dollars as a volunteer fundraiser and share my best practices with as many people as I can come in contact with who are looking to raise donations. The lessons I’ve learned as a volunteer have become an integral part of who I am and my ability to help others in the world.

The keys to being a successful fundraiser is having a passion for the cause, the people it benefits and, of course, not being afraid of asking everyone you know for money to support that cause. Yet, we must also value the hard and necessary work volunteers do on our behalf. Be sure to thank your volunteers, nurture them and support them in their own journey helping your nonprofit achieve its mission.

Fundraising Team



Our goal at MobileCause is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how MobileCause can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.

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