Fundraising on a Dime

It took a man of vision, optimism, and great will to lead the United States out of the Great Depression and through World War II. Yet, his greatest struggle was a private one, a battle he would win for all of us. In 1921, Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted poliomyelitis-also known as Polio. Polio was a highly contagious virus that attacked the central nervous system, withering and paralyzing muscles-killing many by robbing them of the ability to breathe.

After being elected governor of New York, President Roosevelt declared a new war—one against polio. He founded the nonprofit National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Popular film and radio star Eddie Cantor dubbed the effort “The March of Dimes” and urged Americans to act, stating, “The March of Dimes will enable all persons, even the children, to show our President that they are with him in this battle against this disease. Nearly everyone can send in a dime, or several dimes.” Over 80,000 letters filled with dimes, quarters, and dollars created a “silver tide which swamped the White House,” totaling $268,000. The March of Dimes carries on to this day.

Today, a dime seems a flimsy means to ignite a fundraiser. A candy bar worth a dime long ago now runs about $2.39. Still, consider the fact that if you were to take an empty two-liter plastic soda bottle and fill it with dimes, you’d have about $700 in donations. Now, what if you put ten of those bottles out in the right places for interested people to fill? That is what The March of Dimes did with their donation cards placed at cash registers everywhere. That is what the Ronald McDonald House does with its collection bins built right underneath the drive-thru window.

New and small nonprofits often have few assets beyond the skills and passion of their founders and volunteers. They may not have the equipment, a regular venue, a budget for props, rental equipment, food, entertainment, video systems, or fabulous prizes but the one thing they do have is determination.  Following are some popular types of inexpensive fundraisers, some of which don’t even cost a dime!

Affiliate Fundraisers

Affiliate fundraisers generate passive income through event-free fundraising. It’s all handled online.  Simply partner with an online shopping program affiliated with retailers that are popular with your supporters and then ask your supporters to make purchases through the program’s app or browser extension. All contributions will come from the retailers, while your supporters do nothing but make regular purchases, taking advantage of the same sales and coupons they normally do. It costs them nothing extra. Amazon is a great place to start since 100,000’s of people shop the site daily.

Kroger, America’s largest grocery chain, offers a community rewards program that you can join for free as an individual shopper.  All you have to do is register your nonprofit. Theneach time your supporters swipe their rewards card at a local Kroger (their stores are everywhere under many different names), your nonprofit gets a percentage of the sale, which is paid out quarterly. It should be fairly simple to persuade your team, your supporters, your friends, and your family to link their rewards cards with your nonprofit.  For more information, click here.

Other companies that offer Affiliate programs include ShopRaise and Fundraising.com. Beginning this year, Amazon has discontinued its AmazonSmile Program.

Charity Navigator suggests doing your homework to find the right affiliate program for your nonprofit. Most can get started in three steps:

  1. Research programs. Seek an affiliate program specializing in nonprofits. Review each partnered retailers options. The best affiliate program will have participating retailers that meet your supporters’ everyday shopping needs. Find a program that will help save your team time while raising funds. The best programs will set up your page and help create such marketing materials as website banners and email templates.
  2. Market your program. Tell your supporters about this exciting affiliate program. Supporters may be new to using an affiliate service, so be sure your marketing materials provide a detailed explanation of how they can download the right browser extensions and apps. Keep your supporters updated about the program to continue fundraising all year long.
  3. Monitor the results. Once your program is running, track your results to determine how to better promote your program. Affiliate programs accumulate revenue slowly over time, so don’t be deterred if it takes a little while for your earnings to gain momentum.

Bake Sales

Forever popular, bake sales enjoy good ROI because members and supporters supply the goodies. Ask participants to donate their best baked goods (preferably pre-wrapped for sale). Stake out a location or event with good foot-traffic to hold the sale. Pastry sales do especially well around breakfast time.

Cook-Offs

There are so many great eats to put in contention: pie, chili, BBQ, cookies, tacos, cake, preserves, and more! Invite everyone to enter their fabulous dishes (in very large qualities) in a cook-off event for top honors. Charge participants a fee to sample and vote on the best dishes.  The biggest challenge with a cook-off is advertising and luring chefs to participate. You can put a fork in both problems by offering the contestants an advertising opportunity where you can promote them heavily as part of the event.

Google Ad Grants

Google helps nonprofits raise the visibility of their high-value pages through itsGoogle Ad Grants program. They’ll reward your organization with up to $10,000 in ad credits each month when you apply and get approved. You can use those credits to get ad space on search results pages for the most vital keywords for your mission. Additionally, you can . . .

  • Boost conversions for event signups, volunteer registrations, and donations.
  • Connect with new supporters and inspire them to get involved.
  • Market multiple ad campaigns at once without touching your marketing budget.
  • Better understand your supporters’ needs by tracking what content motivates them to interact.

There are some eligibility criteria your organization must meet to become, then stay eligible. You must also research keywords to connect you with the right prospects. If you want to make the most of your Google Grant money, you might outsource the work to a Google Grants agency, which handles everything including the initial application, keyword research, and account reactivation.

Matching Gift Drives

Matching gifts are a part of many corporate philanthropy practices. Anyone who works for a major corporation, likely  offer this as an employee perk. Through these programs, companies will match a portion (usually 50% or more) of the donations their employees give to nonprofits. It’s smart to partner with a matching gift database provider (such as Double the Donation) to help supporters find their matching gift opportunities.

Coin Challenges

The March of Dimes began as a coin challenge.  Coin Challenges can also be fun. They cost next to nothing to set up, and if today’s coin shortage remains an issue, paper currency is just as good.

One of the cutest is Make-a-Snake, great for school or the next reptile show. Encourage schools to form teams that will collect spare change from around their neighborhood by going door to door with an adult. On the designated day, children bring the cash to the collection event. Then, each team of kids constructs a “snake” with their dollars and coins. The group creating the longest snake wins!

Collection jars or bottles branded for your nonprofit can be left with friendly businesses to encourage donations at check-out.  Schools have issued coin challenges for a variety of charities, often times competing against other schools in the area. Continual updates on social media can keep the fire burning under this contest to the very end.

Timed Campaigns

You can turn your fundraiser into an episode of “24.” Day-long fundraising campaigns, AKA giving days, tend to bring in substantial revenue despite the short timeframe. By sustaining urgency through social media and other announcements, supporters are likely to be inspired to donate. Give the challenge a popular TV or movie action theme to add to the fun. It pays to be suspenseful, whether you do it in the hallways of your high school or online with a web page or app that ticks down the seconds.

Polar Plunge

For the brave and daring, nothing beats a dip in freezing water. How long can you hold out? You and your supporters can take pledges linked to endurance and then during the event, you’ll plunge into the icy water and complete to the be last one out. The longer you stay in, the more money you raise from pledges.

To encourage participation, ask local vendors to provide necessities such as towels, blankets, warm drinks like hot chocolate or cider, hand warmers in exchange for sponsorship promotion and bragging rights.  Also, don’t forget waivers for your participants to sign. For the best results, host your Polar Plunge around the holidays. Each year, this unique fundraiser can draw a larger, more festive crowd. Be sure to leave out donation boxes for thrill-seeking onlookers to put in their two dimes.

These are but a handful of many inspired ideas for fundraising on a dime and we hope you are finding some inspiration for your future fundraising efforts.

This blog post was written by Amélie Frank, consulting copywriter to UST. To learn more about Amélie’s professional portfolio you can find her online at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelie-frank/

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02/16/23 7:58 AM

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UST maintains a secure site. This means that information we obtain from you in the process of enrolling is protected and cannot be viewed by others. Information about your agency is provided to our various service providers once you enroll in UST for the purpose of providing you with the best possible service. Your information will never be sold or rented to other entities that are not affiliated with UST. Agencies that are actively enrolled in UST are listed for review by other agencies, UST’s sponsors and potential participants, but no information specific to your agency can be reviewed by anyone not affiliated with UST and not otherwise engaged in providing services to you except as required by law or valid legal process.

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