Fundraising Strategies: Best Practices for Greatest Results

John Killoran

May 26, 2021

About the Author

John Killoran

John Killoran is founder and CEO of Clover Leaf, a technology and infrastructure company that supports national research laboratories, state and local governments and Fortune 500 companies.

John is an inventor with over 30 patents and 40 patents pending to his name. He has built numerous computer applications that solve problems in many fields from environmental protection, to nonprofit fundraising to cyber security. A number of these inventions have turned into companies that operate as part of the Clover Leaf portfolio.

John has formal education in mechanical engineering and law, but he is most influenced by his studies in philosophy.

Fundraising strategies are one of the most evergreen topics in the nonprofit space. The 2020-21 pandemic upended many classic fundraising strategies, like an in-person events schedule.  But as John Killoran, founder of Snowball Fundraising, writes, there are still plenty of strategies to help your fundraising fit into a hybrid environment. 

Fundraising strategies are one of the most important plans your nonprofit puts in place. There is no one right answer for what the most effective strategies are, as it depends on your target audience, your mission, and your time. However, there are a few tried-and-true ways to focus on to get fundraising right and can be adjusted according to your nonprofit’s unique needs.

In 2021, it’s crucial that your fundraising strategies include ways to raise money in both the physical and the virtual space, and likely in years to come. According to Snowball’s guide to online fundraising, your organization should prioritize online fundraising because that’s where your donors are looking. With this in mind, you have the potential to reach a global audience to support your cause. 

With this hybrid fundraising environment in mind, let’s dive into some of the best practices to implement in your nonprofit’s strategy:


Strategic planning for nonprofits will help your organization reach its fundraising goals this year and beyond. Let’s dive into how to get the most out of your fundraising strategy. 

Define your fundraising goals

The primary objective of your fundraising strategy is to define your goals. Without clear markers of success, your organization and your supporters won’t know if your strategy is working. When creating these goals, keep in mind that raising money is not the ultimate objective of your efforts, rather, it’s the impact you make on your mission

So, how do you make an impact?

Learn from your data

Using your data marketing strategies is crucial to making informed decisions about your organization’s goals and what is realistic for your strategy. Here are a few aspects to consider:

  • Donor engagement: Consider which marketing efforts have successfully resonated with your supporters, as well as which events have had the best impact on your fundraising in the last year. Should you heavy up on in-person or virtual events? Which areas need more attention to hit your attendance goals?
  • Donor retention: How well has your organization kept your supporters involved in your mission? Determine what this looks like for your nonprofit. For example, if you have a high donor retention rate, your donors are invested in your cause. On the other hand, if your retention rate is low, assess what your need to do to retain them. Donor acquisition is harder than donor retention, so don’t lose out!
  • Giving trends: Tracking your donor’s giving trends can help you determine which times of the year are best for making fundraising appeals and which times require more attention from your team. By using this data, you can craft a narrative that can supplement your strategy’s timeline.

Use your existing fundraising data to paint a picture of your current environment and create realistic goals for your team. 

Communicate with your constituents

To get a good idea of what your fundraising goals should look like, ask your stakeholders for their input. When communicating with constituents, be sure to provide potential objectives for your fundraising strategy and how it’ll drive your mission forward.

This tactic can benefit your organization because key stakeholders can point out if your goals are off-base or could be more involved. For example, if your nonprofit typically succeeds in securing major gifts throughout the year, you’ll assume that it’ll make up a large amount of your fundraising goal.

However, a board member may bring up that some of these donors are at-risk for disengaging based on their previous giving patterns this year. This insight can help give your team what it needs to improve on its fundraising plans.

So, who exactly should you be asking? Consider getting opinions from:

  • Board and staff members
  • Key partners
  • A fundraising consultant
  • Major donors

Running the plan by your key players can keep your goals on track for the most successful fundraising strategy possible. 

As a nonprofit professional, you collect data through your marketing outreach, events, and engagements. Use this information to craft the most effective fundraising strategy for your organization.

Make effective fundraising appeals

Once your goals are set, your team needs to supplement your fundraising efforts with effective appeals. Acquiring and retaining supporters is the only way you’ll reach your financial objectives and fund your mission. 

Focus on treating your donors as people, and not just a source of money. Therefore, your fundraising appeals should be personalized and function not only to get a donation but to develop or deepen a relationship with the recipient. 

Consider the following strategies to build your relationships while asking for funds: 

  • Include their name. It’s important to address supporters by name. You have their information in your CRM, so ensure that you’re making them feel as though they’re important to your mission because they are! Leave “Dear Donor,” in the past, and it’ll go a long way for your fundraising. 
  • Provide giving options. Any support is great support. Therefore, when you make a fundraising appeal, be sure to provide different ways that they can contribute to your cause. For example, this could be through money, volunteer time, or advocacy efforts.
  • Find ways to maximize donations. You’ll want to further let your recipients know that they can give in optimized ways. These include setting up recurring donations or making them aware of their potential qualification for matching gifts from their employer.

When including an effective fundraising appeal as a part of your strategy, you’ll start to achieve your objectives quickly. 

Host engaging fundraising events

Finally, now that you’ve developed your fundraising goals and solidified your communication tactics, be sure you’re providing events for everyone to get involved. These can benefit your organization by letting supporters participate in engaging and creative ways. You’ll also be able to showcase your mission and efforts to acquire more donors through these events.

Let’s dive into the three main types of fundraising events you can host:

Virtual Events

Virtual events are excellent options for raising money, especially in the COVID-19  era. There is a slew of benefits to hosting this type of event, including the ability to reach a wider audience. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Virtual gala
  • Peer-to-peer challenge
  • Virtual auctions


For more engaging ideas, take a look at Snowball’s guide to virtual fundraising ideas. Earning money online is easy and quick with an event everyone can be excited about.

In-Person Events

For those who are able to attend traditional fundraisers, in-person events have the unmatched potential for bringing together the community behind your mission. Consider the following ideas for a raising more:

  • Walk-a-thons
  • Carnivals
  • Obstacle courses

Be sure to refer to this guide for more creative and successful ways to earn money with in-person events.

Hybrid Events

Finally, hybrid events incorporate both online and offline elements to maximize revenue and engagement. This is an excellent way to harness the benefits of both types of fundraising events. Here are some of our favorite hybrid ideas:

  • 5k hosted with the choice to participate online or on a set course
  • Silent auctions with remote and in-person bidding
  • In-person talent shows broadcasted online

Consider hybrid events for increasing both local and worldwide support. Whichever format of fundraising event you choose, you’re sure to engage your donors and be on your way to completing a successful fundraising strategy.

Fundraising is no easy task for nonprofits. By being proactive and reading up on best practices for your strategy, you’re already on the right track. Take tips and tricks from resources like this to develop a valuable fundraising strategy, focusing on the most crucial aspects for continued success. Good luck!

Thanks so much to John Killoran of Snowball Fundraising for this wonderful guest blog. Remember, an enormous amount of nonprofit income is generated by the strategies he recommends here. Events, auctions, galas and the like are here to stay – no matter how successful we may become at raising larger donations.