Creating a Development Army: The Next BIG Thing in Fundraising | npENGAGE

Creating a Development Army: The Next BIG Thing in Fundraising

By on Jun 26, 2012


Room To Read Fundraising

As fundraisers we are always looking for new and innovative ways to increase donations.

We don’t want to miss out on opportunities that help us reach our goals so we watch the industry, what other nonprofits are doing, and even the for profit world to get new and fresh ideas.

It’s not surprising that one of the questions I get asked most from the nonprofits I work with is “what’s next in fundraising?”

A Bit of a Historical Take

My first answer to this question almost ten years ago was online giving. Back then I remember convincing nonprofits that donors would become more and more comfortable entering their credit number into a website – today online giving accounts for over $20 billion annually.

Next came Social Media where platforms like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way we engage with our supporters. This new segment of actively engaged supporters wants the opportunity to tell people what your mission means to them, why others should support you, and will change the foundation of the way you fundraise in the future.

Historically most fundraising programs have been organization to donor.

The future will be more about how nonprofits can empower their supporters to fundraise on behalf of the organization. We already see nonprofits that host run, walk, and ride events prove this concept works as the top 30 alone have generated $1.69 billion from these fundraisers. Maybe even more importantly this fundraising model opens the door to an entirely new prospect pool – your supporter’s network.

So what’s next?

Interestingly many organizations note that these “3rd party” donors are often more motivated by the ask from a person they know and less by the mission of the organization or the event itself. This combined with a growing segment of supporters that want to take a more active role in supporting your nonprofit creates a potential army of development associates that don’t even need you to host an event – they just need the tools to fundraise on your behalf.

There are several nonprofits already using this new fundraising paradigm successfully.

Individual Fundraising Campaigns

Room to Read has an area of their website where supporters are encouraged to Start Your Own Fundraising Campaign. They do a great job of providing a fundraiser tool kit to help them get started and provide several great resources to help their fundraisers be most effective:

Room To Read Fundraising

Personal Events

National Down Syndrome Society provides three great ways for fundraisers to get involved – supporters can either compete in an event, create a page to celebrate (birthday, tribute, memorial), or create a page for a different idea like a fashion show, youth group project, or even a party:

NDDS Fundraising

Virtual Food Drives

Here is another great idea I really like from Feeding America where supporters are encouraged to launch virtual food drives:

Feeding America Fundraising

Simple Fundraising Tools

When a supporter signs up to help fundraise for the nonprofit they are given access to an easy to use tool kit that helps them engage their network through email, Facebook, and Twitter. They can also send their own personal thank you notes and track their fundraising progress:

Fundraising HQ

Implementing a program like this will allow your nonprofit to engage a development army and take advantage of “what’s next” in fundraising.

Here are a few questions I would recommend discussing internally to get you started:

  • Who would we target with a campaign like this and what might they be interested in doing?
  • What tools do we need to provide on the website to allow fundraisers to engage their networks?
  • How will we market this new campaign?
  • What type of follow up and cultivation plan will we implement for donors who give through a fundraiser?

Don’t worry if you don’t have these answers or are not sure how you would even approach a campaign like this – Blackbaud is here to help  you not only with personal fundraising tools but with managing traditional fundraising events and “what’s next” as well.



Comments (8)

  • Great post, Jeff! One addition I’ve learned from other nonprofits – an easy way to build your “Army” is to pilot a program using a few brand ambassadors. You can find these ambassadors by monitoring social media to find out key constituents who use social media, have a broad reach AND care about your organization.  Nice content!

  • Thanks for mentioning Feeding America’s Virtual Food Drive program!  It’s a great way for donors to get involved and fundraise by reaching out to their social networks.  Visit to learn more about it!

  • JeffOToole says:

    Dylan, to the comment Kelley made below did you identify some “brand ambassadors” to trial this with initially? I’m sure our readers would love to hear specifically how you guys approached this campaign! Thanks for commenting!

  • Dan Michel says:

    Thanks for asking about brand ambassadors and the Virtual Food Drive for Feeding America.
    The Virtual Food Drive is an easy way to have anyone so peer-to-peer fundraising.We have engaged brand ambassadors through our Blogger Council, Entertainment Council and our Child Hunger Newsroom. Check out where there are resources for people to use on blogs and social media.

    Dan MichelFeeding America

  • Nicolas Reis says:

    Great post, I guess initially its more a “Special Forces Team” than a whole Army, but ideally, it should get there. So the question remains: How do you encourage people to not only donate for your orgaization, but to stand up for your cause, invest “Social capital” and ask their friends to donate?

    • Jeff O'Toole says:

      I think the process starts by identifying good candidates for this type of fundraising approach.  If your organization uses Twitter, reach out to users who tend to be very active during your campaigns, RT you often, use org specific hashtags, etc.  I would also recommend looking at top volunteers, donors who bring others to fundraising events, active younger supporters, people who are active on your Facebook page etc.  You could even add fields to your donation or contact forms that ask your supporters if they would be interested in helping you fundraise or spread awareness.

  • Kuladip Roy says:

    Thanks Jeff for this great post, virtual food in fundraising is a great idea.   

    • Jeff O'Toole says:

      I especially like that example because they create a virtual fundraiser that is very specifc to their mission.  Thanks for commenting!

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