“Do-it-yourself” (DIY) fundraising has long taken a back seat to more traditional run, walk, or ride fundraising events. At numerous nonprofits, these DIY programs were created years ago to provide some extra income without much staff involvement. These days, nonprofits are wiping the cobwebs off of these forgotten programs. Some are doing this out of necessity due to lost revenue in other areas. Others see the growth of programs like The Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day and the World Wildlife Fund’s Panda Nation and look to emulate them.
No matter the reason, I’ve never heard more chatter about DIY fundraising than I have over the past year. And for good reason. We’ve reached a point technologically and socially that anyone, anywhere can fundraise for anything. Anyone can raise money for medical bills, an invention, or their favorite charity. Peer-to-peer fundraising has grown beyond the scope of organizationally driven events. While runs, walks and rides still show nonprofits the money, new fundraising efforts like DIY are limited only by the imagination of the creators behind it.
Nonprofits are wise to tap into the ingenuity of its supporters by empowering them through fundraising platforms like DIY fundraising. You can resurrect your outdated website to provide better tools to potential fundraisers, but the work doesn’t end there.
There is a somewhat rampant belief in nonprofit circles that DIY fundraising is easy and cheap to implement. That it requires minimal ongoing staff involvement. Despite evidence to the contrary, somehow DIY fundraising has earned the reputation as being easy money.
How did this happen? Although being one of the most satisfying professions out there, fundraising is also one of the most demanding. The success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, the widespread availability of the internet, and the increasingly social nature of the population have created a perfect storm of both hope and unrealistic expectations.
Maybe fundraisers see DIY as a light at the end of the tunnel, “Finally something that will make my work life a little bit easier!” Perhaps executive management and board members witness the success of other programs and want to follow suit, “All they did was throw up a website and look how much they raised!” Or maybe it’s all in the names that we have popularized to represent this type of fundraising: do-it-yourself, independent fundraising events, crowdfunding, etc. They just sound so hands-off and easy! An answer to our end of year shortfalls!
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Though there may not be a culminating physical event, don’t lose site of the fact that all of the fundraising basics still apply to DIY fundraising.
- Plan to invest – Just because DIY sounds simple and inexpensive doesn’t mean it is. If you’re looking for substantial returns, make sure you have an adequate budget for staff, a website, fundraising materials, incentives, marketing, etc.
- Be strategic – Determine how you can best leverage your supporters to fundraise on your behalf and create an entire campaign around it. Apply the same level of conceptual preparation, branding development, and financial forecasting as you would to a traditional fundraiser. Remember, if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.
- Market your program – This isn’t the DIY Field of Dreams. No one is whispering “if you build it, they will come” from a cornfield. Promote your DIY program through new and existing channels to build excitement, promote sign up, and publicly recognize people who are fundraising.
- Provide coaching – Most people are not professional fundraisers and they need your help to get started and keep the momentum going. Take all the lessons learned from years of coaching traditional fundraising event participants and apply them here.
- Be flexible – Your supporters’ needs will invariably change in six months, a year, or two years. You may also find out that some assumptions that you made while setting up your new program didn’t work out. Don’t be discouraged! Be prepared to change things up as you go along.
DIY fundraising is much deeper than simply dusting off an old website, or creating a new one. There’s an incredible opportunity in front of us to capitalize on this trend. Don’t squander it by falling under the spell of a fundraising program that seems easier than all the others. Take advantage of what DIY fundraising has to offer by putting in a level of effort proportionate to the size of the program you’d like to create!