The Complete Guide to Community Fundraising: Strategies, Ideas and Best Practices

For many charities, non-profits, faith-based organisations (link to faith-based comprehensive guide), PTAs (link to PTA fundraising ideas article), animal sanctuaries (link to animal shelters article) and more, community fundraising forms the bedrock of their existence. Without an engaged community that’s willing to support with their time and money, these organisations wouldn’t be able to do the fantastic work they do. 

So, how do you make the most of your community fundraising? You need a strategic approach with some great fundraising ideas. You need the people to make it happen and you should always follow best practice. Here we’ll run through each in turn and help get your community fundraising performing well in no time. 

Understanding Community Fundraising

Community fundraising is one of the oldest, best known and most resilient forms of fundraising. It involves a charity or non-profit running events and campaigns to engage with its local community, or asking the community itself to hold events and raise funds themselves on behalf of the organisation. When done well, it can mobilise large numbers of supporters, raise substantial sums and increase awareness of and engagement with a charitable cause. 

Central to community fundraising is an engaged, knowledgeable and passionate community that needs to be mobilised by your fundraising managers and coordinators. It’s their job to set your community fundraising strategy, engage with your community and build successful community fundraising teams. Here we’ll explore each of those points in detail and offer practical advice to boost the success of your community fundraising. 

Community Fundraising Strategies

Your fundraising strategy (link to community fundraising strategy article) will be the plan that sets out your organisation’s funding needs over a specific period. It provides an overview of the actions, timescales (link to timeline article), and possible funding resources/approaches that you need to put in place to achieve the plan. 

In your strategy, you can focus on what has been successful in the past and include recommendations for the future. You should also make sure it’s closely aligned to your organisation’s business plan. Your strategy should help you implement your fundraising campaigns and events, but remember it shouldn’t be completely rigid – you still want to be able to respond to funding opportunities that come up unexpectedly. 

In your fundraising strategy, you should focus on: 

  • Setting your fundraising goals: This could be to raise a certain amount, reach a number of people in your community or engage with specific community groups. 
  • Identifying your target audience: You will likely have more than one, whether parents within the community, businesses or other organisations. 
  • Communicating with your target audience: You will need to tailor your communications in line with the needs of your different audiences. 
  • Establishing your fundraising methods: This could include online methods like crowdfunding (link to crowdfunding guide) and social media challenges or offline methods like community fairs, talent shows or coffee mornings. 

Before developing your fundraising strategy, it’s important to look back. Focus on your past successes. Where did your income come from previously? You can’t implement measurable goals to improve things if you don’t have an initial starting point. Also think about where you get your best donors or community heroes? Which sources of community fundraising offer the best ROI? Do you need to diversify your efforts? 

It’s also important to do a SWOT analysis. This helps you understand your existing fundraising position as well as the current climate. A SWOT analysis focuses on the following: 

  • Strengths: What are you good at? Do you have an existing engaged community base that want to get involved in your community fundraising initiatives? 
  • Weaknesses: Which areas need improvement? Has your online promotion not been up to scratch in the past? 
  • Opportunities: What’s coming up? Is there an upcoming date in the calendar you can hang your fundraising efforts on? 
  • Threats: What could prevent you from achieving your goals? Is there increased competition? Will the cost of living crisis impact your potential fundraising? 

Analysing each of these areas in turn will help you to build a strategy that’s tailored around the needs of your organisation and your community. 

So, what are good examples of community fundraising strategies? 

Macmillan Cancer Support Coffee Mornings provide a fantastic model of a well-executed community fundraising strategy. First and foremost, it’s a cause that a lot of people care about and have been touched by in some way. The charity is dealing with an engaged community that want to do their bit. The onus of running and hosting each coffee morning is placed on the community. The charity simply provides a fundraising pack and the functionality for community fundraisers to create their own online page. Within the pack are recipes, a collection box, event posters and games for the event. Having done the hard work establishing and promoting the event in the first place, the charity leaves a lot of the heavy lifting to its community of supporters. In 2022, this initiative raised more than £12 million. 

With a simple idea, easy execution and plenty of buzz online, social media challenges have proved successful strategies to engage with a worldwide community and grow donations. The most well-known of these in recent years has been the Ice Bucket Challenge on behalf of the Motor Neurone Disease Association. This simple online challenge of pouring a bucket of icy water over your head captured the world’s imagination and raised over £90 million. 

Matched giving and online crowdfunding are also often successful community fundraising strategies. In Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health organisation Beyond Blue successfully raised AUS $870,000 through matched giving campaigns at a time when its services were so incredibly necessary. 

Integrating easyfundraising into your Strategy

At easyfundraising, we offer a simple and effective online method of raising funds for your organisation. You can register your non-profit as one of our charitable causes and create a dedicated fundraising page detailing your cause, goals and story. You can then collect donations from your community as they shop online. 

Once your supporters have created a personal easyfundraising account with us they can choose you as their cause to support. After they do, they can shop with more than 7,500 online retailers that partner with us. Think major retailers like John Lewis, Lakeland and M&S as well as independents, insurers and loads more. When each supporter spends with one of our partner retailers, that retailer will make a donation on their behalf from the money they spent. It doesn’t cost your supporters anything to donate on top of the cash they spend with the retailer, and it doesn’t cost your organisation anything to receive the funds. 

You can use easyfundraising as your sole method of community fundraising or to supplement your existing fundraising efforts. You just need to make your supporters aware of this approach, how to use it and the benefits it brings to them and you. Your promotion is therefore key. When you sign up with us you can access our ToolKit, which provides you with plenty of tools for promotion including templates for email, social media and WhatsApp. 

Top Community Fundraising Ideas

So, what ideas can you incorporate into your strategy? The following community fundraising ideas (link to community fundraising ideas article) should help with a little inspiration: 

  • Community fairs and fetes 
  • Sponsored walks and runs
  • Jumble sales
  • Bake sales
  • Coffee mornings 
  • Concerts and festivals
  • Charitable auctions
  • Community sports events
  • Community service projects, like neighbourhood cleanups, tree planting initiatives or food drives
  • Business partnerships
  • Online crowdfunding 
  • Fundraising via social media
  • Social media challenges
  • Digital product and merchandising sales

The fundraising ideas you choose will depend on your specific community and target audience. When a PTA is attempting to raise funds from its community of parents, a community fair or fete is a traditional and expected method of fundraising. Parents will be happy to attend and part with their cash for a cause that directly impacts their children. As mentioned before, coffee mornings can be successful with an already engaged community that are well aware of the cause and want to do what they can to help. 

If your cause isn’t as well-known as an organisation like Macmillan, you will need to focus heavily on your promotion before you execute your idea. This could be digital promotion for a cause like Beyond Blue mentioned above, at a time when it’s in the spotlight due to an immediate need for its services. Or it could be a combination of offline and online promotion for a charitable auction held by an animal sanctuary for example. 

It all comes down to understanding your goals, your target audience and how best to engage with them. When planning and mapping out your fundraising ideas, always refer back to your strategy. 

Building a Successful Community Fundraising Team

To set an effective strategy, promote your organisation and your cause, execute events and campaigns and evaluate their effectiveness, you’ll need a dedicated fundraising team in place (link to fundraising team article). Depending on the size of your organisation, you may be able to employ people full-time or you may have to rely on volunteers. Either way, you’ll need everyone pulling in the same direction. 

Key roles within the team will include: 

  • Team leader: To set the strategy, oversee project management, liaise with the team and monitor and measure progress. 
  • Community fundraising manager: This will be one of the most important roles within your team. They will need to engage directly with your community and will be the main point of contact for all your fundraising initiatives. They will work alongside the team leader. 
  • Event coordinator: To execute your community events, whether offline or online.  
  • Marketer/Social media manager/PR manager: Whether you employ someone with a wide range of skillsets or individual people for each role, this is vital to get the word out about your events and campaigns. 
  • Finance manager: To help set your goals in the first place and manage all aspects of the budget and fundraising coffers.  

When it comes to recruitment strategies, you can speak to potential volunteers at any events you’re hosting and also post volunteer jobs on websites like Reach Volunteering. You can also head to volunteer fairs to engage with an audience that’s already sold on volunteering – you just need to sell them on your organisation and the work you do. 

For paid employees, start by creating job postings on dedicated websites like CharityJob and Third Sector Jobs. You’ll want to promote these listings on social media and create job ads on LinkedIn. Also consider heading to industry-specific events in your local area. If you want a good marketer, attend local marketing events and get ready with your 30-second elevator pitch. You’ll be surprised by how many people may want to pivot their careers into the charity sector, or will be happy to lend their skills to a good cause on a voluntary basis. 

Once you have your team in place, motivation is crucial. Try to host regular team building events to build a spirit of camaraderie. In work, make sure you have consistent huddles and catch ups to check on progress but also to foster a culture of collaboration between your team members. Training is vital too. Encourage team members to run training sessions for the rest of the team about their own area of expertise. This will help with increasing the skillset of team members so they can help out in different areas as and when it’s needed, but it will also assist with communication and presentation skills – important attributes for community fundraising. 

Best Practices for Community Fundraising

When it comes to implementing your community fundraising ideas, try to: 

  • Make it accessible: Ensure your community fundraising initiative is open to all. Macmillan coffee mornings are a great example of this. With such a simple concept – and resources to help people run their own morning – it’s so easy for anyone to get involved. 
  • Choose the right fundraising tool: If you’re asking people to make online donations, you need a tool that’s easy for them to use and simple for you to promote. This could be crowdfunding on a website like GoFundMe or collecting donations through easyfundraising. 
  • Practice two-way communication: If you’re asking people to run their own community events on your behalf and become advocates for your organisation, you need to provide them with the resources to help make it happen. But it’s also important to listen to your community and their ideas as to how you can improve your initiatives. 
  • Promote, promote, promote: A good idea is essential, but it won’t work without adequate promotion. The Ice Bucket Challenge was a great idea, but it was the online buzz that made it fly. 
  • Showcase your story: People want to build an emotional connection with your organisation, and they also want to understand the real importance of the work you do. Beyond Blue gift matching is a great illustration of this. They were able to showcase the real need at that exact time for their services – it got the wider community to buy into their cause and donate to support it. 
  • Keep things time sensitive: A community fundraising initiative with a short timeframe can create a sense of urgency and get people donating now. 
  • Recognise fundraisers’ hard work and put them in the spotlight: If people in your community, business leaders or community groups have gone above and beyond in their fundraising efforts or donations shout about it. Share the news on social media, emails, annual reports and internal communications. 
  • Always connect to your cause when you engage with your community: Whether speaking to people at events, encouraging individuals or businesses to take on fundraising initiatives or communicating online, always bring it back to your cause. Your story and the good you’re doing is what will encourage people to make an emotional connection. 
  • Analyse your successes and failures: If you’re running digital fundraising campaigns you’ll have data on your donors, and your social media analytics will help you understand your audience. Even for offline events you can look at total funds raised, donations per donor, available donations and retention rates. All of this information should be used to feed back into your ongoing strategy and to tweak it where appropriate. 

Making the Most of your Community

When done well, community fundraising can be a huge source of funds for your non-profit, charity or organisation. An engaged community can take on fundraising events themselves, become advocates for your charity or donate big sums. 

But an engaged community is just the start. Effective community fundraising comes down to the right strategy, innovative ideas, a great team and plenty of best practice. We know you can do it!