4 Examples of Effective Fundraising Campaigns in 2024

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Published:

July 12, 2023

Last Updated:

January 23, 2024

Successful fundraising is critical for nonprofit organizations.

So when you come across great fundraising campaign examples, you should be taking notes.

In this article, we’ll help you understand all you need to know about fundraising campaigns to get you started raising funds in a strategic and thoughtful way—including providing real fundraising campaign examples and explaining what made each of them successful.

Let’s get started!

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Understanding Fundraising Campaigns

Fundraising

First things first: what is a fundraising campaign?

Fundraising campaigns are targeted efforts to raise money for your nonprofit organization. Simply put, these campaigns provide the funding that fuels your organization’s efforts and they help spread awareness of your cause.

Ultimately, successful fundraising efforts can increase the good you can do in your community and the world around you.

Nonprofit organizations could not survive without donations, so it is critical to have strong faundraising strategies and campaigns in place to achieve your financial goals.

Fundraising campaigns can come in all different shapes and sizes, including:

  • Annual campaigns, which are yearly campaigns that help fund base business.
  • Capital campaigns, which are multi-faceted campaigns that help you reach a specific goal. (Keep in mind that these tend to be larger goals, like building a building, so they’re not typically held annually.)
  • Year-end campaigns, which are last-minute pushes to get donations during the current fiscal year.

Within these campaigns, your organization can employ different methods to solicit gifts, including printed mailers, social media posts, fundraising events, and so much more. We will share more specific fundraising campaign ideas and examples in the next section.

Examples of Effective Fundraising Campaigns

Analytics

Looking at other successful campaigns is a great way to learn and get inspiration.

Below we have compiled four great examples of effective fundraising campaigns that met—and in many cases exceeded—their goals.

We’ll explain why these campaigns were successful so you can bring these strategies back to your own organization and implement them on a scale that makes sense for you.

1. Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS

In 2014, you couldn’t consume any media without running into the Ice Bucket Challenge.

This was the first-of-its-kind viral campaign run by the ALS Association, raising more than $220 million to help fund research to accelerate the fight against ALS.

The premise of the campaign was simple: Dump ice water over your head or donate to the ALS association. You had to film yourself doing it, and at the end, you nominated others to participate in the challenge. Thankfully for the ALS Association, many people did both and still donated to the cause.

The challenge was fun, and years later, we are seeing the impact those donor dollars played into research breakthroughs, including a new treatment for ALS.

Why it worked: This fundraising campaign was a fun way to challenge your friends with a low entry point. You didn’t have to donate, but with each video, you drove awareness for the cause.

The addition of peer pressure from friends on social media also contributed to its success. This campaign showed just how powerful social media could be and how quickly a viral campaign could grow and spread organically.

2. St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital Thanks and Giving Campaign

St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital Thanks and Giving Campaign

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital does a great job of sharing its mission with the world, encouraging people to donate to help them treat and find a cure for childhood cancer. The funds they raise help ensure that no child is denied treatment because they can’t afford it.

They recently held their 19th annual Thanks and Giving campaign, where they partnered with retailers across the United States to raise funds in-store and online, including Best Buy, Domino’s, HomeGoods, Signet Jewelers, AutoZone, Williams Sonoma, and more. They encouraged customers to donate at the point of sale, rounding up their purchase or donating a set amount.

Many of their celebrity ambassadors joined in this effort to spread awareness, including Sofia Vergara, Michael Strahan, Chip and Joanna Gaines, and more. 

Why it worked: While your scope may be smaller, you can still learn from St. Jude. They have a strong mission to further lifesaving research and provide treatment for kids with cancer and other diseases. 

This mission is embedded at the forefront of their campaign, which is something you should keep in mind when you craft your own fundraising strategies. When you effectively communicate what you stand for and why it matters, it will be easier for you to get people to participate and donate.

3. Salvation Army Angel Tree Campaign

Salvation Army Angel Tree Campaign

The Salvation Army has a very strong fundraising presence during the holiday season, including the red collection bins that are outside a lot of retailers’ doors.

On top of this, they also partner with retailers and companies to increase their impact even more, and one unique fundraising campaign during the holiday season is their Angel Tree partnership with Walmart.

This program serves more than 1 million children in need, providing clothing and toys to help brighten their Christmas morning.

Participating in this program is open to Walmart employees and customers alike. Simply pick a tag off the tree in your local Walmart to buy items and return them back to the tree. You can also visit their Spark Good registry online. The Salvation Army will do the rest, ensuring that all items are delivered to families in time for Christmas.

Why it worked: The Salvation Army and Walmart have collaborated for more than 40 years, so this program capitalized on their long-standing corporate partnership. It paired the convenience of shopping at Walmart with the generosity of the holiday season to help others in need. There were gifts across all price points and an online option for those who prefer to shop online.

4. Northwestern University “We Will” Fundraising Campaign

Northwestern University “We Will” Fundraising Campaign

Northwestern University launched its “We Will” capital campaign in 2014, and after achieving its $3.75 billion goal in just two years, it raised its goal. The campaign concluded in 2021, exceeding its revised $5 billion goal by raising $6.1 billion.

This multi-year campaign was successful because it leveraged its existing donor base, targeting its asks by population. Of the more than 626,000 gifts, nearly 84 percent were gifts of less than $1,000. Collectively, they made a huge difference not only driving engagement, but also helping fund meaningful work across the organization.

Donors could contribute to scholarships, facilities, research, and more, giving back in ways that were meaningful to them specifically. Following the gifts, Northwestern sent thank you's to donors for their contributions, making them feel valued. They followed up with an impact report so you could see your contribution in action.

Why it worked: Northwestern University used targeted communications to solicit gifts from its community without overwhelming them with constant asks. They leveraged various channels and methods, including email, mailed solicitations, fundraising events, and more, to successfully complete their most ambitious campaign to date. More on fundraising for universities can be found here.

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Tips for a Successful Fundraising Campaign

Tips

Now that we’ve gone over a few successful fundraising campaign examples, let’s dig into some tips that can help you run an effective fundraising campaign at your organization.

Set a Goal

The most important thing you can do before you launch a fundraising campaign is to make sure that you have a clear goal or goals in mind from the start. Ask yourself the following questions to help you get started.

  • How much money do you want to raise?
  • What will it help fund?
  • Do you want to set a goal for donor numbers to help drive engagement?

Many people use the SMART methodology, which stands for specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound, to help set their goals.

A sample goal for a fundraising campaign could be that you want to raise $10,000 to fund community center repairs through an annual giving campaign that runs from June 1 through December 31.

Having a clear goal will help everyone know what they are working toward and drive clarity in how and when you want to achieve it as an organization.

Engage With Your Donor Base

Unless you’re just starting out, you should already have a loyal donor base, and you want to begin your campaign by leveraging them to the fullest extent.

You can invest in donor management software to help you keep track of your donors, streamlining your fundraising efforts to maximize the return on your investment during your campaigns. Additionally, data analytics can help provide you with insights to better target your campaigns or identify potential donors.

For example, how you approach your major donors will differ from how you engage with first-time supporters. That’s where audience segmentation comes in to help you best target your asks to maximize your odds of success.

Also, don’t forget to reach out to inactive donors to see if you can bring them back into the fold.

Employ Effective Storytelling

Your organization has a story to tell, and a fundraising campaign is a great opportunity to share it with the world!

Many of the best fundraising campaigns tell their organization’s stories in ways that almost make it impossible not to give. That’s one of the reasons why St. Jude has been so successful over the years! They have a fantastic story to tell.

One way to tell your organization’s story is to interview people who have been impacted by your nonprofit’s work. They can share firsthand how meaningful the work you do is. Other ways to tell your story is to look at program performance and leverage data analytics to share specific impacts.

Oxfam does a great job of distilling their impact into an infographic. Storytelling can be written, visual, or verbal, so get creative!

Oxfam

Tap Into Social Media

Social media is your fundraising friend!

Social channels can be a fantastic way to reach a wide audience with little to no capital investment. You can even provide an opportunity for people to give directly on the platform in some cases! On Instagram, you can add a link to give on your stories, while on others you can provide a link in your bio.

As you think about best utilizing social media, you want to ensure that your visuals are engaging.

You should also encourage your followers to re-share your posts on their feeds. Consider creating social media giving challenges as well. Whatever you do, make sure to be creative. Social media is a great way to try out new fundraising campaign ideas with little cost to your organization.

Leverage Corporate Partnerships

Donors don’t just have to be individuals, either!

You can reach out to companies to see if they want to be your partner in your campaign, which could mean a one-time gift, employee matches, or even event sponsorship. Remember the partnership between the Salvation Army and Walmart? That started 40 years ago with a simple ask, and today, it impacts millions of people each year.

Many companies will have a community relations team, and you can direct your asks to them. Don’t get discouraged if the answer is no for the current year. Instead, ask when their funding cycle is and submit an application for consideration for the future.

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Wrapping Up: The Next Steps

Campaign

Planning and launching an effective fundraising campaign may not be easy, but it’s critical to your nonprofit organization’s success. It will help you get the money you need to make a difference, furthering your impact on the world around you.

There are many fundraising campaign examples that you can draw inspiration from, including the ones in this article. With the tips and insights we’ve shared, your nonprofit should be well on its way to achieving its fundraising campaign goals.

Best of all, Instrumentl has many additional fundraising resources available that you can check out today.

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