Fundraise for Your Favorite Cause in 11 Easy Steps

Become a Super Do-Gooder With Personal Fundraising

Young people working on a peer-too-peer fundraising camaign.
Hero Images/Getty Images

What Is Personal Fundraising? And Why Should You Do It?

Social media has profoundly changed the way we share information about our passions with our friends. SurveyMonkey found that over half of social media users discover good causes through social media. That study also found that social media users are generous — nearly 64 percent of those surveyed had donated $100 or more to nonprofits in the last year.

Even if you have never raised money for a favorite cause before, online or off, it is easier than ever to create and run a successful fundraising campaign with the online tools and platforms at your fingertips. If you are already active and engaged on one or more social media sites, you have an audience that is ready, willing, and eager to help you support your favorite cause.   

Often called “crowdfunding” or “peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising, people asking their friends, family, and colleagues for money is nothing new. In fact, it is one of the most effective forms of fundraising. Classy, a popular online fundraising service, found that nearly one-third of all online donations come from P2P fundraising.

When done well, asking your social media friends for support can bring a flurry of donations and interest in the causes that you are crazy about. Intrigued? Just follow this step-by-step guide to raising money on social media for your favorite cause or charity

11 Steps to Fundraising Success

1. Let the charity know what you plan to do.

Not only will they be thrilled, but they may also already have an online fundraising platform available for you to use for your campaign. See if the charity will provide you with photos, videos, and other content that you can share to make a compelling story to your friends and family.

An added benefit of connecting directly with the charity before your fundraiser begins is that you can be sure that you are using trustworthy materials in your appeal. A word to the wise: never copy a photo from a nonprofit website and use it without permission, even when fundraising. Most nonprofits have a gallery of photos for your use. 

2. Choose a reasonable goal.

Choosing the right fundraising goal is incredibly important. It needs to be realistic and achievable, but you do not want it to be too low either. If you have never asked friends or family to support this charity before, take that into account when choosing a money goal. If you have many followers, then you may be able to raise more money than someone with a smaller following.

No matter the size of your network, choose a goal that feels right to you and get excited about it. Even if you do not raise the full amount, you can apply this experience to your next online fundraising campaign. Moreover, every dollar raised for your favorite cause is worth it.

3. Create a time frame.

The most successful online fundraising campaigns have a set start date and end date. 

For example, your campaign may run during your birthday month. An appeal on Facebook might be:” For my birthday month of July, I am not asking for presents—instead, I am asking you to join me in supporting the Northeast Animal Shelter with a donation. Please give between July 1 and July 31 and support my fundraising campaign.”

Charity: water makes it incredibly easy to donate your birthday, but other ideas include celebrating an anniversary, a wedding, a new baby, a new house, a milestone, a loved one, or a national cause day (for instance, Domestic Violence Awareness Month or Pride Month).

Your fundraising campaign can run for as many or as few days as you choose, but longer campaigns tend to fizzle out towards the end. One or two weeks work best, as you can generate a big push of enthusiasm and attention for that period. Even 30 days may work, if you have a plan to keep people engaged, interested, and giving.

4. Decide on the “why” of your campaign.

Your "why" may be the most important part of any fundraising campaign, online or offline. When asking people to give, you need to explicitly state your case for support.

Questions that potential donors might ask include:

  • Why are you asking for money right now?
  • Why does this cause matter to you?
  • Why do you support this particular charity vs. others that do similar work?
  • Why should I give to your fundraising campaign when I am bombarded daily by other things competing for my money and attention?

5. Share your story.

Be prepared to share a personal story about your work with the charity or your passion for the cause. People give to people, and your network gives if they feel an emotional connection to the cause through you. Create these emotional connections with personal stories, stories of real people in real situations.

Rally for Richard is an excellent example of an online fundraising campaign page with a moving personal story. Another is the crowdfunding campaign, School books for Malawian children. Both offer emotional, personal testimonials from the people trying to raise money, explaining why the funds are needed so urgently and why they are the ones asking.  

6. Use video.

Photos may be worth a thousand words, but it is video that rules on social media. Video is an incredibly effective way to tell a story, and social media users love video. Videos receive the most shares and the most engagement across all platforms. For peer-to-peer fundraisers like you, video can be a wonderful way to raise even more funds. Google found that 57 percent of people who watch a video made by a nonprofit then go on to make a donation.

  • While there is a place for professional video, your online fundraising campaign is not it. Amateur videos taken in selfie mode with a smartphone and uploaded to your online fundraising campaign page and shared to social media sites work just fine. Just make sure that people can see and hear you clearly.
  • Shorter videos work best on social media (30 seconds to one minute), and videos that add subtitles (so they can play in silent mode) are ideal. Use tools like DotSub and Amara to add subtitles to videos.
  • Start with a video that explains the “why” of the campaign, but then use video throughout the campaign to give brief progress updates and to thank donors for their support in a very personal way.
  • Sharing frequent, short, personal updates on funds raised so far is an excellent way to acknowledge the donations that have come in while encouraging procrastinators to give before the campaign ends.

7. Choose an online fundraising platform, if the charity does not have one.

If the charity you support doesn’t have a particular online fundraising platform set up, then you need to do your research. There are quite a few fantastic online fundraising platforms out there, including the very popular GoFundMe, Generosity (by Indiegogo), and Crowdrise. Facebook is  rolling out a way for individuals to raise money directly through FB.

Whatever route you take, make sure that your platform is a snap to set up, easy to update, and accessible with mobile devices. 

8. Launch your campaign on email and social media

The launch is the fun part. Start the campaign with genuine enthusiasm on all of your social media sites, as well as with a personal email appeal. Tailor each post for the individual channel.

For example:

  • On Facebook: Upload your campaign video directly into Facebook, along with a short blurb and link to the online fundraising page where your friends can enter their donation. If you post the appeal on a business page on Facebook, pay to boost the post so more of your fans will see it. If you are asking for donations through your personal profile, tag several friends you think may be interested so that it will show up on their profiles (and so they will be directly notified).
  • On Twitter: Upload your campaign video directly into a tweet, adding any relevant hashtags and the link to the online fundraising page. Make sure to pin it to your profile so that visitors will see it first. Be sure to schedule tweets, at least once per day, that talk about the campaign and ask for donations.
  • On LinkedIn: Publish a short blog post on LinkedIn Publisher about the campaign, embedding the video and adding photos to make it more visual. Do this also on Medium, a free blogging platform, to increase your reach and expose your fundraiser to a wider audience.
  • On Instagram: Put the link to the online fundraising campaign in your bio. Create a square graphic with Canva encouraging people to visit the link and make a donation to support your campaign.

Across all platforms, invite your friends and family to spread the word and share the campaign, and say thank you.

9. Monitor progress, answer questions and comments. Don't set it and forget it.

During the campaign, make sure to check in on each social media channel to see if there are questions or comments. Thank your donors profusely and by name. Tag them unless they request to be anonymous. People love to be a part of success, and they do not want to be left out. The more that you share the names of contributors, the more others will want to be a part of it. (Aunt Cindy will not want to be the only one on your mom’s side that hasn’t given—that would be so awkward at the next family reunion.)

10. Provide progress updates.

If you are almost at your goal, share that information. If you still have quite a long way to go, let your social networks know. Tell people that you just need $1000 (or $100, or $10) more to reach your goal, and you need their help to get there. Remember that you are competing with billions of other updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, so keep it brief, exciting, and fun.

11. Thank donors and thank them again.

During and after the fundraiser, have a plan to thank your donors and everyone who helped spread the word about your campaign. Share and celebrate successes through video, photos, blog posts, and more.

With a bit of planning, creativity, and enthusiasm, anyone can raise money for his or her favorite charities using social media.  

Julia Campbell counsels nonprofits on all aspects of social media and fundraising.