Sustainable Funding: 5 Ways to Diversify Nonprofit Revenue

Strengthen your nonprofit with sustainable funding strategies.

It’s no secret that fundraising allows nonprofits to operate day-to-day and make a difference in the community. However, for your nonprofit to thrive, the key is fundraising sustainably.

To achieve financial sustainability, your organization needs to focus not only on maximizing the amount of funding you bring in but also on bringing in several different types of donations. While fundraising events and year-end giving campaigns still have their place, diversifying your revenue streams helps ensure that you’ll have enough funding all year long.

To help you get started, here are five ongoing fundraisers your nonprofit can use to diversify its revenue:

  1. Online Shopping Fundraisers
  2. Gift Card Fundraising
  3. Charity eCards
  4. Matching Gifts
  5. Search Ad Grants Programs

In addition to providing your organization with year-round donations, these fundraisers can engage your supporters in new, creative ways. Making it easy to give again and again helps improve your donor retention rate, which also contributes to financial sustainability. Let’s dive in!

1. Online Shopping Fundraisers

Online shopping fundraisers allow supporters to give back to organizations and causes they care about while making everyday purchases online. You might have heard of the AmazonSmile program, which ran on this model until its discontinuation in early 2023. However, there are alternative fundraising programs your organization can sign up for that provide more flexibility and higher commission rates than AmazonSmile did.

ShopRaise’s guide to shopping for a cause explains how your nonprofit can get started with an online shopping fundraiser in three easy steps:

  1. Partner with an online shopping fundraiser platform. This platform includes both a free internal-facing fundraising dashboard for your organization and a supporter-facing app that provides access to a wide network of retailers. Your shopping platform’s team will guide you through a simple onboarding process and answer any questions you may have during setup.
  2. Spread the word. Marketing is essential to a successful online shopping fundraiser. Your supporters will need instructions on how to get started and regular reminders to continue participating. The platform you partner with may be able to help with this step by creating branded landing pages, email templates, flyers, and other marketing materials for your organization.
  3. Track your results. You’ll be able to view real-time data on your fundraiser, allowing you to thank top supporters individually and hone your marketing strategy over time. To protect shoppers’ privacy, your organization will see just their names and overall fundraising totals—only the supporter will know exactly what they purchased.

During your online shopping fundraiser, your supporters can choose to shop at any participating retailer. They’ll pay the same prices they would normally and have access to all applicable discounts. The only difference is that they’ll use the fundraising platform’s app or browser extension when making their purchases. Over time, the small contributions from an online shopping fundraiser will add up to make a significant difference for your organization.

2. Gift Card Fundraising

Another way supporters can contribute to your nonprofit by making everyday purchases is through gift card fundraising. Similarly to an online shopping fundraiser, your organization partners with a fundraising platform that offers a variety of digital gift cards. Once supporters purchase these cards and have them delivered to their inboxes, they can forward the email to a loved one as a gift. A portion of each gift card sale goes back to your organization when the supporter purchases it.

You’ll get the most traction from gift card fundraising if you launch in either November (in advance of the December holiday season) or April (to prepare for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, peak wedding season, and school graduations). However, it’s best to leave your fundraiser open year-round so supporters can continue to purchase birthday gifts. While fundraising gift cards can be used for either online or in-person purchases, a digital delivery method provides maximum convenience for both your organization and your supporters.

3. Charity eCards

Online greeting cards help personalize the giving experience for supporters, deepening their connection with your organization. You can customize a variety of donation eCards for different occasions, from birthdays to holidays to awareness days related to your nonprofit’s mission.

There are three main ways to incorporate eCards into your organization’s donation processes:

  1. Create an integrated donation form that allows supporters to send an eCard to a friend or family member as an incentive for donating.
  2. Embed a widget into your donation confirmation page to provide the post-contribution option of sending an eCard.
  3. Add eCards to your nonprofit’s existing online merchandise store.

No matter which option you choose, consider marketing your charity eCards alongside a gift card fundraiser. This way, supporters can send an eCard and a gift card to their loved ones at the same time, all while contributing to a good cause!

4. Matching Gifts

Matching gifts allow your organization to double many donations you already receive. When a supporter who works for a business with a matching gift program donates to your nonprofit and submits a match request, their employer will also contribute, usually matching the original gift at a 1:1 ratio.

According to 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics, more than 26 million people work for businesses with matching gift programs, and 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if they know their gift will be matched. However, it’s estimated that up to $7 billion in matching funds goes unclaimed each year, mainly because many donors don’t know they’re eligible.

Your organization can help solve this problem and maximize your matching gift revenue in two ways. First, embed a matching gift tool directly into your online donation form so donors can quickly check their eligibility. Some of these tools also have auto-submission features, allowing supporters to submit match requests simply by entering their work email address. Second, actively promote matching gifts across all of your marketing channels to remind donors to request that all of their contributions be matched.

5. Search Ad Grants Programs

Although search ad grants programs aren’t fundraisers in the traditional sense, they can help offset marketing costs for your nonprofit. When you apply and are approved for one of these programs, your organization receives a monthly stipend for advertising on search engines. You can then use these marketing grants to support your existing fundraising efforts by driving traffic to your online donation page, event registration forms, and other key pages on your website.

The Google Ad Grants program is the most well-known of these programs. Your organization can apply for it in five easy steps:

  1. Confirm that your organization meets the Google Grant eligibility requirements.
  2. Register with TechSoup (if you haven’t done so already).
  3. Create a Google for Nonprofits Account and wait a few days for it to be approved.
  4. Prepare your website according to Google’s website policy checklist.
  5. Submit your grant application through your approved Google for Nonprofits account.

In addition to the Google Ad Grants program, Microsoft offers search ad grants through their Ads for Social Impact program. To secure this grant, your organization just needs to register for Microsoft for Nonprofits and complete the Microsoft Ad Grants application. Once your application is approved, you’ll be able to place ads across all Microsoft-owned and operated websites to boost supporter conversions.

As your nonprofit goes about its day-to-day operations, there may be times when unexpected costs arise or your fundraising campaigns fall short of their goals for reasons beyond your control. When this happens, having diversified revenue streams can help your organization maintain financial stability. Additionally, since nonprofit donations tend to peak at the end of the year and die down during the summer, running ongoing fundraisers can help you maintain momentum during slower times of the year.