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An introduction to different fundraising methods.

What is it?

Fundraising for donations can include a wide range of activities. Donations are unrestricted funds that are given voluntarily by an individual or organisation to support your cause. Fundraising could include anything from standing in the street with a bucket, to running a sponsored event or a global social media campaign.

As technology has made it easier for even the smallest organisations to communicate with potential donors, voluntary organisations are finding more and more inventive ways to fundraise.

Donations are usually in cash, but many charities rely on in-kind donations, such as equipment, premises or advice. These should be part of your fundraising plan.

Why do it?

Donated income is ‘unrestricted’, which means that you can choose how you use it, as long as you are meeting your charitable objectives and fulfilling any promises you’ve made to donors.

Unlike grants or contracts, a donor will not require you to sign up to a specific project plan or set of conditions for funding.

Some organisations find it easier to attract donations than others. For example, if you work with children or animals, or your organisation supports people with conditions that many people can relate to (such as cancer) you may find it easy to attract donors, as people like to give to a cause that they have a personal connection with.

Unfortunately, less ‘popular’ or more contentious causes, such as supporting refugees or people with alcohol and drug issues, can be harder to fundraise for. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but you’ll need to have a very targeted plan for recruiting donors.

When are donations useful?

Donated income can be very useful to support your core costs, help you get started or let you try something new. It can also be useful for a one-off project (such as a new building) as it can be easier to fundraise for a specific, tangible objective. However, recruiting and keeping donors can be very time-consuming, and it’s not always easy to predict donor income.

How do you get donations?

Fundraising for donations can include many different activities, including:

Who should you involve?

Fundraising can be a great way to involve your beneficiaries and partners in your activities, for example through a challenge or fundraising day, or as part of a social media campaign.

You’ll need to have someone who is good at communicating with the donors that you plan to target, and you should make sure that everyone in your organisation knows what you’re fundraising for and how much you need to raise.

Fundraising Regulation

The Fundraising Regulator regulates all fundraising by or on behalf of charitable, philanthropic and benevolent organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It sets and maintains the standards for charitable fundraising and holds the Code of Fundraising Practice for the UK. It also investigates poor practice and adjudicates complaints and manages a fundraising preference service to enable individuals to manage their contact with charities.

The Charity Commission also publishes Charity fundraising: a guide to trustee duties.

Get more help

How to fundraise in tough times

How to do resource-raising

The Institute of Fundraising (IoF) is the professional membership body for UK fundraising. They support fundraisers with guidance, resources and training around best practice and compliance.   

Page last edited Sep 10, 2020

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Ian Bruce