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Local and community fundraising

This page is free to all
Fundraising in your local community.

A local or community approach to fundraising is by definition very specific and targeted. It involves building a relationship between your organisation and the people who give you money and who support your aims and activities.

Top tips for community fundraising

  • Know your message: can you explain who you are, what you are all about and why someone should support you in 15 seconds? Perfect your 'elevator pitch'.
  • Develop a fundraising plan to work out what activities you can run and how you will manage them.
  • How you implement the plan and what you do afterwards are vital for future success.
  • Remember fundraising is not just about raising money, it’s also about building relationships with your community for the longer term.

Getting buy-in from your community and developing a network

You, your volunteers and supporters should always be selling your organisation within your community. It's critical that you can not only tell, but show, people what you do, and by doing this persuade them to support you.

Tell them the following things.

1. Who you are

  • Do people know you exist?
  • What relationships have you developed within the community?

2. What you do

  • Have you clearly identified your target market of supporters and donors?
  • Are the aims of your organisation clearly defined? How well have you communicated these?
  • Can you demonstrate the impact you’ve made with data, facts, stories or images?

3. Who benefits

  • Why is the need important? What is the urgency?
  • What exactly do you need the funds for?
  • Why support you, rather than another organisation?
  • Have you a compelling, emotional, message, for example, Barnardo’s ’Believe in children’. How can you not?

By connecting well with your community, you give them a sense of ownership and help them to feel more involved. They are more likely to act as ambassadors for your organisation.

Your community

Think about your community in broad terms. It could include:

  • Individuals: how are you targeting and communicating with them? Are they a geographic community, or a community of interest (eg an online community, such as a Facebook group, with a shared interest).
  • Companies: approach companies for sponsorship as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
  • Local government and grant making bodies: do they run any local funding schemes? How could they help promote what you do? Could your work benefit local planning and consultation?
  • Other organisations: who complement your work – could you work together to reduce costs or reach more beneficiaries?

Once you have formed relationships, you must work hard to maintain them. How well you know and communicate with your community will determine how sustainable your revenue stream will be.

Your fundraising plan

Several key elements are critical for success.

Recruiting and managing volunteers

You cannot plan activity until you know what resource you have and how you are going to staff it.

An old adage in the world of commercial organisations is that, ‘people are our number one asset’. As many small, local voluntary organisations are heavily reliant on the goodwill of their volunteers and supporters.

You must have a clear plan to:

Recruit: who are these volunteers? Have they worked in the voluntary sector before? How much time can they commit to working with you? Why are they interested in what you do?

Develop: how do you motivate them? Put the FUN back into fundraising. Train them in key areas. Optimise their skill set. Find out what they want to get out of the experience.

Retain: how do you ensure against 'burn out'? Vary activities, reward and praise. Make sure tasks are well planned and volunteers are well supported.

Replace: volunteers can leave for any number of reasons – lack of time, pressures of work etc. Make sure you are planning to recruit replacements, and use existing volunteers to help inspire the next group.

Choosing your fundraising activities

Think about which activities are most relevant to your community and mission. If you’re an environmental charity, you may want to hold an outdoor event that gets local people involved with their natural environment through fundraising challenges, treasure hunts or an outdoor concert. This would be much more relevant than an indoor raffle, for example.

If your local community has lots of young families, think about what activities would be most appealing to young children and their parents. Equally, if you live in an older community, think about how you promote your activities – a social media campaign may be less relevant than an ad in the local paper. Talk to people about what they would like to see in their area.

Look at what other organisations have done to raise money. You can often find examples in your local paper, on the organisation’s website or through social media. There are endless, innovative ways to raise money, just make sure that it’s relevant and appropriate to your cause.

Cancer Research offers an ‘A-Z of fundraising ideas’ with lots of different ideas for events and activities that can be organised easily.

Decide on numbers

Numerous small events are labour intensive but can turn around money quickly. Examples include:

  • lotteries and raffles
  • fairs, street parties and bazaars
  • collections : street, in churches, shops, door to door, work
  • sponsored events (swims, walks, pub crawls etc).

Large events are complex to organise and plan but can generate significant money. Examples include:

Remember that fundraising from your community does not have to be through an event – you may just build up strong relationships within your community and secure long-term donors or supporters.

You might also run a time-limited campaign, using local and social media, and tie it in with local events, schools or summer holidays.

Key points to remember

  • Have you run these activities before? Have they worked before? It is safer and normally more effective to improve and expand on an existing method than to develop a new one. However, if you are reliant on only one method, then add another in case your main method hits a downturn.
  • How suitable are your activities? For example, a faith organisation may not want to run lotteries as gambling is against its principles.
  • Manage and predict your budget. This is crucial and has to be realistic based on previous activities. If it is the first time you have run something like this, then ask other organisations for their figures and reduce the figure by 30–40%. You will need to think about:
    • total projected income
    • total cost
    • net contribution (the money that you have available to carry out the aims and goals of the organisation) or why you are fundraising in the first place.
  • Work with your community to develop a plan of activities that appeal to them. It's all very well coming up with a great plan, but if it doesn't work for your community, it doesn't work.

Communicating what you’re doing

  • Tell people about what you are doing: get local press involved, include community leaders, pay for advertising.
  • Use your website if you have one: people use the web to check and pass on information.
  • Set up a hashtag for social media and use it before, during and after the activity.

Finding a celebrity to endorse what you’re doing

If possible, engage a celebrity living in the community to endorse the organisation and its aims, or become its patron. There are numerous benefits to this:

  • awareness – good for advertising and communicating
  • adds credibility – that a celebrity wants to add their name
  • involvement – may lead to a greater participation in key events.


  • it can be very time consuming to recruit a celebrity
  • local celebrities may be involved with numerous causes, making their endorsement less ‘special’
  • local people may have different opinions of the chosen celebrity.

Running activities effectively

You should run your fundraising activities in the same way you run your organisation. Make sure:

  • someone is in charge
  • that they know the budget and the limits of their authority
  • that they have a timetable of what needs to be done by when
  • that they have a team of volunteers helping them
  • that they know who to turn if they have unresolved problems or just need support
  • that they have the name and contact details of the person who ran the activity last time
  • that they and their team are donor focussed – thinking about why people might want to give.

Top tip: spend half of your planning and implementation time on ensuring that you will have enough people (potential donors) involved in the activity. The most common mistake is to put on a really well-run fundraising activity with insufficient punters.

Following up after activities

  • Thank everyone – donors and volunteers.
  • Keep information on the activities – especially the names, addresses and if, appropriate, email addresses of all people who came, were involved or donated, following rules on data protection.
  • When the dust has settled, review how the activity went. What went well, what not so well, and what would you do differently next time?

Remember the PARETO principle:

  • 20% of your customer or donor base will generate 80% of your revenue and vice versa
  • 80% of the work will be done by 20% of your volunteers
  • you cannot afford to lose any of those 20%.

Give enormous recognition and thanks to the key leader of the activity. After the activity they will be completely exhausted and will be swearing that they will never do it again. But, if they do it will be twice as effective because they will know and have learned so much. So do everything you can to keep them on board.

Get more help

How to run a charity raffle

How to and why set up a crowdfunding campaign

How to raise money through organising a charity fundraising concert

How to organise a charity bake sale

How to launch a fundraising appeal guide

How to communicate with your local community

How to approach local businesses for donations

Page last edited Feb 24, 2017

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Section leaders

Ian Bruce