By Gary Wohlfeill, Director of Marketing at CrowdRise, who works with partners to develop highly engaging fundraising campaigns and leads the marketing team in developing the CrowdRise brand.

It’s hard to deny that social media has forever created a fundamental shift in the way we engage with each other. And this applies to nonprofits in a big way.

That’s why when nonprofits encourage the act of social fundraising, they not only empower supporters to share their love of the cause, but they also leverage their vast personal networks to grow in so many ways.

But what exactly is social fundraising?  

Social fundraising is when people (supporters, donors, evangelists, fundraisers, etc.) share with their personal networks the actions they take related to a cause, all through the megaphone of their mobile devices and social media.

Want to learn how to use social fundraising to get the most out of your supporters voice? Here are 8 best practices to get you started…

1. Use social fundraising as a way to spread awareness.

When you encourage social sharing throughout your supporter’s journey with your cause (after a donation, ticket purchase, or even fundraiser creation), these social shares can potentially provide you with increased awareness in many ways:

Issue awareness: Use social fundraising to let a new audience know that the problem you’re trying to solve for exists.

Nonprofit awareness: Social fundraising can help to connect your organization with people who might need your help, and also, people who might want to contribute and help.

General awareness: The more people see, learn, and hear about your cause, the more informed they will become. This can lead to a new network of donors, volunteers, fundraisers, grantors, and even corporate sponsors.

2. Fundraising on social is not the same as social fundraising.

One of the biggest misconceptions of social fundraising is that it just means to be active on social media using your nonprofit account. However, this isn’t entirely true. Simply making donation appeals on your social handles, one-to-many, is not a substitute for social fundraising.

The larger opportunity of social fundraising is when you actually get your supporters to spread the word on your behalf through their own social channels. Now that’s where the social fundraising magic happens.

3. Social fundraising shouldn’t take the place of any of your other efforts.

Leveraging the power of social fundraising doesn’t mean you have to stop posting on social media or change your strategy altogether. What you can do is layer social fundraising onto everything you’re already doing. It creates a more holistic approach to raising more awareness, increasing your reach, and raising more money for your cause.

For instance, don’t stop sending emails about your mission or an upcoming event. You can still use this channel to do all of your usual promoting. But when it comes to social fundraising, try to go one step further and encourage your supporters to use their own voices to share what they’re doing with your cause and tap into a whole new audience that might be unaware of your nonprofit and mission.

4. Craft your supporter’s journey.

These days, more than ever, it’s vital to craft your supporter’s journey and experience with your cause based on how people actually behave. With different goals and missions, your messaging should be unique in order to encourage each supporter to share in a way that resonates with them.

This means, if you’re hosting an upcoming event and have a supporter who just bought a ticket, you should craft the messaging to encourage them to share that they’re attending with their friends and family. On the flip side, if they bought a ticket and then receive a message about buying another ticket, this won’t resonate with the audience.

5. Let go of control (at least a little bit).

The whole point of social fundraising is that your passionate supporters are sharing your message through their own personal lens and experiences – that’s what makes it so compelling to their networks. People care about the people they know, and what they care about.

So, instead of holding tight to your nonprofit’s brand and story through the eyes of you, the nonprofit, let go a little and allow your supporters to share their own relationship with your nonprofit based on their personal connection.

The power of the crowd is real, and when your passionate supporter embraces your story as part of their own, it will resonate so much more with their network of friends and family.

6. Continue to ask your supporters to share.

There are five main action opportunities where your supporters can take action with your cause. The key is to encourage them to share with their personal network on their social channels with each and every one of these actions:

    • Visiting a campaign page
    • Making a donation
    • Buying a ticket and registering for an event
    • Having a personal experience with your nonprofit
    • Starting their own campaign on your behalf

At these pivotal moments with your cause, these passionate supporters are at your fingertips, and when you embrace social fundraising as a component of your fundraising strategy, a whole world of possibilities opens up.

7. Move offline activities online.

There are so many traditional fundraising activities that are easy to bring online in order to get more engagement, reach, and clarity about your campaign. And, each time you add more online presence to your nonprofit, the more opportunities you’ll have to encourage social fundraising.

By using a modern online fundraising platform with integrated ticketing and registration capabilities, you can take advantage of social sharing throughout these activities. Have an event coming up that encourages teams? Maybe it’s a golf event or even a bowling event. Encourage supporters to register and create their teams online pushing social sharing throughout the process.

8. Use gamification and incentives make social fundraising fun.

Gamification is another way to encourage engagement and sharing during a campaign. When you add an element of fun to the mix, it can help to activate zero dollar fundraisers, as well as get people talking about how they’re interacting with your cause.

Here are a few ways you can boost your campaigns with a little fun…

Peer-to-peer fundraising

Use peer-to-peer fundraising to leverage your supporters to raise money on your behalf. Passionate supporters will love the opportunity to ‘compete’ against other fundraisers to raise the most for your campaign.


Use a leaderboard on your campaign page to show who is in the lead with their fundraising efforts. This definitely creates a little competition and motivation for everyone involved.


Adding incentives like sweepstakes and contests help to engage zero dollar fundraisers, and create more fun and competition for everyone.


Charity competitions, such as Challenges, are great ways to get your nonprofit engaged as a whole in a friendly fundraising competition. They allow nonprofits of certain sizes and cause spaces to compete to raise the most money, with the winning charities taking home grand prize donations.

Dare Me campaigns

One fun way to add a level of fun and excitement is a Dare Me campaign. Much like the ice bucket challenge, this type of fundraising has the potential for a lot of social sharing.

With a heavy emphasis on the best social sharing tools and functionality, CrowdRise by GoFundMe was designed to help the modern nonprofit layer social fundraising onto everything they’re doing.

8 Online Social Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits