When your nonprofit creates or updates your fundraising plan, you’ll probably plan at least a few one-time initiatives and donation drives. But you’ll also want to make sure you have several ongoing revenue streams set up and detailed in your plan. By adding more revenue streams, your organization will have reliable funding coming in all year long.

Diversifying your nonprofit’s revenue streams is more sustainable over time than relying solely on donations, and it can push your organization toward greater overall fundraising success. In order to diversify your revenue, you’ll need to get creative and weigh different options to find the right combination of ongoing fundraisers for your organization.

In this post, we’ll walk through the benefits of five options for ongoing nonprofit revenue streams, including:

  1. Online shopping fundraisers.
  2. Peer-to-peer fundraising.
  3. Annual event revenue.
  4. Matching gifts.
  5. Google Ad Grants.

Besides helping to bring in more funds, adding new streams of revenue allows your organization to expand its reach. As you set up and implement each revenue stream, you’ll network with donors who have diverse interests and organizations that will support your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts in new ways.

1. Online shopping fundraisers

An online shopping fundraiser is an easy way for your nonprofit to make the most of the popularity of online shopping. ShopRaise’s guide to shopping for a cause explains that these fundraisers earn revenue when supporters of your nonprofit make everyday purchases at participating retailers through the shopping program’s app or browser extension. Then, your nonprofit will receive a percentage of the proceeds at no additional cost to you or supporters. 

Your nonprofit can get started with an online shopping fundraiser in four easy steps:

  • You partner with a shopping fundraiser platform. This partner has access to a wide network of retailers and will handle business negotiations for you. Once the fundraiser is set up, all you have to focus on is marketing and tracking results.
  • You spread the word to supporters. Marketing is essential to a successful shopping fundraiser since many of your supporters likely won’t have participated in one before. They’ll need instructions to get started and reminders to use the app or browser extension as they shop online. Your fundraising platform can create a co-branded webpage for your organization, and you’ll also market via social media and email.
  • Shoppers make purchases online as they normally would. Items purchased during a shopping fundraiser are the same price as they would be otherwise, and participants still have access to any regular coupon codes or discounts. So, the only difference is that supporters will go through the fundraising app or browser extension when making purchases they would have made anyway.
  • You receive a percentage of each participant’s total sale. This comes in the form of unrestricted revenue, so your organization can put the funds toward necessary but often underfunded operating expenses or future budgeting needs. You’ll also be able to track your results through the shopping fundraiser platform and use them to adjust your ongoing marketing strategy.

As far as fundraising goes, an online shopping fundraiser can easily be run year-round. It also works for organizations of all sizes. Supporters benefit by incorporating the fundraiser into their regular routines without spending any additional time or money to contribute to your cause, as well as knowing that they’re shopping ethically.

2. Peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraisers involve individual supporters or small groups reaching out to their friends and family on behalf of your nonprofit. Their friends and family then donate to your cause. While peer-to-peer fundraisers are often paired with events or giving days, they’re also a great standalone fundraiser that you can turn into an ongoing source of revenue.

In peer-to-peer campaigns, donors get the benefit of hearing a personal story from someone close to them, showing them your nonprofit’s impact before they choose to give. Your organization then benefits from expanded outreach and new connections.

Personalization is key to a successful peer-to-peer fundraising initiative. To help your supporters personalize their outreach, provide them with these tools:

  • DIY campaign creation platforms. Pick a peer-to-peer platform that lets participants design their own shareable fundraising pages once you’ve created a main page. Your supporters can add personal stories about their connection with your nonprofit to share what your cause means to them with potential donors.
  • Shareable links to ongoing campaigns. To tie your peer-to-peer fundraising to your long-term initiatives, encourage your volunteers to promote your other ongoing campaigns as they reach out to their friends and family.
  • Mobile-friendly donation pages. Mobile traffic has been rising for some time now, and many donors will likely arrive at participants’ fundraising pages using their tablets or smartphones. Check the back-end of your site to ensure that your donation page is optimized for mobile interaction before your fundraiser begins. 
  • Social media. Make sure your supporters can easily share their fundraising pages on their social media profiles, and promote the fundraiser on your organization’s accounts.

Another benefit of peer-to-peer fundraising is that it works well for a variety of organizations. Nonprofits, schools, clubs, community organizations, and sports teams can all easily benefit from incorporating ongoing peer-to-peer initiatives into their fundraising plans.

3. Annual event revenue

It’s no secret that events are major sources of revenue for nonprofits. While your nonprofit may see an event as a one-time source of revenue, they can become one of your revenue streams with some creativity.

You can make your nonprofit’s galas, giving days, fun runs, and family activities into recurring events to get more consistent revenue from them. Your organization can likely depend on bringing in funds on Giving Tuesday since it’s a national tradition. But you can capitalize on the comfort found in traditions at other times of the year by hosting other recurring events, such as a family haunted house fundraiser in October or a spring-themed 5K in April.

To lighten your event planners’ workload and make your strategy more sustainable, try these tips:

  • Reach out to recurring donors about events first, since they’re likely to engage with your organization again.
  • Follow up with attendees to thank them for a successful event and suggest other ways to get involved with your mission.
  • Collect and analyze event data so that you can identify what worked well and what you can improve when you put on other similar events in the future.

The more times you run an event, the easier it will be to put on again in the future. Once you’ve fine-tuned your basic event strategy, you can focus on how to expand your most popular activities and gatherings to attract more attendees.

4. Matching gifts

Matching gifts are a highly versatile revenue stream, since you can pair them with many events and fundraisers as well as adding them onto their regular donation form. When an employee of a business with a matching gifts program contributes to a nonprofit, the business will also make a donation—sometimes in the exact same amount, sometimes as a percentage of the employee’s gift, and sometimes double or even triple the original amount.

Many major businesses have matching gifts programs. But 360MatchPro reports that only about 7% of eligible employees submit a match request, and 78% of people whose employers have a matching gifts program don’t know it exists.

Your organization can solve this problem by marketing matching gifts across multiple channels, including:

  • Your donation confirmation page. Just below the section where you thank donors for their contribution and explain its potential impact, add a link to your matching gifts tool and a call to action asking them to check their eligibility.
  • Social media. Introduce the idea of matching gifts to supporters through posts and graphics, then direct them to your website to learn more.
  • Email marketing. Promote matching gifts by mentioning them in other fundraising emails and send some focused messages to educate supporters on what matching gifts are and how to check if they’re eligible for a match.
  • Direct mail. Include an easy-to-type URL or QR code to your donation page in your letters so supporters can quickly check their match eligibility online.

If your organization uses other marketing platforms, try to find ways to mention matching gifts on them as well. Consistent, widespread marketing will allow your nonprofit to turn matching gifts into a valuable ongoing revenue stream.

Google Ad Grants differ from other revenue streams because they’re specifically focused on nonprofit marketing. Once you apply for a Google Ad Grant, you’ll be able to promote your nonprofit while saving money on promotional materials.

While most businesses have to pay per click in order to run ads on Google, registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits who meet the Google Ad Grant eligibility requirements can apply for $10,000 worth of free advertising each month. Unlike many other nonprofit grants, there is no limit to the number of organizations who can receive a Google Ad Grant.

With the Google Ad Grant, you can direct a wide range of supporters to key pages on your website, where they can donate, register to volunteer, or participate in one of your new ongoing fundraisers. When your nonprofit applies for a Google Ad Grant, you’ll be able to spread awareness of your mission and market several campaigns at the same time on the world’s largest search engine—without draining your marketing budget. 

The bottom line on ongoing nonprofit revenue streams

Sustainability is key to successful nonprofit fundraising, and having diverse revenue streams that intrigue your supporters will allow you to bring in consistent funds over time. Do your research, expand your network, and experiment with a variety of revenue streams to find the combination that best meets your organization’s needs.


Guest post by Korri Piper, Sales and Marketing Consultant & Director of Vendor Relationships at ShopRaise