In 2019, the top 100 charities in the United States collectively raised $51.5 billion dollars.
The top 10 charities of 2019 were:
- United Way ($3.3B)
- Feeding America ($2.8B)
- The Task Force for Global Health ($26B)
- The Salvation Army ($2B)
- St. Jude Children’s Hospital ($1.7B)
- The Red Cross ($1.5B)
- Direct Relief ($1.4B)
- Habitat for Humanity ($1.4B)
- The YMCA ($1.1B)
- Americares ($1B)
What makes these 10 organizations different from 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States?
What church fundraising ideas can your church learn?
Here, we’re going to unpack the strategies these nonprofit organizations utilize to achieve fundraising success and how these tactics can apply to your church so that you’re empowered to pursue ambitious fundraising goals for the sake of the kingdom of God.
1. Clarify your brand
The Salvation Army has nearly unparalleled brand awareness in nonprofit work.
The primary reason for this is that its mission is very clear: “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”
This beautiful statement draws both conservative donors who are drawn to the message, and other donors who are drawn to its non-exclusivity which translates into the relief of suffering around the world.
Add to this that The Salvation Army operates in 120 countries around the world.
But its brand clarity comes down to its relationship to the average American.
By establishing a reputation as the default location to donate used items, The Salvation Army has been able to achieve not only brand clarity, but brand utility as a fixture in the minds of Americans who want to do the most good for the lowest cost.
Because they have refined their brand and made their ease of use, paired with accepting donations in the form of low-cost items such as clothes, furniture, and household items, they have achieved the status as the go-to charity for all of America’s leftover consumer goods which, as we can see from the numbers, results in $2B donated funds annually, while still maintaining a 87% efficiency rate.
Don’t let these numbers make you shy away.
There are several church branding strategies you can learn, which leads me to my next point.
2. Establish brand awareness
United Way, the world’s most lucrative charity, was able to raise 3.3B in 2019.
Because they have 1,300 local affiliates spreading brand awareness for their mission.
More than that, because part of their charitable work comes from supporting other charities, they are able to attach their brand name to the work of countless other charities which cumulatively represent over $10B in funds dispensed to philanthropic work.
Brand awareness is critical in achieving success with strategic fundraising goals.
One of the central aspects of United Way’s work that compels donors to give is the fact that they have a 90% efficiency rate, meaning that $0.90 of every $1 is given directly to the philanthropic work.
This is a much higher level of efficiency than the average nonprofit organization, and this fact, coupled with their pervasive brand awareness through local brand evangelists, make it an easy and straightforward donation decision for a large number of donors.
3. Embrace marketing
The American National Red Cross is a fantastic example of a nonprofit organization successfully embracing marketing in order to increase the effectiveness of its fundraising efforts.
Specializing in disaster relief, it is the primary fundraising institution that media outlets partner with when disaster strikes.
By developing strategic media relationships for specialized events that align with its mission, it essentially gets free advertising every time its resources are required to be dispensed.
By embracing the power of media partnerships with substantial marketing return, churches likewise can establish themselves as the go-to place to give when certain kinds of needs arise in their communities.
Choose a specific cause that your church can get behind, and begin partnering with local television, newspaper, blog, podcast, and radio partners to create a church communications strategy.
Establish corporate partnerships with media outlets in particular in order to generate maximum marketing return for your church in order to produce maximum philanthropic good in your community.
4. Develop celebrity contacts
St. Jude Children’s Hospital, which is devoted to the pediatric treatment and research concerning children’s catastrophic diseases, has partnered with the largest organizations and celebrities in the world, such as Jennifer Aniston, Sofia Vergara, and Michael Strahan.
This fundraising strategy is a self-perpetuating tactic that exponentially converts philanthropic support into social status among cultural leaders, which trickles down into a sense of trustworthiness among the general public, easing the discomfort of a giving appeal, and increasing the likelihood and dollar amount of every prospective gift.
In the church context, this could take the form of partnering with well-known businesses and figures in your local community to partner in some common good for the population.
This increases brand awareness and grows branches into other fundraising strategies to unleash church giving.
5. Become thought leaders
The YMCA of the USA began with a vision that young, troubled men needed a place to receive physical care, education, protection, and a safe environment to be rehabilitated from the devastating effects of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and parental neglect.
This strategic vision launched the organization into serving a painful and unmet need that wreaked havoc across the entire United States.
Since then, the organization has grown to achieve other missions and has extended its financial resources to produce greater and more diverse forms of social good.
However, the YMCA is a boots-on-the-ground organization that specializes in face-to-face ministry, which gives them data on tens of millions of Americans concerning what are their needs, how those needs are best met, and what are the best ways to leverage capital to resolve those needs.
Churches can apply this principle to their ministries by converting your church data that they can then use to inform their communities about what exactly is going on among them.
By becoming the source of information about your mission, you are uniquely situated to make highly credible appeals to people who are deeply concerned about the well-being of their communities.
Over to you
Take note of these strategies used by major nonprofit organizations and consider strategically how your church might implement these tactics to increase giving, thereby, the effectiveness of its mission.
While not all billion-dollar fundraising strategies work for smaller organizations, it is important to recognize that the way these major organizations do so well is by operating almost like a local church at the communal level.
The greatest fundraising asset of each of these organizations is their local offices.
Your church is its own local office.
While you may not raise $3.3B this year, recognize that United Way was able to accomplish this with only 1,300 local offices. That means each local office, on average (rounded down), raised $3M annually.
How much more could your church achieve without United Way’s $240M annual operations cost and with hundreds of devoted local congregants attending your service every Sunday?