Now today, what I'm going to talk about is tips to run an online fundraiser on a super low budget. Some of these tricks are marketing tricks and others of them are just really inexpensive ways to get the functionality you need to run an online fundraiser. So I'm going to tell you some of the tricks we use to help nonprofits get that done without breaking the bank!

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Tips to Run an Online Fundraiser on a Super Low Budget

Now today, what I’m going to talk about is tips to run an online fundraiser on a super low budget. We help some of our clients run their online fundraisers and obviously they have a budget because they can hire somebody like us. Then there are others where we advise them and we help them put something together they can spin out quickly. Now some of these tricks are marketing tricks and others are really inexpensive ways to get the functionality you need to run an online fundraiser. So I’m going to tell you some of the tricks we use to help them get that done without breaking the bank.

 So my tips today fall into two buckets. The first bucket is cost-effective marketing tips. The second bucket is functionality tips. Cost-effective platforms are ways that you can run your event online. And really, all of these things make me really excited because if you know me, you know I love a deal. I love shopping at thrift stores, second-hand stores, garage sale, and finding the diamond in the rough. So in my business, I’m always trying to find these awesome services people are literally giving away for free so I can pass them along to my clients. 

I’m going to start with three marketing tips:

  1. Lean Into Your Current Assets
  2. Use Free Canva Templates for Your Creative Assets 
  3. Set up a free MailChimp account.
  4. Bonus Tip: Use Facebook 

Marketing Tip #1: Lean Into Your Current Assets 

We’re going to start with the first one, which is to lean into your current assets. Marketing assets are any of the things you have access to within your organization that allow you to build reach. They allow you to connect with people, contact them, and make friends. Ultimately, building relationships. 

There are so many different assets we have that we don’t even think about. When we are planning an event and we don’t have a lot of money to put into it, we need to use the assets we already have. So for example, if you have a great Facebook following, a list of mailing addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses, those are things you would use in your marketing to promote your event. Building new assets takes time and time is money, so you’re going to use the things you have. 

Turn your assets into more assets!

One of the things I really want to encourage you to do is think through how you could build those assets into more assets while you’re doing this fundraiser. For example, let’s say all you have are phone numbers of your donors. A phone number means you’re going to be calling people, now as you have these conversations with them about donating or your event, you can also ask them: 

  • for their email address
  • to follow you on Facebook
  • for their mailing address

All those things can be cross-promoted from one to another. 

I know you feel like because you’re doing this online, you have to have online marketing assets to do it, but the reality is you don’t. You can use the assets you have and ask people to go online and give. If you have to—I’m not even kidding—you can sit with them step by step on the phone, you can get into a zoom meeting with them and you can show them how to give. You don’t have to have online marketing assets to run an online giving campaign, you need to use the ones that you have if you have a limited budget and you don’t have time to build it up. 

Marketing Tip #2: Us Free Canva Templates for Your Creative Assets 

The second thing we’re going to do is find some free creative assets. One of my favorite online services is Canva. I was actually just in Canva today, building the little pictures I put up for my Facebook Lives. If you don’t know about my Facebook Lives, we’re doing a series of Facebook Lives where I’m interviewing people who have run successful online fundraisers. They’re really fun. So whenever I go to make my little Facebook Live graphic, I use Canva. Canva is an online image editor or graphic design tool. It even has an app. There’s a free plan so you can start off there. The free plan has different templates for anything from posters to Facebook posts. There are so many cool templates out there, you can change the colors, you can put in new pictures. They even have these nice templates for your text, so if you’re not sure how you want to format the words, you can look through this library of ways to format your text and then you just click on it and drag it over onto your canvas and edit the words in there. 

Canva helps you make things look very professional and it’s free. Whenever you’re done with it, you just download it and then use it for whatever you’re going to do. Canva is a super awesome way to be able to create very professional graphics and use them to promote your online fundraiser. Use Canva templates for your creative assets. 

Canva has templates for various mediums like Facebook posts, posters, and more!

Marketing Tip #3: Set up a free MailChimp account. 

The third marketing trick that is totally free is a MailChimp account. Email Marketing is one of the highest converting mediums, if not the highest converting medium for any of my clients that are doing online fundraising. Obviously picking up the phone and asking people in person converts way higher than email. However, the personal ask you can create in an email is priceless. It’s not just some Facebook posts you made to everybody, email makes them feel like they’re being spoken to individually. You can personalize the emails using MailChimp by putting in their first name at the beginning or putting it in the subject line. The free Mailchimp account can do so many different things! 

An email list up to 2,500 subscribers is completely free on MailChimp. You just upload your list, make your email and send it. MailChimp even has free templates in there too! You can use those and make sure your campaign looks professional and polished. It’s a super great service, we use it for all of our clients. Most of our clients use a free account because they don’t need more than 2,500 subscribers.

Bonus Tip: Use Facebook 💪

This is your Facebook cover image that needs to be changed to promote your event!

I know I said I was only going to tell you three, but I feel like I left out a big one here, which is obviously to post about your stuff on Facebook. Your fourth bonus tip is when you’re going to do your fundraiser obviously, you’re going to post about your fundraiser on Facebook. You can even create an event on Facebook and invite people to it.

Facebook Live 

You can also do Facebook Lives to promote your fundraiser. For those of you who don’t know what a Facebook Live is, whenever you’re looking at your Facebook app, if you see the little live button with the camera next to it, that’s what it is. To begin you click on it, grant access to your camera, and then start talking and you’re live! Facebook Lives actually get pushed out a lot better than your average posts on Facebook. They can go really far and you can meet a lot of people that way. 

Change Your Cover Image 

Last but not least, I would definitely switch out your cover image. It’s the big image up at the top of your account. Switch it out whenever you’re doing your fundraiser and when you’re promoting it because that shows up in people’s news feeds and I see a lot of people interacting really well with those. You can make a cool free header graphic in Canva as well 😉 So there are definitely some tricks in social media you can do for free to promote your fundraiser.

Functionality Tips 

Okay, so those are my low budget marketing tips. Now, let’s think a little bit about the actual doing of the event because it’s not just the promotion of the event that costs money, it’s physically running the event that can cost so much money. So I have three functionality tips here: 

  1. Check the credit card fees (Facebook is free!)
  2. Use free services for sign up – Survey Monkey, Google Forms.
  3. Stream it in a private Facebook group.

Functionality Tip #1: Check the credit card fees (Facebook is free)!

The first tip I have is to check the credit card fees. The different credit card processors will make you pay different amounts for different types of cards. In some instances, or if you don’t sign up for it and get approved as a nonprofit, then you will pay higher credit card fees. Definitely look and see if there are ways you can cut costs by having a lower credit card fee from your online donations. 

Paypal and Stripe 

Currently, both PayPal and Stripe offer nonprofit rates, but you do have to go through a process to get approved. Make sure to sign up for these ahead of time, it isn’t an instant process. You can’t just sign up today and expect to take donations tomorrow with the nonprofit rates. So definitely give yourself time to set it up.

Facebook Donations 

Facebook allows you to gather donations for free. They do not charge any credit card processing fees. However, there is a drawback to doing this through Facebook. When you do it through Facebook, you may not get all of the donor data. Facebook allows people to opt-out of whether they share their donor data with you. Therefore, for some people, you’re gonna know who they are and their contact information, but for other people, you’re not going to know anything. This is a pretty big con so definitely weigh out the pros and cons. Building relationships with people is so incredibly important that it seems like you’re losing so much whenever you don’t get that information from Facebook. On the flip side, you will be saving money without credit card fees. So really think through how many people you think are going to be donating and then put it into a spreadsheet and run the math and really look at the numbers and see where the cost-benefit is.

Functionality Tip #2: Use free services for sign up – Survey Monkey, Google Forms. 

So my second tip is for those of you who are hosting a more robust event. It’s not just a virtual lemonade stand or a fun, catchy idea where you’re asking people to donate, you might actually be hosting an event. If you’re hosting an online event, you’re going to need a way for people to sign up and some services have the signup and the event hosting all rolled into one with the marketing—it’s very slick. But those things cost money, right? So we can use free services to allow people to sign up. 

Survey Monkey

For example, you can use Survey Monkey to allow people to sign up. SurveyMonkey does allow you to accept payments if you set up a stripe account and get the two accounts talking. You can have people sign up through stripe for free and process the payments and then you can go out and download the registration data from SurveyMonkey.

Google Forms

Google Forms is another free service and it does not allow people to pay online, but you can allow people to sign up. Google Forms doesn’t just stop with signup, you can do so many things with a form. I’ve seen people use it in their trivia nights to allow people to submit answers to their questions. I’ve seen people use it to administer surveys after an event. Anytime you need to gather information from people, Google Forms offers a great solution. I really like how it can talk back and forth with Google Sheets, so that makes it a very functional tool with real-time data.

Those two are great free services to allow people to sign up for your event. You might even be able to use one of them to help provide some functionality during the event as well. 

Functionality Tip # 3: Stream it in a private FB group. 

Okay, so last but not least, some of these events need a face presence and you need people to be able to see you. You’ll need to use some type of online meetup software. There are so many options available right now.

A lot of people use Zoom. Zoom has a free package and you can use it for up to 100 participants. It doesn’t come with all the other cool stuff the other services come with, but it’s definitely an option. 


Another platform you could use is StreamYard. Now StreamYard connects over with Facebook Live and you can use it to better control that interface and put people’s posts up there and do all kinds of stuff with it. I’ve seen some really cool fundraisers run with this including a virtual telethon. So StreamYard is another option to look into if people need to see your face. 

Use SteamYard in a private Facebook group.  

You can use StreamYard in conjunction with a private Facebook group. So let’s say one of the things you would like to do is create a Facebook group of all of your supporters. So if you need to broadcast live, you can do it on Facebook. But if you don’t want everybody to be able to see it, then you’ll want to put it inside of a private group. When you use a private group you’re not only delivering your content and your event online, through a free service, you’re also building yourself an asset, because then you have all these people that are involved in your group. Group content also always performs better than just posting something on a Facebook page. We just created our own Facebook Group to help nonprofits with their marketing and technology to run fundraisers online!

So those are a couple of different ideas you could use to get your face out there and talk to people during your event. 

Get Creative  

So really, I feel like the trick to running your online fundraiser on a super low budget is just getting kind of creative with stuff and figuring out how you can put these services together that are free to promote and run your event. If you need fundraiser inspiration, we just finished our Free E-Book: 14 Tech-Easy Online Event Ideas for Fundraising. I talked to many nonprofits who are doing super well and they explained the events they were doing and shared their success stories with me and I put them together in this nice resource for you to download. So hopefully you can be inspired and wrap your mind around one of these ideas and put it to work for your organization. 


Links Mentioned

Marketing Tip Resources

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Referenced Assets

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