Ten or fifteen years ago, promoting your organization as “eco-friendly” might’ve simply seemed like a good way to increase donor loyalty while remaining mindful of your local community. But in this day and age, individuals and organizations alike are expected to mind their effect on the environment and actively fight for a healthier, more sustainable world.
Clearly, installing a few recycling bins in your office will no longer be enough to meet these expectations. Instead, consider the following ways you can make your operations greener than ever, all while maximizing donations, boosting donor retention, and increasing ROI for your organization:
- Reduce: Go Paperless with Online Fundraising
- Reuse: In-Kind Donation Drives
- Recycle: Green Challenges & Volunteer Events
Whether you’re a ministry leader looking for greener fundraising ideas or the director of a nonprofit trying to reduce your carbon footprint without jeopardizing revenue, we have a solution for you. These simple, forward-thinking strategies will help future-proof your organization, setting you up for long-term success and cementing you as a force for good in your community.
Are you ready to go green and optimize your operations? Let’s dive in!
Reduce: Go Paperless with Online Fundraising
When people think of reducing their waste, they usually imagine shopping for LED bulbs and separating their paper and plastic. True, these are both critical first steps to becoming more environmentally conscious. But online fundraising is another, potentially far greater way that you can increase revenue while reducing your effect on the environment.
For example, virtual fundraisers eliminate the physical waste and cost associated with planning and creating in-person events. On top of that, online fundraising campaigns can be easily automated and optimized with software solutions to take the strain off of your team.
Hopefully, our pandemic era of virtual engagement has prepared you to launch an online fundraiser, but here are a few additional tips to improve your online campaigns:
- Optimize your website. From providing a portal for your online event to hosting your donation page, your website is your greatest virtual fundraising tool, so making a good impression is a major concern. Navigation menus, mobile optimization, and a simplified frontend design are just a few ways you can improve your website. Additionally, you might even find a website builder to streamline the entire process.
- Roll out digital marketing strategies. Most fundraising teams already utilize email marketing, and it’s no wonder why—studies show that email has the highest ROI of any other marketing channel. But pairing your email marketing with social media, email blasts, and SMS or text invitations can create an even more powerful, paperless multichannel marketing approach. Market your upcoming fundraiser with a sophisticated online promotional campaign that reaches your supporters on the platforms they use the most.
- Invest in fundraising event software. Successfully managing an online fundraising campaign can be a challenging task. Luckily, event management software can help you plan, host, and track the entire event, even if you opt for an in-person or hybrid fundraiser rather than an entirely virtual one. From Facebook peer-to-peer campaigns to online auctions, there are dozens of dedicated or all-in-one event management solutions to help you facilitate your next event.
With social distancing policies rolling back and in-person engagement once again becoming a possibility, you may get tempted to leave behind your virtual and hybrid event techniques. Instead, we urge you to use these effective online fundraising strategies to maximize your incoming revenue while minimizing environmental waste.
Reuse: In-Kind Donation Drives
DonationMatch’s guide to in-kind donations defines this type of giving program as non-cash contributions that typically include products, supplies, and equipment. Businesses, major organizations, and even individuals can participate in these types of fundraising campaigns. Additionally, these events allow your organization to directly get a hold of lucrative goods and services for auctions, internal use, or even sales to a third-party seller.
On top of all of these benefits, in-kind fundraising is also a great way to repurpose items that your donors no longer need. To keep valuable, reusable items from ending up in a landfill, consider the following easy and accessible in-kind donation drives:
- Shoe drive fundraisers. Who doesn’t have an extra pair of shoes in their closet that’s simply taking up space? Do your donors, the planet, and your organization a favor by opening up a donation drive for gently worn, new, and used shoes. A shoe drive fundraising coordinator can help plan and manage the entire event, allowing your team to collect contributions from across your community and rehome them for a profit to a third-party organization.
- Food drive fundraisers. Food waste is a rising crisis among developed countries, producing and disposing of food products in massive quantities. Fight this growing issue, increase revenue, and reduce food insecurity in your community by collecting canned and non-perishable food items and redistributing them to reputable sellers in your local area.
- Denim drive fundraisers. Like shoes, jeans, and other denim clothing are often overflowing within your supporters’ closets. Partner with a clothing seller to make the most of these excess clothing items, reduce product waste, and make a profit, all without asking donors for a dollar.
You don’t always have to ask your supporters for money. Instead, alternative giving campaigns such as in-kind donation drives give you the chance to make an immediate, direct change to product waste in your area and significantly raise your incoming revenue while doing so.
Recycle: Green Challenges & Volunteer Events
In the previous section, we examined how you could turn unwanted and even used goods into revenue for your organization and fulfilling engagement opportunities for your supporters. We will now explore how your team can use garbage and waste to launch creative, engaging recycling campaigns to take things a step further!
Who doesn’t love a challenge? By initiating short-term, competitive fundraising initiatives among your supporters, such as who can donate the most recycled goods, you can bring out a bit of healthy competition and further encourage donors to work towards the success of your event.
For example, some eco-friendly initiatives could include:
- Mud run shoe drive fundraisers. Similar to regular shoe drive fundraisers, mud run shoe drive fundraisers transform this event into an opportunity to recycle less well-maintained items by collecting gently used but dirty shoes. These goods can then be recycled and remade into new footwear. Again, a shoe drive fundraising coordinator can manage this simple yet surprisingly lucrative event.
- Aluminum runs. Dare your donors to clean up your local area by collecting all of the discarded aluminum in their homes and around their communities. Then measure their hauls and announce winners for the clean-up run, distributing prizes for participants who collected the most recyclables. These campaigns can also get repurposed for other types of recyclable waste, like plastic bottles. Additionally, your team can contact a local grocery store to process these recyclables and establish a valuable partnership opportunity with a local business.
- Peer-to-peer recycling challenges. Social media is a great place to launch a viral challenge for your supporters. Facebook Groups, in particular, are well-suited to host peer-to-peer recycling challenges. For instance, people could collect one bag of recyclable waste and share a photo, which will allow your donors to publicly show their support and expose your campaign to a broader audience.
These are just the beginning of the wacky, wonderful, and surprisingly lucrative fundraising initiatives that your organization can launch for its green campaign. For example, this Funds2Orgs 100+ unique fundraising ideas guide names dozens of other eco-friendly fundraising initiatives, such as themed fun runs or virtual 5Ks, to engage supporters in your green campaigns!
If your organization doesn’t already have a volunteer program, then now is the time to begin rolling one out. These engaging programs can boost long-term donor retention and support for your organization, as well as qualify your organization for lucrative volunteer grant funds.
Additionally, volunteers give your most passionate supporters the opportunity to freely, charitably complete major projects for your organization.
For your green campaigns, be sure to create volunteer events that encourage local community members to clean up their parks, public spaces, and towns. These campaigns can be themed and adjusted seasonally for maximum engagement.
For example, a school fundraising version of this event could call for students and parents to gather together around particularly dirty parts of your local area, such as a badly littered park. You can give these volunteers garbage bags and gloves to collect as much waste as possible, then be shuttle them back to your school to reconvene and celebrate your collective efforts.
These “clean parties” not only increase engagement for your supporters, but they expose your brand to the larger community, boosting the possibility of future revenue streams and donor acquisition.
Our collective idea of what it means to be “eco-conscious” has gone through radical changes as we have learned more about the environment, the impact of our actions, and what we can do to promote a sustainable future.
With these straightforward but powerful strategies, you can begin making a stand for ethical and environmental responsibility without draining your resources. In fact, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by investing in green solutions that will significantly improve your rates of donor engagement, retention, acquisition, and incoming revenue.
Author: Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.