10 Creative Ways for Nonprofits to Generate Year-End Donations

Posted on September 11, 2023 | Updated on September 19, 2023

As the year comes nearer to its end, many people start thinking about nonprofit donations. One reason is that many individuals can treat them as tax-deductible gifts. They want to give them by the end of the year, so they’ll count on the next tax returns.

Also, since many people celebrate holidays at the end of the year, they frequently realize that others in their communities and further away don’t have the same luxuries. Those could include gourmet food, long-awaited gifts and get-togethers with loved ones. They then may feel compelled to donate to good causes. It’s a way of showing gratitude and trying to spread some of their resources to affect others.

As nonprofit decision-makers think about encouraging people to donate, it’s important to think of creative options that’ll get noticed and be memorable. Here are 10 ideas. 

1. Plan a Local-Centric Soup Dinner

The winter season is perfect for enjoying a bowl of flavorful, hearty soup. Consider encouraging nonprofit donations through a fundraiser where people feast on local soups. They might be from restaurants or people who cook them in their homes.

One event in Pennsylvania to benefit Meals on Wheels took the local theme even further. The area’s artists provided 400 handmade bowls as serving dishes for attendees. They started making them in 2019 for a planned 2020 fundraiser. Then, COVID-19 hit, preventing it. However, the creations will finally be used during the October 2023 event. 

The organizers chose the name “Empty Bowls” for their fundraiser. It fits with the soup aspect but has a deeper meaning. Many people using Meals on Wheels may have empty bowls if not for the charity. The organization’s primary service users are older adults who cannot cook meals due to financial and physical limitations. 

2. Try a Themed Gala

Fundraising galas are popular because they give attendees plenty of reasons to get interested. A typical evening could include live music, a dinner and a silent auction. Choosing a theme is one way to make your gala more creative than the norm. Then, people trade their formal attire for fun ensembles. 

Choose a theme that offers plenty of room for interpretation. That might mean asking people to take inspiration from the ocean or selecting a specific decade. Consider holding a costume contest and offering prizes donated by local businesses. 

Take plenty of time to decorate the event site. That helps generate excitement while reinforcing the theme. 

3. Arrange a Vehicle Show

Many people take great pride in their vehicles, spending time cleaning, maintaining, and enhancing them. One way to boost nonprofit donations is to hold a showcase event. Most focus on cars. However, you could expand it to other vehicles, too. Opening the day to people with motorcycles, bicycles, and skateboards creates more inclusivity. 

Besides having donation buckets around the site, nonprofit representatives should charge modest entry fees. Consider higher prices for exhibitors versus spectators. 

Research shows branded items make a quarter of shoppers feel more positive about companies. Nonprofits will likely see a similar effect by designing and selling event-specific shirts. They’re great souvenirs and help people naturally promote the organization by wearing the shirts. The improved visibility could stimulate more nonprofit donations. 

4. Offer Gift-Wrapping Services 

The end of the year tends to cause an increase in sales for wrapping paper, bows, and gift tags. However, people have drastically different opinions about getting presents ready to give. Some like personalizing their efforts with cute paper and bags. Others hate cutting paper to the right size and making their efforts look neat. Even those who like wrapping presents find they don’t have the time. 

Nonprofit representatives can cater to all gift-givers by offering wrapping services for modest donations. Setting up a spot in a local shopping center or other crowded area helps an organization get noticed. Increased public awareness should encourage some people to donate even if they don’t have gifts that need wrapping. 

5. Host a Holiday Craft Fair

As the end of the year gets close, many people realize they still have gifts to buy. A 2023 survey found 68% of respondents would likely give a handmade or DIY present for the holiday season. 

However, only some have the time to make something for a loved one. The next best thing is to get something from a local craftsperson.

Craft fairs are excellent ways for people to give what they can to an area’s nonprofits while supporting crafters. The primary donations can come from admissions and table or booth rentals. However, nonprofit workers should also have plenty of donation buckets around the event. Some crafters will probably agree to give portions of their sales to the organization and may even pledge to make ongoing nonprofit donations. 

6. Have a Photo Contest

Smartphone cameras have made it much easier for people to snap beautiful photos without expensive specialty equipment. Organizations can capitalize on that by encouraging nonprofit donations through photo contests. One possibility is that every donation over a certain amount across a given period automatically gives someone an entry. Plus, nonprofits may make it so people must donate at least $1 per vote for their favorites. 

A thoughtful way to tie in the organization is to provide a phrase or word relating to the nonprofit’s work. Contest participants should then take photos connected to it. Then, as people learn more about the contest, they’ll become more aware of what the nonprofit does. 

7. Create a Cookbook

Food brings people together and helps them create happy, lasting memories. Nonprofit organizations can increase donations by making and selling a cookbook. 

One option is to use a tiered structure. For donations of $50 or more across a given month, people can have their recipes appear in the collection. However, if they donate at least twice that much, they can include personal stories or drawings to accompany the recipes.

It can take a while to spread the word about recipe submissions. That’s why nonprofits must advertise the effort on multiple channels. Statistics show nonprofit emails have a 25.5% chance of being opened. In contrast, only 2% of recipients don’t open text messages nonprofits send. That difference doesn’t necessarily make emails less useful. After all, they can contain many more details than texts. However, it emphasizes the need to advertise in various ways. 

8. Sell Coffee-Grams

You’ve heard of telegrams, but what about coffee-grams? They’re delivered cups of joe that include messages from the sender. Nonprofits often sell coffee-grams through their websites after announcing the day or time they’ll distribute them. People may pay a little extra for things like milk alternatives or special toppings for their drinks. 

Putting a QR code on the cups is also an excellent way to get more nonprofit donations from people enjoying their coffees. As individuals sit and sip, they may start to feel especially generous. 

It’s also wise to send everyone delivering a coffee out with a donation bucket and the nonprofit’s brochures. People will undoubtedly get curious as the beverages get sent around an area. Some may want to start conversations with those involved.

9. Let People Decorate Parking Spots

The empty spaces between parking lot lines are important for showing people where to put their vehicles. However, they can also urge people to donate to good causes. More than 100 high school seniors in Indiana recently gathered to paint parking spots. This is the event’s seventh year and the second time it attracted so many people. All participants had to pay to enter, and they brought the necessary supplies. 

Proceeds benefited a local children’s hospital. The painting activity also supported a dance-off fundraiser, where others could sponsor those showing off their moves. 

Painting isn’t the only option, either. Sidewalk chalk is an inexpensive and temporary alternative. 

10. Capture Attention With a Cookie Event

Cookies are beloved treats across age ranges and geographic boundaries. They also give nonprofits plenty of ways to increase donation activity, such as: 

  • Offering home-baked cookies to people who donate at least a specific dollar amount
  • Holding cookie-decorating classes for all donors contributing during a certain month
  • Raffling cookie platters and giving people tickets to match the sizes of their donations
  • Partnering with a local baker to have custom cookies designed for a fundraiser

Nonprofits should broaden the appeal by offering gluten-free, vegan, and low-sugar cookies. They should also consider packaging them in bags featuring stickers or tags with the organization’s name. Doing that boosts community awareness. 

Get More Nonprofit Donations as the Year Ends

Although we’ve focused on how to receive more nonprofit donations during the last months of the year, people can tweak these suggestions to use them at any time. The main thing to focus on is getting people interested by using creative methods. Once a nonprofit grabs their attention, there are lots of opportunities for them to learn more and, perhaps, become regular donors. 

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.

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