Boosting donations for nonprofits can be tricky, but with the right digital strategy, it's definitely doable.

Let’s dive into some proven tactics, backed by research and real-world examples, on how to help your nonprofit attract more donations.

1. Use Emotional Appeals

People give because they care, so tugging at their heartstrings can be incredibly effective. Nonprofits that use positive, emotional language in their mission statements and communications see higher engagement and more donations.

For instance, a study found that nonprofits expressing positive emotions saw significant increases in donations and volunteer participation, especially in areas like the arts and education (Paxton, Velasco, & Ressler, 2020).


Charity: Water nails this by sharing heartfelt stories about the people they help. They connect donors emotionally with the impact of clean water, making it personal and compelling.

2. Be Transparent About Overhead Costs

People don't like their donations going to admin costs. Research shows that being transparent about these costs can actually boost donations. Gneezy, Keenan, and Gneezy (2014) found that telling donors that initial donations from big philanthropists cover overhead costs increased donation rates by a whopping 80%.


The Against Malaria Foundation is upfront about where the money goes, reassuring donors that their contributions are making a real difference. This honesty has earned them a solid reputation and more donations.

3. Spend Wisely on Fundraising

Efficient fundraising is key. Nonprofits that spend their fundraising budget wisely tend to raise more funds. Thornton (2006) found that as competition increases, nonprofits that optimize their fundraising efforts get better results.


The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) uses smart digital marketing strategies to target specific demographics. This focused approach helps them maximize their fundraising efforts and reach more people.

4. Encourage Non-cash Gifts

Donations don't always have to be in cash. Nonprofits that accept non-cash gifts, like securities and real estate, see significant increases in overall contributions. James (2018) found that nonprofits receiving noncash gifts saw a 41% increase in contributions over five years compared to those only receiving cash.


The American Heart Association accepts stock donations, providing a tax benefit for donors and diversifying their funding sources.

5. Use Matching Donations

Matching donations can double the impact and motivate more people to give. Offering matching donations contingent on a certain percentage of others donating can effectively boost both immediate and recurring donations. Anik, Norton, and Ariely (2014) found that a 75% contingent match incentive was most effective.


UNICEF often uses matching challenges during Giving Tuesday. They promise to unlock additional funds if a specific number of donations are made, motivating more people to contribute.

6. Build a Strong Brand and Online Presence

Having a strong brand and an engaging, easy-to-use website can significantly increase trust and donations. Huang and Ku (2016) found that a well-maintained online presence positively impacts donor perceptions and increases donation intentions.


The Red Cross has a top-notch online presence, offering detailed info about their programs and impact. Their website features compelling stories, transparent financial reports, and easy donation options, building trust and driving donations.

7. Make Small Donations Matter

Legitimising smaller donations can increase the number of donors without decreasing the average donation size. Brockner et al. (1984) showed that legitimising small donations effectively increased donor participation.


Wikipedia’s fundraising campaigns often include messages like "Even £3 helps," making small contributions seem valuable and encouraging more users to donate.

8. Highlight the Impact of Donations

Donors want to see the impact of their contributions. Highlighting tangible results can motivate more people to give. Oppenheimer (2015) found that providing feedback on how donations are used increases donor satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat donations.


Kiva, a micro-lending platform, gives detailed updates on the progress and success of funded projects. This feedback shows donors the real-world impact of their money, encouraging continued support.

9. Use Social Proof

People are more likely to donate when they see others doing the same. Social proof, such as displaying donor lists or highlighting the number of contributors, can boost donation rates. Karlsson et al. (2020) found that contingent match incentives, which rely on social proof, effectively increase donations.


GoFundMe campaigns often show a running tally of donations and comments from donors, creating a sense of community and encouraging others to contribute.

10. Implement Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising leverages the social networks of existing supporters to reach new donors. This method can significantly boost donations.


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital uses peer-to-peer fundraising for events like marathons and walks. Participants raise funds from their networks, expanding the organisation’s donor base.


Figuring out how to increase donations for nonprofits requires a mix of emotional appeals, transparency, smart spending, noncash gifts, matching donations, strong branding, legitimising small donations, highlighting impact, social proof, and peer-to-peer fundraising.

These strategies, backed by research, can help your nonprofit stand out and achieve its fundraising goals.

By implementing these tips, not only will you increase donations, but you'll also strengthen your connection with supporters, making a lasting impact on the communities you serve.

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  • Paxton, P., Velasco, K., & Ressler, R. W. (2020). Does Use of Emotion Increase Donations and Volunteers for Nonprofits?. American Sociological Review.
  • Gneezy, U., Keenan, E. A., & Gneezy, A. (2014). Avoiding overhead aversion in charity. Science.
  • Thornton, J. (2006). Nonprofit Fund-Raising in Competitive Donor Markets. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
  • James, R. (2018). Cash Is Not King for Fundraising: Gifts of Noncash Assets Predict Contributions Growth. SSRN.
  • Anik, L., Norton, M., & Ariely, D. (2014). Contingent Match Incentives Increase Donations. Journal of Marketing Research.
  • Huang, S., & Ku, H. (2016). Brand image management for nonprofit organizations: Exploring the relationships between websites, brand images and donations. Journal of Electronic Commerce Research.
  • Brockner, J., Guzzi, B., Kane, J., Levine, E., & Shaplen, K. (1984). Organizational Fundraising: Further Evidence on the Effect of Legitimizing Small Donations. Journal of Consumer Research.
  • Oppenheimer, D. M. (2015). Increasing Donations and Improving Donor Experiences. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
  • Karlsson, H., Hellström, S., Moche, H., & Västfjäll, D. (2020). Unit Asking — a method for increasing donations: A replication and extension. Judgment and Decision Making.

ANNEX: FAQs About Increasing Donations for Nonprofits

1. What are the most effective ways to increase donations?

  • Answer: The most effective ways include using emotional appeals in your messaging, being transparent about overhead costs, optimizing fundraising expenditures, encouraging noncash gifts, utilizing matching donations, building a strong brand and online presence, legitimising small donations, highlighting the impact of donations, using social proof, and implementing peer-to-peer fundraising.

2. How can I make my nonprofit stand out to potential donors?

  • Answer: Develop a strong brand identity, use compelling storytelling, ensure transparency in your operations, and highlight the unique impact of your work. Engaging with your audience through social media and a well-designed website also helps.

3. How important is it to be transparent about where the donations go?

  • Answer: Extremely important. Transparency builds trust, which is crucial for attracting and retaining donors. Showing exactly how donations are used, especially highlighting that funds are being spent effectively, can significantly increase donor confidence and willingness to give.

4. How do matching donations work, and why are they effective?

  • Answer: Matching donations involve a donor or sponsor agreeing to match the contributions made by others up to a certain amount. This doubles the impact of each donation, encouraging more people to give because they know their money will go further.

5. What is peer-to-peer fundraising, and how can it help increase donations?

  • Answer: Peer-to-peer fundraising involves supporters raising money on behalf of the nonprofit by leveraging their own networks. It helps increase donations by reaching new donors through personal connections, often resulting in higher engagement and contributions.

6 How can we effectively use storytelling to increase donations?

  • Answer: Share personal stories of the people or communities your nonprofit helps. Use multimedia such as videos and photos to make the stories more engaging. Highlight the impact of donations through these stories to connect emotionally with potential donors.

7. What are non-cash gifts, and how do they benefit nonprofits?

  • Answer: Non-cash gifts include donations of securities, real estate, or other valuable assets. These gifts can provide significant tax benefits to donors and help nonprofits diversify their funding sources, often leading to increased overall contributions.

8. How can we retain donors and encourage them to give regularly?

  • Answer: Regular communication, showing appreciation, providing updates on the impact of their donations, and creating a sense of community can help retain donors. Offering options for recurring donations can also make it easier for supporters to give regularly.

9. What are some common mistakes to avoid in fundraising?

  • Answer: Common mistakes include lack of transparency, poor communication, failing to thank donors, ignoring smaller donors, not using data to inform strategies, and having a weak online presence. Addressing these issues can improve donor relationships and increase donations.