If you run a non-profit camp, fundraising is a key element to ensuring your camp can run.
Your fundraising needs and how you meet them will vary based on the goals of your organization and the way in which it runs its camp program.
This guide to fundraising includes the top ways fundraising for your camp can be particularly effective. As you read, think about how you can personalize them and really make them your own. After all, reminding others of your brand and your goals is always important, especially when asking for funds.
Start with people you know
The best place to start fundraising is with people who already are or have been involved with your camp.
Think of people like the parents of current campers. Many families have the resources to donate funds in addition to camp fees, and put in the perspective of giving back to the community, can be an effective source of income.
Including a “donation” section in your registration gives families the option to include this when registering for camp, and doesn’t require a special campaign or additional marketing efforts.
It helps to put a value to pre-set amounts which can help with the success of your campaign. For example, $100 will buy x amount of new equipment for this activity or $500 sponsors one family in need for a summer, etc.
When donors and families understand where their money will go, they are more inclined to give.
And because their child or children is currently attending the camp and may do so again in the future, they have a vested interest in making the camp a success.
Another group of potential donors are families that have previously had children attend your camp, or even people who attended your camp as children, if your camp has been around long enough. These groups may no longer be directly experiencing the benefits of their donation but may be eager to help you out if they enjoyed the experience when they were young.
Emails are a great way to reach out to potential donors, especially if you have a large number of them.
You can easily use your registration software to filter and find the families you want to target, and quickly send a personalized email in bulk. This makes the marketing and time investment low, with hopefully a high return rate.
If you really want to dig deep in this medium, consider sending 2-3 versions of the donation request email and see which version gets you the biggest return. A/B testing can help you nail down the best way to reach out to your email list that will net you the best donation amounts.
Sending letters, including hand-written letters if possible, can be a great way to connect with donors.
Sending physical letters takes more time and money than sending emails, so consider only sending them to people who have given in the past and are likely to give again. The personal touch goes a long way.
This would also be a great camp activity during summer – kids can decorate letters, older ones can write “why they love camp” and use these materials to send out letters. You can also create one big art project and then use a photograph of the piece as the artwork for letters.
Vistaprint is an awesome resource to upload and customize cards. Order in bulk and you always have a card to grab to send a quick handwritten note.
Phone calls go into a similar category as letters: you may want to reserve them for promising or past donors because they do take more time than emails. They can also be more effective because they are more personal.
Because phone calls also take more of your donors’ time, consider reaching out to them via email in order to ask if they would like for you to call them, what number they would prefer, and what times they are most likely to be available.
Get to know more people
It is possible to get funds from people who aren’t directly involved in your camp but it works best if people are aware of your organization and the good work that it does. Keeping people posted can take a number of forms.
Keep a website up-to-date and be active on social media. Don’t only use social media to ask for donations, share stories about your organization, your camp, and your campers. Your social media presence will allow you to casually communicate with people directly involved with your camp and will also allow people who know those people to see your organization more regularly.
Including a “donate” button on your Facebook page is also a great way to get people to passively donate. You can encourage campers and families to run a donation drive in honor of a special event or birthday, which can bring funds into the camp as well.
When your camp or organization is doing something special, don’t just blog about it yourself. While you should be blogging about it, also send a press release in advance to local news media. Local papers, television, and radio stations often enjoy doing “feel-good stories” about the activities of area youth. This method will help to spread word about your camp and the good work that it does to people who aren’t directly associated with your organization and to people who aren’t on social media – yes, those people are still out there!
From a letter to a party…
I briefly spoke above about easy ways in which to say thank you to donors (call, email, letter).
Letters, calls and direct emails aren’t just a good way to ask for donation, but a good way to say “thank you” as well.
More elaborate options include throwing a gala or party for your donors to say thanks, and also a great fundraising opportunity too. When donors feel appreciated, it keeps the conversation and the donations coming!
Fundraising is a constant circle of asking, celebrating and thanking!
A gala, party or “night on the town” event is a good way to see donors face-to-face, get people together to network, and bring in funds!
If you’re going to throw an event like a dinner, ask for donations for each plate. This will give your donors a time to mingle and for you to show your appreciation but it won’t mean that your fundraising dollars feed the donors. In effect, it a dinner managed in this way is both a way of saying thank you and possibly a way of raising a little more money.
If throwing a gala is out of your wheel house or doesn’t offer a solid ROI, consider inviting donors to camp events like celebrations that you would be having anyway to celebrate the opening or closing of your camp for the season or to other special events like parent-and-family days. These will allow them to see the good that their donations are doing without the added cost of parties.
Ask for people to donate more than just money
Money can solve most of your camp problems but you might need less of it if you think outside of the box a little.
A few times a year, consider asking people to donate their time doing things like cleaning or maintaining your camp. As long as you don’t make it sound like too much of a commitment and provide a few refreshments these can be another fun way for your donors to mingle and see how their donations are helping the camp. Having your donors do some work can also cut your costs without just asking people for money.
This kind of activity is also good for people who don’t (or can’t) give money but would like to help your camp in other ways. It’s also a great way for families who want to contribute back to the camp, and show their kids how to contribute to their community, so everyone wins!
Take advantage of holidays
Days like Giving Tuesday and Make A Difference Day can be great opportunities for you to ask for donations for your camp.
Consider thinking outside of the box a little bit by asking for donations around important “birthdays” or anniversaries for your camp.
You can even make a special event out of these milestones as a different way to fundraise, including matching goal donations with the milestone ($10,000 for your ten year anniversary, etc). Goals always get people motivated and have a specific number in mind to work towards.
Ask people that you don’t know
Funding doesn’t only have to come from individuals. You might want to consider applying for grants as well. This is particularly true for non-profit camps. If you are familiar with looking for grants, consider staring at sites like grants.gov. Otherwise, consider contacting your local community foundation.
These groups can often point you in the right direction but may also have resources to help you get started.