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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Bishop

7 Non-Traditional Fundraising & Marketing Trends We’re Excited About in 2021

Nonprofits have had to be incredibly innovative and flexible this past year. And, while 2020 was rough for many, we feel grateful that the change opened us up to new fundraising techniques and showed us that digital is the way of the future.

Let’s dive into these seven non-traditional fundraising and marketing trends for 2021:

1) Alexa Voice Donations

We often use Alexa to ask for kitchen measurements, a fun fact, or some fun music to accompany a cleaning day. But, you can also ask Alexa to donate to a nonprofit of your choice.

Roughly 1 in 4 U.S. adults now owns a smart speaker, according to data from NPR and Edison Research in a 2020 Smart Audio Report.

So, how does it work? Here’s some information from this helpful FAQ shared by Amazon:

“You can enable Alexa Donations simply by registering for Amazon Pay. No Alexa skill development or technical expertise is required. When you complete registration, we [Amazon] will begin the work on our side to enable you, and will notify you as soon as the work is complete.”

There are several hundred nonprofits already accepting voice donations on Alexa, and the Think BIG team can help your nonprofit through the process of adding this unique fundraising tool to your repertoire.

2) Cultivate Creative Partnerships

If your nonprofit or association has an opportunity to work with a major brand, there are many fun and new ways to make it happen.

Consider first reaching out to brands and celebrities that align with your nonprofit. You’ll need to do some research to look into their Corporate Social Responsibility and past initiatives, then identify who the key decision makers will be.

A blog from Volunteer Hub on creating corporate partnerships recommends not just focusing on monetary gifts. Nonprofits can focus the initial conversation on community engagement, volunteerism, and other value propositions and lead up to financial value in the future, according to the blog.

We’ve seen many nonprofits find success on Omaze, a platform that partners with charities in fundraising events. Omaze has raised more than $130 million for nonprofits, according to their website.

One of many fundraisers going on in early 2020 include a stay in a jungle bubble above an elephant habitat in Thailand that supports the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. (Umm... yes, please!) Meals on Wheels America, Make-A-Wish, and Headstrong are several other nonprofits that participate in Omaze fundraisers.

3) Create Merch

People are passionate about your nonprofit’s mission, and many love to rep merch that makes a statement, is fun, and/or is great to wear to the gym (it’s free marketing, too!).

Creating merch for your nonprofit isn’t necessarily a new thing, but we’ve seen creative implementations that have seriously helped with fundraising through the pandemic.

Think BIG just set up a fundraiser for Arizona Community Tree Council using the Bonfire platform to sell custom shirts. (Buy yours here!) Anyone can design, sell, and buy custom products on Bonfire, which recently launched Giving Campaigns making it easy for nonprofits to take donations through Bonfire.

The Buddy Project and Richmond Animal Care & Control are a couple of nonprofits that Bonfire has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars through merch sales. There is no inventory required, and once your nonprofit is verified through Bonfire they provide reduced donation fees and a downloadable list of your supporters.

4) Get mobile

With at least half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices (and rising), it’s crucial that more nonprofits embrace mobile fundraising like text-to-give campaigns.

A blog from Wild Apricot outlines the ultimate guide to text-to-give campaigns, with notable tips including to keep it simple and make it easy for donors.

There are a variety of platforms to choose from, and we can help your nonprofit choose the best service provider that fits your campaign, budget, and bandwidth.

Snowball and OneCause are some popular choices, and Snowball even has a “basic” version that is free.

5) Try new social media fundraising tools

Does your nonprofit’s social media strategy include ways fundraise directly through the platform? If not, it probably should!

If you need some proof, take a look at these stats from Nonprofit Source:

  • 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action

  • 59% of those people donate money

  • 53% volunteer

  • 52% donate clothing, food, or other personal items

We recommend fundraising on platforms that you are the most active. On Facebook, anyone can raise money for themselves, a friend, business or nonprofit. If you create a fundraiser for a nonprofit, the organization will receive donations directly from Facebook, Network for Good, or the PayPal Giving Fund.

Nonprofit can also fundraise on Instagram. This information page from Facebook has details on how to get a donate sticker for your nonprofit on Instagram Stories and the ability to receive donations during live videos.

6) Work with micro-influencers

Micro-influencers are online personalities with between 1,000 and 30,000 followers (that number varies, but we got this definition from QGiv).

Macro-influencers have hundreds of thousands of followers, which may make sense for partnerships with larger nonprofits.

The benefit of working with micro-influencers includes access to niche and engaged audiences, as well as more availability typically for the influencers to get super creative.

Here’s a nice example we found in a Classy blog on how to use influencer marketing to expand your reach:

“Author and social good ambassador Chris Strub partnered with The Salvation Army as part of a #FightForGoodTour. On this tour, he traveled through 25 different states to learn about and tell the story of The Salvation Army.”

Chris has approximately 3,000 followers on Instagram, and was able to share his personal story while also spreading the word to his followers on The Salvation Army’s mission.

7) Virtual and in-person gaming tournaments

We’ve learned from 2020 virtual events that fundraising online has to be engaging and fun for the participants. Gaming tournaments have been a great online and in-person solution for creating excitement while also raising funds.

Nonprofits like the Habitat for Humanity of Smith County are using an in-person Monopoly tournament as a fundraiser with cash prizes and local sponsors.

But, planning an in-person event is still difficult, so let’s look into some virtual options.

One of the easiest options we’ve seen is to partner with already established gaming fundraisers like Gamers for Giving or Gamers Done Quick.

Gamers for Giving, a weekend-long competitive gaming tournament, LAN party, and streamathon helps raise money in support of providing entertainment devices to hospitalized children.

Going in-house is also an option if some of your organization’s team members have a passion for video or board games.


We hope these non-traditional fundraising and marketing tools get your wheels turning about new, innovative ways to support your nonprofit’s mission.

The team at Think BIG is always happy to help or manage new initiatives. Get in touch!

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