How to Raise Small Donations for Big Fundraising

As a leader or member of a board of directors for a nonprofit organization, it’s easy to get caught up in the race to obtain large one-time donations. High-profile, multi-comma donations from noteworthy people in and around your community are important and attractive. However, they are not the be-all, end-all when it comes to funding your organization. All too often, we overlook the value of small donations. Small donations are a great way to introduce new prospects to the wonderful feeling of giving to a worthy cause.

According to the finance experts at The Motley Fool, the majority of charitable donations are under $2,000 and account for 12.3% of all charitable donations. Their chart, based on a 2016 survey, breaks down the various donation levels as follows:

Average Donation Level

  • $1,874 – 12.3%
  • $2,594 – 6.8%
  • $2,970 – 4.8%
  • $3,356 – 3.8%
  • $4,130 – 3%
  • $7,424 – 2.6%
  • $18,615 – 2.8%
  • $43,944 – 3.2%
  • $382,953 – 5.6%

The giving levels listed above correspond with income levels. The average income level of the $1,874 level giver is under $25,000. Those giving at around the $300,000 level have incomes of $2,000,000 or more As you can see, the most charitable income brackets are at the top and bottom of the spectrum. We’re not going to go into the reasons why this is the case, but it is safe to say that our lower income friends and neighbors are among the most charitable people in our communities.

Additionally, if you are a new nonprofit still building your local network, it is less likely you will attract six-digit donors. You are much better off building a base of diverse smaller donors. With that in mind, we would like to offer some handy tips for soliciting the charity of those who give at lower levels.

small donations for big fundraising

5 Simple Ways to Obtain Small Donations

Small Events

We’ve written quite a bit about the importance of having a variety of events planned to use for outreach. These could be a simple cocktail party, a networking event, a bake sale.. At these events, it is not uncommon for donation boxes to be set in strategic locations where people can give casually.  Events are also a great way to create a social atmosphere where people see other generous givers to worthy causes. Philanthropy is contagious! Just be sure to capture contact information at the door or the donation point for follow up.

RELATED: Thank Supporters and Donors: Your Ultimate Guide


Working on the same basic principle as a lottery, a raffle is a fun way to draw folks in and encourage them to make small donations. Not only will they have the chance to be charitable, but they get to have fun as well- and maybe even walk away with a prize. These events have the same altruistic allure as any other fundraising event, but might be a bit more raucous and fun. Raffles can be very cost effective, if you can get a few great prizes donated. Keep in mind that you will need to research your local raffle license laws, or partner with another nonprofit who already has the needed paperwork.

Social Media

The importance of having a social media presence cannot be overstated. Like events, social media gives people a social incentive to be charitable. You can incentivize giving in any number of ways. Many nonprofits do a “matching” social media campaign, getting a corporate sponsor to donate $1 for every retweet, for example. You can also conduct raffles this way, or make up your own social media contest. Of course, social media is also the ideal way to recognize current or previous donors, as well.


You should have an “elevator speech” ready to go at all times. But there’s no replacement for a well-designed flyer with convincing language and compelling images. Once potential new donors have your pamphlet, it could end up in their purse or car, serving as a persistent reminder of your organization. Make donating as simple as possible, perhaps with a text code on the pamphlet. Some nonprofits have great results making their brochures usable (think notepads or bookmarks), or even attaching an envelope. This will depend on what makes sense with your nonprofit’s mission.

RELATED: Are You a Good Nonprofit Ambassador?

Sports Leagues

Many of those who give most often are highly social individuals who are gregarious and love to have fun. Putting together a sports team is a fun and effective way to stay in the public eye and serves as a reminder of the good work you do in your community. Keep an eye out for charity leagues your nonprofit can join. This is a great way to acquaint new people on the team with your mission. A little friendly competition with other nonprofits can be fun, too!

Be Creative

Whatever small donation method makes the most sense for your organization, be creative and reuse that idea if possible. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year. Find a few methods that you can get behind, and modify them to keep them fresh. You may find you quickly outgrow your fundraising goals!

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