Out with the old, and in with the new. It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013 and a fresh start. In terms of fundraising, there is much for us to learn from the past year.

Take a lesson from the top five biggest charities of 2012 established by Forbes, and learn the elements every organization can take away…regardless of size. These are the biggest organizations around, which means they know a thing or two about their fundraising strategies. The numbers don’t lie.

1. United Way ($4.1 Billion)

Their Fundraising: From NFL and other corporate sponsors to special events by individual chapters, United Way has taken advantage of a multitude of fundraising options to get a massive fundraising outreach. They’ve incorporated events like golf tournaments, dinners, food drives and much more. United Way has realized that in order to reach a large amount of people from different areas and backgrounds, they need to implement a large amount of fundraising tactics. And those tactics will differ from community to community.

The Takeaway: Your organization doesn’t have to put all of its eggs in one basket. Maybe you want to dabble a little in one fundraiser, and dabble a little in the next.Then, you want to form a partnership with a business to help with your fundraising. It’s worked for United Way, and it can work for you too.

2. Salvation Army ($2.8 Billion)

Their Fundraising: During the holidays, huge amounts of people volunteer their time to stand outside of local stores and hotspots ringing bells to collect spare change or cash from holiday shoppers. Many volunteers get into the spirit, either by singing carols or connecting with the passersby to create a holiday spirit that surrounds the shopping experience. Although this is one of many ways the Salvation Army will fundraise each year, it gives a face to the organization and makes sure that their mission is on the radar of many individuals.

The Takeaway: In order to succeed, you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there. Think of some unexpected places that you’ve never tried to fundraise before, and that you might even be scared to try. If you feel too comfortable with your current fundraising plans, it’s time to step outside of the box to expand. After all, you never know who would be willing to give if you don’t put yourself into a new situation.

3. Catholic Charities USA ($4.6 Billion)

Their Fundraising: Catholic Charities USA receives many donations across the nation, but also benefits from the individual fundraisers held regionally. One example involves teaming up with a local sports team to partner for a specific game. One local Catholic Charities USA chapter decided to partner with a restaurant to provide an atmosphere to view a sports game, offering raffles, appetizers and drinks to help raise money for the organization.

The Takeaway: Your fundraiser doesn’t have to be immediately related to the mission of your organization. If you want to have a bake sale for an animal shelter, go ahead and move forward. Many times, organizations stay inside a box because they try to relate everything back to the mission. When it comes down to it, any way to make money for your mission helps.

4. Feeding America ($1.2 Billion)

Their Fundraising: While they still conduct food drives, Feeding America has transformed the concept to let people donate with a virtual food drive. The option allows people to start their own drive online. Then, they can share the drive via social media to reach all of their friends and family.

The Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to spice up your online giving. Instead of simply a “Donate Now” button, take whatever your organization’s mission is and find a way to tie it into your online giving. Not everyone has the time to stop by a location to donate or make it to your event, so bring the event to them and let them make the donation on their own time.

5. American National Red Cross ($3.7 Billion)

Their Fundraising: When tragedy hits, the Red Cross is there and ready to help. So when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, people all across the country came together to lend a hand to the organization, so the Red Cross could help the victims. People all over the country donated, and one of the biggest fundraisers was the “Coming Together” benefit put on by NBC. The benefit included ways for people to donate and musical performances by superstars like Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera and more.

The Takeaway: Find a way to connect your mission to people so that they care. Obviously, people care when the cause directly affects them. And, if you can get an important figure to support your mission, people will have a better chance of hearing about your cause. On a smaller scale, your organization could host a benefit concert with locally known acts to get people interested in the organization.

What is the most important thing your organization has learned about fundraising from an organization?