Raise More Money: Incentive-Based Fundraising 202 — The Advanced Course

Incentive-based fundraising puts your donors first. When it comes time for them to give, incentives can show supporters that their donations are valued at your organization

If you’re just learning the basics of incentive-based fundraising and want some ideas on how you can incorporate it into your organization, you can check out our first guide, Incentive-Based Fundraising 101.

Now that you’ve made it to the advanced course, we’ll get into the most technical aspects of this broad fundraising strategy.

Specifically, we’ll discuss how you can:

  1. Create exclusive high-level donor groups.
  2. Increase impact with matching gifts.
  3. Pump up product fundraising with corporate philanthropy.
  4. Incentivize major donors with stewardship strategy.


Let’s get started with our first strategy.


1. Create exclusive high-level donor groups.

incentive-based fundraising

The Basics:

People love to be a part of something.

Exclusive donor clubs can incentivize donors to give more and continue giving to your organization. After all, once supporters join a group of philanthropically-minded people who care about your organization, they’re likely to replicate that behavior.

Membership organizations are one of the primary ways that nonprofits can create these high-level donor groups.

Membership programs will vary depending on the organization, but two key strategies can be implemented across most programs:

  • Brand your program
  • Offer products and perks


Brand your program

The point of an exclusive program is that is must feel exclusive. This is not to say that non-members should feel left out, but that those who have joined have accomplished something quite extraordinary in how they’ve furthered your mission.

Planned giving programs, for example, are often branded as legacy programs. Why?

Because only a select few donors have dedicated themselves so deeply to your nonprofit’s future that they can be said to have truly left a legacy for good.

The name is honorary and descriptive, which demonstrates a nonprofit’s appreciation for its donors.

You can further promote the program’s exclusive feel by:


  • Targeting your promotions. Memberships should feel exclusive. Direct, targeted advertising is the most effective way to promote the program.
  • Sending personal invitations. Donors should feel invited when they’re introduced to your program, not as if they’re being sold.
  • Recognizing the group at regular intervals. To showcase your program without outright advertising, you can highlight your members’ accomplishments on honor rolls, or on programs at events.



Branding your program can show donors what your organization can offer them.


Offer products and perks

One of the most obvious incentives for joining a membership association is that many offer an exclusive product to donors.

These products usually aren’t expensive — many are simply t-shirts or hats — but they can make a donor feel special and appreciated.

The best products will be relevant to and reflective of the organization. For example, alumni might be happy to receive an exclusive sweatshirt with their alma mater’s mascot. A small gesture like this one can give donors something tangible that includes them in the club.

Of course, products aren’t the only perks that you can offer.

Other perks include:

  • Invitations to members-only events.
  • A special newsletter.
  • Discounts in the nonprofit’s store.
  • Premium parking at fundraising events.


While you can and should offer perks of this variety to your valuable members, it’s important to keep in mind that the perks are not the program.


Members want to join because they care deeply about your mission. Emphasize that your program is a means for philanthropically-minded people to form bonds with each other and your organization.

2. Increase impact with matching gifts.

incentive-based fundraising

The Basics:

Matching gifts occur when a company matches the donation of its employees (i.e. if Emily Employee gives $50 to a nonprofit, then her company will also give $50 to the same campaign). Matching gifts are usually given on a 1:1 ratio, but they can be as high as 4:1!

Matching gifts certainly increase a nonprofit’s revenue, but how can they be used as incentives?

Matching gifts can incentivize donors to give — and give more — when they know that their impact can be doubled, or tripled, etc..

Feeling like the gift is making a tangible difference is a huge motivator for donations. But first, your organization has to make donors aware of what matching gifts can offer.

To do so, you can:

  • Educate donors
  • Integrate matching gifts into social media


Educate donors

The biggest obstacle to receiving matching gifts is uninformed donors. After all, donors must first request matching gifts from their respective employers for your nonprofit to receive them.

You’ll need to do more than spread awareness for matching gifts. You’ll need to call your donors to action so that they’ll follow through with seeking out these valuable gifts.

Your nonprofit can capitalize on matching gift incentive by sending targeted matching gift information to current donors.

This information can be sent via email or traditional mail, but it should always include:

  • A description of what matching gifts are.
  • The simple, actionable steps that donors can take to apply for matching gifts from their organization.
  • Language that centers around how the donor can punch up their gift for your cause. Put the power in the donor’s hands. Show how they can make an even greater difference.


The point is that the information must be made available so that donors know just how much value their gift can add to your organization.


Integrate matching gifts into social media

Matching gifts are a simple enough concept. They don’t require long explanations or jargon to understand.

Because of this, matching gifts lend themselves well to a social media strategy. To really incentivize donations with matching gifts, you can integrate them into the crux of your marketing.

Social media posts that center around the double impact of matching gifts can draw in more donors. To create these posts, you can:


  • Highlight matching gifts donors. “Sharon doubled her gift without paying a penny more — and you can too.” Show, don’t tell is one of the best ways to entice donors to give. Highlighting matching gifts donors allows your organization to showcase the ease and benefits of matching gifts, all while incentivizing donors.


  • Create a hashtag. A hashtag can be an incredibly persuasive tool that invites new donors to get in on the action. A matching gift-oriented hashtag allows both donors and their employers to post in support of your organization. Rallying these key groups together provides a larger social incentive for others to donate as well.

Capitalizing on social influence can create a snowball effect, in which people give because they want to be a part of the giving that’s going on around them.


And with matching gifts, they’ll feel like they’re actively making a difference with a larger donation than they could give on their own.


3. Pump up product fundraising with corporate partnerships.

incentive-based fundraising

The Basics:

Matching gifts are just one aspect of corporate philanthropy. There are other ways to create worthwhile partnerships with companies near your nonprofit.

Corporations want to be philanthropic. Your organization can appeal to them by following these strategies.

Companies can provide products that can be used as fundraising incentives through both:

  • In-Kind Donations
  • Cause Marketing


In-Kind Donations

In-kind donations are physical donations and products that a company gives.

Nonprofits can use in-kind donations to fuel incentive by receiving high-value prizes for top fundraising teams. In this case, a company will donate a prize that donors will compete to win. Or, in-kind donations can be smaller products given at different fundraising milestones.

In-kind donations also pair well with events.

Walkathons, for example, could benefit greatly from donations of water bottles or food, or even a stage and sound system for a post-walkathon concert (Booster’s walkathon guide can show you exactly how this can play out).

The more amenities you can offer with your event, the more incentive you’re giving donors to attend.


Cause Marketing

Cause marketing refers to marketing efforts that involve a cooperation between a for-profit business and a nonprofit.

A popular example of cause marketing occurs when a restaurant donates a percentage of their profit from each meal to your organization.

Cause marketing can work as a great incentive because it can attract both regular and new customers. People who normally support the business are likely to continue purchasing products that will then benefit your nonprofit. Likewise, charitable people will be drawn to the business if they know that their purchase will help your cause.

Nonprofits can especially boost their cause marketing by choosing a local business as their partner. Benefiting a local business can help the entire community experience growth!

4. Incentivize major donors with stewardship strategy.

incentive-based fundraising

The Basics:

Stewardship is a vital aspect of the donor cycle.

However, a carefully crafted stewardship plan can also incentivize donors if you market the benefits of different giving tiers.

This strategy works best for major and high-level donors, who may have high expectations of their gift and your nonprofit’s following communications. These donors want to know that giving to your organization is the right choice.

You can motivate them to give by emphasizing the benefits of the relationship that your nonprofit holds with donors.

To do so, you can:

  • Ask their opinion
  • Meet their interests

Ask their opinion

Reaching out to your current major donors is a great way to gain insight into the donor experience and learn about your organization from a different perspective.

You can ask these donors about their opinions on how certain operations in your nonprofit should be run. For example, these donors may have valuable information on what kinds of advertisements are most effective, or what kind of image they want the nonprofit to project in its brand.

Though you don’t have to implement all of this advice, asking donors for their opinion shows that you value your donors as contributors to your organization.

This strategy will generate incentive for your nonprofit by:

  • Providing material for testimonials. You can incentivize a large audience by providing your major donors’ testimonials, or even just using select quotes from your conversation. Empowering donors by asking for their opinion sets the stage for a lucrative, rich conversation that shows why your organization is the best for donors.
  • Organically drawing new donors. Major donors often have social circles with other potential major donors. If your donors feel they are being treated exceptionally well within your organization, they’re likely to spread the word among others.


Asking current major donors for their opinions will help you draw out new major donors who are looking for a solid relationship with a nonprofit.

Meet their interests

An incentive strategy does not necessarily have to be replicated on a large scale. Frontline fundraisers are still incentivizing major donors when they speak in one-on-one conversations.

One of the biggest incentives for donors is not only seeing the impact potential of their gift but seeing the potential for a long-term relationship with your organization.

Meet your donors’ interests by narrowing down the causes that they most want to support within your nonprofit’s mission. Then, explain how your nonprofit can help them accomplish their philanthropic vision.

You may need to supplement your conversations with relevant articles that will pique your donor’s interests or even postcards from a location that your donor cares about.

The point is that donors will be more inclined to support your nonprofit if they feel that you’re taking an active interest in them.

And while these types of cultivation and stewardship strategies should be applied across the board, it’s important to remember that incentive-based fundraising doesn’t always have to be about offering an external prize; sometimes, the best incentives are simply showing how the donor can fit comfortably into your organization to accomplish your mutual goals.


Incentive-based fundraising can be an umbrella term that captures everything from basic product fundraising to the intricacies of membership programs.

These strategies can help your organization pinpoint what types of incentives work best for your donors. If you haven’t yet, check out part one of the series now!


Kerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, Created by CustomInk. She and her team help create content aimed at maximizing organizers’ fundraising potential and furthering their mission to raise awareness for the cause or passion that means the most to them.


thank you

Kerri Moore

Kerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, Created by CustomInk. She and her team help create content aimed at maximizing organizers’ fundraising potential and furthering their mission to raise awareness for the cause or passion that means the most to them.

October 14, 2016

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