5 Creative Fundraising Campaigns

Sometimes, fundraising is naturally targeted. For example, if you are fundraising for a new athletic stadium, you may send a call to action to former athletes, or sell football game tickets at a slight markup as a way to raise funds. But in many cases, if you are raising funds for less flashy causes like financial aids or discretionary budget, calls to action aren’t as straightforward. Here are 5 ideas for creative fundraising campaigns that can energize your efforts.

1.     (Symbolic) Student Sponsorship

Being a mentor can be a profoundly impactful experience for your alumni. Consider creating a donation based alumni mentor match program, where for a set donation, alumni will be hand matched with a current student at your institution for a mentorship relationship. In order to build meaningful matches, you can either use a platform like Quadwrangle to automatically collect data on alumni affinities and preferences, or you can have alumni fill out a survey on their background and interests. On the other side of the equation, you can have students sign up to receive mentors via your Office of Career Services by filling out a quick survey of preferences.

2.     Peer Incentivized Giving Competitions

The power of peer outreach has been well documented – people are 4-10x more likely to give when solicited directly by a friend. You can work to engage this principle In your fundraising. Have your IT team build a simple platform where alumni can share a fundraising page via email, Facebook, Twitter, or other digital means. Attach this functionality to an email campaign telling alums to give and share with their friends. Consider making a leaderboard that shows how many times each alum has shared the campaign with lucrative prizes for those who share the most.

3.     Fundraising Local Watch Parties

Does your school have a big sports rivalry? If yes, consider building fundraising events around an annual game! You can host watch parties both at your university as well as in a variety of external cities where your alumni live, coordinated through regional alumni groups. In order to use these events as a fundraising tool, you can either charge a cover or ask alums to “match” the number of points scored with a donation. For example, if the biggest game is a football game, and your team wins 21-7, ask alums to contribute $21 as they leave the party (or in a follow-up email) for each point scored by your home team.

4.     Swag-a-thon

Rewards can amplify alumni contributions. The success of lotteries in local, state, and national contexts speaks to the psychological power that a large prize holds. To take advantage of this principle, use the prospect of a reward to entice a donation. Send out an email campaign that asks for a set donation (which could be different depending on the alum – perhaps $10 for young alumni, $50 for mid career professionals, and $100 for past donors). In turn, when the alum is taken to a donation page, they can “spin a wheel” for a variety of prizes. Most alums will win an inexpensive prize, like a sticker, T-shirt, free ticket to a game, or etc. However, the key is to publicize a couple of major prizes. Options could include a large university attire basket, lifelong free admission to home games, a named wing of the library, an exotic trip – be creative! Investing in one flashy prize could entice thousands of alumni to make a donation.

5.     Personalized Direct Outreach

This one isn’t so much a radical change in current fundraising, but an update to a standard approach. General outreach can feel impersonal and overburdening, but an easy way to draw alumni into your regular emails is to personalize small details. Instead of requesting for alumni to donate to general student services funds, draw upon your knowledge of what they participated in as a student, or what they do with their time now. Alumni tracking systems make this evaluation easy, but data can also be scraped from student records or LinkedIn profiles as needed. If one of your alums was involved with a variety of art groups, include a line like, “Donate $75 to our student events fund so that emerging groups like the Young Artists Society can fund art supplies for 5 students for a year.” These pitches can be semi personalized but sent in mass as a way to speak to individual funding preferences while still collecting non-earmarked funds for general student activity funds.


Actively maintaining compelling fundraising campaigns is hard work. Quadwrangle is here to help. From discussing leading prospecting methods to chatting through new fundraising ideas, we’re always here to chat.

Rachael Stein