There’s money out there: 4 good fundraising angles for your passion project

On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.

Another way you can defeat the obstacles in your path is by joining the Idealist Network—a new online and on-the-ground platform we’re designing to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally. Sign up to attend our online launch on March 11 and see what it’s all about.

Raising money for a personal project is seldom a walk in the park. But with corporate social responsibility in vogue and the Internet leveling the communications playing field, there’s never been a better time to give funding your passion project a shot. Here are four solid ways to approach the task:

Go for a grant

Grants and contests are opportunities to raise money for your project, but also to gain recognition and make more impressions.

Cora from Berkeley, California, builds community gardens where local kids can joyously plant, grow, and harvest food. Danielle from Lewiston, Maine, custom-paints canvas shoes and creates wearable artwork that can be appreciated every day. In Peoria, Illinois, Mark documents the strength, confidence, and empowerment women gain from roller derby.

All of them were winners of the 2013 American Express #PassionProject, a contest that gave away a total of $20,000 a month to ten “makers, creators and mold breakers who dream, dare and do.”

If you’re thinking of entering a contest or applying for a grant, offers these tips for writing winning pitches:

  • Research winning proposals first to use as models
  • Identify and delineate the needs of your project
  • Carefully read each funder’s goals and follow their guidelines (you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this!)
  • Clearly state your long-term goals and objectives
  • Be passionate!

Use these tips to harvest more funders for your passion project.
(image via Flickr user Scott SM)

Make your virtual home

Your fundraiser needs somewhere to live—an informative home where donors can go to learn about your story, your ambitions, and, of course, to make donations. Although you can build your own fundraising website or blog, you can also join an existing online fundraising platform and benefit from the site’s built-in features.

CrowdRise raises money for charities by providing an online fundraising page that users can personalize with photos and videos. FundRazr will engage your supporters by sharing your campaign on social networking sites, blogs, and email. Explore more online fundraising opportunities with Razoo, Fundly, CauseVox, and

Get social

Instagram and Facebook can turn friends and family into dedicated supporters and give your campaign a voice.

But before you bluntly ask for money on a post, think about your sales technique: how will you express your project’s goals in a compelling way? Does your campaign speak emotionally? Can you share an impactful story that relates to your cause? You’ll do well to power your cause with content that authentically captures people’s attention and interest, so take the time to develop thought-provoking angles that inspire and encourage responses.

Need some inspiration to get started?

  • The Humane Society uses Vine to give orphaned dogs and cats a voice. Becca Meyers, Communications Manager at The Humane Society of New York posted a Vine of adorable cat Parker sauntering toward the camera. Because the sweet video made an emotional connection with an animal lover, the cat found a permanent home.
  • For-profit, cause-based business People Water also tells stories through captivating Instagram videos and photos with messages like, ” ‘Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action’ —Benjamin Disraeli.” One Instagram video shared clips of happy kids in Cambodia to showcase how People Water’s philanthropic efforts benefit global youth.

In summary, use Instagram for its visual appeal and Vine to deliver a video message in a snappy and creative way. Then cross-promote your social media campaigns on different sites and include hashtags to thread them together with relevant, trending conversations.


Even if your project doesn’t involve a cat in a box, you can generate buzz by expressing it in eye-catching images.
(image via Flickr user admiller)

Go mobile

Offering simplicity and convenience can really drive your fundraising initiative, especially when it comes to collecting donations.

Since many people today rarely carry their checkbooks (or even cash), being limited by the types of payment you accept can prevent donors from contributing to your project. The variety of mobile payment solutions now available can provide supporters with numerous ways to make donations—whether you greet them at a fundraising event or run into each other at the movies.

Razoo recommends the mobile payment option from Intuit GoPayment and touts that its mobile credit card processing solution helped Girl Scouts of North East Ohio increase their cookie sales by 13 percent. By opening up to on-the-spot credit card transactions, the Scouts were able to sell about 20 more boxes of cookies each. By engaging a device like GoPayment or Square, you’ll never have to turn down an opportunity for someone to contribute to your cause, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

That should get you started. Happy fundraising!



Kaitlin McGlynn lives in Arizona, where she works for a nonprofit organization and volunteers at a local dog shelter. She blogs about animal rights, fundraising, and volunteering.


Have you successfully raised funds for your passion project—or not? Tell us what worked for you (or didn’t) in the comments.

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Comments (4)

  1. Peter Ogenga writes:
    March 1, 2014 at 3:39 am

    Dear Kaitlin,

    Thank you very much for giving those fundraising angles, what i can add is that be true and sincere to yourself when communicating your passionate project. i also observed that sometimes donor look at how much have you handled (total budget), to a community based organisation (CBO) at the grassroots level they have the skills, the passion, heart to support and when they apply to donor they not considered. sometimes the means to communicate the with the rest of the world is challenge as i talk am in very remote area of Mucwini, Kitgum District-Northern Uganda, thanks to the technology i can now use modem (dongo) to access internet which we use at Children of the World Foundation (COW Foundation) to empower farmers, children, youth and girls to remain in school to fight poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS

  2. Sisu writes:
    March 1, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Sisu is my name and i live in Tamale in Ghana.I am co-founder of the Prince And Prince Academy Project Team and we are planning to build a school in our community to provide good education for children. You can take look at our website
    . Interestingly people can donate and choose a reward for themselves ranging from Postcards, traditional hand-made necklaces, bracelets, wallets, beads, scarfs, bag, recognition and many more from Ghana (Africa). The reward will be posted to you after you have donated. I will be glad to have a friend from USA. Hope to hear from you. Stay bless!

  3. azeb writes:
    March 8, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Wow, what a great idea, I started a foundation, put 3 years into it, now I have no idea what to do, how?, where to begin?

  4. Dorothy writes:
    April 11, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I can piggy-back on what Kaitlin stated about having the skill-set in providing services to an organization’s identified population and it always boil down to if the organization has not handled large amounts of funds previously, or have audits; they are not considered. So what does an organization do and/or where can they apply for funding as a result of being at the above-stated disadvantage?

    I have a 501c3 NPO that’s been in existence for 14 years; operating solely on community donations. We have never received any major funding. The organization is operable due to my skills and knowledge-base of providing social services…no nonprofit or grant writing skills…no funds to pay professionals who can possibly assist in the organization being in a position to apply for grants.


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