As large nonprofits take center stage in conversations about philanthropy, smaller organizations meeting critical community needs often get left behind when it comes to support and funding. For some donors, solving a global crisis is more important than tackling a specific issue plaguing one local community. But we fundraisers know that nonprofits providing social services within individual communities drastically improve the overall quality of life for those they serve, and increase the vitality of the community as a whole.
When we talk about community, we’re referring to people (both near and far) with shared interests. While community nonprofits can be large-scale organizations that work from coast to coast, the communities whose interests they represent are a subset of the general population.
While community organizations exist on a wide spectrum of size and impact, they all have one thing in common: they each address specific, unmet needs.
Examples of the wide range of community impact 🌈
The LGBTQ+ community (a large global community with shared interests)
- Nonprofit: The Human Rights Campaign
- What They Do: The Human Rights Campaign advocates for LGBTQ+ equity and marriage equality worldwide.
LGBTQ+ youth (a smaller global community with shared interests)
- Nonprofit: The Trevor Project
- What They Do: The Trevor Project provides 24/7, free, and confidential suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ+ youth.
LGBTQ+ youth in Connecticut (a small, local community with shared interests)
- Nonprofit: Triangle Community Center
- What They Do: Triangle Community Center equips LGBTQ+ youth in Connecticut with free counseling, community programming, group support, housing, and food assistance.
Community nonprofit organizations are some of our favorite tiny-but-mighty powerhouses of social good—proof that real change can happen by making an impact at the community level. And often, that comes with limited resources and minimal funds.
Despite these challenges, community nonprofit leaders show up each day with grit and determination to support their communities. And regardless of their resilience and moxie, these nonprofits deserve financial sustenance and enduring support to bolster their impact, pay their staff, and sustain their important work into the future!
Awareness Drives Engagement; Engagement Drives Donations 🚀
When community needs go unmet, people often feel disaffected by local leaders and disconnected from philanthropy. Your nonprofit is bridging the gap by providing resources and programming that addresses the unique and specific challenges facing the community you serve.
Community-building requires a foundation of trust and awareness—your community needs to connect with your nonprofit to generate their trust and support. Spreading the word through strategic storytelling is the best way to build community connections and generate generosity.
Building Community Nonprofit Awareness
We at Funraise know one thing for certain: awareness evades apathy (AEA if you’re into a good ole fashioned abbreviation). When a community is acutely aware of the work of a nonprofit, the scope of support grows significantly—increasing donors, supporters, and allies from outside of the impacted community.
Through strategic digital storytelling and acute awareness campaigns, community apathy and lethargy is transformed into excitement and direct action.
Potential donors become:
- increasingly invested in and engaged with your work
- more likely to financially support your organization
- less disaffected by community issues happening around them—because they are witnessing change in action.
Now… we know what you’re thinking.
“If awareness increases community engagement, how can my small, local community nonprofit generate large-scale public awareness for our work—without breaking the bank on a digital marketing budget—when the scope of our work is specific to one community? And how can that newfound public awareness transition one-time donors to monthly giving status, seamlessly facilitate donor engagement, and increase overall giving?” —You, probably
Good questions, fundraiser! You’re in luck.
Impactful storytelling is free 📚 for community nonprofit fundraising campaigns
Author Jen Shang, who holds the world’s first Ph.D. in philanthropy, says that nonprofit storytelling—through the strategic use of images and language—is the best way to increase awareness, influence overall giving, and stimulate future generosity for your nonprofit.
“Grabbing a donor’s attention is the very first psychological step that a supporter takes during a potentially lifelong journey that they take with a charity. This is the step where donors become aware of the existence of a giving opportunity…At the beginning stage of this relationship, donors might be attracted to the organization through [things like] images. Then they might get to know a bit more about all the great things that these charities are doing, and then their giving is not directly related to the images anymore, so that they would continue to give even without the images.” —Jen Shang
Social media has made storytelling more accessible than ever before. Any savvy fundraiser can apply Dr. Shang’s storytelling strategy and reach new audiences to generate generosity for a community organization outside of the impacted community!
If you’re an organization solving problems by providing meaningful social services and impactful programming to your community, it’s time that the world knows about the important work you do to drive social good. Let’s get to storytelling, shall we?
And don’t worry—you don’t have to be a NYT bestselling author to be a top-notch social good storyteller and boost the big bucks for your nonprofit. All you need to succeed is the audacious grit of a community fundraiser, a creative bone (or two) in your body, and a Funraise campaign site.
4 community-focused organizations doing the damn thing
Did you think we were going to give you the recipe for success without a picture of what success looks like in action? Silly. Check out these community-focused nonprofits' clever digital storytelling to grow local impact on a global scale.
Eliminating Hunger Through Public Health
Feeding Tampa Bay knows that food is so much more than the meals we eat. That’s why they’re working to break intergenerational cycles that lead to hunger and food insecurity in order to increase overall public health and create a healthier community in Tampa Bay.
Why We Love Them
Feeding Tampa Bay is rallying their community and generating excitement by sharing the stories of the people they feed on the ground in Tampa. By uplifting their impacted community, they unite supporters both online and offline to donate through their Funraise crowdfunding site.
How They Tell Their Story
Feeding Tampa Bay pairs compelling images with simple stories to demonstrate the impact of their work and increase overall awareness of food insecurity and the work they are doing to provide food assistance to over one million families in the Tampa Bay area.
Ending Homelessness Through Community Outreach
The People Concern is providing vital services and programming to folks experiencing homelessness and domestic violence in Los Angeles County, California. Through integrated, individual systems of care, The People Concern prioritizes, empowers, and supports individuals facing challenges in their community using a model of compassion and respect.
Why We Love Them
The People Concern lays it all out on the table in their impact report, where they take you through a timeline of stories and photos that highlight the achievements and impact of their organization over time. It’s impossible to leave their website without being inspired by the work The People Concern is doing for the people of Los Angeles County.
🚀 Bonus points for their Generational Giving program, which encourages supporters of all generations to make an impact with an array of giving opportunities.
Uplifting the Lives of Children in Urban Communities
Rising TIDE is empowering young people and families in Long Beach, California, with resources to address food insecurity, housing needs, and emergency challenges. Through diverse development and education programming, Rising TIDE is working to “fill the gap”, meet community needs, and feed Long Beach families.
Why We Love Them
Rising TIDE is rising in community awareness through their mission-oriented media messaging. We love how they share their work through a highlights video on their campaign site—featuring members of their impacted community and alumni talking about why their work matters. Rising TIDE lets you listen to their impact directly from the words of their clients.
Empowering Youth by Inspiring Action
The YMCA is improving the lives of young people nationwide by equipping them to take action in their communities. Through robust services and a wide range of initiatives that support every child from every background—the YMCA is a safe space for kids to grow up and thrive.
Why We Love Them
The YMCA uses data and insights on their campaign site to break down the direct impact of charitable contributions on their work—and showcases that impact through savvy social media storytelling.
🚀 Bonus points for connecting each number from their impact report to a photo on their Instagram account!
5 creative crowdfunding examples for community-based nonprofits
Still not feeling inspired? Check out these cool and creative community crowdfunding ideas—customize and make them your own!
1. Cookout for a Cause
Fire up the grill! We’ll bring the pickles. A community cookout is a no-frills way to bring people together, eat delicious food, and raise awareness for your nonprofit! Connections are created when we pass the plate.
🚀 Get inspired
United Community Corporation, a Newark nonprofit organization, provides tools and services to help low-income families develop economic sustainability. Their annual BBQ brings together people of all ages to celebrate community and provide vital resources for community members who are struggling in Newark.
A lil’ lagniappe (that’s an unexpected bonus for y’all making this face 🤔)
Got no grill? Dollar stores are a great place to get aluminum banquet dishes and warmers for cheap. Go from grilled meats and veggies to local delicacies or celebratory dishes specific to your community.
2. Community Conversation
Bring together your community for a roundtable or town hall discussion with local leaders and stakeholders sponsored by your nonprofit. Aim to address issues impacting your community. Participants will walk away feeling empowered to make local change, and harness a greater awareness of your nonprofit’s work.
Note: this conversation is not necessarily about having All The Answers right now. It’s about listening to your community, hearing their fears, frustrations, and ideas. Set a follow up conversation to thoughtfully answer questions from the first discussion. You may find yourself hosting a relevant, regular roundtable that’s respected within your community.
🚀 Get inspired
CT Against Gun Violence hosted a powerful community conversation, bringing together policy experts and practitioners, to address the epidemic of hate-motivated shootings and gun violence in Connecticut.
3. Color Campaign
Does your nonprofit use a specific color to tell your story? Lean into color theory and center a focused storytelling campaign around your org’s palette.
🚀 Get inspired
Every year, GLAAD goes purple for Spirit Day, an international campaign promoting anti-bullying for LGBTQ+ youth. By encouraging supporters to wear purple on October 20th, GLAAD makes a visible impact that can be seen across the internet and around the world.
A lil’ lagniappe
If you have multiple brand colors, assign a different color to different segments of your community (volunteers, current community members, graduated community members, staff, etc) and then bring them together to form your logo or a flag with your colors.
4. Benefit Concert
Set the stage, light the lights! Art brings communities together through the power of performance.
🚀 Get inspired
In December, your Funraise poet-in-residence (👋🏻 hello, it’s me!), organized “Songs of Solidarity”, a benefit concert raising money for the Colorado Healing Fund following the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. We raised over $4,000 in support of the LGBTQ+ community and brought together LGBTQ+ performers and leaders for a night of solidarity through music.
Editor’s note: In addition to Leah’s commentary, Songs of Solidarity allowed a local community to support and uplift another, similar community. It made space for healing through a variety of avenues: action, art, shared experience, and more. And it galvanized and introduced locals affected in like ways. Thank you for your work, Leah!
5. Youth Power Summit
Center the young people from your community and give them the mic! The best way to inspire the leaders of tomorrow is to amplify their voices today.
🚀 Get inspired
Every year, Points of Light hosts a digital youth summit for civically-engaged youth around the country to connect around their shared philanthropic interests. As part of the Summit, Points of Light holds a pitch competition for young people to pitch project ideas that aim to better their communities.
A lil’ lagniappe
Extend your summit by breaking out networking groups for the kids or providing each kid with a mentor (or mentors) to help them turn their ideas into our reality. Follow up as a group to keep kids engaged, motivated, and changing the world for the better!
Community nonprofit crowdfunding ideas: key takeaways 🔑
- Awareness evades apathy—tell the story of your nonprofit to generate excitement and interest within your community.
- Intentional storytelling drives engagement online and offline—and increases overall impact and revenue.
- Creativity is your currency on social media; finding new ways to tell old impact stories will refresh your donor base
- Connect with organizations that have similar shared interests and take turns lifting each other up
- Don’t fret: supporting even the smallest communities requires a big network of support! You’re doing great.