17 powerful online fundraising tools for raising money and awareness

17 essential online fundraising tools

By James Mulvey

Every nonprofit or social enterprise wants to raise a ton of donations and awareness through viral social media promotion. While there are plenty of tools and platforms out there, it takes bit of time to find the best ones for your campaign.

But raising money and awareness is less about finding the right online tool than it is an effect of putting a compelling and extraordinarily unique story out there. The reach of your online fundraising campaign in social media is determined by the quality of your message. The better story you can tell about your cause and organization, the further it travels.

That said, here are some of best online fundraising sites we’ve discovered for raising awareness and inspiring behavioral change.

1. Chipin.com 

This is a widget that you can add to your Facebook page, website, or blog. It’s essentially an online fundraising target that you can use to track a fundraising goal. What we like about this widget is that is it is great for partnerships (if you want, for example, to help out your favorite social cause on your corporate website), as well as an easy way to convert web traffic into donors. Time and cost? No fees. Takes about 15-30 minutes for a web developer (or someone with some basic website skills) to install. Effective? Attached to a specific cause, this widget can be effective. One drawback is that it needs high traffic to covert (for example, per 1000 people that see it, maybe 1 person would donate).

2. HelpAttack.com

Help Attack is a fun, user-centered online fundraising platform that helps “build the act of giving into your online life.” It’s designed to integrate with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and has interactive features such as collecting coins as you progress in your fundraising efforts. Users get to choose the organization or nonprofit they want to support. You can also add your cause or nonprofit so that your supporters can find you. It’s a fun little online fundraising tactic. Time and cost? Minimal set-up. Small fee to add your nonprofit. Effective? This site taps into the power of social networking and makes giving fun. It has raised about $300,000 so far for various charities and organizations.

3. CharityIntelligence.ca

According to a 2007 study on charitable giving by Stats Canada, Canadians donated a total of $10 billion in 2007, which represents an increase of 12% in donations from the $8.9 billion reported in 2004. While philanthropy in Canada has become quite fashionable, the recent rise in charitable giving and activity has also led to a trend toward “philanthropic capitalism”, meaning that donors are coming to expect more professional and business-like conduct from the charitable sector. Charityintelligence.ca is a site that responds to this trend, helping potential donors find the most worthy causes. Its mission is to “identify Canada's most cost-effective charities through independent in-depth research and objective analysis.” It publishes a list of the charities to donate to, recommending that people donate to these high impact organizations. Cost and Time? Application process takes some time and resources (50-100 hours?); it is designed to look deeply into the operations and budget of a charity. Effectiveness? If successful, this site could generate high returns: inclusion in their annual recommendations for donors; exposure to serious donor networks; and creditability for your organization’s existing communications.

4. Givemeaning.com

Started in Vancouver BC, this site has helped hundreds of non-profits and other worthy organizations raise awareness and funds for their campaigns. The site’s goal is to connect your organization with new donors, acting as a hub for donors to come and find new nonprofits to support. While anyone can submit a project proposal, there are a few conditions: you have to be a Canadian registered charity; you have to submit a proposal that outlines a specific tangible outcome; 9.99 monthly hosting fee, and each new project has 30 days to collect 100 votes of support. Cost and time? 5-8 hours to set up. Effective for raising awareness and funds? Yes. Lots of BC charities have benefited from this site. The set-up is simple and not very time-consuming.

5. CanadaGives.ca 

Over the next decade, Statistics Canada predicts that baby boomers will receive considerable wealth and assets from their affluent parents – an estimated $800 billion to $1 trillion of inheritiances.CanadaGives.ca is an organization that helps Canadians get the most out of their charitable donations, including “access to a turnkey administration service for creating or building their own endowment(s) as an alternative to establishing a separate foundation.” In other words, this organization doesn’t solicit any new donors; it just manages existing ones. In their words: "CanadaGives is a “donation vehicle for the committed philanthropist.” Time and cost? No direct fees and a simple sign-up process. Effective? Definitely, especially if you have a history of attracting large donors.

6. Firstgiving.com

3 million online donors, 1 billion in donations raised, and 8,000 non-profits--this site has the ability to do some serious online fundraising for your organization. Time and cost? 5% commission; $300 dollars to use their software and you must be registered with Guidestar. Effective? While this site has a large network and established presence, most likely your success will depend on how much energy and resources put into your pages and energy you invest in encouraging peers to share. Estimated time to see a return—20 to 30 hours.

7. GoBidCharities.com

Have a charity auction coming up? Then make it even more effective with this online fundraising tool. This site allows charities to collect items that are then sold in an online auction. Your auction can run up to 3 months.Time and cost? 15% commission; no registration fee. Requires you to upload pictures, set prices, and collect items to sell (8 hours and upwards). Effectiveness? A nice feature is that you can run online auctions at the same time as a live event (such as a Golf Day or 24 hour marathon), helping to extend the reach of the event online.

8. Yahoo's Create for a Cause

Yahoo’s Create for a Cause is an annual contest that takes submissions from October 11, going through December 3 (based on last year’s rules). Winners have their ad placed on the Yahoo login page, resulting in massive group exposure. Winners can potentially reach millions of viewers. Last year, it seems that only American non-profits could enter. There doesn’t seem to be a Canadian version. Time and cost? Unfortunately, the competition is stiff. You need to develop a high-quality digital advertisement and past winners have been submissions from international creative agencies—lots of entries, lots of creative competition, and a time-consuming entry process. Effective? If you have a really exceptional campaign, you have a chance at winning exposure to millions of viewers.

9. YouTube Non-Profit Progra

Did you know that YouTube has a special channel for raising awareness? On the YouTube Non-Profit Program, charitable organizations and other social marketing and health promotion organizations can post their videos (through their existing channel) and have the option of having a “donate now” button. Time and cost? Setting up is quite simple, maybe a few hours to apply. Effective? With any viral campaign, it’s important to not confuse the medium with the message. YouTube doesn’t make people and videos famous. It’s only a channel that helps to spread incredibly exceptional and amazing content. The best strategy is to test with some smaller videos to see what stories create the most response.

10. KevinBacon6 Degrees of Separation 

Started by the actor Kevin Bacon, Sixdegrees.org lets non-profits and worthy organizations to create fundraising badges which are shared on the site. The idea is based on viral fundraising—your cause needs to be shared and picked up by people. Time and cost? Low (a few hours). No fees. Effective? Yes. But don’t expect it to be a major fundraising source. It can integrate well with other tactics such as Facebook.

11. Change.org

Trying to raise awareness for a contentious social issue? Change.org is a platform to raise some serious noise about big issues like Gay rights, labor disputes, and other social-orientated causes. It’s designed with a grassroots theme and has a simple sign-up process. The site allows you to write a petition, upload some photos and info, and then let your cause grow. Time and cost? Just writing a petition and signing up. No fees. Effective? Good place to get some grassroots support and could be effective in driving traffic to your website, if your cause gets some attention from the community.

12. Dosomething.org

Want to get teens involved in your cause? Then Dosomething.org is definitely worth checking out. This site is designed specifically to engage teens with social causes. Any teen can post a project and try to build support for it. They can also form clubs. Time and cost? No financial cost. But requires trying to get teens to set up an account. Effective? The site’s easy integration with Facebook could tap into the large social networks of teens. If your target audience is teenagers, this might be an effective awareness and fundraising platform for you.

13. LinkedIn for Good 

If your health organization or non-profit is active on LinkedIn, this is an easy and effective online fundraising tactic. It basically allows LinkedIn users to use “non-profit badges” to promote various organizations through their professional network. As some non-profits and health organizations have large professional networks, you might want to consider adding this to your networking and fundraising mix. Time and cost? A few hours to set up, no cost, and most of the work (and success) depend on the response of people in your network. Effectiveness?This tactic most likely benefits larger National organizations (such as the American Cancer Society), but it is relatively easy to set up.

14. Canadahelps.org

This site allows people to search for their favorite non-profit and to give an online donation. It’s pretty useful during a specific fundraising campaign, especially if you are a smaller organization. Time and cost? Free, easy set-up. Effectiveness? Great alternative to setting up credit-card processing—just register your charity with the site and direct your donations through Canadahelps.org.


charity giving

15. JustTextGiving.com

Use your fast texting skills. . .for a good cause. Justtextgiving.com helps fundraisers by tapping into the power of mobile phones. Based in the UK, the platform has raised over 700 million pounds for over 8,000 charities. It only takes a few seconds to set up a page for your charity, and easily integrates with Facebook, email, and iphone apps. Time and cost? Really easy set-up, only a few minutes. The fee is a small monthly charge and a 5% fee on every gift, which is used to pay for web development and hosting. Effective? A great way to integrate your online fundraising with mobiles and smart-phones.

16. GiveForward.com 

Giveforward.com helps people easily create a fundraising campaign for friends or a favorite cause. You set up a page, tell people about your cause, promote your page in Facebook and other social media, and then spread the word through friends, websites widgets, and from exposure on the site. While this site is designed for micro-giving campaigns, it can be an effective way to encourage your donors to launch their own little fundraising campaigns on your behalf. Time and cost? Small commission fee and easy set-up. Effective? Giveforward.com has helped raise over 4 million for causes. It’s mostly for micro-campaigns but has an easy set-up.

17. PlumFund.com

Plumfund.com was started with the goal of creating a free online gift registry and crowdfunding site. This platform allows you to easily raise and receive funds online while helping your donors avoid exorbitant credit card charges. You simply set up a page and promote your cause or special event across your favourite social channels. Time & Cost? Plumford takes virtually no time to set up and is free to use. Effective? Being first and foremost a gift registry site, Plumfund was built to target your immediate social network. Therefore, your success will depend largely on your cause, your call-to-action, and the generosity of your peers! One perk of Plumfund’s registry focus is its 'wishlist,' a great tool to use if you seek specific donations beyond money from your network.

Bonus fundraising tool: Go Get Funding 

Go Get Funding gives all types of fundraisers—from non-profits to personal fundraisers—an instant online platform. The fundraising campaigns vary from personal projects to raise money for life-saving medical operations to larger campaigns for charities.

The site takes a 2% fee. Set-up is very simple and the site is packed with social features to help you gain attention and pledges. You can visit Go Get Funding here

Some Final Tips: 

Remember, most online fundraising tools are similar: they are simply platforms to connect your cause to an audience. As a result, it’s best to concentrate on a few platforms, rather than blasting your message thin across every new widget that comes out. It’s easy to think that the platform will do the work. But the real effectiveness of online fundraising tools depends on the ability of your organization and cause to capture a big emotional space with your stories, videos, and fundraising communications.

Good luck!

If you need help creating an effective online fundraising strategy, the Redbird Communications Team is here to help. 

Further Fundraising Resources: The Most Effective Tactics for Attracting Donors and Volunteers

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  • Research on donor motivations and psychology.
  • Research and tactics on attracting and retaining volunteers.
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About us

Redbird Communications specializes in health promotion, awareness campaigns, and behavioural change workshops. Our clients include the Heart and Stroke Foundation of BC & Yukon, BC Hydro, government ministries and other private and public-sector organizations that in one way or another work to make the world a healthier, happier place.