Fundraising for Individuals: Simple Steps for Success

If you’re new to crowdfunding, launching a fundraiser and reaching out to your network of family and friends to ask for help might seem overwhelming. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of fundraising for individuals from start to finish to show you how simple it can be. We’ll cover setting up a fundraiser, promoting it, and maintaining connections with your donors.

Whether you need to raise funds for a family emergency or a family vacation—or anything in between—we’ll equip you with the tools needed to reach your fundraising goal. 

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1. How to create a fundraiser

Setting up a GoFundMe requires just a few items: a fundraiser title and goal, a photo, and a description of your fundraiser.

  • Set your goal

    When setting your fundraiser goal, we recommend crunching some numbers and determining exactly how much funding you need. Keep in mind that our site has a 0% platform fee, so you get to keep more of the money you raise.

    In general, we recommend starting small. People are more likely to give to your cause if they feel they can make a measurable difference. If your fundraiser goal is $50,000, people might feel like their $30 donation won’t have a significant impact. But if your fundraiser goal is $2,000, your donors will be excited to help you reach a more attainable goal.

    Keep in mind that you can change your fundraiser goal at any time. If you’re close to reaching your goal and decide you need more help, you can easily increase it.

  • How to create your fundraiser title

    Your title is one of the first things people will see when your fundraiser is shared on social media, email, and text messages. It’s important that your title makes it clear why you’re raising funds while also enticing people to click your fundraiser URL.

    “Jared’s Medical Bills” describes a fundraiser’s purpose well, but it’s not very memorable. The title “Help Jared Walk Again” describes the fundraiser and also describes the specific way donations will help Jared.

    Examples of great fundraiser titles:

    • The GoFundMe fundraiser Graham the Blind Busker – 30 Years has a unique title and instantly grabs our attention. It makes us wonder, “Who is Graham, what is his story, and how does he need help?”
    • Another fundraiser titled “Empowering Women In Tajikistan” is clear and to the point, but still makes us interested in the lives of these women in Tajikistan and how we can lend a hand.

    If you’d like more information about titles, read our blog post on creating the perfect title.

  • How to write your fundraiser story

    Having a compelling story is crucial for your fundraiser’s success. A good fundraiser story will do two things: It will make donors trust you, and it will make donors feel connected to you and your cause.

    It’s best to begin your story with a few short sentences that contain the most important information. You can think of this as a brief summary of exactly why you are raising funds. After that, you can provide more background information that will paint a broader picture of why you’re crowdfunding. Fred and Paul followed this format when they wrote the story for their fundraiser,“Help Fred & Paul Save the Universe”—this made it easy for readers to understand immediately why they’re asking for help.

    Your story should clearly explain the reason behind your fundraiser, because this helps build trust with your donors. A story that is vague may not inspire confidence. Ryan used bolded text in his fundraiser story to emphasize exactly how people could help. Read his story “Sister Paralyzed w/ Rare Condition” for inspiration.

    Be sure to include important information like:

    • Who you are.
    • How you’re connected to the beneficiary (if you’re not raising money for yourself).
    • Exactly how you plan on using the donations. Listing a budget is a great way to be transparent and gain your donors’ trust.

    Here are some other pointers:

    • Make sure your story isn’t too long or too short. We’ve found writing a minimum of 400 words can help your fundraiser’s visibility. Learn more on our blog post How Your Fundraiser Description Length Influences Donations.
    • If your fundraiser is to help with a difficult situation, explain how you’ve tried to overcome it yourself. Donors may feel more charitable if it seems like you’ve exhausted all other options.
    • Allow donors to connect with your story by being vulnerable. If your fundraiser is for an emergency situation, describe the emotions associated with it, like fear or uncertainty. If you’re fundraising for something positive or exciting, describe how much it means to you. This encourages empathy in your donors and helps them understand how much their help means.
    • Ask a trusted friend for feedback on your fundraiser story.

    Take a look at our blog post for a comprehensive guide on writing a fundraiser story.

  • The importance of adding photos and videos

    Humans are visual creatures who love being drawn into a compelling tale, which means that adding images to your fundraiser is a fantastic way to capture the attention of your fundraiser’s visitors and keep them engaged.

    Be sure to use a clear photograph of the person, place, or thing you’re raising money for. This will make your fundraiser look more trustworthy to donors. Be sure to avoid using a logo, a grainy image, or an unrelated image, all of which don’t encourage donations. A smartphone will do just fine, so don’t worry about using a professional photograph if you don’t have one.

    Keep in mind that, along with the title, the image is one of the first things people will see. Not only should you choose a picture that’s relevant to your cause, you should also choose a picture that inspires people or incites strong emotions.

    Videos are also powerful fundraising tools that can elevate your fundraiser to the next level and help donors feel even more connected to your cause. Whether it’s a simple video you recorded on your smartphone, or it’s something more involved—like the creative cartoon in the fundraiser titled “Help Smitha Fight MS”—a video will help get your point across in a compelling way.

man dancing

2. Launch your fundraiser

Now that you’ve added all of your fundraiser information, it’s time to officially launch your fundraiser and share it with your network. Below, we go through the best ways to reach potential donors.

  • Who to share with

    Most of your donations will come directly from friends and family members who know you, so it’s best to start sharing with them first. Doing this builds your fundraiser’s trustworthiness, as people are more willing to donate to someone they don’t know very well if the fundraiser already has donations.

    Once you have those initial donations, you can begin sharing your fundraiser with a wider audience. When you feel ready, ask two or three close friends or family members if they would be willing to share your fundraiser with their social networks. Read more about the five types of donors for online fundraising on our blog, or look through our blog post on creative tips for sharing your fundraiser for some more inspiration.

  • How to write a message to potential donors

    Whether you’re sharing your fundraiser on Facebook, through email, or sending your link in a text message, it’s important that you write a message that encourages people to click through to your fundraiser. If you aren’t exactly sure how to ask for donations, simply think about how you would like to be approached about giving to a fundraiser if the roles were reversed. Here are some other tips:

    • Entice people to click on your fundraiser link by writing a brief introduction that encourages them to keep reading.
    • Explain how important the fundraiser is to you and how much you value their support, even if it’s just to visit the fundraiser and read your story.
    • Try to make your post stand out in some way. This is especially true when sharing on social media, where your post will be one of hundreds in your network’s social media feeds. Using a clever call to action or an emotional introduction can help.
  • Where to share your fundraiser

    There are numerous places to share your fundraiser, so you’ll want to use the avenue that is best for you. In general, anywhere you connect with people you know is a great place to share your fundraiser. Here are the most common ways to get the word out:

    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Instagram
    • Text messages
    • Emails
    • Fundraiser flyers that you post around your community
    • Word of mouth

    One huge benefit of using social media to promote your fundraiser is that it’s a fairly low-effort way to reach a lot of people at once. Read our blog post for more information on fundraising on Facebook, or this post on how to fundraise on Twitter.

  • How often to share your fundraiser

    While you don’t want to bombard people with donation requests, it’s also important to remember that sharing your fundraiser once is not enough to reach your goal. Some people may have the intention to donate but get distracted or busy. Others are hesitant to donate until the fundraiser has already received some support and they know their donation will actually matter. Sharing your fundraiser multiple times is crucial for getting as many people to donate as possible.

    You may also consider sharing on big days that correspond with your fundraiser. For example, if you’re raising money for your friend’s cancer treatment, use cancer awareness days and months to amplify your message.  

people holding hands in a circle

3. How to promote a fundraiser

Once you’ve shared your fundraiser with your close network of friends and family members, you can use the methods below to cast a wider net and reach more potential donors.

  • Share on social media

    Social media is one of the most effective ways of reaching a mass audience at one time, which makes it an ideal way to share your fundraiser. If people leave comments on your fundraiser or social media posts, be sure to respond. Taking the time to engage with your supporters is also another way to turn social media followers into donors, and it also builds trust with them.

    Another benefit of using social media in your fundraising efforts is that it offers plenty of ways to be creative. Here are a few ideas you can use to promote your fundraiser on social media:

    • Create a hashtag for your fundraiser that will make it easy for others to follow along.
    • Ask everyone if they would be willing to forgo their $5 coffee for the day to support your fundraiser instead.
  • Share through email

    If you aren’t very active on Facebook or other social media platforms, it might be better for you to share your fundraiser via email.

    One advantage of sharing your fundraiser through email is that people may be more likely to see an email instead of a Facebook post, which may get lost in the shuffle of their Newsfeed.

    Reaching out to potential donors through email also offers an opportunity to add a personalized touch. A short but thoughtful message that accompanies your request for financial help can make all the difference. If you’re having trouble thinking of how to make your message memorable, then take a look at our blog post on different fundraising email templates you can use in your email outreaches.

  • Get attention from the local media

    Getting local media attention is another way your fundraiser can receive more exposure and gain support from your community. It takes some work to get your fundraiser in the news, but if the local media covers your fundraiser, the payoff will certainly be worth it.

    It’s best to wait until you’ve received some donations to pitch your story to the media, because journalists will want to see that your fundraiser is generating interest in the community. When contacting local journalists, focus on why your story is compelling and why readers would find it interesting—don’t focus on how the media coverage would help you. 

  • Take your sharing offline

    Social media makes sharing easy, but it isn’t the only way to make your fundraiser known. If you’d rather branch out from social media, here are just three of 42 ways to share your fundraiser offline:

    • Make fundraiser flyers that you can post around local businesses.
    • Chat with people in your community. Co-workers, small business owners, and neighbors are all people you can approach and share your fundraiser with. Be sure to have a flyer handy so they can look up your fundraiser online.
    • Call friends and family members to tell them about your cause, then offer to email them your fundraiser link.
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4. Keeping up the donation momentum

If you aren’t sure what to do when your fundraiser stalls, we have some ideas to help your fundraiser pick up steam again.

  • Throw a fundraising event

    If online fundraising has begun to slow, offline fundraising events can help renew interest in your cause and reach potential donors outside of your usual social network. Not only that, but people will realize you’re serious about your fundraiser when they see the effort you’ve devoted to hosting a fundraising event.

    There are plenty of fundraising event ideas to rally the community around your cause offline, but two of the most popular ideas are hosting a potluck or partnering with a local business to host a happy hour or similar event. Getting the community involved offline gives people the opportunity to get to know you in person and connect with your cause, which is important for encouraging recurring giving.

  • Tips for writing fundraiser updates

    Every time you post a fundraiser update, it serves as a little reminder to your donors that you still need help reaching your goal. Another benefit is that it helps people connect and engage with your fundraiser by giving them more content to read. Lastly, updates build credibility if you include pictures and share any progress that was possible because of donations.

    • First, learn how to write a fundraising update that will engage people.
    • Rotate between the types of updates you write. Your updates can be about finances, gratitude, or any recent news related to your cause. You can even simply include a photo with a line of text.
    • Keep updates relatively short and include a photo if you can.
    • Posting an update about once a week is a good goal to aim for.
  • Thank donors

    Expressing gratitude for your donors and their financial contributions is paramount. Everyone loves feeling appreciated when they do something nice, so be sure to send thank you messages. Aside from making your donors feel good, showing them gratitude can actually encourage them to give again.

    Our blog post on how to write a donation thank you letter can provide some guidance if you aren’t sure where to start. And if you’d like to express gratitude with more than just an email, we’ve put together 20 affordable ways to thank your donors.

Finding support through individual fundraising

No matter what your financial needs are, GoFundMe is here to help you along your fundraising journey. Running a successful fundraiser takes some time and vulnerability, but the payoff is worth the effort. Start fundraising for individuals today and receive the financial help you need for causes that are important to you.

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