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How to Fundraise for Environmental Nonprofit Organizations

April 18, 2023 (6 min read)
Woman in nature

The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing us today. Rising CO2 levels, melting ice caps and deforestation threaten humans and wildlife. And with each passing year, the threat grows.

If you’re fundraising for an environmental nonprofit, there is no more relevant and pressing need. But how do you find and retain donors when there are thousands of environmental nonprofits out there? How do you present this vital need in a way that’s engaging and fun?

At LexisNexis, we know that using an online donor research tool is essential to finding high-potential donors aligned with your organization’s values, but we’re also experts in other ways you can simplify the process of raising money to meet your fundraising goals, so you can focus on moving your mission forward.

The best fundraising ideas for environmental organizations

Protecting our planet is already a worthy cause. Successful fundraising for an environmental nonprofit is about connecting with the right donors, developing strategic campaigns, and utilizing social media and in person events to keep donors involved for years to come.

Identify your audience

Think about your cause and how it differs from other environmental nonprofits. Are you focused on preserving coral reefs? Removing microplastics from the ocean? Protecting endangered species?

Some nonprofits are location specific, such as the Los Padres ForestWatch, which protects wildlife, wilderness, water and sustainable access through the Los Padres National Forest. For these you’ll want to look at prospective donors who live in a specific area or have a personal connection to the cause.

For a nonprofit like the Rainforest Alliance, you’ll want to find donors who are interested in deforestation and conserving the world’s rainforests. Other donors are drawn to social justice oriented nonprofits, like EarthJustice, which litigates environmental issues free of charge.

Once you know who will resonate most with your message, you must learn about their capacity and interest in giving. Using an online donor research tool like Nexis for Development Professionals can make this process simple and effective. Search charitable giving databases, biographies and proprietary company data to build lists of donor prospects, focusing on region or specific interests. 

Develop a plan for environmental fundraising ideas

The key to success is setting achievable fundraising goals and meeting them over and over again.  First, choose a specific goal, like planting a thousand trees or raising money for clean water in Flint, Michigan, then create an appropriate budget and timeline.

Then, assign roles and responsibilities within your organization, depending on the size and scope of the fundraising push. For example, you may want one person dedicated to finding high-potential donors or brand and corporate partnerships, while another team member might work on crowdfunding for smaller donations. Many organizations have at least one employee who applies for grants and writes up proposals for funding.

Consider fundraising on or around Earth Day, April 22nd (though many nonprofits have begun to think of April as “Earth Month”). This is a yearly opportunity to engage existing and prospective donors in a fun and celebratory way.

Some environmental nonprofits, like the Sierra Club, use membership to incentivize recurring donations. Members enjoy special benefits like a magazine subscription, access to members only outdoor trips, or other Sierra Club swag.

Whatever fundraising strategy you choose, getting creative can make it easier to reach and exceed your goals.

MORE: 3 Best Practices for Donor Research and Nonprofit Fundraising

Maximize online fundraising efforts

It’s important to know where your audience lives online. Boomers and other traditional donors often prefer to be contacted via email or on social media platforms like Facebook, while younger donors may prefer TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, or the convenience of text messaging.

Meet your donors where they’re at and create a cohesive digital campaign, using hashtags to expand your reach. Younger generations are increasingly invested in environmental causes, so consider using video content to raise awareness and engage prospective donors.

Video content is ubiquitous because of its efficiency as a storytelling tool. With stunning visuals, music and words, a reel or TikTok video can convey your mission and values in less than a minute.

All fundraising efforts should lead back to your website, which is a landing page for anyone interested in your cause. Make sure it’s accessible to all donors, and your donation button is displayed on every page, customizing it for both mobile and desktop.

In addition to social media platforms, engage donors with email campaigns and virtual fundraising events or experiences. Since the pandemic, virtual panels and Q&As have become a cost-effective way to engage donors all over the world.

MORE: How to Make the Most of Your Nonprofit Fundraising Efforts

Host successful environmental fundraising events

Before planning an environmental fundraising event, be certain it aligns with your organization’s values and mission. The most successful events will be environmentally friendly fundraisers and keep sustainability and conservation top of mind while engaging donors in fun, creative ways.

Consider a used book fundraiser, an electronics drive, planting trees or selling zero footprint products. Plan a fuel-free fundraiser like CicLAvia, a Los Angeles based biking event designed to engage the community and reduce air pollution. At a beach clean-up, volunteers can ask their friends and family to pledge their support. They’ll spend the day removing litter and connecting with like-minded people, while raising vital funds in the process.

Whatever the event, a sponsorship or corporate partnership can help build publicity. Are their brands or companies who have publicly championed your cause? Are their local or national celebrities who have shown an interest in and capacity for giving to your environmental nonprofit? Companies and public figures often have environmental sustainability goals and are willing to partner with organizations as a part of those initiatives.

Build strong relationships with donors

Keep donors informed and engaged with a newsletter or social media posts showcasing the effect their contributions have had. Whenever possible, quantify that impact. How many tons of plastic did your organization remove from the ocean? Did your Meat Free Monday fundraiser prevent 1500+ bathtubs worth of water from going to waste? For example, donors to the National Forest Foundation can “donate” one tree a day for an entire year, to create 365 new trees (since 2018, they’ve planted more than 28 million).

When donors do give, recognize them with a handwritten thank you note or a phone call. Corporate donors and brand partnerships should always be announced with a press release. Remember that volunteers donate their time and energy, which is also valuable, so celebrate them with awards or a special event where they can connect over their shared passion.

When fundraising for environmental nonprofits, building a strong community and culture is essential. Showing your appreciation for your donors and volunteers will keep them engaged for years to come.

Identify brands and companies that have publicly committed to the cause

Partnering with companies that are already interested in your cause will make reaching your fundraising goals exponentially easier. Beyond a simple search, how can you discover brands that align with your core values and mission? How can you be certain you aren’t missing any noteworthy news or risk factors associated with a prospective partner or sponsor?

How to research donors for your nonprofit environmental organization

We must protect our planet. We must work to conserve ecosystems and endangered species—a more cost-effective endeavor than trying to undo the damage we’ve caused. Fundraising for environmental nonprofit organizations has never been more important, and mobilizing donors and prospective donors now can create a sustainable future for everyone on earth.

Let Nexis for Development Professionals® help you reach your goals. The donor profiles will show you an individual’s capacity and interest in giving, along with crucial data about their business ventures, noteworthy news and potential risk factors, so you can be certain you’re getting the most comprehensive data available. Schedule your free demo today.