This section provides ideas and information based on raising funds from individual donations.

It is estimated that individuals donate around £9.5 billion to charity annually, around 1/3 of fundraising charities’ income. Let’s start with an introduction to individual giving.

  • Individual giving refers to the many charitable gifts made by the general public and is by far the largest source of charities’ income from donations.
  • Individual giving and fundraising are two sides of the same coin – most giving is a response to an ‘ask’.
  • People can give in many ways – through cash, cheque, direct debit, credit or debit cards, charity and affinity cards, shares, property and other assets and by setting up charitable trusts.
  • People can give through many routes – post, telephone, banks and, increasingly, online.
  • Fundraisers’ skill is knowing which methods will yield the most in which circumstances  – combining the how, who and what of individual giving.

How do people give?

Cash or non-cash giving? Cash giving is spontaneous, immediately rewarding, and the most popular way of individual giving. Almost half (48%) of individual donors make cash gifts in pubs, shops, churches and club collections, face-to-face fundraising, tins in street collections, in envelopes distributed door-to-door, sponsorships, fundraising events from jumble sales to gala dinners, and one-off initiatives at special occasions.

Planned, committed and regular – or spontaneous giving? The largest gifts are made through non-cash methods such as cheques, direct debits and cards. Sometimes called ‘regular giving’, such approaches involve more considered giving, and usually bigger donations. Cheques are still the most popular non-cash method. But the fastest-growing non-cash approach is direct debit. This is now used by 29% of donors, it is the holy grail of individual giving – regular, committed and longer-term.

Gift Aid 

The most popular approach is Gift Aid, which accounts for 90 per cent of tax-effective giving. Gifts made through Gift Aid mean that the charity can claim up to 25p in the pound back from HMRC on every gift made by a UK tax-payer, a substantial boost. UK charities receive an £850 million pound bonus on individual giving through reclaiming tax. To claim tax back through Gift Aid, charities need a donor to provide basic contact details, and to sign a declaration that he/she is a tax-payer and wants the charity to claim back the tax. For major national TV fundraising campaigns like Comic Relief, this can be done over the telephone, as long as donor details are captured and later followed up. Higher-rate-tax payers get a personal income tax-relief, in addition to the basic rate tax paid back to charities.

Payroll giving

An alternative way for people in work and on PAYE to give regularly and tax-effectively is ‘payroll giving’. Donations to charity are automatically deducted from pay before tax is paid. So, unlike Gift Aid, the tax-relief goes directly to the donor. Some people think this way of giving is a no-brainer, and yet only 3% of the workforce gives in this way. Payroll giving takes a little setting-up, as employers need to sign up to the scheme, and a payroll giving agency is needed to distribute donations. But once it is going, it provides for regular long-term tax-effective giving.

Gifts of shares, and property (and of course, legacies)

Individuals give around £350 million of shares and property to charities each year, attracting personal income tax relief on the full current market value of such gifts. And charitable legacies are exempt from Inheritance Tax.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is talking to supporters so they end up responding with a donation. There’s lots of ways of talking to supporters, the main four are these:

  • mail (often called direct mail)
  • telephone
  • email
  • Social Media – Facebook, SMS, Twitter etc.

Good copy starts with great stories.  You might have a project you need funding for e.g. playground equipment, so you might start by writing to all your members or clients, asking if they can support your project with a donation. Use photos and try to be engaging, and be clear about your ‘ask’.

Local/community fundraising

A local or community approach to fundraising is by definition very specific and targeted. It involves building a relationship between your organisation and the people who give you money and support your aims and activities. Think about your community in broad terms. It could include:

  • individuals: how are you targeting them, communicating with them?
  • companies: approach companies for sponsorship as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
  • government/grant making bodies: what are you entitled to?
  • other organisations: who complement your work.

Choosing fundraising activities – there is a multitude of potential fundraising ideas available. Key points to remember with fundraising activities

  1. Have you run these activities before? Have they worked before? It is safer and normally more effective to improve and expand on an existing method rather than developing new ones which are not tried and tested. However, if you are reliant on only one method, then add another in case your main method hits a downturn.
  2. How suitable are your activities? For example, a faith organisation may not want to run lotteries as gambling is against its principles.
  3. Manage and predict your budget. This is crucial and has to be realistic based on previous activities. If it is the first time you have run something like this, then ask other organisation’s for their figures and reduce the figure by 30-40%. You will need to think about:
  • What is your total projected income?
  • What is your total cost?
  • What is your net contribution (the money that you have available to carry out the aims and goals of the organisation ) or why are you fundraising in the first place?
  1. Work with your community to develop a plan of activities which appeal to them! It’s all very well coming up with a great plan, but if it doesn’t work for your community, it doesn’t work.

Fundraising events

Numerous small events are labour intensive but can turn around money quickly. Example include:

  • lotteries and raffles
  • fairs, street parties, fetes and bazaars
  • collections: street, in churches/shops, house-to-house, work
  • sponsored events (swims, walks, pub crawls, etc.)

Large events are complex to organise and plan but can generate significant money. Examples include:

  • organised bike rides/fun runs
  • dinner dances/gala ball/other fundraising events.

Be sure to tell people about what you are doing: get local press involved, include community leaders, pay for advertising. Use your website if you have one, to check information and pass on information.

Implementing your fundraising activities

Make sure:

  • someone is in charge and that they and everyone else know!
  • that they know the budget and the limits of their authority
  • that they have a timetable of what needs to be done by when
  • that they have a team of volunteers helping them
  • that they know to whom to turn if they have unresolved problems or need to check something out or just need support
  • in particular that they have the name and telephone number of the person who ran the activity last time
  • that they and their team are always thinking of what the people who are likely to give are wanting from the activity – they have to be donor focused.


Collections can be an effective way of raising money. They can be cheap to run and can also help raise your profile within your area. Standing on your local high street means you can directly talk to people and let them know what you do.


How to run a collection – Other than the initial costs of buying tins/buckets for people to put their money in, there is little financial outlay. There is a big cost in time and people. Think about the following to get the most out of your collection:

  • law: follow the face-to-face fundraising code (Institute of Fundraising)
  • location: where can you find lots of passing trade who are likely to give money? Think about your cause and where you can find people who are likely to be sympathetic to it.
  • permission: get permission from the supermarket/station where you plan to stand
  • timing: 9am on a Monday morning may not be the best time to stand outside a station.
  • Safety: always collect in pairs (at least).

Think about when people will have time to engage with you.

  • people: finding people to volunteer to rattle a tin in the rain can be a hard ask, agree how long they will be needed for and promise to buy them a cup of tea during/afterwards!
  • getting donations: make it clear what you are raising money for. You could wear tabbards/t-shirts with your logo on, get a sign, wear costumes or do something to show people what you are about.
  • information: if you have flyers or promotional items to give away (even stickers) people are more likely to remember you. Be prepared to answer questions about what your organisation will do with the money.
  • the money: who is going to sort and bank all the coins?

Other types of collections

  • House-to-house collections: knocking on doors asking for money.
  • Paid for collections: paying people to raise through collection tins for you.
  • Leaving collecting tins in shops/schools/churches where people are likely to donate spare change.

Legacy fundraising

Legacies are a major source of income for many non profits. Effective legacy marketing and promotion can pull in legacies quicker than most people think (as soon as two years) but it is a medium term strategy.

Many non profits benefit from legacies not just charities, but the charity sector is a major beneficiary getting a round 6-7% of their income from this source. While nonprofits of all sizes benefit from legacies, the larger household names benefit most. But this need not be so. Smaller organisation’s which have good affinity with supporters can achieve legacy income if they seek it appropriately, but relatively few do seek out legacies.

There are two kinds of legacies:

  • Pecuniary legacies are where someone, in a will, specifies that, say, £2,000 should be left to a person or organisation.
  • Residuary legacies are where, after all the pecuniary legacies have been paid out, the remainder (i.e. residuary) of the dead persons estate goes to a person of organisation.

The codicil is a short, simple legal document which can be appended to a will which can easily amend an existing will to add a fixed sum (effectively a donation) to be given to a nonprofit

Getting started with legacies – If you are at the beginning of seeking legacies actively, the best place to start is among your existing supporters and/or existing service users. Tell them clearly how they can mention you in their will and encourage them to tell you, so as you can build a relationship.

Digital fundraising

There are more ways than ever before to raise money online. That can be empowering for charities, especially those with limited budgets, but it can also be hard knowing where to begin. Some types of digital fundraising include:

  • Websites
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Emails

In terms of online fundraising, you may be asking for:

  • giving a one-off donation
  • setting up a regular donation
  • signing up to an event (marathon, trek) and getting sponsorship
  • buying merchandise through an online shop
  • finding out about how to leave a legacy

What makes for an effective digital fundraising?

  1. Clarity and ease of use – Make sure it’s instantly clear to supporters where they can donate by having a “donate now” button, and consider a dedicated donation tab.
  1. Information – If you’re asking for money, you’ll need to prove it’s being put to good use. Your website should contain information about your aims, work and reputation. It should also contain the kind of engaging content – photos, video, audio, and case studies – that will support your case.
  1. Include offline options – Don’t just provide facilities for those giving electronically: ensure your website includes information for people who wish to give by phone or post. And, particularly in the case of legacies, trusts, major donations etc. provide a named contact as donors may want to talk through the process. Finally, remember not to exclude those wishing to donate in other ways: for example, offer the means to register interest in volunteering.

A good example of a fund raising website is JustGiving which allows you to create a page for your charity or group and then share it through friends and other networking sites to raise money. More information on this scheme can be found at:

A-Z of fundraising ideas | Budgets | Corporate Donations and Sponsorship | Funding Sources – where to look for support | How to Fundraise in Tough Times | How to Write an Annual Report | How to Write an E-Newsletter | Individual and Small-scale Giving | Local Authority Funding | Local Community Foundations | Online Fundraising | Running Local Events | The Big Lottery Fund | Using Social Media | Using Volunteers | Writing and Application to a Charitable Trust | Writing Effective Fundraising Letters |

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