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8 Growth Tips From Top Nonprofits

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Published October 9, 2017 Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Classy 100 was created to showcase the top 100 nonprofits who grew their revenue on Classy in 2016. Aside from celebrating these organizations’ accomplishments, the Classy 100 also serves as a strong set of examples for other growth-focused nonprofits.

Below, we dig into the goals these organizations set for themselves, the tactics they used to achieve their goals, and the main takeaway from each example that you can apply to your own strategy. We also pair the growth tips with a resource to help you go even further in your own quest to scale.

1. All Hands Volunteers


All Hands Volunteers wanted to recruit and engage peer-to-peer fundraisers to generate $5,000 a month in peer-to-peer revenue. They identified their volunteers—who help people living in disaster zones—as strong fundraising candidates, but needed to guide them to success.


All Hands Volunteers asked their volunteers to create personal fundraising pages and begin raising money before they went into these disaster zones. This made each volunteer’s personal story even more compelling and showcased their impact to groups of untapped supporters, who became new sources of revenue for the organization.

When the volunteers went into disaster zones, All Hands Volunteers established a team on-site to assist them with any issues, technical or otherwise, they might encounter with their personal campaign pages. The organization also placed a heavy emphasis on celebrating their volunteers’ fundraising progress and impact.

The organization’s volunteers now raise $30,000 to $40,000 a month, well beyond All Hands’ initial goal.


Potential peer-to-peer fundraisers are everywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask different groups of supporters, like your volunteers, to create their own pages and fundraise for you. Just make sure to supply them with the support they need to be successful, and sustain positive momentum by celebrating their progress and impact.

Read Next: 5 Ways to Turn Volunteers Into Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers

2. Teach for America


Teach for America wanted to increase their grassroots alumni fundraising revenue while acquiring new annual donors and upgrading existing donors. To accomplish this, they planned to launch their largest ever alumni giving program using peer-to-peer fundraising.


The national and regional development, marketing, and communications teams at Teach for America rallied to promote their newly launched alumni giving campaign to everyone in their network. All 53 regions of Teach for America participated in this campaign.

In six weeks, the organization doubled their revenue from the previous year’s alumni giving push and tripled their number of alumni donors. The campaign also re-engaged existing, inactive supporters to support again.


If you deal with chapters, regions, or multiple networks of donors, create a unified national and regional campaign that engages everyone together. This can help build a sense of community that bonds your supporters as they work towards a common goal.

Download Now: The Anatomy of a Successful Peer-to-Peer Campaign

3. Urban Ecology Center


The Urban Ecology Center wanted to improve and grow their online presence by harnessing peer-to-peer fundraising, consistently following up with supporters, and thanking supporters for their hard work.


First, they created a fundraising campaign calendar that mapped out their yearly efforts and appeals that would be sent to supporters. This calendar also included specific touch points for the organization to reach out and talk to their donors, whether they were asking for a gift or not.

From there, they shifted the focus towards building a stewardship plan designed to make every member of the Urban Ecology Center feel recognized. For example, the organization would share stories and experiences that showcased their supporters’ impact and create specially branded items and swag to show appreciation.


A strong focus on donor stewardship and acknowledgement can make your supporters feel appreciated. Show your thanks in fun and unique ways—everything from exclusive incentives to simply dropping in to say, “Hi.”

Download Now: The Donor Retention Handbook

4. Art Start


Art Start wanted to shift their fundraising strategy to focus more on individual and monthly donors. To do that, they needed to design and launch a new monthly giving campaign that would attract these supporters.


Before they did anything, Art Start knew this project would require an investment in key hires to join their team. They brought on a development and marketing manager, as well as a graphic designer, to create high-quality and easily managed campaigns.

They rebranded their monthly donor campaign with giving tiers and impact goals that encouraged site visitors to take action. Strong campaign design and narratives like this, paired with consistent email communications about the campaign, led to their most successful end-of-year campaign ever and a 165 percent growth in revenue.


Try to identify the gaps in your current fundraising strategy and assess how you can fill them. Do you need to head in a completely different direction, or is it something that would most warrant the expertise of new staff? If you hire new team members, evaluate how they’ll fit into the role you need and your nonprofit’s culture.

Read Next: How Hiring For Culture Fit Reduces Nonprofit Turnover

5. School the World


As a small nonprofit, School the World felt it was time to expand their reach to a larger network of donors than they had previously engaged with. The goal was to promote their mission on a global scale through a general donation page and peer-to-peer campaigns.


The first move they made was to hire a professional ad agency and production house that helped them create a high-quality video. This video linked out to their Classy donation page, and as it spread it brought in new audiences of peer-to-peer fundraisers.

A strong focus on stewarding these incoming fundraisers has helped grow the number of personal fundraising pages created 25 percent year over year. Specifically, the organization coached them on how to engage their social networks for more donations.


First and foremost, make it easy for people to support your campaign by putting calls to action on all marketing materials. If you’re looking to increase peer-to-peer fundraisers, make sure you have clear calls to action to fundraise on your website, in your emails, on your blog, and other communications. Then provide them with the tools and communications they need to crush their fundraising goals.

Send to Your Fundraisers: How to Raise Money for the Causes You Love

6. Construction for Change


More than anything, Construction for Change needed to build an effective communications strategy that drove growth and unearthed new fundraising opportunities.


In order to maintain consistent touch points with their different supporter groups, Construction for Change had to track, and then segment, their donor information. They identified four different donor categories and then assigned a specific goal for each one:

  • Retain monthly donors
  • Convert irregular donors into regular monthly donors
  • Re-engage lapsed donors
  • Engage with new monthly donors

This allowed the organization to personalize their communications and cater calls to action that resonated with the specific needs of each group.


Segmenting your donors by category is the first step, but don’t forget to attach a purpose to each group. For example, if you want to attract new supporters, determine whether you want them to become peer-to-peer fundraisers, monthly donors, or one-time donors.

Download Now: Communication Strategy Guide for Nonprofits

7. League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue)


The League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue) had two driving goals: increase the number of online donations they received and increase the amount of each gift.


This was the first time the League had done an online-only fundraising campaign, and they decided that strengthening their social media presence would lead them to success.

First, they tested the waters of online giving by reaching out to dedicated constituents—not unlike a soft launch. The group of supporters were so receptive, and the campaign so successful, that it paved the way for a second, broader online-only campaign. This time, they promoted the campaign to all their social media audiences. Through dedicated outreach to existing supporters, and engagement with potential new ones, they generated a 538 percent increase in revenue.


If you don’t ask for support, people won’t know you need it. Your use of social media is key in spreading your message to networks of existing and new support. When you write your messages, include strong calls to action that give people a reason to donate. For example, show them what specific impact, in images or through stories, they create by supporting your campaign.

Download Now: The BIG Guide to Social Media for Nonprofits

8. Grameen America


Grameen America’s primary goal was to increase their revenue by creating a simple, intuitive, visually appealing donation experience for new and existing supporters.


They created a new campaign that strengthened their brand, focused communications, and enabled donors to feel connected to the people Grameen America serves. Aside from that effort, they also expanded their use of storytelling and images to help communicate that gifts of every size have a powerful impact on the program.

Their development and communications team worked to create and align external messaging and materials to encourage new and existing donors to their Classy campaign. Any external communications included a call to action to donate on the campaign page.


Use powerful images and stories to emphasize the impact supporters create by participating in your campaign. Your donors need to feel connected to the movement you create.

Download Now: The Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling


If you’re interested in reading more about these organizations, as well as the other 92 nonprofits that grew consistently on Classy in 2016, head over to the Classy 100 site. Get detailed breakdowns of their monthly and yearly revenue growth, more resources, and a wealth of growthtips for how you can keep growing.

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