How to Make Your Fundraising Efforts Go Viral

Today's guest post is from Joe Garecht. Joe is the founder of The Fundraising Authority, a website that offers free articles and advice on raising money for small and medium-sized non-profits. He's got some great tips on positioning your fundraising appeal to go viral!

by Joe Garecht

Viral marketing is the holy grail of online salesmanship. Having a product, game, or website go viral…that is, be passed on and promoted by word of mouth, personal e-mail forwards, and social media recommendations…is the quickest, cheapest way to spread the message about your product or service.

The benefits of viral marketing don’t stop with online retailers, however. Non-profits of all sizes can and use the same tactics to make their fundraising campaigns spread like wildfire, being passed on from person to person and group to group.

If you’d like to see your fundraising campaign go viral, either online or off, be sure to follow these important tips:

  1. Make Your Ask Bite-Sized

    $10,000 asks don’t go viral; $10 asks do. If you’re trying to start a viral fundraising campaign, make your asks bite-sized and concrete:

    • $10 to buy a mosquito net and stave off malaria…
    • $27 to send 3 kids to school for a week…
    • $5 to feed one family for one day.
  2. Find “Sneezers”

    There’s nothing a virus likes more than a good sneeze, spreading the germs far and wide. The same is true for your viral fundraising effort. Find supporters who are good sneezers… that is, who have a broad network and aren’t shy about promoting your charity. Task these supporters with heading up your viral campaign and spreading the word about your efforts.

  3. Boil Down Your Message

    Viral marketing relies on good, succinct, easy to explain concepts. Make sure that everyone who is working on your fundraising campaign can quickly, accurately, and passionately describe the need. Instead of, “Our organization was founded in 1924 by three Philadelphia social workers for the purposes of collaborating with…” use, “We save kids from starving. $12 will feed a child for a week. We have a child who needs your $12 today!”

  4. Make it Easy to Give

    Be sure that you make it as easy as possible to give. If you’re running a viral fundraising effort, set up a separate web page that allows people to give directly to the campaign easily and in the right chunks. For example, if you’re raising $25 donations to pay for vaccinations, this campaign-specific page should ask how many vaccinations the donor wants to sponsor… 10 for $25, 20 for $50, etc. (For more information on setting up great fundraising pages, read Fundraising on the Internet).

Contrary to conventional wisdom, having one of your fundraising campaigns go viral isn’t going to just “happen.” It takes a lot of forethought and planning, and a good deal of work on the part of your non-profit to help spread the word and light a fire that gets supporters to spread your message. Once your fundraising virus starts to spread, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of your initial planning and groundwork.

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Great tips, thank you! Aside from the bite-sized ask, I think they apply to fundraising campaigns generally. Especially boiling down the message and making it easy to give. Absolutely crucial.

  2. So hard to predict what will go viral and what will just sink. Having promoters, or 'sneezers' is essential. As is boiling the message down to its core essence (tip 3). So much of the time we insist on making things complicated and trying to explain everything. Thanks for these great tips!

What would you add?