Back to Blog

Nonprofit Fundraising – Online Versus Traditional

In the modern world of nonprofits, there are a variety of choices for how to raise funds.  Traditional or “offline” methods are still important, but now we also have the ability to do online fundraising, which opens up a whole new world of fundraising possibilities!    

Raising money online is so convenient and affordable that most organizations are hopping on board.   And although online fundraising is typically more cost effective than most traditional methods, the goal for any nonprofit like your own isn’t to choose one method over the other, but rather to discover which fundraising methods work best for you and then only use those that also align with your nonprofit’s internal resources.

Traditional and online methods each have their important place, but it’s up to you to decide how you want to utilize each.  If you haven’t done so already, you should do a retrospective assessment of your fundraising efforts from the past year and grade each based on how successful they were.    

For those who haven’t fully utilized an online fundraising platform yet, but are considering it, we’ve listed some pros and cons of traditional and online fundraising methods to help you wage which aspects of each would be most beneficial to your nonprofit.

Traditional Fundraising- Events

  • Encourages board involvement
  • Attracts new supporters
  • Brings people together for a common goal
  • Raises your nonprofit’s visibility
  • Time consuming
  • Limited to local supporters
  • May not yield a positive return on investment
  • Typically requires a lot of planning, manpower & capital


Traditional Fundraising- Direct Mail

  • Engages past supporters on your mailing list
  • Provides an opportunity for recipients to give
  • Could appeal to recurring donors who are accustomed to direct mail donations and older populations
  • Taxing to internal resources:  Time, money and manpower
  • Requires an investment in printing and mailing supplies
  • May not yield a positive return on investment
  • Donations are limited by the constraints of your direct mailing list
  • Doesn’t cater to those who prefer digital


Online Fundraising

  • Surpasses geographical limitations – Anyone can donate at any time from anywhere
  • Helps attract new supporters
  • Helps you engage with and retain supporters
  • Raises your nonprofit’s visibility
  • Helps keep your contacts, campaigns, and so much more organized
  • Has less financial risk than traditional
  • Caters to millennials and others who prefer the convenience of responding to online appeals
  • Automated functions that save time:  Donor receipts & tax information, thank you emails, donor data collection & record keeping, and more
  • May require some level of tech savvy
  • Financial investment depends on the fundraising platform
  • May require online account maintenance
  • Card processing fees with online transactions (minimal)
  • Donations limited by number of people exposed to the platform – unless paired with offline efforts


A key point to remember is that traditional and online fundraising are both limited to an extent when they’re done exclusively.  There could be people who want to get involved in some way with a really cool event you’re having, but cannot physically be there…  

Do you think they’d be more likely to send you a check in the mail or click a ‘Donate Now’ button on your awesome fundraising page?  With the right online platform, you can make remote people feel like they were still a part of your event.   

And conversely, if you’re limited to only online fundraising efforts, you could be missing out on engaging with important members of your local community who prefer to do things in person or who may not be actively involved online.  Finding the right balance is key to your nonprofit’s future success.  

Ready to reassess your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts?  
Download our free guide:  Create a More Effective Fundraising Plan