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Do you have a platform where individuals and/or organizations can create wishlists? Consider sponsoring this fundraising idea to make more connections!

How Do I Start a Wishlist Fundraiser?

Wishlist fundraisers are easy to run, once you get started using these 4 steps:

1. Find a platform to make your list

Especially if you’re doing a wishlist fundraiser on behalf of an organization, you have options on where to make your list. Amazon may seem like the obvious choice, but there are also other fundraising platforms that can help your organization make wishlists that draw from a variety of websites. You could also put product links on your organization’s website, although this method can be time-consuming and hard to navigate.

Individuals doing a wishlist fundraiser will probably want to use Amazon since they’ll provide the most support and make your list easy to share with friends and family.

2. Pick your wishlist items

When deciding what to include on your wishlist, you’ll need to be deliberate above all else. Supporters won’t want to contribute if they feel like your list is disorganized or don’t understand why you need each item.

Some wishlist creation best practices include the following:

  • Limit the number of items to the most necessary ones. The best number of items for your wishlist will depend on your cause, but putting more than 100 on to start will be overwhelming for supporters. Make sure that everything you include will be useful for your cause and isn’t explicitly covered in another area of your budget.
  • Describe why you’re asking for each item. While the purpose of some items on your wishlist might seem obvious to you, it may not be to supporters. Write a quick description of each item (for example, “surge protector—needed for Wi-Fi setup in new building”) so that supporters know exactly where their money is going.
  • Put the most important items at the top of the list. Some supporters are going to choose items deliberately based on cost or interest, but others will probably just buy the first thing they see. To ensure that you get the most essential items for your cause, order your wishlist from highest to lowest importance.
  • Vary your wishlist prices, but don’t ask for anything extremely expensive. Participants in wishlist fundraisers are usually looking to give small or medium amounts of money. A new set of computers or a bus for your organization might be better suited to a different fundraiser. So, your wishlist can range in price from a few dollars to maybe a few hundred dollars, depending on your needs and supporter base.

These best practices will vary based on your purpose, but they’re a good place to start when you set up your fundraiser.

3. Spread the word

Once you’ve made your list, it’s time to start fundraising! Like other virtual fundraisers, your wishlist will require a decent amount of online marketing—get people’s attention early and often.

These are 3 of the best ways to advertise wishlist fundraisers:

  • Social media. Your social media followers are a large, easily accessible base of virtual supporters that you’ll want to tap into. Check that all your posts about the wishlist are shareable so your followers can spread the word to their friends and family, and either include the link itself in the post or refer back to a link in your bio.
  • Personalized emails. Ask the people you think are most likely to contribute to do so in a personal way. For individuals, this might be your closest friends and family members. For organizations, review your donor data to find frequent contributors.
  • Links in other marketing materials. Organizations need to remember that a wishlist fundraiser is a fundraiser like any other, and you’ll want to promote it as such. Put the link to your wishlist in an easy-to-find place on your website, add it to newsletters, and even print the URL in direct mail if it’s easy enough to type.

If you advertise your fundraiser in more than one way, keep track of how many people donate through each platform. Organizations looking to make wishlist fundraisers into a yearly initiative will want this data so you know which methods to focus on in the future. For individuals, it’s more of a point of interest than anything else.

4. Thank your contributors

One limitation of wishlist fundraisers is that you often can’t set up an automatic thank-you message to be sent to anyone who donates. So, you’ll need to get creative when thanking contributors.

Personalized thank-you notes go a long way in making supporters feel appreciated. Send individual emails—or even handwritten cards—to supporters. If you don’t have time to send a personal note to everyone, at least send them to the people who bought the biggest items on your list.

You can also create a more general thank-you message on social media. This could be a video of you excitedly opening boxes or photos of the items in use. But however you decide to thank your contributors, their support through a wishlist fundraiser will help your cause in a tangible way.

Why Do Wishlist Fundraisers Work?

When you consider whether a wishlist fundraiser will help your organization, you’ll probably weigh it against some other options, like an in-kind donation drive or just collecting monetary donations. But a wishlist solves several problems that come up with these other fundraisers.

Although you can give general ideas when you collect in-kind donations in other ways, you can’t be as specific about what you want as you can be with a wishlist. You also won’t end up with too many of the same item if you state exactly how many you need on your list. Wishlists are more convenient for supporters too, since they can buy an item from anywhere and have it shipped right to your address, instead of having to go to a store or get something delivered to their house before bringing it to you themselves. 

You also might attract more supporters with a wishlist fundraiser than with requests for monetary donations. Sometimes people are hesitant to give money when they don’t know exactly what it’ll be used for. Wishlists take away that uncertainty since supporters pick the specific item they want to put their money towards.

Who Holds Wishlist Fundraisers?

One thing that makes wishlist fundraisers special is how well they work for individuals. If you’re an entrepreneur starting your own business or a new teacher stocking your classroom, sending out a wishlist will defray some of the costs that would have come out of your own pocket.

But certain organizations can also benefit from wishlist fundraisers, especially these:

  • Schools. If you need supplies for a special project or new sports equipment, make a wishlist of the items you need.
  • Churches/religious groups. Wishlists can help you get specific religious books that you want several copies of or are hard to find, or materials that you need for new initiatives.
  • Nonprofits. Use a wishlist to request specific high-need items for food pantries, clothing drives, animal shelters, etc.