Some examples of charitable organizations include student scholarship merit awards for athletic or academic achievement, humanitarian concerns, disaster relief, human rights, research, and other social issues.
Many non-profit organizations take advantage of the services of professional fundraisers. These fundraisers may be paid for their services either through fees unrelated to the amounts of money to be raised, or by retaining a percentage of raised funds (percentage-based compensation). The latter approach is expressly forbidden under the Code of Ethics of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), a professional membership body.
Many non-profit organizations nonetheless engage fundraisers who are paid a percentage of the funds they raise. In the United States, this ratio of funds retained to funds passed on to the non-profit is subject to reporting to a number of state's Attorneys General. This ratio is highly variable and subject to change over time and place, and it is a point of contention between a segment of the general public and the non-profit organizations.
Equally important are fundraising efforts by virtually every recognized religious group throughout the world. These efforts are organized on a local, national, and global level. Sometimes, such funds will go exclusively toward assisting the basic needs of others, while money may at other times be used only for evangelism. Usually, religious organizations mix the two, which can sometimes cause tension.
Fundraising also plays a major role in political campaigns. This fact, despite numerous campaign finance reform laws, continues to be a highly controversial topic in American politics. Political action committees (PACs) are the best-known organizations that back candidates and political parties, though others such as 527 groups also have an impact. Some advocacy organizations conduct fundraising for or against policy issues in an attempt to influence legislation.
While public broadcasters are completely government-funded in much of the world, there are many countries where some funds must come from donations from the public. Pledge drives commonly occur about three times each year, usually lasting one to two weeks each time. Viewership and listenership often declines significantly during funding periods, so special programming may be aired in order to keep regular viewers and listeners interested.
Organizations in the United States established for charitable purposes are allowed to raise funds from many sources. They are given a specific designation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), commonly noted as 501(c)(3) organizations. Other nonprofits such as fraternal associations have different IRS designations, and may or may not be eligible to fundraise. Financial information on many nonprofits, including all nonprofits that file annual IRS 990 forms is available from GuideStar.
Many non-profit organizations receive some annual funding from a financial endowment, which is a sum of money that is invested to generate an annual return. Although endowments may be created when a sizable gift is received from an individual or family, often as directed in a will upon the death of a family member, they more typically are the result of many gifts over time from a variety of sources.
A capital campaign is when fundraising is conducted to raise major sums for a building or endowment, and generally keep such funds separate from operating funds. These campaigns encourage donors to give more than they would normally give and tap donors, especially corporations and foundations who would not otherwise give.
Special events are another method of raising funds. These range from formal dinners to benefit concerts to walkathons. Events are used to increase visibility and support for an organization as well as raising funds.
While fundraising often involves the donation of money as an out-right gift, money may also be generated by selling a product of some kind, also known as product fundraising. When goods are donated to an organization rather than cash, this is called an in-kind gift. Girl Scouts of the USA are well-known for selling cookies in order to generate funds. It is also common to see on-line impulse sales links to be accompanied by statements that a proportion of proceeds will be directed to a particular charitable foundation.
A number of charities and non-profit organizations are increasingly using the internet as a means to raise funds; this practice is referred to as online fundraising. For example the NSPCC operates a search engine which generates funds via Pay per click links.
Some of the most substantial fundraising efforts in the United States are conducted by colleges and universities. Commonly the fundraising, or 'development' program, makes a distinction between annual fund appeals and major campaigns.
The donor base (often called a file) for higher education includes alumni, parents, friends, private foundations, and corporations. Gifts of appreciated property are important components of such efforts because the tax advantage they confer on the donor encourages larger gifts. The process of soliciting appreciated assets is called planned giving.
The classic development program at institutions of higher learning include prospect identification, prospect research and verification of the prospect's viability, cultivation, solicitation, and finally stewardship, the latter being the process of keeping donors informed about how past support has been used.