Passive Fundraising


[Note: This article is aimed at non-profit organizations’ staff or volunteers. If you’re an individual who wants to  know how to support your favorite charity, you’ll prefer this article on Supporting Charities While You Shop.]

Passive fundraising opportunities can be easy ways for charitable organizations to bring in more funds. But be aware, the passive part means that it’s easy for the organization and for the individual who supports you. (One website calls them “set and forget” programs, because once you set them up, then they just keep happening in the background.) But, in order for these to be truly successful, you can’t be passive: you need to actively promote these programs to your supporters, and they need to be encouraged to actively remember to use them.

The basic idea is that when your supporter does something they would do anyway (like shop at their favorite store, dine out, do an internet search, or buy a product), your organization gets a financial benefit – for example, with a dining program, when they pay for food at a restaurant, the restaurant shares a portion of the proceeds with your organization. Many of the programs require that users do a small extra step (register, click on a special link, collect a box top) for this to work. So, your goal is encouraging them to do so.

Here are a few of the available options:

Amazon Smile, Amazon Associate

You can sign up for Amazon Smile at Then tell your supporters about it! They  log-on at and choose you as their charity.  In the future whenever they start their Amazon shopping at, then your charity automatically gets 0.5% of the money they spend.  So, if they spend $20, they get a dime. Not big money by any means, but every little bit helps, right?

It is MUCH better for you to use the Amazon Associates program. You simply put a special Amazon logo / link somewhere on your website. Tell your supporters that when they’re ready to shop on Amazon, they first to to your website and click on that link to get to Amazon. Then shop from there like they always would and check out just like normal. Your organization will magically receive up to 10% of what you spend (depends on the category of item you buy).

With the Associates program, you can just put a banner ad (like on my church’s website, you’ll see the Amazon logo in the top left corner), and/or you can link to specific products. For example, you could add a link to a book you’ll be using for an upcoming class, or the boots you recommend for outdoor preschool. If anyone clicks on that link, then even if they end up buying the insulated coffee cup they’ve been meaning to buy, you get a portion of the money. (FYI, individuals can also have Associate accounts. The sample links I just put there are for my Amazon Associates account that supports my blogs… I just wanted you to see what it looks like.)

eScrip, eDining, and Benefit app

When your supporters dine out, or shop at Target, Starbucks, Safeway, Petco, CVS, and MANY more , a portion of the money they spend will go  to your organization!

First, go to to sign up. Once you’re registered, tell your supporters to sign up and choose your organization. Here’s how they can use the program:

  • Partner stores – check their list of affiliated merchants. If your supporters register with them, then a percentage of their purchases go to your organization.
  • eScrip Dining – supporters register the credit card(s) they use when they dine out. If they eat at participating restaurants, your organization gets 2.5%.
  • Benefit App – supporters download the Benefit mobile app. This allows them to purchase gift cards on their mobile device, and you get a cut. To get the best results, encourage them to think of it this way: when they are about to spend money anyway, they can buy themselves a gift card, and then use that at the store. Doesn’t cost them anything, and you get 3 – 7%. See more examples.

Grocery Store Rewards Programs and Shoparoo

Several chains offer loyalty card fundraisers. Once your supporter takes the simple step of registering for the program, then every time they go to the grocery store, you benefit. This is easy for supporters, and an on-going source of support for you. Check this list of Grocery Store Fundraising Programs, or ask your local grocer.

If you’re working with a school, you might instead choose to encourage your supporters to use Shoparoo. I have not used it, but apparently it’s a free smartphone app where they upload a photo of their shopping receipt (from stores like Safeway, Costco, Walmart, CVS, and many more), then Shoparoo sends donations to the school of their choice.

Goodsearch, Goodshop, Gumdrop

Go to to sign up. Then tell your supporters to go to to register and choose you. Then they can use these programs:

  • goodsearch – Instead of using Google or Bing, they go to It works just like any search engine (it’s powered by Yahoo), but the charity gets one cent for every search.
  • goodshop – When shopping online, they can search here for coupons to the online store. If they use one, your organization gets a portion of the income, and they benefit from the coupon.
  • gumdrop – They install the gumdrop app, and it will put a gumdrop icon in the task bar at the top of their browser. If they go to a site where coupons are available, the gumdrop turns pink. If they use the coupon, your organization gets income.

Restaurant Fundraisers

Several restaurants offer options. Here’s a few examples: Pagliacci Pizza will donate pizza that you can sell. Jamba Juice has rewards cards, where the school gets 10%, Panera and Red Robin does spirit nights where 20% of proceeds go to the hosting group who recruited their supporters to come in, Applebees has flapjack fundraisers, where your group “takes over” the restaurant when they would normally be closed. These can offer a good combination of fun social activity and fundraiser.

Office Depot, Office Max

When supporters buy qualifying school supplies, your school can get 5% of the purchase price credited to them for your school supply needs. Learn more.

Shutterfly / Lifetouch

When your supporters design Christmas cards, calendars, and other photo gifts, this program will donate a percentage of purchase to schools that have set up the program. (13% in 2018, 8% in the future.)

How do these programs work??

Basically, any time you encourage someone to “shop at Amazon to benefit our program” or “eat at Panera to support our program”, you’re advertising Amazon or Panera. So, the store that pays the reward is paying something like a referral bonus to thank you for sending customers their way.

When you participate in these programs, you’re in some ways putting your organization’s “stamp of approval” on that business. So, you may want to put some serious thought into what messages you’re sending. For example, Campaign for a Commercial Free America offers perspective on why they would like to stop McDonald’s McTeachers’ Nights, and the Nonprofit Chronicles blog offers this perspective on Why Amazon Smile doesn’t make me smile.

Personally, I think if there is a business that you are comfortable with encouraging people to use, and that business gives back a portion of their proceeds, then it’s a good fundraising option for you.

Note: these passive fundraisers are a good option, but they don’t replace traditional giving! Your supporters would have to spend hundreds of dollars in some of these programs to net your program $20. So, in your messaging, don’t imply that this is all they need to do. Sell these programs as “in addition to your regular giving, here’s how you can steer a little extra money our way without costing you anything or taking much effort.”