The questions to ask before starting a DIY program

Ed Lord

Ed Lord

Chief Strategy Officer

Some nonprofits shy away from starting a DIY program because they fear it’s going to be as costly as creating a new signature event or that it’ll cannibalize their annual events. If you’ve been reluctant for these reasons, you’ll be happy to find it’s proven that neither are true. DIY has been a cost-effective way to diversify revenue and add new donors for many organizations.

One thing I’ve seen in successful DIY programs is that they started with a strong understanding of expectations. Here are the questions to ask when building a DIY program:


  • What do you want DIY to accomplish? DIY can be successful at creating a new way for current supporters to reach out to family and friends for donations, to reactivate lapsed event participants, or to acquire new supporters.
  • What kind of DIY campaigns will you offer? Nonprofits commonly set up DIY as a do-your-own-anything program, but more recently we’ve seen DonorDrive clients also offering a structured form of DIY that’s focused on campaigns like birthdays or memorials, or even fundraising on a certain day. Giving supporters a choice of which programs their fundraising supports has also been a big success. Choices on which parts of your mission a supporter wants to advocate for makes them better fundraisers and can create a longer-term commitment. 


  • Who do you want to fundraise through DIY? Lapsed participants and supporters who are looking to help your cause in their own way, as well as those who may support your cause, but are not interested in event participation are good candidates. DIY has also been a great success for finding unknown cause advocates, people you may not have found without a DIY program.
  • How will your program be managed? Most nonprofits manage DIY from the national office, but many are finding that empowering chapters and affiliates to run their own DIY programs can help drive success.
  • Will you dedicate staff to DIY? You get out what you put in. Having a full-time staffer guiding a DIY program as part of their job has proven to be a big success.
  • Will you brand it effectively? Branding a DIY program with a strong identity helps ensure that its presence will be known and shared via social media.
  • When will you launch your program? Unlike events, DIY can be promoted all year long. Launching is best during your least-active fundraising season, so the program gets maximum visibility.


  • How will you promote your DIY program? Successful ways to reach the event participants and donors you already know include email campaigns and social media posts.
  • How will you market your DIY program? Paid marketing is a necessity to make new supporters aware of your DIY program. Retargeting ads has proven a great vehicle for reaching lapsed participants.
  • What’s your budget? Dedicating dollars to promoting social posts and buying ads on Facebook or buying Google AdWord ads will put your DIY campaign in front of a targeted audience that's more likely to sign up.


  • What does success look like? Metrics of participants, donors and dollars are a good place to start. One of the most important metrics of any new fundraising program is, of course, its ability to acquire donors. 
  • What’s the value of a DIY supporter? Though your DIY program could be small in the beginning, this growing group can have a big impact through their fundraising.

Value Building

  • Will you do annual events to build support for the program? #GivingTuesday, the longest day of the year, Memorial Day have all been occasions to build DIY programs around a date on the calendar. However, even if you highlight a given day, DIY programs should be available to supporters all year. 
  • Will you ask DIY campaigners to do it again next year? You might be surprised at the positive response.
  • Will you use DIY as a gateway to further giving? DIY often introduces you to new donors. It can provide an opportunity to encourage them to give monthly or annually.
  • How will you acknowledge and recognize DIY supporters? A DIY campaigner raises more than five times what an event participant does and deserves appropriate recognition for their contribution.
  • Will you continue to grow you program? Since DIY is so flexible, there are many opportunities to take it to the next level.

Laying everything out of the table like this is very helpful aligning everyone’s expectations and getting full-staff buy in for the program you intend to build.

You can’t be afraid of DIY. It’s not some mysterious unknown. It may be new to your organization, but it’s a proven program and a powerful revenue stream for nonprofits that have put the necessary thought and resources behind it.

Need a solid plan to create a DIY program? Check out our new eBook, The Complete Guide to Building a DIY Program.

Ready to explore how DonorDrive can help you?