Online Fundraising: 4 Best Practices to Boost Donations
Though many nonprofits still bring in donations the old-fashioned way, online fundraising can be a cost-effective, quick way to boost revenue and can open up a world of possibilities for your organization.
While any organization can benefit from online fundraising, each nonprofit finds success through different online strategies. However, there are a few consistent best practices that can yield positive results for any size nonprofit, such as:
- Implementing donor management technology.
- Developing an effective digital marketing strategy.
- Setting up multiple donation platforms.
- Creating an engaging website.
Transitioning your fundraising to online platforms can help to significantly boost the visibility of nonprofits of all sizes. Make sure you’re implementing these effective online practices to make the most of your opportunities!
1. Implement donor management technology.
What better place is there to start boosting donations than with your existing donor network? Managing donors is something every nonprofit has to do if they care anything at all about retaining their support.
Smaller nonprofits may be able to handle this without any extra help, but as they grow, they’ll need a better system for keeping up with their donors and establishing deep relationships with them. That’s when donor management technology comes in handy!
A donor database allows you to manage all your key donor information in one central location. That way, you can pull whatever information you need right when you need it. Once you’ve implemented a CRM or another database solution, you can build out your toolkit to better appeal to your supporters.
One database feature any nonprofit can benefit from are those designed to support prospect research. This is a process used to gain deeper insight into who your donors are and how they like to give, ideally allowing you to develop long-term relationships with them and identify any potential major gift opportunities.
This research allows you to determine a donor’s capacity to give and the likelihood that they will give. If you want to conduct proper prospect research through your CRM technology and integrated services, consider these features:
- Wealth screening. Look out for different markers that indicate that a donor has the means to give larger gifts. Your technology may analyze real estate ownership, business affiliations, SEC transactions, and so forth.
- Philanthropic indicators. You should track things like an individual’s past donations to your nonprofit, past donations to other nonprofits, involvement in your organization, and other information like their hobbies and interests. This can help you determine which donors will be most interested in potentially giving more.
Prospect research is one of the most insightful approaches to developing relationships with your supporters. Even the smallest nonprofits can benefit from learning more about their donors.
Create a personalized donor experience by considering the best outreach strategy for each individual supporter. Start with their past preferred communication channels. Typically, you store this information in your donor database, so you can reference it whenever you need to reach out to a specific donor.
If a supporter has never declared one preferred line of communication, look at their past tendencies. For instance, if a donor has a high average open rate and click-through rate for your email newsletters, email may be the way to go! Remember to log any new information into your database, so you’ll be able to instantly recall it in the future.
2. Develop an effective digital marketing strategy.
You can’t expect anyone to engage with your online fundraising attempts if your approach is an unorganized, jumbled mess. You’ll need to develop a strategic approach for catching your supporters’ attention.
Remember, every organization finds success in different approaches, so test your options before settling on a marketing strategy.
Email marketing is a great way to reach out to your entire supporter base at once. It establishes a direct line of communication, allowing you to make important announcements about upcoming events and fundraisers.
However, this strategy is only effective when emails are crafted carefully. There are a few best practices for creating engaging emails:
- Create a persuasive subject line.
- Personalize the emails with the donors’ names when possible.
- Include a button linking to your donation page.
When you create engaging content that reels readers in, you ensure that your emails won’t just pile up in your supporters’ inboxes. Once you become comfortable with your email approach, consider sending out monthly newsletters to let your supporters know what you’ve been up to and to keep you on their minds.
After you’ve determined the best way to reach out to donors to promote your campaign, format your marketing material with these best practices:
- Tell an engaging story. Evoke some emotion in your readers. That’s the quickest way to get them on board with your cause!
- Use compelling images/videos. A picture says a thousand words. Choosing emotional photos that are relevant to your campaign may motivate more people to give to your organization.
- Brand your messaging. Use the same font and 2-3 colors, and place your logo on marketing material when relevant. That way, your supporters will associate your organization with your material.
Campaign promotion is about more than just using the right platforms. Make sure you’re using the right marketing techniques to dramatically boost your donations.
Chances are, most of your supporters, if not all of them, have social media accounts. By including social media outreach in your marketing strategy, you can widen your audience and engage a lot more supporters.
Don’t just post fundraiser announcements. Keep your supporters in the loop, and let them know what else is going on in your organization. That way, when one of your campaigns does roll around, they’ll be more compelled to give. Consider posting:
- Special recognition posts for your top contributors and volunteers.
- Photos and videos of all the good work your organization is doing.
- Any changes within your organization, like hiring a new staff member.
The share button is a powerful tool. It enables you to reach potential supporters who you never would’ve crossed paths with offline. When your current supporters and staff share your fundraising announcements or your powerful stories that you’ve posted online, your potential donor base skyrockets.
3. Set up multiple donation platforms.
In order to establish an effective fundraising strategy, you need to set up multiple platforms. Potential donors like having options for how they give their hard-earned money, so don’t limit yourself or your donors by providing only one online platform for donating.
An Appealing Donation Page
A nonprofit’s donation form is arguably one of its most important online components and should be the first donation platform a nonprofit establishes. When you have an engaging, effectively-designed website, you should drive traffic to your donation page, which should have just as much care and effort put into it as the rest of your site.
It should go without saying that your donation page should be branded to your organization, but what about other important features? You’ll want a page that has the following:
- A speedy interface (especially for mobile users).
- Suggested giving amounts.
- A recurring donation option.
- Powerful visuals.
As today’s society tends to be constantly on-the-go, people are growing more and more dependent upon technology. When you enable mobile giving, you expand your fundraising efforts to the widest possible audience. In fact, according to Double the Donation’s fundraising statistics page, the number of charitable transactions completed through mobile devices increased by 50% last year.
To jump into the mobile giving world, start with a donation page that’s optimized for mobile users. As technology evolves, so do your opportunities for mobile donations. For instance, text-to-give is a flexible donation platform that can be used continuously throughout a range of events. Try extending your fundraising strategy to include mobile, adaptive platforms like this.
As social media grows to be more prominent in society, you’ll need to coordinate your fundraising efforts with it. Try implementing peer-to-peer campaigns in your fundraising approach. This is when supporters voluntarily raise money for an organization using their own personalized campaign pages that they advertise to their own friends and family online.
There are a few best practices to follow when implementing a peer-to-peer campaign:
- Have a clear goal and consider adding milestone goals along the way.
- Select a feasible timeline based on your goals.
- Implement gamification features like leaderboards or a fundraising thermometer.
- Update your participants so they’ll know if they have to increase their efforts.
Peer-to-peer fundraising can enhance most organizations’ online fundraising efforts, no matter their size. For more information on the impact of peer-to-peer fundraising, check out the 2019 Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Study.
4. Create an engaging website.
Your organization’s website is likely the first impression a potential supporter has of your nonprofit, so make it count.
Start with effective copy explaining your organization and its mission. You’ll need to standardize your branding throughout your site with a couple of colors and the same font. That way, a reader doesn’t think they’ve somehow been redirected to another organization’s site.
Optimize your site for mobile readers, and don’t overload your pages with dozens of images. You should include high-quality images and videos, but limit them to avoid a slow, laggy site that may increase your bounce rate. In addition to your appealing donation page, there are a few necessary resources you should make available on your page.
An up-to-date calendar
By maintaining an up-to-date calendar, you enable supporters to work your organization into their busy day-to-day schedules. Not only is this good for your supporters to reference, but it allows your staff to:
- Avoid fundraising overlap.
- Stick to your campaign timelines.
- Coordinate all your events.
Consider integrating your fundraising coordinator’s Google Calendar onto the site. That way, you know for sure that it’s up-to-date, and supporters can add your events to their own Google Calendars.
Other Relevant Resources
Nonprofit websites are typically designed to educate readers on an organization’s mission and impact, but what about educating supporters on their potential impact?
In addition to mission-specific resources, consider adding the following:
- Articles about the importance of donors.
- Images/videos showing the impact of specific campaigns.
- Step-by-step guides for applying for matching gifts or corporate volunteer grants.
- Tips on increasing donors’ impact on their community.
When you provide readers with all the encouragement and tools they need in one place, you should see an increase in website engagement, and soon enough, this will translate to a boost in donations.
Online fundraising requires a careful approach, but when you devote time to crafting the best possible strategy for your organization, you can boost your revenue.
Implement a centralized database to identify your top supporters and to manage them appropriately. Test the waters with different digital marketing approaches, and provide your supporters with multiple ways to digitally donate, whether it’s via social media or through your donation page on your well-designed, engaging website. These strategies are tried-and-true, so try implementing them in your own online fundraising attempts!