7 Tips for Steering Your Nonprofit to Online Fundraising
The nonprofit space is one area in which experience reigns supreme. Top nonprofits are guided by institutional insights and best practices learned through years of hard work in pursuit of their missions.
However, this means that adopting new technologies, even those proven to be game-changers for organizations ready to adapt, can get neglected in the long run!
As a nonprofit professional, you likely have tons of great online fundraising ideas already, campaign concepts that would be perfect for your organization’s mission and donor base. But do you have the digital infrastructure in place to implement your ideas?
If your nonprofit has hesitated to adopt newer online fundraising techniques, it’s never too late to get started. Here are seven essential elements and tips for incorporating new digital strategies into your organization’s fundraising practices:
- Bolster your data infrastructure.
- Boost your social media presence.
- Optimize your donation page.
- Find built-in donation boosts.
- Build some marketing support.
- Identify new online donation tools.
- Start with a foolproof campaign.
If your nonprofit has relatively little experience with digital fundraising, jumping right in might sound intimidating. However, following these key tips will help your organization lay a strong foundation for all your online activities. Let’s get started!
1. Bolster Your Data Infrastructure.
Before launching into a new online fundraising campaign, you must first establish a firm data foundation. You already have a CRM, donor database or other way to collect and record your nonprofit’s important data, but is it up-to-date?
The beauty of online fundraising is that it eliminates the need to manually record most of the new donor data your team collects. Even better, online fundraising campaigns will actually help you collect more data in the long run, resulting in more precise decision making and campaign development.
- Full donor profiles to automatically track all related data points.
- Donation tracking with historic views and filters to identify trends.
- Intuitive dashboard views for big picture and day-to-day decisions.
- Crucial integrations with member management tools, prospect research databases and matching gift resources for donors.
An effective CRM software is an extremely important investment that nonprofits make in their own ability to direct growth and make smarter strategic choices.
The takeaway: Make sure all the valuable data you collect through online fundraising campaigns 1) has somewhere to go and 2) is put to good use.
2. Boost Your Social Media Presence.
Focusing some extra effort on your nonprofit’s social media presence is a best practice in general. For your online fundraising campaigns in particular, though, it can make a huge difference!
A strong social media presence is an excellent way to strengthen your online fundraising campaigns for a number of reasons, including:
- Your donor base is already on social media and eager to connect with you.
- Social media audiences represent a major area for growth and attracting new donors.
- Interaction on social media is free way to continually engage with donors outside of fundraising events.
- Providing relevant updates, genuine engagement, and quality content will translate to higher rates of donor retention.
- Social media activity directly grows your audience for online fundraising campaigns, since many online campaigns can be conducted via social media platforms.
You likely already have one or more social media pages for your nonprofit, but it never hurts to study up on some best practices! Even adopting a handful of new strategies for approaching social media can have a huge impact once your online campaigns begin.
The takeaway: Social media is an essential tool for building the foundation for your online fundraising campaigns. Create an audience that’s ready to engage with your posts and appeals!
3. Optimize Your Donation Page.
An often overlooked, but extremely important element of shifting into new digital fundraising strategies involves ensuring that your nonprofit’s donation page and form are ready to go.
This is because even though some digital campaigns are hosted and processed through third-party sites, others will need to direct donors to your own internal donation page. A clunky, poorly-designed or slow-loading donation page is a major turnoff for online donors!
Focus on user experience. Make some updates that prioritize speed and simplicity. Some best practices to follow include:
- Simple design with no unnecessary or distracting elements.
- A minimal number of required fields to complete (ask for more information after!).
- Customized branding to your nonprofits and current campaign.
- Full mobile optimization for easy smartphone use.
- Integration with your CRM to automatically report donor data.
Familiarize yourself with more tips for redesigning your donation page with this guide from Salsa (insert link here). While many nonprofits understand the importance of updating their donation page, it’s all too often a task that gets neglected or forgotten once exciting new campaigns begin.
The takeaway: Don’t let your donation page or form make new online donors regret deciding to support your campaign! Donating online should always be fast and easy.
4. Find Built-in Donation Boosts.
Online fundraising doesn’t always mean conducting a campaign with a definite beginning, middle and end.
Just as strong search engine optimization, or SEO, habits provide a built-in boost to all your marketing efforts (more on that next!), look for donation tools that can provide ongoing support to your online fundraising, no matter what campaign you’re currently conducting.
For example, take matching-gift search tools. As an underutilized part of corporate philanthropy programs, matching gifts represent a major opportunity for nonprofits able to raise awareness of them among their donors. Get your online donors to check their eligibility to have their gift matched, and watch your donation revenue increase!
There are a few easy ways to get started promoting matching gifts to your donors:
- Embed a matching gift search tool in your homepage and donation page.
- Explain matching gifts in your email campaigns and newsletters.
- Use automated services to screen your donor data and identify matching gift opportunities.
The takeaway: Identify and invest in techniques and tools that can provide a continuous boost to your online fundraising without requiring a ton of extra effort from your team!
5. Build Some Marketing Support.
Just as focusing on your social media presence is an important way to grow audiences for your online fundraising campaigns, incorporating some basic digital marketing best practices into your operations can go a long way to help you reach your goals. For this, focus on content.
Content here means any informative, promotional or entertaining digital material you create for your online audience, community and donors. This might include:
- Blog posts about your campaigns, volunteers and partners.
- Social media posts that engage followers and ask for responses.
- Downloadable materials like case studies and reports.
- Email newsletters with donation appeals or invitations to events.
Creating an internal blog or blog subdomain for your website is probably the most important and effective way to get started with basic content marketing for nonprofits.
The general idea is to create posts and content that will not only engage your readers and donors, informing them of your activities and affirming their interest in your work, but also to increase the chances that new donors on the internet will stumble upon or follow links to your site, where they’ll learn more and feel inspired to donate to your campaign.
The takeaway: Create a simple blog and familiarize yourself with content marketing basics in order to engage more donors and boost the reach of your online fundraising campaigns.
6. Identify New Online Donation Tools.
As you’re already aware, online fundraising can open up a wealth of new choices for your nonprofit! Offering new tools and platforms is a great way to attract the attention of donors.
Stay on top of new online fundraising tools and developments in the digital nonprofit space. New fundraising techniques and services can help inspire new ideas or provide the perfect digital complement to your traditional fundraising campaigns. There are plenty of diverse ways to raise money with digital tools, including:
- Peer-to-peer fundraising
- Crowdfunding campaigns
- Matching-gift automation tools
- Digital prospect research services and resources
- Online and mobile charity auction software
Most importantly, whichever kinds of online fundraising tools you decide to adopt, be sure to prepare your organization before leaping right into a campaign! The tips across this article can guide you generally towards the best ways to lay the groundwork for digital growth.
The takeaway: There are tons of choices out there for online fundraising, but remember to institute some strong best practices in your organization, including social media, marketing, web design and data management.
7. Start With a Foolproof Campaign.
Even with all these choices, it’s still a smart move to start with a foolproof style of campaign to get started with online fundraising.
Offer your donors custom-printed t-shirts branded to your nonprofit! Even online, product fundraising is an extremely reliable technique. Receiving a physical product in exchange for financial support is a powerful incentive for all types of donors.
Find a low-risk custom t-shirt fundraising platform, like Bonfire, then design the perfect t-shirt for your nonprofit and launch the campaign. All the tips and best practices we’ve covered here will then work together to support your efforts:
- Promote your t-shirt on social media platforms, including posting photos.
- Record the data of any new donors who purchase a shirt.
- Provide a link to your donation page, which includes a matching gift search tool, on the shirt’s order form.
- Create blog content to promote your t-shirt and reach out to other bloggers to help increase web traffic to your campaign.
- Consider offering your shirt as a reward to donors in any other online fundraising campaigns, like your next crowdfunding project.
Offering incentives or products is a surefire fundraising strategy, and t-shirts tend to be the best direction to take. Not only are t-shirts universally popular, great t-shirt fundraising platforms have flexible options that won’t leave your team on the hook if you just miss your hitting your goals.
The takeaway: Get started with a reliable fundraising choice, like product fundraising, to give your new online fundraising infrastructure and practices a low-risk test run!
Making the move into online fundraising techniques can be intimidating for nonprofits with less digital experience!
However, by following these tips, preparing ahead of time, and laying the proper framework for your new online tools and platforms, you and your team can adapt in no time. Stop just meeting your fundraising goals, exceed them!
Dan Quirk is the Marketing Manager at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. Dan's marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.