So you’re not a tech savant. You don’t dream of HTML code or eat software bugs for breakfast. That doesn’t mean you can’t set up an incredible online fundraising campaign for your nonprofit.
Running an online fundraising campaign may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right strategy and tools, you can easily put together a successful fundraising campaign—saving yourself headaches (as well as time and money) in the process.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of online fundraising, our top suggestions for hosting virtual fundraising campaigns plus successful examples, and bonus tips for taking your fundraising campaign to the next level.
- What Is Online Fundraising?
- Marketing Your Online Fundraisers
- 10 Innovative Online Fundraising Ideas
- 6 Bonus Fundraising Campaign Tips
Before diving headfirst into our top online fundraising ideas, let’s take a moment to explore exactly what it is and what all it entails.
What Is Online Fundraising?
Online fundraising is a way for nonprofit organizations to secure funding and support via the Internet. Roughly 85% of Americans own a smartphone with access to the Internet. Today, with so many people spending so much time online, virtual fundraising is the most efficient and effective way for nonprofits to directly reach and engage their target audiences. With the right tools and strategies, online fundraising allows donors to quickly find and securely contribute to the causes most meaningful to them.
Marketing Your Online Fundraisers
Choosing an online fundraiser is only half the battle. As you enter the planning phase, consider how you’ll spread the word and inspire people to get involved. After all, you can’t expect people to give if they never hear about your campaign!
Creating persuasive marketing materials requires a bit more than posting once or twice on social media, though. You’ll need a range of well-designed materials that you share on a consistent schedule throughout your campaign.
When choosing what materials you’ll create for your campaign, keep these core marketing best practices in mind:
- Perfect your campaign page. This is where you’ll direct prospects in hopes of inspiring them to get involved in your campaign. A powerful design can mean the difference between a donation and lost support. While your donation page is a great start, consider creating a page on your website that’s devoted to explaining your campaign.
- Promote your fundraiser on Google. After publishing your campaign page, amplify it via paid advertising. Google recognizes ad space can be costly, which is why they offer the Google Ad Grant program. Getting Attention’s Google Ad Grants guide explains that eligible nonprofits receive $10,000 each month to spend on targeted ads for all sorts of web content, including fundraising opportunities. Just make sure to choose keywords related to your online fundraiser to get your ad in front of the right audience!
- Post across various social media platforms. Create a series of posts with promo graphics that are properly sized for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other relevant platforms. Create a schedule that your team can follow leading up to, during, and even after your campaign. If it’s in your marketing budget, consider paid social media advertising for some of your posts.
- Don’t forget about print advertising. Just because your fundraiser is digital doesn’t mean you should skip printed promotional materials. Create flyers, postcards, and other promotional materials that you can post around your community and mail to supporters. Be sure to include participation details, including a link to your campaign page.
No matter what online fundraising idea you choose, you need to market it if you want people to participate. Use these core tips to guide your marketing strategy, and be sure to invest time into creating powerful graphics and designs for any materials you create.
10 Innovative Online Fundraising Ideas
Now that you know the essentials, we can dive into some of the best online fundraising ideas paired with concrete examples of successful campaigns. Since online fundraising is inherently reliant on technology—you’re fundraising online after all—it's important to choose the right idea, and just as important to choose the right tools.
Each of these virtual fundraising ideas takes advantage of a particular software feature to drive fundraising results and raise awareness with less effort. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!
Online Fundraising Idea #1: Custom Donation Forms
Every great online fundraising strategy starts with a digital donation form, complete with custom fields and an eye-catching design. These features allow your nonprofit to boost engagement so that donors are motivated to give and share informative details.
With the right virtual fundraising tools, you can customize your online donation form to match your brand and achieve your goals. For example, you can:
- Encourage high donations and long-term support by adding suggested donation amounts and an option for recurring, monthly gifts.
- Gather key data with custom fields for additional information, such as a phone number or mailing address.
- Change the font to match other pages on your website and create a consistent brand experience.
- Redirect donors to a custom thank-you page the instant they click submit and follow up with an automated, personalized email.
- Give donors the option to cover the small processing fee so that 100% of the funds go to your cause.
- Accept multiple payment options through secure payment processing—such as credit card and ACH (bank transfer) payments.
- Embed your form directly into your website. If supporters are rerouted to a third-party website, they may not trust it and will often abandon their donation altogether.
Ultimately, for the best results in any online fundraising campaign, we recommend an all-in-one solution that allows you to perform all of the above functions. All successful online fundraising endeavors start with an intuitive donation form. In fact, nearly all of the ideas below require such a form as a prerequisite.
Best Virtual Fundraising Example: Pay It Forward Charleston
Pay It Forward Charleston uses a custom donation form to allow its users to choose from suggested donation amounts, round-up donations to cover processing fees, select their preferred method of giving, and provide additional information, such as important contact details. By limiting the fields, the group effectively streamlined the process while still capturing the data they needed.
Plus, the powerful description of their mission directly alongside the donation form works as a great motivator for donating. Overall, this clean-cut design makes giving easier for the supporters and makes the process friendlier and more accessible to all users.
Takeaway for Custom Donation Forms
When you can tailor your donation form to fit your exact needs, you’ll be able to streamline the donation process and capture all essential data without sifting through any extraneous information. Take advantage of fully customizable donation forms and make the most of your donation process.
Once you’ve invested in the right tools, you can expand to more comprehensive techniques, such as peer-to-peer fundraising.
Online Fundraising Idea #2: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Speaking of peer-to-peer fundraising, it’s one of our favorite online fundraising strategies, and one of the most successful approaches.
With peer-to-peer fundraising, a nonprofit organization calls on its supporters to fundraise on its behalf. It’s one of the most powerful virtual fundraising ideas because it harnesses the power of social proof.
But what’s social proof? In short, social proof refers to the idea that people adapt their behaviors to mimic what others are doing. When people unfamiliar with your organization see their peers donating to your cause, they’ll feel compelled to join in.
Chances are, you’ve come across one of these campaigns. All sorts of mission-based organizations take advantage of peer-to-peer campaigning, and yours can, too! Here’s a step-by-step overview for launching a campaign to reference as you get started:
Step 1: Determine your total fundraising goal for the campaign.
Step 2: Set up a main peer-to-peer fundraising campaign page.
Step 3: Recruit passionate volunteer fundraisers to create their own individual campaign pages.
Step 4: Advise your online fundraising team on how to effectively run their campaign pages.
Step 5: Track and report the donations from each of the individual campaigns.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns have the power to massively expand your donor network and bring in more donations without added expenses. Your organization can still tell its story, but your fundraisers can also express their personal connections, which can reinforce the necessity of your work and increase the contributions you receive.
Top Online Campaign Example: Working in the Schools
Based in Chicago, Working in the Schools is a movement that aims to promote better public education for students in Chicago Public Schools.
Powered by Donately, Working in the Schools was able to offer a streamlined peer-to-peer fundraising experience. Featured below, you can see the total funds raised as well as top volunteer fundraisers. Their progress bar acted as an especially effective strategy because it offered a visual representation of how close they were to their goal. This helped encourage donors to continue sharing and contributing.
Thanks to well-designed templates, volunteer fundraisers were able to get their personalized pages up and running in no time. Below, you’ll also see how a volunteer fundraiser customized his campaign page to communicate his connection to the cause. His page also includes information about the main campaign and an intuitive donation form for visitors to use. As a result, he exceeded his personal goal!
Takeaway for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a powerful online fundraising method that you should not overlook. When you elevate your online campaign to a social level, you can expand your reach and generate more momentum by inspiring a wider group of individuals to back your cause.
Remember, humans naturally feel empathy, so by offering a compelling voice and personalized touch to your online fundraising campaign, your volunteer fundraisers can leverage social proof and ultimately work wonders for your goals.
Online Fundraising Idea #3: Recurring Donations
Recurring donations are donations that automatically repeat on a regular (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly) basis. Offering a recurring gift option on your website helps make your revenue stream more predictable. By incorporating these options into your donation form, you offer your donors the opportunity to set this up according to their own donation amount preference and frequency of giving.
Depending on your donation tools’ functionality, you can:
- Set the recurring gifts to occur weekly, monthly, or annually.
- Give donors the option to make the donation they give today a recurring donation directly on the form.
- Allow donors to manage their recurring donations themselves and update their plans, saving your staff time.
- Easily collect these regular donations via credit card, ACH, or PayPal.
- Get notified when recurring donations fail so that you can take the appropriate action to fix them.
Ultimately, setting up a recurring donation option increases your chances of securing more contributions over time and allows you to establish a consistent revenue stream.
Best Virtual Fundraising Example: Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C.
Habitat for Humanity of Washington, D.C. is a network of area professionals working to make a difference in their community by eliminating poverty housing in the District. Through membership dues, they’re steadily fulfilling their vision of improving the lives of those most in need by improving their living situation.
Below, you’ll see they offer a unique membership experience through recurring donations. Those who wish to become members can select from one of two recurring membership options: a $5 monthly gift or a $60 annual gift. All users need to do is select their choice and enter key giving data, such as the required payment information and optional fields regarding their interest in the cause. After hitting submit, their card will be charged at the selected monthly or yearly interval, and they won’t have to worry about submitting membership dues in the future.
Takeaway for Recurring Donations
Recurring donations play a significant role in online fundraising. They can directly increase your baseline monthly income with a diverse and consistent revenue stream. Moreover, they give your donors more flexibility in the plans they choose.
Online Fundraising Idea #4: Online Giving Days
Giving days are perfect for gaining momentum and building awareness for your cause. Simply put, giving days are time-based fundraising challenges with the goal of raising a certain amount of revenue within a 24-hour time period. Because these campaigns harness the power of social sharing, they stand to gain the most momentum when coordinated alongside a peer-to-peer or crowdfunding campaign.
Chances are, you’ve encountered one of these online campaigns at some point, most notably: #GivingTuesday. While this virtual giving day takes place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving each year, a second day, #GivingTuesdayNow, was also created out of the necessity to combat the negative effects of COVID-19 on the nonprofit sector.
Taking place in May 2020, the PayPal community alone raised approximately $65 million on #GivingTuesdayNow, which was an astounding 43% higher than the previous 7 days leading up to it, proving that it created a surge in giving amidst the pandemic.
Considering the impact this creative online fundraising idea can create, it’s clear that time-based campaigns work wonders for nonprofit fundraising. As you enter your online giving day, keep these tips in mind to keep it going full-steam ahead:
- Emphasize your organization’s longevity so that prospects recognize the long-term value in supporting your mission.
- Direct users to your optimized donation page in every marketing outreach initiative so supporters aren’t forced to locate it themselves.
- Highlight opportunities for getting involved, such as signing up for your newsletter or simply sharing your online campaign on social media.
- Incorporate compelling photos and videos that emphasize the importance of your mission and tug at your donors’ heartstrings.
Overall, the expedited timeline sparks a sense of urgency in supporters and encourages them to act now so that they don’t miss the opportunity. As long as your online donation page is ready to go, an online giving day is bound to rally up some fundraising dollars for your mission!
Top Online Campaign Example: Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund
The Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund is a prime example of how a well-timed campaign can make a powerful difference in generating funds. While not exactly a giving day, they effectively create a sense of urgency by presenting their cause as being in dire need of support.
Below, you’ll see how their clean-cut design gets down to business and draws attention to important page elements. Specifically, the imagery draws users in and the language is concise yet moving. They emphasize the financial needs of the Chicago community right now to effectively persuade individuals into donating.
Takeaway for Online Giving Days
An accelerated timeline can work wonders in helping your nonprofit reach its fundraising goals. Pair the right donation tools with a timeframe that makes sense for your revenue goal, and you’ll be well on your way to virtual campaign success!
Online Fundraising Idea #5: Mobile-Responsive Giving
A mobile-responsive page is one that’s designed to look and work great on every device by automatically adjusting to the screen size on which it’s being viewed.
Some advantages of mobile-responsive giving include:
- Securing more donations. Don’t worry about donors abandoning the page as a result of poor formatting or unreadable text.
- Accepting donations from any device. With fully-responsive donation forms, your donors will be able to easily navigate the page and make a donation from any device.
- Viewing your dashboard from any device. Mobile-responsiveness isn’t just for donors. With a mobile-responsive platform, you can view your administrative dashboards on mobile devices as well. As a result, you can manage your fundraiser on the go!
Every day, more and more donors are accessing your donation pages on their mobile devices. Thus, it’s essential that you incorporate mobile-responsiveness into your donation pages, because 51% of all nonprofit website traffic comes from mobile devices.
Without responsiveness, prospects will struggle to interact with your form, making the process more difficult and increasing the likelihood that they’ll abandon their donations. Make sure donors can contribute the moment motivation strikes, no matter what device they’re using at the time.
Best Online Campaign Example: United Way of Greater Los Angeles
United Way of Greater Los Angeles offers a mobile-responsive giving page that can be viewed across various devices automatically.
Thanks to mobile responsiveness, all of the necessary elements on the donation form can be viewed without issue. The page’s imagery, text, and form all automatically adjust to fit any device format, whether it’s on a mobile device or a computer. Even on smaller screens, you can select from suggested giving amounts, opt into a recurring monthly gift program, round up your donation to cover the processing fee, and fill out all other necessary fields.
Takeaway for Mobile-Responsive Giving
Meet your donors where they are by making sure your campaign page automatically adjusts to any device. When your online campaign can be viewed across multiple platforms, donors will appreciate the intuitive experience, and you’ll start forging long-term relationships with them.
Online Fundraising Idea #6: Text Messaging
How often do you go out and see people checking their smartphones, even just for a split second? How often do you check yours? Phone usage has become intertwined with our day-to-day lives. Today, 97% of Americans own a cell phone. Because phones are almost always in our pockets, text messaging is one of the most effective and immediate ways to reach your donors.
With the right text messaging tools, you can:
- Customize text codes and responses in order to collect donations. Send your donors a customized link to your donation page via text message where they can give directly to your cause.
- Pair text messages with your online campaigns. If you’re hosting a virtual campaign, consider incorporating your text messaging platform to make giving convenient.
- Boost peer-to-peer fundraising participation. Easily instruct your constituents to create their own online fundraising pages. Through text messaging, send them directly to the sign-up page to create a seamless experience.
Text messaging is a fantastic way to communicate with donors, and when used effectively, it can maximize your online fundraising dollars. The sky’s the limit!
Top Online Campaign Example: Taunton Area Community Table
Taunton Area Community Table (TaCT) puts a modern spin on the traditional soup kitchen by providing nutritious meals free of charge to anyone who walks through their doors—no questions asked! While brainstorming online fundraising ideas, they added crucial specialized texting tools to their arsenal.
With the right texting software, organizations like TaCT find that connecting with donors virtually enables them to reach and engage new prospects! The screenshot below exemplifies how seamless the process truly is—for both your donors and your team. When powered by Donately, all your donors need to do is text a customized code to a designated number. Then, they’re instantly greeted with a friendly message and a link to the mobile-responsive giving page.
Takeaway for Text Messaging
Active communication and marketing strategies are crucial for any virtual fundraising endeavor. After all, how do you expect someone to contribute to your online campaign if they never hear about it? As a fundraising idea, text messaging can give your audience a new, quick way to connect with your cause. Pair them with your virtual campaigns or use them to disseminate important announcements.
Online Fundraising Idea #7: Matching Gift Drive
Corporate philanthropy is an ever-growing phenomenon in the online fundraising community. In short, businesses vow to give back to their communities’ philanthropic causes to enhance their public image and to support their employees’ good deeds. One primary way they do this is by offering matching gift programs.
Matching gift programs are when an employer offers to match their employees’ donations to eligible nonprofits. They represent a major online fundraising opportunity, so tap into this by incorporating corporate matching gifts on your online donation form. You’ll need to include information about how to access a matching gift database so that donors can determine if their gift is eligible to be matched by their employer.
Let’s take a look at just how simple the matching gift process is:
Step 1: A donor makes a gift to your organization.
Step 2: They research their eligibility for their employer’s matching gift program using a matching gift database tool.
Step 3: If eligible, they follow the indicated next steps to submit a request to their employer.
Step 4: After confirming the donation with your team, the company sends a check to your organization.
It’s as simple as that. Believe it or not, you can simplify the process even further. A matching gift tool with auto-submission capabilities will allow donors to automatically submit their requests from your donation confirmation page. The tool will check their eligibility for autosubmission and then ask for permission to submit a match request on their behalf. That means no extra forms for donors to fill out!
Double the Donation’s matching gift autosubmission page explains that this will:
- Speed up the matching gift process
- Remove steps for the donor
- Guarantee requests are properly formatted and submitted
Don’t leave free money on the table! Make sure your donors know they can potentially double (or maybe even triple!) their gifts to your cause without reaching back into their pockets.
Best of all, donors may be more likely to donate in the first place if they know their gifts are eligible to be matched—84% of them are more likely to do so, to be exact. Let them know exactly how they can boost your online fundraising, and they will, especially since it comes at no extra cost to them!
Best Online Campaign Example: Eli Lilly & Company Foundation
To strengthen support for United Way of Central Indiana’s mission, the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation launched a $1 million corporate match challenge for new corporate gifts and new matches on employee giving. This unique online fundraising idea was established to encourage local Central Indiana business leaders to join them in cultivating an all-inclusive, thriving community.
What started as a valiant effort to solidify their partnership with the United Way turned into some real change in the community. The prominent fundraising thermometer shows the progress and encourages others to continue propelling the efforts forward. Below, you can take a look at the motivational language used to inspire action among other community businesses.
Takeaway for Matching Gift Drive
Corporate philanthropy is an often overlooked source of virtual fundraising revenue. Tap into these funds by promoting matching gift opportunities to prospects, and you’ll find that many people are willing to submit a simple form to their employer if it means also expanding their impact. Further your donors’ impact on your mission and boost your online fundraising with this simple virtual fundraising idea!
Online Fundraising Idea #8: Data-Driven Fundraising
The best virtual fundraising campaigns make effective use of insightful donor data. Data-driven fundraising enables you to grow your impact online in ways far beyond your goals. However, gathering this data manually simply isn’t feasible, especially if you're part of a large organization with a substantial donor base.
Instead, you’ll need to employ a dashboard that offers a range of insightful data from your online campaigns, so you can quickly get a pulse of your online fundraising efforts. With a fully-equipped dashboard, you’ll be able to:
- View your most active donors.
- View popular donation amounts.
- Identify trends, like high-volume days of the week.
- Gain insight into how effective each online campaign is.
- Understand which virtual fundraising strategies do or don't work well.
Using the data you gather, you can easily send targeted communications that appeal to specific groups of donors, determine the best possible times to make donation appeals, and figure out how to improve your future fundraisers.
Searching for all this information in separate locations within your software will eat up time that can be better spent elsewhere. Instead, try data-driven fundraising! You’ll consolidate all of your crucial data into one convenient place, so you can focus on enhancing your online fundraising strategies and raising awareness for your cause.
Top Virtual Fundraising Example: Water.org
Below, you’ll see Water.org’s optimized online donation page that makes giving quick and seamless for donors. What you can’t see is all the behind-the-scenes work it’s doing in terms of capturing data.
Through data-based fundraising, Water.org makes smart use of hidden fields to capture essential data. They’ve conducted A/B testing to locate which on-page factors—such as the image and call-to-action at the top of the page—motivate prospects to complete the process and which ones deter them. As a result, they’ve designed an effective page to convert potential supporters.
All of this data flows into Google Analytics so that they can get a holistic picture of their fundraising and locate areas of improvement all in one convenient location. Instead of spending time reviewing online fundraising data, their team can now keep focus exactly where it needs to be: engaging donors and promoting online fundraising campaigns.
Takeaway for Data-Driven Fundraising
By keeping your data organized, you can sort through all your online fundraising priorities and run the best campaigns possible. Remember, your time is important—especially in the virtual fundraising world. Every minute you can save counts. So put that recovered time toward the cause you care so much about!
Online Fundraising Idea #9: Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is another online fundraising idea that harnesses the power of social sharing. Much like peer-to-peer fundraising, you create the main fundraising campaign page that’s then shared online with supporters’ friends and families. With passionate online campaign supporters, you’ll effectively spread your message far and wide.
As you start designing your crowdfunding campaign, keep these best practices in mind to fulfill your online fundraising potential:
- Solidify your story. Crowdfunding is about more than securing donations. It’s about capturing the hearts of donors quickly. Before launching your online campaign, be prepared to share your mission’s story creatively and concisely.
- Set a relevant timeline. As you’ve learned, time-based campaigns are fantastic for inspiring immediate action. Be sure to select a relevant deadline based on your online fundraising goal and the number of your active donors.
- Create an aspirational goal. However, don’t set one that’s likely unachievable, because you’ll risk both donors and staff when you don’t reach it. Instead, take a look at previous online campaign results and set one that’s marginally higher.
As you set up your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll need access to several key donation features. Your tools can make or break your online campaign, so be sure you can effectively customize your donation form to capture essential data and securely process payments. Before deciding on a crowdfunding tool, research and compare providers. Backed by powerful tools, you’ll be able to successfully share your mission with a wide range of individuals.
Best Online Campaign Example: The Hearsay
The Hearsay decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to fund their first studio album with Plaid Dog Recording Studio. Powered by Donately, they set an achievable, yet ambitious goal and then exceeded it thanks to the power of a well-designed campaign page and tons of social sharing.
In the example image below, you’ll see that the clean-cut design emphasizes key page elements, including the campaign title, a personable image, and a fundraising thermometer. Not only does the donation thermometer act as a gamification feature, but it also communicates progress toward the total fundraising goal in a transparent way.
Below the fold, they provided information that details the online campaign’s purpose as well as suggested giving amounts along with the perks that come with each donation amount.
Takeaway for Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is a powerful online fundraising method that relies heavily on social sharing. As long as you have passionate supporters and implement an effective timeline and campaign goal, you’ll easily catch donors’ interest and spread the word about your cause.
Online Fundraising Idea #10: Fundraising Web Store
A fundraising web store is an excellent tool for boosting your online revenue. With a web store, you’re essentially creating an ongoing virtual product fundraiser. Supporters can browse your fundraising web store whenever they like or add products like branded t-shirts and hats to their donation transaction.
To get started with a fundraising web store, you’ll need to take the following steps:
Partner with a dedicated product fundraiser company. The right product fundraising company, like ABC Fundraising, will offer products that your supporters actually want to buy, like gourmet cookie dough or travel mugs branded to your cause. Your chosen provider should also make it easy to submit orders and get your products out to your supporters.
Choose your products. When choosing what to sell in your web store, try to pick products that can be tied to your cause. For example, if your organization teaches young adults about mindfulness and meditation, you might sell candles in your online store to encourage your supporters to make their homes more peaceful.
Promote your fundraising web store. Once you’ve selected your products, create your web store on your website. Some product fundraising companies will even do the work of creating a web store for you, saving you the hassle and only requiring you to send out a link to your supporters. Once your store is up and running, promote it on social media and in your email newsletters. Don’t forget to encourage donation page visitors to browse your store!
The best thing about creating a fundraising web store is that what you’re really doing is creating a sustainable, ongoing fundraising opportunity. You don’t need to sell products just once—you can keep your store going for as long as you like!
Best Fundraising Web Store Example: ABC Fundraising Web Store
ABC Fundraising can design a fundraising web store just for your organization, with an easy user interface that will encourage supporters to purchase a product.
In the fundraising web store for Franklin High School shown below, the available popcorn products are clearly displayed with their accompanying price. You can also see how much time is left in the fundraiser. Clear buttons direct visitors to proceed to the checkout screen or make a donation to the school.
ABC Fundraising provides a simple and easy-to-use design to help you connect with supporters and get them excited about getting a little something in return for a donation!
Takeaway for Fundraising Web Store
By offering fundraising products in an online store, you’re giving your donors something they love—options! As you choose what products to sell, think through what your supporters will actually want to buy, and don’t forget to make your store easy to navigate.
6 Bonus Fundraising Campaign Tips
So, you’ve settled on your fundraising idea. Maybe, it's an online giving day. Maybe, it’s a crowdfunding campaign. Whatever you’ve chosen, we’re sure it’s a great choice for your nonprofit!
However, your campaign is only just getting started. Take any of the fundraising ideas discussed above—or one of your own creation!—to the next level by following the tips below. Each tip is designed to help you connect with donors and maximize your online fundraising revenue.
Bonus Online Fundraising Tip #1: Personalize your communication.
Because online fundraising often lacks a face-to-face component, it can make it difficult to establish connections with donors. But nonprofits can still make meaningful connections with their donors in other ways.
We (and most people) are partial to personalized messages. But that doesn’t mean you have to send every potential donor a handwritten letter. Instead, take a page from our Online Fundraising Idea #8: Data-Driven Fundraising. You can use your supporter data (stored and organized in your constituent resource management system) to make targeted, personal appeals. With your data in hand, consider:
- Personalization. Use personalization features to automatically input supporter information into your messages. For example, in a request for donations, you could quickly send an email to all of your previous donors, referencing each recipient’s name, title, and previous donations.
- Segmentation. Not every supporter wants to receive every message you send out. Use segmentation to connect specific opportunities with specific supporter groups. With segmentation, you can also conduct A/B testing to determine the most effective language and design for a message before sending it out to a larger audience.
For best results, use segmentation and personalization in tandem to meaningfully recognize donors’ past contributions and encourage them to participate in your next online fundraiser.
Bonus Online Fundraising Tip #2: Use consistent branding.
With the sheer variety of ways to fundraise online, nonprofits should be sure to have their branding nailed down to help build up brand recognition. While you're likely familiar with the impact of an inconsistent logo, today, branding encompasses a wide range of visual and linguistic elements.
We recommend that you develop a style guide not only for creating online fundraising materials, but also to reference across your organizational activities. Your style guide should include specific information about your brand’s:
In addition to sharing your style guide with staff internally, you can create an even more consistent brand by sharing your style guide with anyone who will represent your nonprofit at any level—from board members soliciting large-scale donations to journalists writing articles on your mission to volunteers during peer-to-peer campaigns—to improve their ability to represent your nonprofit.
If you're in need of branding for a new campaign or you're simply revamping your current brand, consider working with a nonprofit marketing agency. Their expertise in the nonprofit sector and marketing will help you boost your brand recognition and attract new supporters to your organization.
Bonus Online Fundraising Tip #3: Leverage social media.
In 2021, the average North American spent nearly 2 hours a day on social media. As a result, social media is one of the most important and immediate ways to reach your followers and define your brand.
If people aren’t viewing your content, they’re likely viewing someone else’s. Use your social media accounts as an extension of your website to promote your campaigns and attract new supporters. Doing so can help your organization seem more active, which can be beneficial for new supporters learning more about your organization.
Each platform offers its own benefits and limitations. For example, while TikTok is perfect for sharing video content, it would be ineffective for sharing photo updates. Similarly, while Twitter is great for short updates, you’d want to save longer ones for LinkedIn or Facebook. The most popular social media websites for fundraising are:
Instead of posting whenever you feel like it, create a routine posting schedule to show your nonprofit is active and regularly respond to comments and messages to encourage engagement.
However, when it comes to posting on social media, remember that quality is just as important as quantity. If maintaining multiple social media accounts becomes too big of a burden for your team, consider focusing your efforts on the accounts where you have the most engagement.
Bonus Online Fundraising Tip #4: Offer multiple ways to give.
Different supporters will have different giving capacities, as well as personal preferences for how they donate. Because of these differences, give supporters multiple ways to interact with and give to your nonprofit. Consider using the following to catch the largest cross-section of donors:
- Direct donations
- Shopping fundraisers
- Online event participation
Providing a variety of online giving opportunities can also be useful for supporters who are looking to donate more, and some may take advantage of multiple opportunities.
Bonus Online Fundraising Tip #5: Make sure your donation forms are secure.
Picture this: You’re ready to support a cause with a sizable donation. But when you click the link, you’re directed to a website with an unfamiliar URL in a separate tab. Do you feel confident inputting your credit information in this new site?
Unfortunately, there are a number of online scams pretending to be nonprofits. Donors are likely wary about handing out their financial and personal information online, and being sent to a new website to make their donation will put their “scam-sensors” on high alert.
So how do you make donors feel more secure in giving online? To eliminate any fear donors may have about their personal financial data being compromised, we recommend:
- Maintaining consistent, accessible branding. See Tip #1!
- Using embedded donation forms so that donors don’t need to leave your site.
- Choosing a PCI-compliant payment processor.
While raising money for your cause, never compromise donor information in the process. Keeping your donors’ information safe helps establish trust and is fundamental to building long-term donor relationships. In choosing your donation form platform, data security should be non-negotiable.
Bonus Online Fundraising Tip #6: Choose the right fundraising platform.
What do Tips #1 through #5 all have in common? Their success is directly impacted by the fundraising platform your organization chooses to use. With the wrong platform, you’ll likely find yourself spending your days fighting with your computer and wasting valuable time and resources.
But with the right platform, you should be able to implement the above tips quickly and easily. Rather than stifling your online fundraising ability, it should help launch it to new heights. Otherwise, why are you using it?
Invest in a fundraising platform that has the following core features:
- Beautiful, mobile-friendly designs that are easy to use, responsive across all devices, and an actual pleasure to spend time reading.
- Secure donation pages that include options for donors to confidently make recurring and text-to-give donations.
- Data management tools that allow you to track and analyze your most active donors, popular donation amounts, and the effectiveness of your campaigns from a single dashboard.
- A variety of integrations that connect your website, payment processing, and constituent resource management system.
In today’s world of tech-wizardry, there are many fundraising platforms available. But the right tool for your organization should be both flexible to your current needs and scalable to offer continued support for your organization as you grow.
Following these virtual fundraising ideas, examples, and tips can help propel your online fundraising efforts forward and solidify your revenue stream for long-term financial viability. By taking advantage of features like custom donation forms, recurring donations, social media integration, and mobile-responsiveness, you'll make it easy for donors to navigate your platform and give to your cause.
Moreover, not only will you make things easier for your donors, but you’ll make it easier for your team, too. As you make decisions, such as choosing a campaign or developing a style guide, get input from stakeholders across your organization. Taken together, they’ll be your best resource on what’s working and what’s not.
You’re now on your way to maximizing your donations and fostering meaningful relationships with your supporters. If you’re interested in learning more about donation software features and other ways to enhance your online fundraising, check out the helpful resources below:
Virtual Fundraising: The Nonprofit’s Complete Guide for 2020. Learn about successful virtual fundraising with this comprehensive guide that’s chock-full of top-tier tips.
100+ Unique (and Easy!) Fundraising Ideas. Need some engaging fundraising ideas to pair with your next online campaign? Check out this extensive list for inspiration!
18 Online Donation Tools to Help You Raise More. The right donation tools will set your online fundraising campaigns up for success. Kick-off your search with this guide.