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5 Tips for Successful Online Fundraising

Almost all fundraising ends up having an online component! Here are some tips to help nonprofits maximize their success.

5 Tips for Successful Online Fundraising

Yes, there’s direct mail. There’s SMS. There are phone calls and there’s social media. But at the end of the day, most of these channels lead donors right to your online donation form, making nearly every effort online fundraising!

Whether you’re looking for a step-by-step guide or just want to make sure you’re checking all the right boxes, this quick guide will ensure you’re putting your best online foot forward.

Let’s get started!

1. Set Clear Fundraising Goals.

This sounds a little elementary, but it’s the first place nonprofits go astray. We often hear, “We just want to raise as much as we can.” While that’s an understandable goal, it’s vague, and it’s hard to measure.

We talk about SMART goals a lot, because they’re the most beneficial.

SMART goals-1

With specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals, you can track your progress, quickly identify areas of weakness that need support, and ensure that all activities work together to reach those goals.

After establishing these, communicate them clearly to your team and your donors. This ensures everyone understands what you’re trying to achieve, why you’re trying to achieve it, and why support is so critical.

Remember that while setting a fundraising goal is important, a well-rounded campaign will have more than one outcome. Perhaps a corollary goal is to acquire new donors, encourage long-time donors to become sustainers, increase donor engagement, or establish a new communication channel.

2. Choose the Right Fundraising Software.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a commercial for CharityEngine. In fact, we can show you a list of providers in which we’re pretty sure you can find a perfect fit.

How to choose the right CRM? We have a whole (free) guide written about selecting a system, but we can share five different variables you might want to evaluate when you start shopping:

  • How easy is it to use? Learning new technology is a pain in the tushie; it’s one of the big reasons no one wants to switch CRMs (here’s another free guide about how to make a no-stress switch). Ensure that your team will receive training but also that the platform is intuitive enough that people will be able to figure things out fairly easily.
  • What features will you need now, and in six months? If your largest fundraiser is an event (you guessed it, a free guide to nonprofit events!), you will need event software, preferably built into the platform. Any time core functionality is coming from third-party integrations, you introduce vulnerabilities. Go through a list of features you need now, and then think about the next few campaigns you want to run and make sure those features are there, too, and native to the system.
  • But…can it integrate with other systems? While core native functionality can be a game-changer for nonprofits, many larger organizations will want the CRM to be the core of a custom-built tech stack. For example, most higher-ed and healthcare nonprofits have industry-specific programs that must be integrated into a CRM. Ask potential vendors how easy it will be to use APIs to customize functionality.
  • What type of support is offered? Support is sometimes the reason people dislike even amazing technology. When you have a question, what do you do? Chat, submit a ticket, email, pick up the phone? And once you do that, how long will it take to get a response? This is detailed in the Service Level Agreement (SLA) and should be carefully read before making a decision.
  • How much does the system cost? This isn’t always a straightforward answer, so ask how a system is priced. Always ask about those hidden costs, like implementation, training, software upgrades, or anything beyond the monthly SaaS cost. And do yourself a quick favor and read this article that talks about why cost might not be the most important variable to consider.

If you find a system that checks those five boxes, you might have found the perfect solution for your nonprofit.


3. Optimize your online donation page.

This website page is the heart of all your fundraising efforts. We write about donation forms often because they're where the conversion happens. However you got prospective donors to your page, it isn’t effective fundraising if they don’t click and make a donation.

Nonprofits can unwittingly drive interested prospects away from their donation page. If it’s not fast to load, easy to understand, and rewarding for the donor, it won’t get the results it could.

There are mountains of tips that can help you optimize your donation page, but here are some things to check right now:

  • Is your page simple and clutter-free?
  • Do you prove, through visible badges or labels, that your page is secure?
  • Does it render well on mobile devices?
  • Do you offer donation tiers, with an explanation of what each tier means for your cause?
  • Is there a toggle for monthly donations? It is an easy way to entice one-time donors to make more regular donations.

The easier it is for someone to donate, the more they’re likely to do just that. Open an incognito screen and work your way through the donation process or ask a friend to try it. Notice any areas of friction and tweak and refine your page.

4. Consider the message you’re sending.

The most successful nonprofits curate a message so powerful it’s impossible to ignore. I often sit in my car, tears streaming down my face, trying to text a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital during their annual campaign. Why? They tell the stories of sick children and how St. Jude’s helps them heal. The message connects with me as a mother, and I can’t donate fast enough or often enough.

This is what you want. We talk about storytelling and eyeballs can roll thinking that’s an overused term, but it’s all about connecting with people who care about your mission. Every nonprofit cause tells a story, so harness it and use that to engage donors. Make sure whatever message you’re sending, it’s going to resonate with your segmented audience. St. Jude’s talking about medical treatment for children affects me differently than it would affect my teenage son, who might be impacted by a different, but equally appealing, message.

Please don’t forget to end your story with a call to action. You’ve described the problem, shown how you’re part of the solution, and invited someone to be a hero and join you. Make sure it’s easy for them to do so.

5. Implement a multichannel strategy.

We alluded to this at the beginning of this article. Limiting yourself to one channel limits your reach, limits your donors, and limits your fundraising. A mix of online and offline channels can prove to be the most beneficial.

If you think a multichannel campaign is a good idea but aren’t sure how to get started, here are some quick tips that will help:

  • Segment your audience and identify which channels will most likely engage each audience.
  • Create a consistent message. It’s almost certain that your direct-mail group will also see an email, and you’ll reinforce your message (and make your campaign recognizable) if you have consistent branding and messaging across all channels.
  • Tailor your approach to the channel. A social media campaign might include daily posts, but emailing every day will send you straight to the spam folder.
  • Track and analyze your results. Relying on data rather than gut feelings will help you see which channels are doing well so you can tweak the ones that aren’t.
  • Think about how all campaign elements work together. Even a direct mail card can have a QR code that links to your donation page, and an email can contain language requesting a phone call.

Online Fundraising is Your Key to Success

While a donor can (and will) mail in a check, 95% of your fundraising will be online in some way or another. Online fundraising is a powerful tool for nonprofits; done well, you’ll expand your base, broadcast your mission more widely, and raise more funds for your cause.

If you enjoyed this article and aren’t signed up for our newsletter, it’s easy to join the list. Of course, if you're thinking about new software, we’d love to show you ours. Even if we aren’t the right fit for you, we’re obsessed with nonprofit success, so you can always consider us a partner.

The Essential Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising   This comprehensive guide promises to teach you a thing or two that we know will help you engage with your donors and raise more money. So let’s get started!