Guest Post by John Killoran
As you’re already well aware, we live in a world surrounded by and reliant on the internet and other technologies. We communicate, find entertainment, research and learn, and even shop on the internet. We spend a good chunk of each day browsing the internet for one purpose or another.
So, if the nonprofit sector doesn’t want to be left behind, using the internet as a tool for reaching and engaging supporters in new ways will be critical. Your organization is probably already devoting at least some energy to digital tactics.
Nonprofits often carry the stigma that they are old-fashioned with outdated technology and primitive tools, and, worst of all, that they are supposed to be that way. For example, check out these three long-standing myths surrounding nonprofits’ relations with technology, and how they have since been debunked.
If you’re wanting to set yourself apart and take your nonprofit organization to the next level, here are 4 main factors to consider when starting to implement online fundraising into your campaign strategy.
We’ll walk through these core questions:
- Why fundraise online?
- How can I best reach my nonprofit’s audience?
- What tools will I need?
- What are some effective online fundraising strategies?
Read on to find the answers to these crucial questions and everything else you’ll need to know to get started.
1. Why fundraise online?
55% of both Millennials and Generation X and 54% of baby boomer donors report their preferred method of giving to be online. That is, online giving holds the majority preference across the top three generational donor groups internationally. But why? And what does that mean for your nonprofit specifically?
It means if you haven’t yet established an online presence for internet fundraising, then now is the perfect time to do so. And even if you have already begun to explore the world of online campaigning, there are a ton of different ways to expand and improve your practices.
To the donor, online fundraising platforms provide a simple, secure way to give to their favorite charities with just a few clicks of a button. It is convenient and comfortable, and it’s very quickly become the new norm.
And as for you on the recipient side, online fundraising helps nonprofits by providing the following benefits:
- Expanded reach. Why should your nonprofit fundraise online? Because that’s where most of your audience spends their time. Fundraising online makes your nonprofit accessible to the billions of internet users worldwide, thus increasing the likelihood that new potential donors will stumble across your site. Because of the internet, a user in New York can easily donate to a charity in France, and vice versa.
- Increased donor engagement. An online presence can also increase donor engagement, which is defined as emotional involvement and commitment from constituents. The more emotionally engaged a donor is, the more likely they are to give to your nonprofit and to stay involved over time. The internet is the perfect place to showcase information that will draw in those donors and create strong emotional ties— through pictures, videos, stories, and more.
- Improved efficiency. Online fundraising improves efficiency within your organization by allowing your online donation platform to do all the logistical work, freeing up time and energy from manual clerical tasks. Although there are typically start-up costs involved with implementing new online tools, they will ultimately save by decreasing on internal costs as well. An overall win for any nonprofit!
By expanding your reach, increasing your level of donor engagement, and improving efficiency within the organization, you will be well on your way to a successful online campaign. Plus, these are just three of many perks of using the internet as a tool for your organization.
2. How can I best reach my nonprofit’s audience?
In order to gather new donors and hopefully secure some recurring donations, you will need to have a good understanding of who exactly you are trying to reach. This process will allow you to market your campaign directly to your target audience and encourage them to take the leap from visitor to donor.
The three main steps to follow during this process are:
- Segment your audience: One of the most important aspects of audience targeting is understanding that no two donors are exactly the same, so you can’t communicate with them as if they are. Sorting your contacts by one or more shared characteristics, like preferred method of communication, goes a long way to help you focus your efforts and boost results. Then, think about where you’ll be most likely to reach certain segments. For example, you might use social media campaigns to broadly attract low-level donors and create highly-targeted email marketing strategies to reach your mid-level donors. Check out this guide to creating an effective digital strategy for your nonprofit to dive deeper into nonprofit marketing tactics.
- Drive traffic to your site: The next step is to guide donors from whichever external medium (email, social media post, advertisement) to your organization’s website. The best way to do this is through a clear call-to-action, such as an attention-grabbing button with a clear request and a link to your donation site. Snowball’s guide to boosting your donation website explains how to make the most out of the traffic coming in and convert more web visitors to donors.
- Ensure positive UX: UX, or user experience, is the process that users take as they explore your website and the quality of their experience. A site with a positive UX has a higher chance for an increased conversion rate (meaning visitors are actually making donations!). On the other hand, a site with a negative UX will have a high bounce rate and few conversions. Many features come into play here, including mobile friendliness, easy-to-read text, and the simplicity of the donation process.
Once you have successfully implemented these three steps into your marketing strategy, you will have a thriving online campaign that is ready to run.
3. What tools will I need?
Like anyone taking on a new project, there are some tools you’re going to need in your virtual tool box. Nonprofit fundraising tools generally fit into one of two categories::
- Software platforms: There are thousands of software options to choose from that can help simplify tasks like email marketing, social media planning, website management, and merchandising. And of course, you can’t forget about the software that actually collects your online donations. Here are some of the top programs for nonprofit fundraising available to help you start exploring the range of tools available.
- IT service providers: With the growing dependence on technology and the assumption that you are not personally an IT expert, it’s a good idea to find an IT service provider to support your team whenever you need expert guidance for a particular tech task or project. If your online campaign goes down and you don’t know how to fix it, you could be missing out on a ton of potential donations. Hiring a support team or tech consultant can be the proactive choice to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Outsourcing the tricky online and software elements can greatly increase efficiency, because you’ll only be focused on what you’re good at: which is fundraising! Once you’re armed with an effective software platform and IT support, your online fundraising campaign will be unstoppable.
4. What are some effective online fundraising strategies?
One of the greatest advantages of online fundraising is the convenience, both to the donor and the organization. Here are two of the most effective tricks to maximize incoming donations:
- Pledging: A pledge campaign gathers the promise of a donation to be collected at a later date, instead of asking for the money on the spot. The vast majority of pledges are collected online using pledge software designed specifically for these campaigns. They’re highly effective when you grab the donor’s attention with an emotional appeal and offer a quick, simple pledging process that is finished before the donor even has a chance to lose that excitement.
- Matching Gifts: One way to potentially double incoming donations is by promoting corporate matching gift programs. Matching gifts are a type of corporate philanthropy in which a donor’s employer offers to match a donation (most commonly at a 1:1 ratio). Currently, only a small percentage of donors are actually taking advantage of corporate matching gift programs they are eligible for! This is easy money that’s not yet being reeled in. Explore Double the Donation’s complete guide to matching gift programs to learn more about how to inform donors about these opportunities.
Pledge and matching gift campaigns are each an all-around win-win situation! The donor has a simplified donation process via online software while also knowing that they’re giving a bigger bang for their buck. Incorporating these two strategies into your fundraising plan will lead to an increase in happy, and hopefully recurring, donors.
After reading through this guide, you should have a strong framework to begin planning your first (or next) online fundraising campaign. Better understanding the purpose, target audience, resources, and strategy required will help you take your next steps and begin accomplishing more for your nonprofit. Best of luck!
About the Author
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations.
Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.