Even before the pandemic hit, the nonprofit sector was making a noticeable shift to virtual fundraising tactics and for good reason. Going online opens up the door to a world of creative possibilities and allows donors from all over to support your cause with just a few clicks.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this transition accelerated, and now with our current socially-distanced reality, technology has quickly become a staple in many nonprofits’ operations. From securing donations and hosting virtual events to communicating regularly, there’s a substantial list of opportunities that today’s tech allows for.
Here at Donately, we’ve worked with thousands of nonprofits and a range of causes to enhance online fundraising strategies using technology. We’ve seen what works and what tends to make organizations fall short of their goals. Based on plenty of firsthand experience, we’ve pulled together several methods that tend to work for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes.
Three of these tried-and-true methods that your team should incorporate when building out your virtual fundraising strategy include:
- Start with the right technology.
- Choose convenient virtual fundraising ideas.
- Develop a foolproof communication plan.
The massive shift to virtual operations opens up the door to a whole new world of fundraising possibilities. Ready to make the most of the situation and build out a foolproof strategy for your online fundraising? Let’s dive in.
1. Start with the right technology.
The technology you employ serves as the foundation of your digital strategy. Selecting the right combination of tools is a crucial first step, because without a solid toolkit, you won’t be able to efficiently retain supporters’ attention online.
Insufficient technology will slow down the process of donating or signing up for events, resulting in a frustrating user experience and leaving a bad taste in supporters’ mouths. This could directly correlate to a loss in fundraising dollars, and that’s the last thing you want when trying to build up your base of online support.
To get started crafting your nonprofit’s online fundraising plan, look into the three primary platforms that will serve as a promising starting point: online donation forms, event registration tools, and a donor management system.
Platform #1) Online donation platform
A digital donation platform allows you to collect donations online, which is a necessity in today’s digital world. While that’s simple enough, there are countless options out there, making the process of selecting a platform intimidating and downright overwhelming for newcomers. When narrowing down your options, make sure your donation form provider enables these core functions:
- Customize the fields. Some providers limit functionality by restricting the types of fields you can include on your form. Make sure you can fully customize these, so that you can gather any additional information you need. For instance, maybe you want to give them the chance to sign up for your newsletter, or maybe you’d like them to select their preferred contact method for further cultivation efforts.
- Customize visual form elements. Beyond customizing the fields, you should be able to build out your form to visually present your mission. This could mean adjusting it to use your organization’s colors and logo or including an appealing banner image that showcases your mission. For more advanced customizations, your form provider should offer the ability to adjust the form’s coding.
- Embed the form into your website. Double-check that you can add it directly to your site, so prospects won’t be redirected to a third-party platform. Otherwise, they may find your form untrustworthy, deterring them from submitting a gift altogether.
- Ensure your form is mobile-ready. Your fundraising page should be just as functional on mobile devices as it is on a computer, so your donors can give the moment that’s most convenient for them. Otherwise, you may exclude a vital portion of your prospects from participating in your online fundraising efforts.
Your ability to accept online donations is the foundation of your virtual fundraising strategy, so choosing the right provider means you’re starting off on the right foot. Remember, this page will be the face of your fundraising campaigns. The last thing you want is to drive donors away in the last step of the giving process, so take the time to optimize it using the above tips.
Platform #2) Event registration tools
Fundraising events enable your donors to give back to your organization in a different, engaging way other than simply donating. If events are part of your digital fundraising strategy (and they should be), make sure you’re backed by sufficient registration tools. After all, 90% of applicants prefer registering online.
Registration tools allow you to accurately predict attendance so that you can plan accordingly. Specifically, an effective platform will allow you to:
- Collect the exact information you need. Customization will help you capture the data you need, from contact information to payment details. That way, you can eliminate extra steps in the registration process and encourage form completion.
- Securely collect payments. With extra security features in place, your team and your registrants won’t have to worry about compromising any data (especially financial information).
- Automatically bill clients. Be sure you can create custom payment plans that allow attendees to pay on their preferred schedule, while securing a steady cash flow for the organization.
Whether you’re waiting to return to in-person events or have made the shift to virtual events, make sure you’re taking full advantage of your opportunities with the features above. With a streamlined registration process, you’ll find that your attendance numbers are considerably higher.
Platform #3) A donor management system
Get to know your donors on a deeper level by storing vital information that they share with you in a donor database. By collecting the right data, you’ll gain valuable insights into your current fundraising efforts and can tailor your outreach to suit each supporter’s unique needs. Proactively acting on data also conveys that you care about your supporters, directly deepening their connections to your cause.
To take full advantage of this opportunity, be sure your database can store information such as:
- Past donations. Have they previously donated to your nonprofit? How much and how often do they typically give?
- Contact information and preferences. What’s the best way to get into contact with each individual? Do they prefer email, phone call, text message, or direct mail?
- Employment information. Where do they work? Their employer may offer corporate giving programs, like matching gifts or volunteer grants.
- Connections to your cause. Why do they support your work? What other opportunities can you offer that they’d be excited to support?
For the best results, make sure the data you collect from donations and event registrations flows seamlessly into your database. This will eliminate manual data entry, making your job that much easier and reduce the potential for human error in your records. However, you’ll still want the ability to add in custom information that your team gathers from their conversations with them.
2. Choose convenient virtual fundraising ideas.
With the massive shift to digital at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many nonprofits started offering virtual events. The inability to interact with supporters in person means that you have to go above and beyond in your campaigns to bridge that gap.
While each nonprofit finds success in different campaigns, there are quite a few options that work for a wide range of causes and allow you to overcome the distance. Let’s explore two options that will empower your team to continue engaging donors: peer-to-peer campaigns and text-to-donate.
Put the power of fundraising in your donors’ hands with a peer-to-peer campaign. Using a peer-to-peer platform, your team designs its main campaign page, showcasing your core mission. Your team scours its constituent database and recruits passionate supporters who have demonstrated their commitment to your work.
From here, your generous volunteers will personalize their campaign pages to share on social media, urging friends and family to give to a cause that has a special place in their hearts. It’s that simple!
Not only are these campaigns incredibly easy to run, but they also come with a slew of other benefits. As described in Donately’s complete guide to peer-to-peer fundraising, these fundraisers tend to be successful because of the following attributes:
- Social proof. This is the idea that people tend to follow the actions of others. In the case of peer-to-peer fundraising, people are more likely to engage online if someone they trust is advocating for your mission.
- Increased reach. Your network of supporters will share your cause with their personal networks of like-minded individuals, multiplying your list of prospects. If you’ve taken the time to fully convey your vision on your campaign page template, your message will likely resonate with some individuals.
- A deeper appreciation for your work. By undertaking fundraising responsibilities, supporters will see firsthand how much work goes into raising money for your cause. After working hand-in-hand with your mission, their bond with your team and cause will naturally strengthen.
Regardless of your mission, a peer-to-peer campaign can help your nonprofit multiply its efforts and reach new fundraising heights. Keep in mind that just because your supporters will lead the charge, doesn’t mean your team should back off on its promotion.
Studies indicate that SMS open rates are as high as 98% and text message audiences grew by 26% last year. In other words, text messaging is a powerful engagement opportunity, so meet donors where they are with a text-to-donate campaign.
Even if you’ve held one of these fundraisers before, it doesn’t hurt to review the process to refresh your memory. Here’s how the process typically works:
- Create a mobile-responsive giving page.
- Select a mobile giving provider, who will then assign your organization a unique phone number and keyword.
- Share your number and keyword with supporters, encouraging them to donate.
- Supporters text the keyword to your organization’s number and receive a link.
- The link routes them to your mobile-responsive donation page, where they safely submit their gifts.
By hosting this type of campaign, your donors can give whenever and wherever it’s most convenient for them. Otherwise, they’ll be forced to wait until they have access to a computer, opening up the opportunity for them to forget or lose motivation. Plus, they’ll appreciate the ability to support your work at a safe social distance.
Best of all, text-to-donate can be combined with virtual events and other campaigns to maximize fundraising dollars. Use it as a form of registration, or simply promote it during the event itself. The possibilities are endless so long as you get creative.
3. Develop a foolproof communication plan.
Just like you need to go above and beyond with your campaign ideas, you also need to go the extra mile with your communications. While you may have initially adjusted your strategies when shifting to virtual operations, it may be time for a complete overhaul if you’ve noticed a lapse in engagement since then.
Keep in regular contact with donors using essential platforms such as email, social media, and texting. An effective marketing strategy takes more than simply sending your messages across as many platforms as possible, though. GivingMail’s guide to marketing for nonprofit organizations says that effective communication plans require your marketing team to apply best practices such as:
- Map strategies to specific audiences. Put your supporter data to use by implementing segmentation strategies. In short, segmentation is the practice of listing your supporters according to meaningful groups. This allows you to tailor your messaging and ensure the right messages reach the right audiences. For instance, you’ll know to most proactively market an upcoming event to those who have attended similar functions in the past.
- Make your brand shine through. Regardless of the platforms you try out, keep your branding consistent. This means being consistent with your colors, designs, logo, and core messages across all outreach. If your branding or overarching messages drastically differ from one channel to the next, you could easily confuse your audience and deter them from interacting further with your mission.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been highly disruptive, and now is not the time to let your communications lapse. As you spread the word about your cause, constantly be on the lookout for engagement indicators to measure your success. For example, take note social media likes and shares as well as email open rates and click-through rates. In turn, you’ll be able to use these metrics to refine your outreach and deliver the most effective messages possible.
Just because your nonprofit is operating in an all-remote environment doesn’t mean supporter engagement has to fall by the wayside. All your team needs to do is step up its communication efforts and fundraising opportunities. From virtual fundraising campaigns to new marketing techniques, there are countless ways your team can encourage supporters to keep contributing.
And as a final note, remember that your technology will serve as the anchor of your strategies by helping you stay connected with supporters during this difficult time.
Even as society slowly transitions back to normal throughout 2021, these techniques will remain effective. Take the time to perfect them now, and you can bridge any gaps you have currently have with supporters. Good luck!
Author: Andrew Berry
Andrew is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.