If you’ve been paying attention to recent trends in philanthropic giving, you’ve probably noticed that digital fundraising and online giving have become more and more popular among donors.
But how can you make this trend work for you? Digital fundraising never stops innovating and changing, so how can you know what the best options are?
While it’s true that the options available for online giving are constantly changing, you can make sure your organization is ready for anything by following just a few best practices.
Those best practices are:
- Integrate your online systems.
- Create an informative and engaging online presence.
- Make it as easy as possible to donate online.
- Experiment with new digital strategies.
By following these four simple steps, you can increase the efficacy of your online presence, maximize the amount of donations you receive online, and ensure that your organization is ready for whatever new innovation comes next. Let’s get started.
1. Integrate your online systems.
When was the last time that you even thought about the software that your nonprofit was using? If you’re not the nonprofit’s IT professional, odds are that it was too long ago!
There are hundreds of different types of software that a nonprofit could use for any given purpose, and plenty of options for each one of those varieties, but the overall quality that any organization needs to keep in mind is integrability.
What does this mean, in the case of your nonprofit? It means that all of your programs need to integrate, or be able to communicate with each other: i.e. transfer data and information between the programs in an understandable way.
The most important software to a nonprofit can vary based on what the nonprofit does, but here is a list of the most common vital programs:
- Donation form software
- Website host (content provider)
- Constituent relationship manager (CRM)
- Prospect and donor research program
- Matching gifts database
The most important thing about these programs is that they need to be able to record donor, volunteer, or interested party contact information. Then, they need to be able to transfer this contact information into your other programs.
This is vital to any nonprofit because of the intrinsic reliance that our organizations have on their supporter communities. You need to know that your supporter data is clean, organized, and up-to-date. This also means no duplicate entries.
If you’ve found that the programs your organization currently relies on are unable to be integrated into any other systems, maybe it’s time for a change. Check out Double the Donation’s Nonprofit CRM Software guide for some recommendations.
This organizational process is the first step on your nonprofit’s journey to succeeding in the digital fundraising realm.
2. Create an informative and engaging online presence.
The next step in engaging your supporter base online is by ensuring that they can find you on the internet, and that your presence there reflects the values and mission of your organization.
Odds are that your nonprofit already has a website and a Facebook page. But are they kept updated with more than just your contact information? Does someone take the time to respond to any messages you may receive?
If you don’t, your path is easy. The best ways to engage your supporters online are through these platforms:
- Your organization’s own website
These platforms all have their own advantages and disadvantages, so carefully consider what you need your online presence to do for you when deciding which to focus on.
You don’t need to spend the same amount of time, money, or energy on each platform: do some experimenting to find out where your supporters are already spending their time, and then meet them there.
Once you’ve decided where your time and effort will be most effectively spent, determine how you want to present your organization online. Will you be very serious, and only post informational articles and fundraiser and event updates, or will you post memes and tell jokes?
Depending on your target audience, you might consider a mix of both approaches. Your online presence isn’t meant to only make your fundraising asks: you should educate people about both your nonprofit and the cause it serves, as well as what your team is up to every day.
Another benefit of having a social media presence is that it allows your organization to present a human face to the world, instead of just your logo. Post pictures of your team and volunteers at work, or fundraisers at your latest fun run.
The overarching goal of using social media is to tell your nonprofit’s story.
Once you’ve established your online persona, start to interact with your constituents. Reply to their posts, like their pictures, and tag them in your own pictures of them from other events.
Interacting with others online puts your name out in the ether, so that people who don’t know your organization are exposed to you and your content. This is a great way to leverage your supporters’ social networks to become your own community networks.
In addition to your online-presence-building content, don’t be afraid to advertise both your online and offline fundraising efforts. Offer ways for supporters to donate online, and invite followers to attend events, seminars, or other fundraising activities.
3. Make it as easy as possible to donate online.
One of the most important goals of maintaining your online presence is making it pay off for your organization during fundraisers! That’s why you need to be aware of fundraising or campaign page best practices.
To implement this strategy, you need to consider two factors: first, the attention span of people on the internet, and second, the percentage of people who access the internet from their phones.
If someone goes to your website with the intention of learning more about your organization and potentially making a donation, and then they cannot find either the information or the donation page, they are going to leave your website and forget about it.
If someone goes to your website on their phone and they cannot get anything to work on their smaller mobile browser, they are going to leave your page and forget about it.
You don’t want either of these things to happen to you! To avoid these, let’s consider some best practices for designing a website:
- Make everything mobile-responsive
- Optimize your online donation page
- Make it easy to find your donation page from anywhere
Making a website mobile-responsive means that the elements on your website will shift depending on the size of the viewing browser, to ensure a good experience for the viewer.
This is a great way to make sure that your website remains functional yet readable on all browsers.
The second step is to ensure that your mobile donation page is easy to use on a computer, tablet, or phone.
The page should be fully branded to your organization, or integrated totally into your website so that the donor is confident that their money is going to the right place.
Next, you should only include the necessary fields on the donation form. Donating should be as easy as possible for the donor, so they shouldn’t be forced to jump through any unnecessary hoops before completing their donation.
Finally, make the donation page easy to find! Include a button in a prominent place linking back to the donation page on every page of the website. Put the link in in the bio of your Twitter and Instagram!
4. Experiment with new digital strategies.
Now that you’ve established a strong online presence, make it work for you during your next fundraising campaigns. Traditional methods of fundraising will never completely vanish, but you can optimize your marketing strategy by reaching out online as well as in real life.
For example, consider running a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign among your social media followers. They can leverage their own social networks for success, and your organization can encourage them online.
If you’ve never tried a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, check out this ultimate guide from OneCause for a great starting point.
Another way to take advantage of new digital fundraising techniques is to implement new technology at your next event:
- Use a text-giving software to allow people to give from their phones easily
- Adopt mobile bidding software to revolutionize your next charity auction
- Use a fun hashtag to encourage attendees to post pictures and raise awareness
Don’t forget ways that digital fundraising techniques can maximize the impact of even traditional donations: market your matching gifts tools via email or social media, so that donors can take advantage of corporate philanthropy.
Many people don’t know about their employers’ matching gifts policies, so you can rapidly spread awareness about the programs through your online network.
Don’t forget to measure metrics like follower number, likes and comments, click through rates, and other important data points to learn more about where your community needs you to be.
What content do they want to see from you? Where could you leverage your presence for increased impact of awareness and fundraising campaigns?
The world of online and digital fundraising is constantly evolving, so you’ll never run out of new strategies to try.
There are so many ways to interact with your community now: peer-to-peer fundraising, in-person events, mobile giving, and more. By having a strong base, you can adapt to anything that this ever-changing sphere can throw at you!
Growing a digital fundraising strategy from scratch can seem like an overwhelming task, but with our 4 simple best practices, you can put your best foot forward online and take advantage of this great new resource.