Digital fundraising is evolving to become one of the biggest overall trends in the nonprofit space. You probably have implemented at least a basic online donation form for your organization already, for example.
However, if you want to make sure that your organization’s online work is truly optimized for digital fundraising, you’ll want to dig a little deeper than the basic donation form. Luckily, our team at Cornershop Creative is here to help!
We’ve put together this comprehensive guide for nonprofit professionals like you to help you dive deeper into the world of virtual fundraising engagement. Here, we’ll cover the following key topics:
- Digital Fundraising: A Crash Course
- Digital Fundraising Trends to Watch
- 6 Stellar Digital Fundraising Ideas
- Digital Fundraising Campaigns to Inspire Your Own
- Work With a Digital Fundraising Consultant
You can always skip to the sections that most interest you, but we suggest you take a moment to read along from the top. This way, you can make sure you have an extensive understanding of what to think about when you’re planning your organization’s online fundraising campaigns.
Now, are you ready to learn more about digital fundraising and how your nonprofit can benefit from a carefully curated plan? Let’s get started!
Digital Fundraising: A Crash Course
Before we jump into our favorite digital fundraising campaigns and top tips for maximizing revenue, it’s important that we cover the basics.
What does digital fundraising include?
Digital fundraising is a term used to describe a variety of tactics, ranging from relatively basic online donation forms to detailed and strategically planned virtual events. Any online form or process that allows your nonprofit supporters to financially contribute to the causes they care about can be considered digital fundraising.
That being said, digital fundraising efforts work even better when they’re built on the foundation of an optimized nonprofit website.
Why is digital fundraising important for nonprofits?
As you probably already realize, digital fundraising allows your nonprofit to expand your engagement beyond geographical boundaries, to build relationships with new supporters, and to raise awareness and funds for campaigns.
From your donors’ perspective, digital fundraising provides unique and convenient ways to support the charitable missions they care about. Gone are the days when a donor can only deliver their donations by cash or check!
If your organization has yet to invest in a robust digital fundraising strategy of your own, now is the time to do so!
Digital Fundraising Trends to Watch
Digital fundraising is a significantly rising trend in the nonprofit sector. If you’re looking for ways to improve and extend your own fundraising efforts, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on trends within the overall industry as well. Here are three recent trends to note.
Social media advertising
We hope you have at least a couple social media accounts set up for your organization! What you may be neglecting, however, are the opportunities available to you through paid social media marketing.
While you may be reluctant to implement this strategy because it does, of course, cost money, paid social media marketing has the power to bring your digital fundraising to the next level. Each social platform offers its own unique opportunities:
- Facebook: With nearly 3 billion monthly active Facebook users, this is a marketing opportunity you definitely don’t want to miss. Sponsored Facebook posts provide the space to include photos and videos alongside text descriptions with links sending the users back to your nonprofit website and/or donation page.
- Instagram: Instagram has two choices for paid advertisements: sponsored stories and sponsored posts. Both work similarly, in that content will show up for targeted users regardless of whether they follow your accounts or not. Plus, both rely on a highly visual concept for success! The differences lie in the location (Instagram story vs. feed) and size (9:16 vs. 1:1 ratio) of your advertisements.
- Twitter: Twitter is known for its brevity and shareability—two key components of a successful digital fundraising strategy. With a 280 character limit in Tweets (both promoted and otherwise), you have just enough space to quickly encourage donations to your cause and send users directly to your digital fundraising page. Then, be sure to ask supporters to “retweet” your content, thus extending your reach and potential audience even further.
While these three platforms are certainly the biggest social media giants across the U.S. today, it’s wise to consider more niche platforms as well. For example, TikTok is great for targeting younger donors (specifically Gen Z), while Pinterest may be a good choice for other audiences.
Whenever you conduct a search on Google, the first several results provided are set apart as paid advertisements. And while Google typically sells that premium ad space, they’re willing to donate prime real estate on the SERP (or Search Engine Results Page) to nonprofits through their charitable program called Google Grants.
Google Grants provide nonprofit organizations with up to $10,000 worth of in-kind donations in the form of Google advertising space each month. To be eligible for this unique type of grant, nonprofits must be recognized as official 501(c)(3) organizations, registered with TechSoup.org, and have a functional nonprofit website registered with Google.
Once you’ve received your Google Grant funding, you’ll be able to promote your organization and specific digital fundraising endeavors on the world’s most popular search engine — for free!
One thing to consider when leveraging this powerful digital fundraising strategy is that in order to accomplish much through a Google Grant, it’s crucial that you already have a solid website in place. Not sure if you’re there yet? We’ll talk more about best practices for building an excellent nonprofit website in a later section.
Crowdfunding for nonprofits
Crowdfunding is a unique fundraising strategy that has become increasingly popular with individuals and organizations alike. While some fundraising campaigns solicit hefty donations from just a few major contributors, crowdfunding takes an entirely different approach.
Crowdfunding campaigns utilize the power of social media and peer-to-peer sharing to collect a large number of smaller donations from a wide range of supporters.
Here’s how to start your own:
- Start a crowdfunding campaign with a dedicated nonprofit crowdfunding platform.
- Set your fundraising goal, add photos, and describe the goals of your campaign.
- Publish your fundraiser and begin promoting it to your digital supporters.
- Encourage your supporters to interact with and share your campaign via social media.
The point of crowdfunding is to maximize the power of small to mid-sized donations. You might be surprised at how quickly these can add up!
Plus, with so many people experiencing stressful economic circumstances, small donations might be the best way for your donors to feel involved and give right now.
Text fundraising, also known as text-to-give, is growing in popularity among nonprofits—and for good reason. With its inherent convenience and ease of use for nonprofits and their supporters, text-to-give is one of the best ways to connect with donors and encourage giving. In fact, text messaging has a 99% open rate and a 90% read rate within just three minutes of sending, allowing you to reliably and quickly reach your supporters with donation appeals, fundraising updates, event reminders, and more.
Backed by a leading provider, a winning text-to-give campaign can be set up in just a few simple steps. Let’s break down how the process works:
- Your nonprofit partners with a text messaging provider, who will assign you a short- or long-code.
- Your nonprofit creates a concise and catchy keyword for your campaign.
- Supporters text your keyword to your short- or long-code, opting into your campaign.
- Your nonprofit sends compelling messages with a link to your mobile-friendly donation page so donors can give with ease.
To get your text messaging campaign rolling, make sure to market this donation option widely across your website, on your social media channels, and in your direct mail. Over time, you’ll be able to build up your contact list and can segment your supporters to create highly relevant and targeted messages that are more likely to inspire giving. Plus, text messaging your supporters is a great way to keep your organization’s mission on their mind and build a long-lasting partnership.
eCards are similar to a traditional postcard, but they’re distributed and consumed digitally instead. You might send a postcard to a family member or friend when you’ve done something exciting that you’d like to share or simply to let them know that you’re thinking of them.
For a nonprofit eCard campaign, the goal is to provide your supporters with the opportunity to share their love of your organization’s work with their own personal networks. Here’s how the process works:
- Your supporter decides to participate in your eCard campaign.
- That individual selects which eCard image they want to send, and customizes the eCard with their own subject line and message.
- Then, they enter their friends’ or family members’ email address(es).
- Finally, the individual fills out their payment information and any other required fields and submits the eCard, simultaneously sending messages of support to their network and donating to your organization.
As you can see, an eCard campaign is both a fantastic digital fundraising idea and an opportunity to expand your base of support to reach new potential donors. Not only do you receive the payment for each eCard, but you also receive the intangible value of your current supporters spreading the word on your behalf. It’s a win-win!
6 Stellar Digital Fundraising Ideas
While there are surely thousands of effective digital fundraising ideas to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down to five of our favorites here.
1. Update your website
Don’t forget your website! Regardless of the type of digital fundraiser you decide to host, your campaign should always link back to your nonprofit website in one way or another. With that in mind, it’s of utmost importance that your website is well-designed and up-to-date.
Here are a few things to make sure you’re implementing on your website (if you’re not already!):
- A consistently updated blog: Charitable organizations and for-profit businesses alike use blogs as an excellent tool for sharing new and relevant information with dedicated audiences. For instance, you can use your nonprofit blog to tell powerful stories about the impact that your organization has had on your community, including experiences of specific constituents (with their permission, of course) and how their lives have been changed.
- A user-friendly navigational structure: Increased traffic to your nonprofit website won’t help you much if your users are unsure how to navigate through your site once they’re there! To avoid confusion, be sure you include a detailed and well-organized navigation bar on your pages. Prominent pages should be clearly linked from your menu, and your design should include a persistent, eye-catching “DONATE” button to make sure you’re always leading users quickly and directly to your primary online donation form.
- A visually pleasing design: While your website’s content is surely a crucial component, it’s a good idea to make sure that you balance your informational copy with a visually-appealing design. A quality design and layout will help you fully engage your visitors and lead them further down the conversion cycle. But don’t overdo it! For example, a few images can make a big impact on your site, while an overwhelming number can actually detract from the main content and cause confusion.
Paying attention to these three elements will give you a solid foundation for your nonprofit’s website. However, with internet trends constantly changing, it can be difficult to stay on top of things! Investing in a nonprofit consultant that specializes in digital fundraising and web design can help you make sure you’re following best practices and implementing quality, creative work when exploring new ideas.
2. Create a hashtag
Whenever you host a digital fundraiser, come up with a trendy hashtag to encourage your supporters to contribute and promote your campaigns on their own social media platforms.
If you’re not already familiar, a hashtag is a predetermined word or phrase that, when paired with the symbol (#), is used to identify and group messages by topic on social media. When choosing a phrase for your hashtag, it should be:
- Unique: Make sure your hashtag is unique to your nonprofit fundraiser. If another organization or mission is already using the same phrase, your messages will get all jumbled together and cause confusion.
- Memorable: When you assign a hashtag to your digital fundraising campaign, it should be simple for supporters to remember. That way, whenever they see the phrase (including across any of your other marketing materials), they can immediately associate it with your organization and that specific fundraising campaign.
- User-friendliness: If your hashtag is too complicated, you run the risk of users making even the smallest typos that will separate their post from the rest of your nonprofit messaging. If your hashtag is composed of more than one word, it’s a good idea to begin each new word with a capital letter. For example, take a look at the differences between #SaveTheTurtles and #savetheturtles. The first one is easier to read, right? That means it’s also easier for users to remember and use.
So when should your supporters use your hashtag? Whenever they post about your fundraiser online! If they purchase one of your branded t-shirts or baseball caps, encourage them to post a selfie on their favorite social media platform with your hashtag. If they complete an online donation form, encourage them to use your social sharing buttons alongside the hashtag.
3. Create videos and other engaging content
You’ve heard that a picture’s worth a thousand words. The same can be said for videos and other visual content! With this in mind, you might want to put some extra effort into the visuals you produce for your website, marketing materials, and other components of your digital fundraising strategy. Overall, the idea is to effectively convey the impact that these donations will make by demonstrating the purpose of your mission through graphics and photos.
The exact type of content will vary a lot depending on your organization and your overall mission. For example, if your team works to build homes for charity, take a few photographs of a home in progress, including before, during, and after shots. That way, your nonprofit supporters can clearly see how their donations will be used.
Alternatively, you might decide to record interviews with individuals who have been impacted by your organization. For instance, if you’re fundraising to provide a local school with the funding or supplies it needs to operate, an interview with a previous teacher or student who received supplies in previous years would work well.
Another tip? If your mission has anything to do with animals (i.e. wildlife conservation, local animal shelter, etc.), you have the perfect subject matter — everyone loves animal content!
4. Lean into segmented email marketing
You likely have some sort of email marketing system in place. After all, email is one of the most popular methods of communication between nonprofits and their supporters. However, you might (and should!) always look for ways that you can take that strategy even further.
One thing to definitely keep in mind: segmented email marketing.
Did you know that marketers who employ email segmentation strategies see more than a 760% increase in revenue? In other words, email marketing campaigns that are targeted directly to various segments within an audience (as opposed to campaigns where each recipient sees the exact same message), see significantly higher conversion rates.
As far as nonprofit marketing, and, specifically, digital fundraising, goes, there are a few different ways to segment your audience. For example, you could create segments based on:
- Demographics: location, age, gender, parental/marital status
- Donation size: small, mid-sized, or major gifts
- Donor type: new, repeat, recurring, or lapsed
- Communication preference: email, text, phone, direct mail
- Giving method: cash, check, online, mobile
When you take these characteristics into account when crafting marketing emails to your supporters, it ensures that each individual receives the messages that are most applicable. The more relevant a marketing message is to a recipient, the more likely the individual is to fully and deeply connect with your fundraisers. And we all know that effective fundraising is all about making those connections!
5. A/B test your donation page
A/B testing is one of our favorite ways to test for the maximum performance of any web page or form. In short, A/B testing involves creating two very similar pages that function in largely the same way, making only one change between the two options. By testing each version, you can form conclusions about which version performed better and why.
Here are a few examples of elements you might adjust for an A/B test:
- The wording of your fundraising ask
- Suggested donation amounts (sizes and/or presence/absence of suggestions)
- The number of required fields
- Any images or visuals
- Multistep vs. one-page
While these are several good ideas for A/B tests, it’s important that you only adjust one factor at a time. That way, you’ll know with a higher degree of certainty what actually resulted in a change. Then, going forward, you can implement changes to maximize revenue for future campaigns.
6. Set up a fundraising web store
A fundraising web store is a great tool for nonprofits who want to boost their online donations. Supporters can browse your fundraising store or add on a product like a branded hat or t-shirt to their donation. The great thing about selling products on your website is that your supporters will love getting a little something in return for their generosity. Here are some tips for setting up your own fundraising store:
- Partner with a dedicated product fundraising company. The best dedicated product fundraising companies, like ABC Fundraising, offer products that your supporters actually want to buy. Plus, they make the process of ordering and customizing your products quick and easy so your supporters can get them as fast as possible.
- Select products you know your supporters will want to buy. You know your supporters best, so when deciding what to sell in your fundraising store, consider what you know about them. For example, maybe you know from previous fundraisers that your donors enjoy great coffee, so you decide to sell gourmet coffee in your store. Or, perhaps your cause is focused on the environment, so you sell flower bulbs to encourage supporters to develop their green thumbs.
- Include a link to your store on your donation page. While some of your supporters will enjoy browsing your fundraising store itself, remember to also include a link to your store on your donation page. This will make it easy for a donor to boost their contribution by adding a product like a cookie dough tub onto their donation. Don’t forget to include a picture or two of some of your products on your donation page to pique your donors’ interest.
A fundraising store is not only easy to get up and running on your website— it’s also an excellent avenue for connecting with your donors’ interests and encouraging them to give a little more to help further your work. Make sure you pick your products carefully and publicize the store on social media!
If you’re still not sure where to start, feel free to draw inspiration from our favorite nonprofit websites and their subsequent fundraising campaigns below. These are three successful digital fundraisers that our team at Cornershop Creative helped to create, each with their own unique digital strategy:
FINCA International, which stands for the Foundation for International Community Assistance, is a nonprofit dedicated to alleviating poverty. More specifically, this team works to provide long-lasting solutions to impoverished communities by offering financial services and technological advancements.
We worked with the team at FINCA for several years to create a powerful fundraising campaign promoting recurring gifts and encouraging their supporters to take that next step in an engagement.
What we did:
FINCA already had an online donation form in place on its website. Our team made it more effective by incorporating an automatic lightbox that appears after an individual submits their first gift. The lightbox appears to be a quick “thank you” screen which also works to drive donors down the conversion funnel toward becoming a monthly sustainer.
When the lightbox appears with the question, “Before we process your gift, would you consider becoming a monthly donor?” the user is presented with two options: “Yes, please start my $10 monthly gift!” and “Not today. Please process my one-time gift.”
Why this works:
At this point in the donation process, you know the individual involved is already interested in your cause (and willing to donate). Further, their payment information has already been entered, meaning it’s hardly any added effort to make the jump to monthly sustaining donor.
That being said, you might be surprised at how often donors make the upgrade simply because it’s presented to them in such a simple and user-friendly manner.
Disability Rights New York is a nonprofit organization based out of New York that works to provide free legal services, advocacy, resources, and other crucial support to individuals with disabilities.
We took on a project with the DRNY team to implement a multi-step donation form on their website.
What we did:
Our updated, multi-step donation form on the DRNY website breaks the donation process into four simple steps: amount, contact, payment, and review. Compared to a traditional, single-page donation form, this sleek and modern format draws people in and results in more completed donations.
Plus, as you can see, the “amount” page on display even offers suggested donation amounts and the ability to become a monthly donor in just a few clicks—thus further simplifying an already streamlined process.
Why this works:
Any optimized donation form should be simple to complete and avoid overwhelming the user with too many steps and/or required fields. Otherwise, many donors will click away from your donation site without ever completing the form. Sometimes, a single page with multiple questions can come across as too much. That means tons of missed donor opportunities.
With this multi-step design, users are only asked to answer one or two questions at a time, thus simplifying the process and encouraging donors to continue on to completion.
The League of Women Voters is a political advocacy group founded in 1920 to bring women a larger role in the U.S. political landscape. To this day, the group works to encourage female participation in political affairs through education and advocacy.
Our team had the opportunity to work with the LWV to improve their digital fundraising strategy by incorporating eye-catching email templates in their email communications and designing custom-build landing pages for their fundraising appeals.
What we did:
Our updated email communications process allowed the team at the League of Women Voters to build and retain effective relationships with every supporter. Plus, our carefully crafted email templates save the team time and effort on email marketing that can be reinvested in other areas of their mission.
We also set up the framework for segmented outreach, like adjusting a recipient’s suggested donation amounts based on previous gift sizes.
Why this works:
As a fundraiser, you know that your job isn’t over once you’ve secured the first donation. Retaining donors through long-lasting relationships is much more cost-efficient than having to constantly be on the lookout for brand new support.
Through our strategically designed email campaigns, the LWV ensures more personalized relationships with each donor, which increases the likelihood that a repeat donation will occur.
Work with a Digital Fundraising Consultant
It’s hard doing anything alone, but online fundraising can be particularly tough.
At Cornershop Creative, we’re a nonprofit website design agency that offers dozens of years of combined fundraising and campaign implementation experience to provide powerful insights into what resonates with donors online. We can connect you with copywriters, designers, and other fundraising experts to help you create everything from carefully-crafted campaign messages to breathtaking visual designs.
Clever and unique campaigns are the most successful, and a strong nonprofit fundraising consultant can make sure you have the best campaigns for your supporters.
After the initial campaign launch, we’ll continue to support you through detailed reporting and analysis on your campaigns that will help guide your future fundraising endeavors.
Are you ready to take the next step in your digital fundraising strategy? Download the guide.