2016 Online Fundraising Tips for Nonprofits

by: Smith and Howard

June 14, 2016

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At the May nonprofit workshop hosted by Smith and Howard, attendees enjoyed hearing the perspectives on online fundraising from three respected professionals: Mary Pat Crouch, Senior Vice President of Coxe Curry & Associates, Mark Sutton, CFO of United Way of Metro Atlanta and Justin Banta, Development Director of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.

Following is a brief synopsis of the discussion.

 Mary Pat Crouch:

  1. Note that online fundraising and online giving are not necessarily the same thing. In both cases, relationships matter and stories matter.
  2. Timing is important for online communications – some sources say the top time is from 3-5 p.m.
  3. Stewardship is key: nonprofits must do “all the right things” to enjoy ongoing support.
  4. Do testing and use the results to inform future fundraising activity.
  5. Establish a goal
  6. Consider “challenge” donations and competition
  7. Develop a social strategy – for example, millennials tend to want to pay more often – consider setting up a monthly donation option
  8. Competition is fierce; accountability is a concern
  9. Big data – only matters if you can find a way to use it
  10. Speed


  1. Baby Boomers and “Matures” account for 70% of all giving.
  2. For donors 49 and above, Facebook and Pinterest can be effective; Instagram and Twitter not as much.
  3. Keep online giving/donations simple – as few clicks as possible
  4. Attention spans are short – 8 seconds for those born in the 90s and beyond
  5. Memories are short – nonprofits must do a lot on the stewardship side to stay top of mind
  6. Use caution on crowdfunding – especially if you are the donor. There is very little accountability.

Mark Sutton:

  1. Online giving is “convenience giving”
  2. It involves acquisition, retention and brand lift
  3. You must be searchable and shareable
  4. You must understand your demographic and customize campaigns. What has always worked before may not work with millennials.
  5. Risk issues: ensure you do not retain personal data of donors in your system. House it somewhere that has the resources and security for that data (i.e, Paypal).

Justin Banta:

  1. You must know more than who your donors are; you must also know how they make their decisions.
  2. Photography is important in any online effort, but you must closely consider what photographs you are using and whether they will appeal to your audience.
  3. Among fundraising tools are your collateral and your messaging.
  4. Recommend that you pre-raise 20% of your campaign
  5. Matching gifts do not always improve outcomes
  6. Create small donor groups with goals specific to each groups
  7. Matching gifts don’t have to be one-for-one. They can be one to one-half. It allows you to stretch the match.
  8. Communication channels – consider how they work together and how they work for you
  9. The higher your suggested donation, the lower your return
  10. People are more likely to give even dollars (i.e., $100) than odd (i.e., $95)
  11. Social recognition for donors is very important.

(Note: this article was updated on June 28, 2016 to reflect corrected figures on the actual percentage of giving by Baby Boomers and Matures, as well as for the demographic for Facebook and Pinterest effectiveness.)

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