Tips and Tools for Online Fundraising

by: Smith and Howard

February 14, 2017

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We love nonprofits here at Smith and Howard. They approach their business with a unique enthusiasm and a drive to help the organization succeed.

One topic that seems to always be on the minds of our nonprofit clients is that of online fundraising. But when pushed for specifics, many find it hard to pinpoint exactly what they want online fundraising to do (realistically) and what their measurement of success would be. Instead, it is just something they ought to be doing and something that should be reaping great rewards for the organization.

Online fundraising is just a piece of your fundraising pie.

While online fundraising provides a relatively easy way to accept donations 24/7/365, it cannot be the sole method of fundraising. Year-round outreach efforts, annual events/galas, professionally run campaigns, press coverage and networking by your staff and board members are all important aspects of fundraising.

When it comes to online fundraising, organizations cannot add a Donate Now button, sit back and expect donations to pour in. Just as with any “ask” for donations, online fundraising must be part of a larger, focused strategy. Here are some things to consider:

Strategy: Hope is not a strategy. When your organization is developing a strategy for annual or special-focus fundraising, be sure to have an in-depth discussion on how much you can realistically expect to receive through events, calls, mailers and online efforts. Talk to other organizations who have been successful and some who have struggled to find their lessons learned. Determine which methods you will use, for which donor market and what your expectations for results will be.

Measure: Once your goals for each donation segment are in place, determine how you will measure them. This will help you adjust as you go along to refocus on areas that are working well, and will also help each year as you evaluate prior year donations and determine goals and strategies for the next year. Without measurement, you will lose track of what works well and may repeat tactics that were ineffective.

Brand: Whether your nonprofit is a religious organization, a women and children’s shelter or a trade association, you have a brand and a stated mission. Everything about your online fundraising should follow your brand and reinforce your mission. Your logo, colors, visuals and messaging should be included throughout your online presence, even as far as the online donation form.

Make it easy: We move at a rapid pace and expect everything online to be easy. If it’s hard to find what we’re looking for, we quickly give up and move on. Donation buttons, FAQs and contact information should be easily accessible and visible throughout your web site and on your social media channels. There are a number of online donation tools available for nonprofits; they vary in cost and options, so you will need to research and explore carefully before making a decision. Consider offering donors a way to easily set up recurring monthly (or annual) donations. This is becoming an expected option by many donors and allows some to contribute more dollars over the course of time than they could if they had to make one lump sum donation. It is also easier to keep them on board for multiple years, as it requires no effort on your part or theirs to renew.

Tell Your Story: People donate because they feel strongly about your mission and they have confidence that their money will be put to good use. It is important that you show donors throughout the year how impactful their donations have been. Stories about actual ways the nonprofit has helped someone or something, how it has helped the organization achieve a stated goal (i.e., a new building that a campaign was launched to pay for) and how effectively the organization is run will help your donors stay engaged and reconsider future donations.

Ways to tell your story:

Photos: Post to Facebook, Instagram and of course your web site. Ask your donors, board members and employees to like and share posts. Include brief descriptions that capture the hearts of your viewers.

Content (articles, case studies, testimonials): The written word is still strong and vital to telling your story online and elsewhere. Gather articles that illustrate the challenges your organization helps others tackle, talk about your board members and staff (personalizing the organization is very helpful), get testimonials from those who have benefited from the organization (anonymous if necessary).

Videos: Today’s most effective communication tool online. The challenge can be quality, especially on a tight budget. Consider the costs and wide range of options early in the strategy planning to make this a viable piece of your efforts. iPhones and other mobile devices can substitute for a video camera quite well in the right hands. Just remember that planning the video is extremely important and that once filmed, there is still significant editing to be done. It is usually worthwhile to look for outside sources, even freelancers or film students, to help with your video production. However you approach it – do it. And last, keep it short. Ninety seconds is ideal and anything over 2 ½ minutes is far too long. Make the message powerful and to the point. Once your video is complete – make sure there’s a Donate Now button nearby and a link in the video, as well.

If you have read these quick tips, you must have a connection to a nonprofit whose mission is important to you. As you consider each of these tips, remember that your passion and enthusiasm for that mission are the foundation for everything that comes after. Pursue the mission with a strategy and you’re much more likely to succeed.

 “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As always, if you have any questions please contact Julie Barnes at 404-874-6244 or fill at the form below.

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