4 critical pieces of the online fundraising puzzle

Unsplash photo credit: Hans Peter Gauster

Online fundraising can be overwhelming. For nonprofits new to the game, you may be tempted to go back into your old habits. You may add an address on your appeal for donors to mail in a check, or you may neglect your online fundraising duties for direct mail appeals altogether!

For nonprofits new to online fundraising, or those who just need a refresher, course, we’ve put together a brief guide on the 4 most important pieces to the puzzle of online fundraising to help you get started.

1. Set a goal!

Unlike direct mail, which may end up in the hands of your donors a month after the appeal was sent through snail mail, things move much quicker on the Internet. With the copious amounts of information available to supporters, you need to give them a reason to take action right now.

How do you do that? Set a goal! Are you seeking funds to build a new bakery? Are you trying to raise money ahead of your busy camp season in the summer? Whatever your goal is, make sure to make it loud and clear on your page!

Check out this great example of a goal-oriented campaign to raise funds for asbestos removal in Lumberyard’s theatre renovation.

2. Make it complementary, not conflicting, with other fundraising appeals.

While direct mail and digital fundraising are both housed under Development, many of these teams operate in silos. Wouldn’t it make your job easier if everyone focused on the same appeal?!

For instance, if you’re asking your donors via mail to honor the dads in their life in June, wouldn’t it make sense to have a Father’s Day theme for your email appeal? Use the same images (even on social media!) to make sure donors are seeing the message on multiple channels and it stays top-of-mind for them.

One key to brand saturation is consistency and repetition. When a donor hears your key messages multiple times, it makes it more memorable. Soon, they’ll be repeating your key message to their friends, and they’ll repeat to their friends!

3. Keep the message simple.

With the Internet, there are no limits on how much you can add to your appeal like there are in print. There is infinite space for your digital message, right?!

So, maybe we should remind our donors to help us win that grant by liking a post on Facebook. And, don’t forget we’re having a booth at the county fair next week. And, we need to remind them about our upcoming gala. And, we should send that link to the newspaper article we were mentioned in!

Or, maybe we better not. Keep the message simple, otherwise you risk confusing donors. Or worse, they’ll lose interest with the screens full of text.

Make your message clear and easy to understand. Here’s an example: If each one of your donors give $20, you may be able to expand your nonprofit’s kitchen by June ahead of the busy fall season. So, consider a message like this: “$20 can purchase the equivalent of a set of pots and pans for our new kitchen. Make your donation today so we can build our kitchen this June!”

Here’s an example of a great message on a fundraiser to send 10 girls to primary school in East Africa for their 10-year anniversary:

House of Blue Hope asked for a specific amount from donors to help fund a piece of their tuition, boarding and other essentials!

4. Get social!

If a fundraising appeal sits on a webpage, but no one sees it, does it really exist? The answer is no (well, not really anyways)! If you’ve put in the work to make a well-thought out campaign, see it through by promoting it consistently on social media and in personalized emails to supporters to make sure donors see it. Spreading the word is the only way to ensure more people are seeing your fundraiser, and the more people who see it, the better your chances of getting donations. Plus, you may even go viral!

Tag local businesses in posts and ask them to share on their social media, too. Post consistently to remind donors about your fundraiser to boost your chances of fundraising success.

Another benefit is that asking donors to share your fundraiser with their network is a powerful secondary message for your fundraiser without watering your primary ask: Getting the donation!

Don’t have an existing online donor base to send your email out to? That’s OK! Build your email list by allowing people to sign up for your news and updates on your website and through social media. Always allow donors to opt in at events, too! It takes time, but it’s worth it.

These are just a few important components to start online fundraising for your nonprofit. Once you nail these four pieces of the puzzle, the rest will fit together!

About Ashley Hieb

Ashley began her career in journalism working at a local newspaper. From there she transitioned into the nonprofit sector to share her passion with causes that were making a difference. She specializes in storytelling and crowdfunding strategy.

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