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Five Strategies For Improving Your Online Fundraising

AFP-NYC Educational Program

May 9, 2019 , Scandinavia House, New York City

By Susan Fields, CFRE

Technology has provided an ever-increasing number of tools for nonprofits to expand awareness and raise funds. Through combining traditional methods with website giving, email solicitations, and social media, your organization can optimize its ability to acquire new donors, obtain additional information on existing donors, and promote the impact of its mission. Check out the five strategies listed below for improving your organization’s online fundraising and communications:

1. Create a Social Media Plan. Nonprofits often shy away from creating a presence on social media because they have the impression that most of their constituents are not technology-savvy. Keep in mind that over the past decade baby boomers have become far more active on social media—with 40% of all Facebook users over the age of 55. Because social media marketing is a powerful means of expanding awareness, your initial steps will be to determine your target market and what you are seeking to accomplish—fundraising, connection to the community, volunteer recruitment, or brand and reputation-building. Based upon these decisions, you will choose one or several of the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, UTube and LinkedIn) on which to post updates, pictures, information on your organization’s activities, as well as a link to your website where supporters can make a contribution. 

2. Keep it Simple. Once you have attracted a potential donor to your website, the worst thing you can do is complicate your message with too much sharing or require that they travel through a labyrinth of steps. The Donate Now button should be large, at the top of the website, and carried over to all pages to avoid the necessity to backtrack. Allow the donor to make a gift within a few seconds. Do not ask the prospect to fill out extensive lists of personal information, or require them to create an account on your website in order to make a gift. If your website is quirky and difficult to use, consider updating it as soon as possible or risk sabotaging the giving process. Keep in mind that creating a nonprofit blog can provide content that you can share on other social media channels which will attract people back to your website. 

3. Launch your online program with Giving Tuesday’s free online platform. This global day of charitable giving during the holiday season provides your organization with a vehicle to test the waters of promoting online giving via social media. Started in 2012 by the NYC 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, this event takes place annually on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  Driven primarily by online contributions, most nonprofits focus on utilizing email and social media for this event. It’s never to early to begin planning by first determining the audience you will be targeting, which will most probably be your existing database. By logging onto your organization will be provided with the resources necessary to get started, including a toolkit of branding materials, videos, logos, best practices as well as examples from organizations that have participated in past years. 

4. Use traditional fundraising methods to boost online giving. Statistics show that about one-third of donors will respond to direct mail with an online contribution. Direct mail is still a highly effective method of soliciting a gift. It is far easier to delete an email than it is to ignore an envelope with a compelling image and tagline. Personalized letters that impart a sense of urgency are not as readily discarded. In order to take advantage of donors who shy away from writing checks, include the URL to your website or online donation page as well as directions for making a text message contribution. All online contributions should be followed immediately with a thank you email and receipt—and, of course, donations sent through the mail should receive a prompt acknowledgement letter. 

5. Begin by focusing on social media as a cultivation and stewardship tool. There’s a great deal of pressure lately to make these platforms an exclusive channel for fundraising when they are most effective at creating awareness of the impact of the work of nonprofits through the posting of videos, pictures, and compelling information about programs. It has been shown that if a potential donor is exposed to the posts of an organization eleven times, a gift will most likely result. So utilizing these tools will not only enhance relationships, but also ultimately attract contributions as a by-product of frequent communication with constituents. Social media presence also provides adds variety to an organizations efforts to market of special events, recruit volunteers, and attract ambassadors.

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