It’s Time To Develop A Digital Fundraising Strategy – Nonprofits

Business Marketing, Non Profit

The internet is an amazing place, and not just because of the cat memes and Vines. Yes, sure there are loads of great things to do on the digital playground, but it’s also the ideal place for a nonprofit to fundraise. 

Let’s be real, it’s 2020 and online fundraising is really the main way that you’re going to receive donations to your nonprofit. Snail mail is so last decade. So then how should you do it? Tying your digital fundraising strategy with your digital marketing strategy is critical for maintaining messaging and credibility across all platforms, but what does that mean? 

Can’t you just add a “Donate Now” button on your website and call it a day? Unfortunately, digital fundraising is not that clean and simple—there’s quite a bit of process behind it all.

Related: Is Your Marketing Strategy Complete? Find Out Here [Digital Marketing Checklist]

Your Modern Fundraising Strategy and You

Modern nonprofits need digital strategy just like any other business. There’s this weird myth that you don’t need digital strategy or marketing because the donors that you want to donate to your cause already know about you. This is just… wrong? 

It’s great to cater to your existing base, but it’s also important to build on your audience and bring in new people, and in some cases, converting their viewpoints through education! 

There are so many digital tools and outlets available to the modern-day marketing manager (sorry Don Draper) that it’s hard to know where to start. The first rule of digital strategy is don’t talk about digital strategy. The second rule of digital strategy is to direct all of your marketing efforts towards a larger, common, united business strategy. 

The internet is a busy place and if you don’t have a unified mission and plan, you’re gonna have a Bad Time because donor competition is literally everywhere. Check your closets and under your bed. I really meant EVERYWHERE. So you need something that tells the world LOOK AT ME. LOVE ME. GIVE ME MONEY SO I CAN DO SOMETHING GREAT TO HELP THE WORLD.

Simplifying, consolidating, and strengthening your online digital strategy will facilitate donor engagement, audience expansion, and ideally recurring—or large—donations. But this isn’t a set and forget kind of plan… nothing ever is so please stop talking about set and forget strategies. It’s not a strategy, it’s just being lazy. Jeez. 

Online Outlaws and High Noon Hijinks

Before you can even dig your teeth into this fundraising junk, you gotta make sure that you’re following the law. WWW doesn’t stand for “Wild Wild West” you goof—there are rules. 

Fundraising compliance is best practice and if you want to be seen as a credible nonprofit, you need to take it seriously. States regulate what kind of charitable solicitation occurs within their borders—41 states require nonprofits to register before soliciting funds. You just need to register in the states where you are asking for donations, which is all good and easy until you realize that it’s 2020 and the internet makes this a messy messy situation. 

You can’t just put a “Donate Now” button on your website and let everyone and their mom send you money, even though that would be the dream. But nothing is that easy. To circumvent this, you just need to register in all of the states from which you are receiving pledges; where your prospective donors are located. Just register before you accept any funds and it’s crisis averted.

Rakin’ in Those Digital Dollars

There are countless digital tools and marketing outlets that you can use in your fundraising strategy, but figuring out which to choose and how to approach it is critical to maintaining a solid online presence for donors to donate to. 

For example, social media is a huge digital fundraising outlet for nonprofits, but without an integrated and adaptive strategy to back it, you could be talking the difference between three dollars and a piece of lint, and a few hundred thousand… and I’m sure that there will still be some lint. All digital strategy efforts need to support each other to ensure your financial success, so the best way to move forward is to walk through your digital strategy one step at a time.

1. Use Your Noodle

The first step to developing a solid digital fundraising plan is to identify your goals—this is pretty important. If you don’t have a unified vision and idea of what your fundraising campaign needs to be, your online efforts can turn into a glorified belly flop. Systematically defining your goals will provide a concrete foundation for your strategy. You can get a good idea of your goals by asking questions like:

  • How much money do you need to raise?
  • What do you want the public to know about you?
  • How can you grow your audience?
  • What are the blind spots in your current strategy?
  • Why do you want to refresh your current strategy?
  • What issues have you run into?
  • Are you wasting resources?

Figuring out where you’ve been underperforming and wasting resources can give you an idea of where you can cut back and build-up your new budget and plan. Analyzing past data can give you invaluable insight into how you goofed, which can inform future decisions, targets, and engagement. 

While it’s important to be optimistic, ambitious, and open to developing a new nonprofit fundraising digital strategy, it’s equally crucial to remain realistic about your goals moving forward. When developing your new strategy, make sure that you talk with your stakeholders, director, and board, and run an audit of your current tools and skills. 

2. Consider Your Peeps

The next step towards implementing digital fundraising for a nonprofit is to consider your audience and what it digs. Look into your existing data (social media, website, email, CRM, Google Analytics) that depict how your audience interacts with your business—tracking and predicting online behavior can help you develop realistic goals. 

This data will show you which campaigns have worked in the past and you can infer why they were successful based on who interacted with what promotions. Comparing successes and failures can give you insights into segmentation and messaging optimization. 

Use this info to develop donor personas so you can better align your brand with specific audiences and tones. Be that chameleon you know you are. We frickin told you lizard people are real. No one listened.

3. Take Out All the Stops 

Establish your digital strategy’s constraints—what will hold you back? In order to have a successful nonprofit fundraising digital strategy, you will need to take all constraints into account during the planning process—before you can even ask for money. Get a better idea of what’s possible and what will make everyone happy before you put the pedal to the medal. These are some commons constraints to look out for:

  • Budgets and financial setbacks
  • Stakeholder interests
  • Technology
  • Janet from Accounting (dammit Janet)
  • Offline integration

4. Get that Good Stuff

The most effective teams are the ones that have access to all of the best goodies for their job.

Proper equipment makes everyone’s jobs and lives better. We highly recommend that you audit your toolkits and techies so you can develop a systematic approach to improving and filling the gaps in your metaphorical tool belt. 

You may discover that you need to invest in new technology and software in order to improve how donors interact with your website, social media, ad campaigns, and emails. Just do this. You’ll thank us later.

5. Engage Maximum C O H E S I O N 

Next, it’s time to craft a plan for communicating on each channel. Your most important channels are email, social media, website, and digital advertising—having them communicate with each other effectively is key to reaching your fundraising goals. 

Your website should be the hub of your message, strategy, and communication—all roads should lead back to your website so new users can be converted. Use your channels to create, post, share, and promote content across all of your other outlets. Encouraging social media sharing will widen your audience and create more traffic—and I’m not talking about the rush hour kind because oh my god no one needs that in their lives. 

One great way to make sure that everyone gets relevant, personalized content is to segment your mailing lists, which will increase your click-through-rates and increase your visibility outside of social media. 

Using online advertisements and Google AdWords to lure visitors back to your site, like the siren you are, is also a strong tactic, but the strongest tactic is Search Engine Optimization—SEO isn’t easy but when you’re creating content for your different outlets, it’s really fantabulous. Don’t forget to invest some time and money into peer-to-peer fundraising and holiday giving campaigns.

6. Cook Up Somethin’ Fab

The integration phase is crucial for tying everything together—make those marketing channels sing. Connecting your strategy across all platforms is how you’ll rake in the big bucks. Creating a single message and support system will improve your fundraising campaigns and achieve your engagement goals. In order to conserve energy and facilitate analysis, have all of your channels (email, social, website, etc) lead to one of these destinations—it will help you improve your digital fundraising impact:

  • Online donation pages and forms
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising software
  • My dad’s house
  • Crowdfunding platforms (mostly for smaller organizations only)

7. Stare at Some Numbers Until They Make Sense

The last step, and possibly the most important, is to analyze your campaign data. What’s the point of recording all this amazing fundraising data if you’re not gonna digest it like a smooth wine? THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES. THINK OF THE IMPROVEMENTS. Bring on the success. 

Part of this process is seeing what works and what doesn’t, comparing it to last year’s, and being able to improve it easily without starting from scratch. Overhauling your digital strategy can be a Whole Thing, or it can be easy, and that my friends is why we collect and analyze this data. 

Figuring out what “success” looks like to your nonprofit is a big piece of this step. Some metrics that you may want to use to measure your campaign’s success are:

  • Completed donations
  • Email subscriptions
  • Pledge signatures
  • Volunteer applications
  • How proud mom is

Call in the Cavalry

Developing an effective digital fundraising strategy without professional assistance can be a challenge. You want to make sure that you get it right the first time so you can get the most out of your fundraising efforts while still remaining credible and effective in your messaging. Here at Intuitive Digital we are very familiar with all the ways for nonprofits to raise money, so we can help you develop, implement, and analyze your strategy every time you run a capital campaign. 

There’s a real benefit to hiring an entire team of experts to do this kind of nitty gritty dirty work so that you can focus on the schmoozing and wining and dining with bigwigs. Don’t get caught up in the boring parts, that’s what we are here for. Now go on, kid. Go have some fun.

About the Author

Nick Footer

Nick Footer is an entrepreneur and founder of Intuitive Digital, a national award-winning digital marketing agency in Portland, Oregon. With over 15 years of experience, he has helped hundreds of businesses improve their online presence through search engine optimization, paid advertising, and website design.

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