Fundraising has changed significantly thanks to modern technologies like mobile bidding, auction software, and online fundraising campaigns.

Fundraising Then and Now

Over the years, fundraising has improved dramatically by embracing technology improvements in every aspect of the fundraising process.

More and more nonprofits and individual fundraisers are taking advantage of the amazing tools and strategies now available to them, but there is still much room to grow.

In order to highlight the improvements that have been made over the years and to provide some helpful hints on how to incorporate new technology into your next fundraising effort, we’ve put together a comparison of fundraising of the past to fundraising now.

For this post, we’ll focus specifically on:

  1. General Fundraising Campaigns
  2. Silent Auctions and Raffles

Fundraising Then: General Fundraising Campaigns

In the past, fundraising campaigns supporting a nonprofit or annual fund focused heavily on direct mail, email, phone solicitation, and in-person asks. While these methods are still effective, they have inherent flaws that limit the potential of a fundraising campaign.

In general, we find that these outreach methods are significantly limited by their cost, reliance on resources, and the reach they can achieve:

  • High Cost. Methods like direct mail can quickly become expensive, considering the cost of postage, the physical cost of your mailer, and any design or creative work that goes into the production of a direct mail ask. Phone and in-person solicitation can have even bigger cost implications because they require having a volunteer or staff member making the calls or the direct asks, taking valuable resources that could be focused elsewhere.
  • Resource-Intensive. Traditional fundraising methods are often resource-intensive, meaning many people are needed to make the effort worthwhile. Having one person calling potential donors will never reach its tipping point. Instead, you will most likely need an entire team making calls in order to see donations increase. Again, this can be an effective method of fundraising, but it becomes costly as more and more resources are needed.
  • Limited Reach. One of the biggest flaws of these traditional outreach methods is the reach associated with each. While direct mailers can be sent to a large number of people, it is nothing compared to the large numbers that can be engaged with some of the methods we will discuss later in this post! Additionally, phone and in-person solicitation often will have higher conversion rates than mail, but are extremely limited in reach. As new fundraising technology is being embraced, a major benefit is the substantial increase in reach from the same or fewer resources.

As your cause or nonprofit embarks on its next fundraising campaign, keep in mind that the above methods still have a place in helping support your cause. Our recommendation is to continue using these methods (perhaps to a lesser extent), while beginning to shift your focus to some of the new methods we will discuss below.

Fundraising Now: General Fundraising Campaigns

As we learn from traditional fundraising methods and begin incorporating new technology into our fundraising campaigns, it is important to focus on the trade-off between cost, resources required, and reach generated. As we discussed above, traditional methods are often resource- and cost-intensive, with generally low reach.

Shifting to what fundraising looks like now, you’ll find multiple tools available that allow for exponential increase in reach with minimal costs and resources needed.

What does this mean for your fundraising campaign? A larger potential donor audience, lower costs, and higher overall proceeds!

Now, we will focus on three of our favorite fundraising tools for fundraising campaigns: online fundraising pages, peer-to-peer Campaigns, and text-to-give.

Online Fundraising Pages

Online fundraising pages have become extremely popular over the years and are used for many (if not most) existing fundraising campaigns.

An online fundraising page acts as a central location for your cause or nonprofit to tell its story and collect donations from supporters. There are a few factors that are crucial to the success of a fundraising page:

  • Be Personal. A personalized story is vital to the success of your campaign. When choosing an online fundraising service, be sure there is functionality to add your own description and story. As you create this story, make it as personal as possible in order to truly connect with your supporters and create a lasting relationship between your organization and your donors.
  • Use Visuals. A visual fundraising page will always perform better! When creating your page, be sure to include any images that are applicable. These could be photos of patients who have been affected by the funds your nonprofit has raised, or fun pictures from a recent volunteer or community event.

Once an online fundraising page is created, the benefits will immediately be visible. To start, these pages are not resource-intensive at all, often requiring only one person to set them up, with very reasonable costs.

Even more importantly, online fundraising pages have an endless reach. Based on the story you tell, your page could easily go viral and reach a significantly higher number of people than that of your traditional fundraising efforts.

As more and more people donate, they are able to share their experience via social media, increasing your campaign’s reach with each donation submitted!

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns

Another popular and effective fundraising strategy of late is the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) fundraising involves leveraging your organization’s supporters in order to expand your mission’s reach, donor base, and proceeds. P2P fundraising is a multi-tiered approach where donors are asked to raise money in addition to donating.

P2P fundraising empowers an organization’s supporters to become its best fundraising advocates, harnessing the collective giving power of a much larger audience in the process. All of this comes as a result of motivating your initial supporters to become fundraising advocates, inspiring their own networks of friends and family.

As you might have gathered, a P2P campaign’s success is increased tenfold when it is used in conjunction with online fundraising technology. There are many peer-to-peer providers that equip fundraisers with online fundraising pages, social tools, and email campaigns to ensure the success of your campaign.

Staying on top of the most up-to-date technology is vital because of how rapidly P2P fundraising is evolving. Did you know that, for example, peer-to-peer lending allows people to receive loans even when they’re burdened with a bad credit score? As P2P models develop, people will become more familiar with P2P fundraising in their everyday lives (like with the aforementioned lending).

As such, they’ll be more comfortable using P2P software and advocating for your nonprofit, too!

Text-to-Give Campaigns

Just like the name sounds, text-to-give campaigns allow your supporters to donate to your cause via text message.

Donors simply text a keyword or phrase to a specified phone number with their desired donation amount, and are then sent a link to complete checkout. The simplicity of these campaigns makes it extremely easy for supporters to donate to your cause without stopping what they are doing. This leads to high participation and support for your cause!

Social Media and Email

All of the tools  we’ve mentioned can be effective in isolation, but their true power can be observed when combined with social media and email campaigns.

Once an online fundraising page or peer-to-peer campaign is live, social media and email promotion will help the program gain instant support and make it easy to seamlessly share the giving experience and story of your cause to the masses. The results will be a much higher reach, a larger donor base, and higher proceeds!

Fundraising Then: Silent Auctions & Raffles

Two more fundraising methods that have seen dramatic improvements over the last few years are the silent auction and raffle. Both of these methods have always been extremely popular and are a fun and engaging way to raise funds, most frequently during a special event.

However, the traditional versions of both silent auctions and raffles are somewhat inefficient and typically create more barriers for your donors to support your cause.

Silent Auctions

We can all agree that silent auctions can be very effective fundraising tools. Unfortunately, their traditional format limits engagement, reach, and funds raised. The main culprit here? Paper bid sheets!

Printed bid sheets create a major barrier for silent auctions, as they not only limit participation to those attending a physical event, but also to those present at the silent auction prize table.

This, of course, negatively impacts your overall reach and participation. Furthermore, because traditional silent auctions are physical in nature, their timing typically only runs during the course of a special event, meaning that your cause/nonprofit is missing out on an extended fundraising time period.

Raffles

Similar to paper bid sheets, raffles traditionally require paper tickets. We all know how annoying it is to fill out multiple tickets and then track the numbers on each while raffle winners are announced. This process is inefficient and limits participation just as traditional silent auctions do.

Additionally, both silent auctions and raffles typically involve long and arduous checkout processes to ensure that donors make their payments and receive the correct prize. A poor checkout experience can alienate donors and limit further support.

Fundraising Now: Silent Auctions & Raffles

Luckily, silent auctions and raffles have been drastically improved through the use of online and mobile technology. Mobile and online silent auctions and raffles utilize online bidding and ticket purchase, text messaging functionality, and credit card processing in order to make donating through a silent auction or raffle seamless.

Some of the major areas that technology has improved for silent auctions and raffles include:

  • Reach. Because silent auctions and raffles can now have their own online page and phone number for online and text message bidding and ticket purchase, your audience is limitless. Just as with online fundraising pages, your silent auctions and raffles can now reach anyone with a phone or internet connection! This means more bidders and higher proceeds.
  • Timing. Similarly, because your mobile silent auction or raffle will not be bound physically, you can open bidding and raffle ticket purchase prior to your physical event. This means you can give your supporters a longer window of time to support your cause and submit bids or buy tickets.
  • Engagement. Modernized mobile silent auctions and raffles have the opportunity to majorly increase donor engagement. No longer will your donors need to hold on to paper tickets or hover around a prize table. Instead, they will receive instant notifications if they have been outbid or won an item, whether they are at your event or not!

Luckily, there are many great charity auction tools available – we recommend finding one that balances functionality with cost in order to allow your program to raise as much as possible.

Conclusion

After reading this post, we hope that you’ve been able to realize the major changes that have taken place in the fundraising space due to the enhancement of technology. We encourage you to explore these new options in order to find the right balance for your next fundraising endeavor!


Thank you to Zach Hagopian for contributing this informative post! Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that powers silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding. An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds through the use of the Accelevents platform and similar products.