Online Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide

What is Online Fundraising?

Online fundraising is a way for nonprofit organizations to raise money via the internet. It usually involves an online donation page and can include mobile giving, peer-to-peer fundraising, and more.

Why is Online Fundraising Important?

Online fundraising allows donors to give quickly, easily, and securely. Nonprofits are able to collect donations from across the country and around the world.

Why Does Online Fundraising Work?

Nearly everyone has access to the internet in one way or another. With online fundraising, nonprofits can meet donors where they already are.

Benefits of Online Fundraising

For Nonprofits

Collect Donations From Anywhere

It might seem like a simple benefit, but online fundraising allows nonprofits to raise money across the country and around the world.

As long as donors have internet access and the link to your donation page, they can give to your nonprofit’s cause.

Capture More Donor Information

When your nonprofit uses online fundraising, you’re able to capture different types of information from your loyal supporters.

Your nonprofit can have access to billing addresses, email addresses, and more when you employ online giving. 

Fundraise Cost-Effectively

Online fundraising is one of the most cost-effective ways to raise money from donors.

Your donation page provider will likely collect a percentage of each donation or charge a flat fee per contribution.

Either way, the costs are minimal compared to other fundraising methods. 

Increase Visibility and Awareness

Online fundraising gets the word out about your nonprofit and your cause.

By encouraging donors to give online, you direct them to your website where they can find even more info.

Online giving increases awareness of and visibility for your organization.

For Donors

Give Easily

Donors want to be able to give to your organization as easily as possible.

Luckily, online fundraising allows them to do just that!

As long as supporters have internet access and know where your donation page is, they can give to your organization.

Keep Personal Information Secure

Many donors worry that their info will be compromised when donating.

With online giving, though, their information is safe.

With security measures like encryption and PCI compliance, supporters can give knowing that their info is in the right hands.

Set up Recurring Donations

In the past, donors who wanted to give to your organization on a regular basis had to mail in a check every month or year.

But with online giving, donors can easily set up recurring donations that are automatically made on a regular basis.

Share Donation Information

Donors who want to help your organization get the word out about your cause can easily do so with online fundraising.

With social sharing, donors are able to demonstrate their support for your cause and encourage others to donate online.

Getting Started with Online Fundraising

Assess your current situation before choosing an online fundraising tool

1. Assess Your Current Situation

Before you even begin raising money online, you need to determine your starting position.

Examine your existing fundraising strategies and your budget.

Assessing your current situation might mean looking at your existing online fundraising efforts and seeing where they could be improved or changed.

Whatever the case may be, make sure that you take a long and hard look at your existing fundraising strategies to determine how online fundraising fits in.

2. Get Approval from Leadership and the Board

You’ll likely need to obtain permission or approval from members of your leadership team or your board of directors.

If this is the case, you’ll need to present a convincing case to them to demonstrate that online fundraising is the way to go for your organization.

However, it shouldn’t be too difficult to show your board of directors that online fundraising is the right move for your nonprofit. The overwhelming majority of nonprofits (large and small!) raise a lot of fundraising dollars online.

If you can show your leadership the fundraising potential of donation pages, you should be able to convince them in no time!

Select the right online fundraising tool

3. Select the Right Donation Tool

Once you have the green light from your leadership, it’s time to select the perfect online donation tool.

Selecting an online donation tool is a process that requires input from many departments and, in some cases, even your donors.

You’ll need to consider:

  • Fees and costs
  • Setup and maintenance procedures
  • Integration with your current software
  • Scalability options
  • And more

4. Promote the Page to Your Donors

Now that you’ve selected an online fundraising tool and set up a donation page, it’s time to promote it to your donors!

The most obvious ways to get the word out about your online fundraising options are:

  • Emails
  • Social media
  • On your website

However, you can also use more traditional routes, such as:

  • Direct mail
  • Public advertisements
Track your online fundraising metrics

5. Track your Metrics

Your nonprofit should be tracking certain metrics with any fundraising effort that you have.

And online fundraising is no exception.

You’ll need to keep a record of the following key performance indicators to help measure your success over time:

  • Number of donations received
  • Average gift amount
  • Average gift growth
  • Number of donations matched by employers

Of course, there are more metrics that your nonprofit should track, but they will largely depend on the communication methods that you employ to direct donors to your online fundraising page.

The Basics of Online Fundraising

Choosing the Best Online Fundraising Tool

Choosing an online donation tool is a big decision. You’ll need to determine which provider can meet your organization’s needs at a price that you can afford.

You’ll also need to make sure that you get some kind of input from your donors. If you have loyal supporters that give on a regular basis, ask them if they have any suggestions or input for selecting an online donation tool. They’re the ones that will be using the donation page, after all!

Additionally, your organization will need to have the approval of your leadership and board members.

Make sure that the tool is easy to use from a management standpoint and that there will be ample support from the provider.

It’s also crucial to look into online fundraising software that easily integrates with your existing database and other fundraising software.

Considerations to Make Before Selecting an Online Donation Tool

  • Cost

  • Donor preference

  • Existing technology

  • Leadership input

  • Setup and maintenance

Comparing Online Fundraising Vendors

Salsa

Check out Salsa's comprehensive fundraising software!

With Salsa’s online fundraising software, you’ll gain access to an easy-to-use interface and fully integrated tools to help you work quickly and more efficiently. This means you’ll be able to focus more of your time on fulfilling donor relationships and generating more revenue, which in turn, will further your cause.

Their online fundraising software will help you develop new and improve upon existing fundraising strategies. With their software, you can build a professional and branded fundraising webpage, design easy-to-read and appealing donation buttons, and automate immediate thank you emails.

Giveffect

Giveffect's online fundraising software comes with a whole host of tools to help you raise more.

With Giveffect’s online fundraising software, organizations can expand their fundraising efforts. Some of Giveffect’s features include, branded donation pages, text-to-give, recurring gifts, and pledges. Their tools work seamlessly together to provide your organization’s donors with a convenient, user-friendly giving experience.

Giveffect also has robust tracking and donor management tools so that you can gain deeper insights into your donors’ giving behaviors. Knowledge on your donors can lead to more effective campaigns and more funds for your cause!

Fundly

Fundly's online fundraising software is a great resource for nonprofits!

Fundly’s online fundraising software provides you with a crowdfunding platform that features a prominent video and photo gallery. With a blog-like system, you can easily post updates (from the Fundly app!) and let your supporters comment on your page. Plus, your page’s payment processing is secure with Fundly’s partner, WePay.

Mobile-friendly, Fundly’s software can hold your hand from start to finish, whether it be for creating your page, linking your social networks, or sending out updates. And don’t forget, your page will feature social sharing buttons so you can spread the world faster than ever!

Best Practices for Online Fundraising

Keep the Form Simple

Keep your online fundraising page simple

The more stratightforward your online fundraising form is, the higher your donation page conversion rate will be. This metric measures the percentage of people who complete the donation process.

Don’t overcomplicate your donation page with unnecessary links, text, or images.

Donors should be able to clearly identify which fields they need to fill out and how they can submit a donation.

Use Consistent Branding

Use consistent branding on your online fundraising page

A key component of online fundraising is obtaining and keeping your donors’ trust. An effective way to do that is to maintain consistent branding on your donation page.

Use the same colors, images, and fonts that are on your main website on your donation form.

Your donors will know that they are definitely giving to your organization and are more likely to submit a donation.

Minimize Required Info

Your donors shouldn’t have to fill out multiple pages of required information just to give to your organization. Your form should only ask for the bare minimum when it comes to donating.

This ensures that your donors can give quickly and without the hassle of filling out a ton of info.

Donors are more likely to finish the donation process when the form is all on one page. Make giving to your organization a cinch!

Include an Image

Include an image at the top of your online fundraising page

The top of your online fundraising page is crucial for capturing donors’ attentions and encouraging them to continue giving to your organization.

You can include a single image at the top of your form that shows the people, animals, or communities that you serve.

This high-quality image should encourage donors to give and should not lead them away from the donation page.

Offer Recurring Donations

If you want to start receiving regular donations from your supporters, offer the option to set up recurring donations on your donation form.

You can include options for donors to make contributions every week, month, quarter, six months, or year!

Offering the option to set up recurring donations can increase your donor retention rates over time.

Suggest Different Giving Levels

Some donors are comfortable giving $20 online while others can give hundreds. Offering different giving levels allows donors to choose for themselves!

Having different giving levels on your donation form makes it easy for donors to choose the amount they’d like to give.

Different giving levels can also increase the average size of donors’ contributions over time.

Strategies for Promoting Online Fundraising

Donors won’t be able to access your online donation page unless you direct them to it! Use these strategies to promote your online fundraising options to your donors and get the word out about online giving.

Website

Most donors research a nonprofit online before they decide to make a contribution.

Therefore, it makes sense that your organization’s website would be the biggest promoter of your online donation page.

Make sure that every page on your website has a “Donate Now” button and that your “Ways to Give” page prominently highlights online fundraising as a giving method.

You want donors to know exactly how they can give to your organization.

The easiest way to do that is to heavily feature your donation page on every page of your website.

Email

Emails are a cost-effective way to get in touch with donors and give them all sorts of information.

Your nonprofit is likely already sending out newsletters and update emails, but are you including the link to your donation page in those emails?

Make sure that you place at least one “Donate Now” button within your emails. You should also include a link to your donation page within the body of your email.

That way, donors have at least two opportunities to access your online donation page.

Social Media

If your nonprofit has a substantial following on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site, you can use it to get the word out about your online donation page.

Of course, you don’t want every status update or tweet to be about fundraising, but you can post the link to your online donation page (along with a success story or organization update) on a weekly basis.

Additionally, most social media sites have “bio” or “about” sections. These are excellent spots to place the link to your donation page.

Direct Mail

Direct mail might not seem like the most obvious way to promote your online donation page, but it can be an effective way to move offline donors, online.

Include the URL to your online donation page in a prominent place on your direct mail letters, cards, and pamphlets.

You can even include the URL on the back of the envelope. Since many people turn over a piece of mail before opening it, this is an ideal spot to highlight your online donation page.

Not all of your direct mail recipients will want to give online, and that’s ok! But by placing your URL somewhere on your direct mail pieces, you can drive offline traffic to your online donation page. 

Tips for Using Storytelling to Boost Online Fundraising Efforts

Talk About One Person

Donors are more likely to connect to one individual’s or family’s story than facts and figures about thousands or millions of people.

Tell the story of someone that your organization has helped or is trying to assist, and donors will feel moved to donate online!

Follow the Storytelling Arc

Every good story follows a pattern, and the story you tell to encourage people to donate online should be no exception to that rule!

Present the reader with a problem and trace someone’s attempts to overcome that predicament. Then tell donors how they can help!

Don’t Forget the Data

Stories have emotional appeal, but they need to be backed up by facts.

Don’t forget to include relevant statistics and data to demonstrate that your story isn’t fictional!

Make a Fundraising Pitch

Don’t forget: you actually need to ask for a donation during your story.

Once you’ve appealed to donors’ emotions, show them how they can be part of the story, too!

What Inspires People to Give Online?

Videos

Videos are a great way to show the direct impact that online donors’ contributions are having.

You can show a video of an individual, family, community, or animal that is being helped because of the generosity of your online supporters. You can even place this video directly on your donation page to help boost your donation page conversion rates.

You can also highlight the video on social media and in your email newsletters to donors.

Blog Articles

Well-written blog articles (on your website and other sites) can help motivate online supporters to make a donation.

To successfully direct visitors to your online donation page, you should always include a link or a button at the end of every blog post on your site.

If you are writing a piece for another publication, ask if you can include a link to your donation page (or at least your homepage or “Ways to Give” page).

Emails

Email is one of the most common ways that nonprofits get in touch with their online supporters and encourage them to donate via the online donation page.

By placing links, buttons, graphics, and images in emails, nonprofits can spur donors to donate, especially if the content of the email focuses on how donors can help further the nonprofit’s mission.

Don’t bombard your donors with email appeals, though! Instead, write clear, concise copy and send out donation appeals on a spaced-out schedule.

Online Fundraising Metrics to Track

  • Total Online Revenue

    Before you can begin looking at more specific measurements, you’ll need to know how many of your fundraising dollars came from your online donation page.

    This is a crucial data point for understanding the rest of your fundraising metrics.

  • Average Donation Size

    In order to target your future outreach strategies a bit better, it’s useful to know how much each donor is giving every time they visit your donation page.

    This data is likely stored in your CRM, so it should be easy to locate and analyze.

  • Prior Pages Visited

    To better understand your donors’ giving logic, it’s useful to know what pages they’re looking at on your website before they hit that “Donate Now” button.

    Perhaps you have a popular blog post that spurs a lot of donors to give. Or maybe you find that people who visit your “Ways to Give” page aren’t going on to donate. You can use both of these data points to improve your donors’ website experience.

  • Donor Acquisition

    You should be tracking donor acquisition across all of your fundraising efforts, but you should definitely be keeping tabs on it as it relates to online fundraising.

    Knowing how many new donors you’ve gained is invaluable information for your nonprofit.

  • Donor Retention

    How many donors are giving to your organization more than once? Donor retention is an important metric to track, especially when it comes to online fundraising.

    Make sure that you’re tracking retention rates over the months, quarters, and years.

  • Donation Page Conversion Rate

    Your nonprofit’s donation page conversion rate is really a simple metric. It looks at how many donors actually make it to the end of the donation process.

    If a donor abandons your donation page for any reason, your donation page conversion rates will go down. The goal is to keep donors on your donation page and not distract them or lead them away to other parts of your nonprofit’s website.

Expert Advice

Jeff Gordy

Acknowledgements are crucial to establishing stronger relationships between your nonprofit and your donors. Make sure that your thank-you emails for online donations keep donors engaged and genuinely acknowledge their contributions.

Jeff GordyCEONeonCRM
Sarah Sebastian

If donors can’t quickly and easily find your donation button, they’re going to leave your page. You can make donating a less frustrating process by having a large, brightly colored donation button in an easy-to-find location.

Sarah SebastianProduct Content ManagerQgiv
Bill Tedesco

Study your own organization’s online strengths and weaknesses and develop specific practices for your situation and needs.

Bill TedescoCEODonorSearch

Online Fundraising Myths: Busted!

Myth #1: Older donors don’t give online.

While younger donors do make up a significant portion of the online giving demographic, all generations of supporters use online donation forms too!

In fact, nearly 50% of donors over the age of 60 support nonprofits online.

While younger donors do make up a significant portion of the online giving demographic, baby boomers and older generations of supporters use online donation forms too!

Myth #2: Direct mail recipients won’t give online.

The truth is, direct mail recipients don’t just give by check anymore; they give online too!

An easy way to ensure that your direct mail donors find their way to your online donation page is to include the URL to your form somewhere on the newsletter, card, or pamphlet that you send out.

That way, when recipients read about the great work you’re doing, they can give instantly instead of waiting days or even weeks to send out a check.

Myth #3: You only need one donation form.

The truth is, you might be able to get away with only one donation form, but if you run multiple campaigns and fundraisers throughout the year, you should use two or three donation pages.

Having multiple donation forms makes it easy for donors to give to the campaigns and funds that they care about the most.

For instance, if you’re running a capital campaign that might last a year (or more!), you should set up a separate donation page for donors to use.

Myth #4: Online giving is expensive.

The truth is, if you can find a great online donation tool, it doesn’t have to be!

Every provider is going to take either a percentage of each donation (usually around 3-5%) or a flat rate per donation made.

Before choosing an online donation tool, make sure that you establish what your budget is and estimate how many donations you will process online. This will make it easier to chose a provider and decide on one of their packages. 

Myth #5: Setting up an online donation form is difficult.

The truth is, it really isn’t that difficult to get started with online fundraising!

With the right provider, set up can take mere minutes, and maintaining the page can be simple as well.

While there is a certain amount of planning and preparation involved with any new fundraising technology, online donation pages are some of the simplest and easiest fundraising tools that you can use.

Other Online Fundraising Ideas

Matching Gifts and Online Fundraising

Matching Gifts + Donation Pages

Donor engagement is at its highest point during the donation process. Donors are totally committed to giving to your organization and your cause.

What better time to remind them that they might be able to double their contributions?

With a matching gift plug-in, donors can easily search for their employer and access forms and guidelines for their corporate matching gift program.

Matching Gifts + Acknowledgement Screens

So a donor didn’t get the matching gift memo during the donation process. That’s ok! Just remind them of matching gifts on the acknowledgement screen.

Donors are still engaged with your nonprofit immediately after they make a donation.

By promoting matching gifts on the acknowledgement screen directly following your online donation form, you can keep matching gifts in your donors’ minds.

Matching Gifts + Thank-You Emails

Email follow-up is a crucial component of donor stewardship. Whenever a donor makes a contribution, you should immediately send them an email.

This email should include matching gift info to encourage donors to have their donation matched.

Include a link to more matching gift information so that donors can easily discover how they might be able to double their initial contributions.

Mobile Giving and Online Fundraising

Online fundraising and mobile giving go hand-in-hand. In fact, you can’t have mobile giving without online fundraising!

Many nonprofits think of text-to-give whenever mobile giving comes up, but it also encompasses:

  • Mobile-responsive email appeals
  • Mobile peer-to-peer pages
  • Mobile-responsive donation forms
  • QR code promotions
  • And more!

The online fundraising software you choose should function just as well on a smartphone or tablet as it does on a desktop or laptop.

If it doesn’t, you might miss out on serious donations from supporters who like to give on-the-go!

Don’t forget to check the mobile-responsiveness of your online fundraising software. You might end up missing out on crucial mobile donations if you don’t!

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising and Online Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising taps into a nonprofit’s donor base and encourages supporters to raise money by reaching out to their friends and family members. It is usually tied to an event like a walkathon or marathon.

Peer-to-peer fundraising used to work when donors went door to door to ask for pledges or donations for the event.

But now, peer-to-peer fundraising takes place online, with donors creating personal fundraising pages and sharing them with their networks via social media and email.

With online fundraising, peer-to-peer events and fundraising campaigns now reach more people than ever, helping nonprofits raise more money and expand their donor base.

Now that peer-to-peer fundraising has entered the realm of online giving, nonprofits are able to raise more money and recruit more advocates to their cause than ever before.

Annual Funds and Online Fundraising

An annual fund is made up of donations that keep a nonprofit running on a day-to-day basis. It can cover anything from office supplies to general operational expenses.

Since nonprofits have no other way to bring in the money to cover these costs, they are often covered by the money raised during the course of the year.

Because a large part of a nonprofit’s revenue is generated via their online donation page, it is inextricably linked to the annual fund. The two can’t really be separated.

You don’t need to detail every single component of your nonprofit that an online donation will go toward, but it is helpful to give donors a good idea of what their contributions will be supporting, including your operational expenses!

Online fundraising and the annual fund are intertwined. An annual fund can’t survive without the donations that are brought in from an online donation page.

Additional Online Fundraising Resources

Online Fundraising Ideas

Guide to online fundraising

Need some great online fundraising ideas?

We’ve picked out 7 of our favorites and paired them with tips and best practices. Take a look and start implementing them!

Online Donation Forms

The guide to online donation forms

Want more info about online giving forms?

Check out this resource from our friends over at @Pay to learn more about how you can use online giving forms.

Online Fundraising Guide

Check outthis online fundraising guide for beginners.

New to online fundraising? Already an old pro?

Whatever your experience level, brush up on the basics of online fundraising with MobileCause’s beginner’s guide.

© Copyright 2017 - Double the Donation