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Fundraising Ideas and Tips to Skyrocket Your Donations

In 2013, $416.5 billion was donated to charitable causes in the U.S.

While this represents a 13% increase, it’s also being shared between more and more nonprofits and charitable organizations.

And you know organizing a fundraiser or growing donations is no easy feat. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes that requires careful planning and strategy.

That’s why I’m giving you the fundraising skinny.

Below you’ll find all the new trends, tips, resources, and secret, proven methods for skyrocketing your donation levels online.

This is a meaty guide, and you should feel free to skip around to the sections that interest you the most.

So let’s get down to it.

In order to make any fundraising campaign successful, you first need to show people why your cause is worth supporting. Social media plays a huge role in getting the word out, so we’ll cover it first.

Then you’ll need to start thinking of how to start your fundraiser and how to manage it. This is where your website, email lists, software, and apps will come into play, and each of those sections is laid out in detail below.

1. Social Media

Social Media is the “it” thing, the trendiest, fastest way to get information out and about.

While you may have already been using some form of social media to aid in fundraising, are you tapping into the full potential of social media?

Everyone knows how useful and effective Twitter and Facebook have been in marketing and gaining attention, especially as organizations push efforts to go mobile. But what about Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube?

These lesser-used social networks may be just perfect for growing your audience and bringing the right people to your donation pages.

Here are tips for getting the most out of each of these social media networks:

YouTube–broadcast yourself.

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• Storytelling: This is the first, most essential step to anyone wanting to fundraise. You have to show people who are interested in your cause why it means so much to you and why it’s important–videos are a great way of doing this.

• Nonprofit Tools: YouTube is partnered with Google for Nonprofits which provides tools for finding new donors and volunteers, specifically the “donate” button. By adding this to your videos and YouTube page, you can allow donors to give straight from YouTube.

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• Spread the word: Once you have a killer video, share it. Put it on your website, post it on Facebook, send it via email. This seems like a no-brainer, and it kinda is, but shockingly few nonprofits promote their content well. The benefit to sharing a video, rather than writing an email or a text post, is that it’s much easier to grab a potential donor’s attention (the average user spends 88% more time on a webpage that has video vs. one that does not).

Here are some great example videos from nonprofits that you should check out to get ideas for your own:

This video does a lot of things right. It’s short–exactly one minute long.

The song playing in the background is a complete contrast to what’s happening on screen, which highlights ASPC’s mission. The text that appears is minimal, but strong and completely relevant to the video as it provides another contrast for the viewer. At the end of the video, they have a strong call to action with the “donate button” which leads directly to a donation page.

This video is also great–it features Jimmy Buffett advocating the preservation of Long Island along with a short interview with the Conservancy’s Long Island Director woven into the video. The footage flashes back and forth between shots of beautiful, coastal life on Long Island and the damage done to the water as a result of pollution. It is well narrated, and ends with a strong call to action on the part of Jimmy Buffett. This video is also a great example of thanking special contributors with a shoutout in the last slide.

Pinterest–a tool for collecting and organizing things you love.

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  • Pinning 101: Remember that video you made for YouTube? Pin stills from it to your Pinterest board. Pin inspirational quotes or people who have inspired your cause. Pin images that appear on your blog posts, and link the pictures back to your blog. Pin infographics. Keep the images colorful, creative, light, and relevant to your mission. You want to catch people’s eye and you want them to re-pin your pins.
  • Fundraising: Pinterest makes it super easy to sell various items–whether it be t-shirts, koozies, or a membership with your organization. Simply pin a picture of the item and type the “$” sign with the price in the description box, and Pinterest automatically adds a nifty banner in the top-left corner of the image displaying cost, and adds the item to the Gifts tab on the Pinterest homepage.

Here are a couple great examples of nonprofits using Pinterest well:

Amnesty International USA: has a Board with a recommended Human Rights Reading List for supporters to check out to learn more about the issue. Although this isn’t fundraising specific, it’s a great way of increasing awareness and interest about their cause, which is key for successful fundraising down the line, and, if Amnesty also has an Amazon Smile account, people who buy books using these links could be supporting the organization with a portion of their purchase.

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Charity Water: has a Photo of the Day Pinterest Board showing images from the field that tell the story of their water work on the ground. This is a creative way of promoting their mission–bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Again, this isn’t fundraising specific, but simple ideas like this are what get your organization’s name out and make fundraising easier.

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 Instagram–capture and share the world’s moments.

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Hashtags: They’re not just for Twitter. Here are a couple of popular ones on “insta”:

• #regram: It’s like retweeting! Regram pictures from your staff or supporters and tag them in it. It’s a great way to recognize donors and make others aware of your cause.

• #tbt (or #fbf): Throwback Thursday (or Flashback Friday) is a creative way to show something you’ve done in the past–it could be fundraising event or a picture of an important moment in your organization’s history.

• #selfie: Ever since Ellen Degeneres took the epic selfie at the Oscars with A-listers, the world of selfies has adopted a whole new look. It’s a fun way to show people what you’re doing or what’s going on around you–snap a picture of a co-worker being interviewed, or re-create the record-breaking Oscar selfie at one of your events.

Engage your followers: Insta isn’t just for pictures and creative captions, it’s a great way to involve people too. Take advantage of the comment stream; instagram a picture and ask a question in the caption. Have people answer, and respond back. Have people use a certain hashtag in their posts for a contest–or to promote a fundraising event.

Try out some of these creative ideas to use Instagram to grow your donations:

• Promote your website

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• Promote your text-to-give campaigns

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• Launch hashtag fundraising campaigns

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• Promote fundraising events

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• Offer promotional discounts

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• Thank your donors

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2. Website and email

Once you’ve got the word out about your organization’s mission through social media, you’re in a prime position to start fundraising. With the popularity of social networking, people tend to give their website and email the back seat. Although social media is a great way to promote your fundraiser or cause, don’t neglect the importance of these older staples.

Did you know, according to the 2014 M+R Benchmarks Study:

  • That for every single website visitor, nonprofits raised $0.60?
  • That the average email gift size is $57 one time, and $20 monthly?

Let’s dive into how you can increase fundraising via your website and email list.

Donate Button.

Is your site donor-friendly?

This can make-or-break your website’s success in regards to raising funds. You want to ensure it’s simple and straight-forward for people to give you money.

Another thing to think about is whether your website has good content and if your mission is immediately apparent.

Here are a couple tips to ensure your website’s design revolves around your content and mission:

Strong mission statement: Make sure that your organization’s mission is obvious from the get-go. It should be the first thing someone sees when they go on your website. That way, when donors come along, they’ll have no doubt about who and what they’re supporting. The Make A Wish foundation has a great example of this; you can even share the statement via social media.

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Make donation opportunities obvious: Have a donation banner or highlight the donation button in a bright, eye-catching color. The easier it is to spot, the more likely it is that people will click and donate.

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Make it easy for donors: Don’t require visitors to setup an account to donate. Try to keep the donation form to a single-page. Less is more. The International Justice Mission does a great job of this–they keep their donation process limited to two easy steps. The other website, below, requires you to set-up an account. This takes a lot longer, and will scare off lots of potential donors.

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Email

According to the 2014 eNonprofit Benchmark study, email lists and email marketing grew 14% in 2013. That’s huge.

For every 1,000 fundraising emails sent, a nonprofit raises $17.

Everyone always talks about social and mobile, but when it comes to engaging constituents, email is still key.

Email content is important. Sending newsletters is a great way to keep your members up-to-date with your organization.

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Here are six ways to make your newsletters even more effective:

  • Make it mobile friendly: 40% of emails are being opened on mobile devices. The easier you make it for mobile users to read it, the happier (and more informed) they’ll be.
  • Use images: Get a couple of great images in your newsletter. It doesn’t have to be a lot; one large, clear, compelling image can be sufficient. Top it off with a good caption: either a call to action or an invitation to register for an event.
  • Segmenting: This is another important facet to successful email campaigns. Don’t send the same email to everyone.  Not everyone you’re reaching out to has the same needs or expectations. Testing which emails work with which segments is also critically important to your email outreaches; it’s the only way to see if your results are improving over time.
  • Keep it short: No one likes to read lengthy emails. Keep the text in your email brief and link back to your homepage in case members want to read more. This might mean sending more emails out a month, but recent reports show that organizations that sent 6-10 emails a month have higher open and click rates.
  • Make it easy to read: This means lots of whitespace, lists, bullet points, and occasional bolded or italicized words. There are several fonts that are good for online reading including Verdana, Arial, Georgia, and Courier.
  • Measure the success of your email results: This includes checking for the following:
  • Deliverability
  • Open rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversion

3. Apps and Software

No matter how big or small your fundraising is, using apps or donation software will make your life easier.

Apps

According to The Next Generation of America Giving Report, 62% of Generation Y donors give over mobile.

Apps are great for managing individual fundraising projects and could even help in larger initiatives as well. However, if your nonprofit needs a more powerful solution, that’s when software comes in. Typically, your nonprofit won’t need software until it starts hitting about 50 members. That’s when it can become too difficult to manage without additional help.

Here’s a list of top notch apps for fundraising:

Text2Give is a tool that doesn’t fall under apps or software, but is still a very useful and effective fundraising tool. It allows people to make donations via text, making the process quick, easy, and painless.

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GoFundMe (iOS, Android)

This app and website have helped people raise over $340 million in five countries. It is free to signup and allows for a personalized fundraising profile which you can share via social media and email or your mobile app. It even has an option for prize incentives depending on the amount members donate. It is easy and painless to withdraw your donations, as it gives the option of receiving it via check or bank transfer. GoFundMe deducts a 5% fee for every donation you receive.

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Fundly (iOS, Android)

Fundly makes it easy for non-profits, charities, political groups, clubs, schools, teams, churches, and many other causes to quickly raise money online. It allows users to make a personalized website and share it with friends, family, and donors via social media. Fundly charges 4.9% on every donation plus a 3% credit card processing fee.

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I Can Go Without (iOS, free)

This app allows you to create fundraisers, automate invoicing, and share your activities via social media. Its flexible giving allows donors to give to any charity in North America and connect to the causes they care about. It encourages donors to make lifestyle changes (like giving up a weekly treat) and enables the user to give that money to charity. It’s totally free to raise money for your cause (that covers transaction fees too!).

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ThankYouPro (iOS)

The last and most important step in fundraising is thanking your donors. This app allows you to make customized thank you notes on your iPhone or iPad and send it to your donors via mail or email. The app itself is free, however, after the first card, each card costs $2.99 or less.

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Software

If you’re looking for something a little bit more powerful and complete than an app, software is always a great option.

It’s not easy to choose out of the hundreds of options out there, and that’s why I’m here to help!

On the most basic level, here are the two different kinds of software you could get:

Web-Based

Web-based software doesn’t require any downloading or installation. It’s a great option if you’re on-the-go because it pretty much works anywhere and on any computing device and accessing it can be as easy as getting on your internet browser and visiting a website.

Installed

Installed software, as the name suggests, is something that’s installed right onto your computer. It’s not in a cloud, or managed by a company. You can access any information on members, donors, and prospects without having to go through a third party. If you don’t like the idea of another service or company storing your data, you might want to check out software options that are installed rather than web-based.

Types

There’s a wide variety of software that can help with fundraising. Here’s a quick summary of what each kind accomplishes–check them out and see if one of these is the right fit for you!

  • Fundraising Management Software: Fundraising Management software is specifically geared towards optimizing your fundraising efforts. It’ll help manage donor and pledge information associated with fundraising campaigns.
  • Donation Management Software: Donation Management software helps nonprofit organizations collect, track, and distribute funds contributed by their patrons, maintain donors’ information, and connect with them during the fundraising campaigns.
  • Fund Accounting Software: Fund Accounting software automates accounting and portfolio management functions for nonprofit organizations, alternative asset managers, private bankers, foundations, and government agencies.
  • Membership Management Software: Membership Management softwareautomates the management of membership within associations, communities, and other member-based organizations. It includes features such as event management, payment processing, etc.
  • Association Management Software: Association Management software automates management functions including fundraising, membership, event management, and other operations.

More?

This guide is long, but certainly not the end-all-be-all.  Do you know of any other resources that could help with online fundraising? Add them in the comments below!

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