Online Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Organizations

Online fundraising at any time can be tough, but try throwing a pandemic into the mix as well as an influx of non-profits and you may find it difficult or even impossible to inspire donors to give to your cause in the current climate.

So, how do you stand out in a competitive online fundraising environment? We’ve got some tips and areas of focus that should help set up your organization to appeal to the right donors and compel them to contribute.

#1 – KNOW YOUR DONORS 

'Know your audience"

The most important thing you can do to increase your fundraising results right now is to study, connect with, and understand your current donors, individually and as a group. 

The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to find and attract more donors like them. Learn from your donors’ mindsets, habits, and characteristics to generate look-a-like audiences so you know exactly where and how to target the new prospects.

Know What Motivates Them

So many organizations focus their efforts on outreach to future potential donors instead of learning about and engaging with their current donor base. This is a huge mistake. Getting to know your audience and what attracted them to you and your cause is the only way to understand how to reach new donors. And think about this – communicating with your current audience also can create more opportunities for bonding, which leads to more contributions.

Here are some of the things you should be learning about your audience:

  • What brought them to your organization in the first place
  • What motivated them to give
  • How and when they prefer to give
  • What are other causes/organizations they support
  • What type of legacy they’d like to leave behind
  • How they feel connected to your organization

The answers you receive from your current donor participants allow you to understand their habits and motivations to frame your approach with potential donors. 

Helpful hint: when communicating with your donor base, always pose questions and inquires from their perspective. They are the key to your organization continuing to thrive and that should come across in every correspondence.

Show You Appreciate Them

The act of thanking donors shouldn’t just be a matter of courtesy – it should be an honest expression of gratitude using authentic and meaningful language to build lasting relationships. The act of thanking donors shouldn’t just be a matter of courtesy – it should be an honest expression of gratitude using authentic and meaningful language to build lasting relationships.

appreciation with love for nonprofit origanization

The goal of every communication with your donors should be to strengthen your bond with them. The more a donor feels like you are invested in and rely on them, the more likely they are to want to contribute. Donor recognition can not only encourage future gifts but also continued involvement, whether it’s volunteering, fundraising, or becoming an ambassador.

Personal interactions are usually best, but social media and email campaigns are also powerful ways to connect with and thank your donors while keeping them in the loop. People who give want to know where their donations are going and the impact they are making. 

Know What To Ask Of Them

Different donors require different approaches for asks. This is why segmenting your donors is crucial to a good fundraising strategy (more on that below 👇🏼). Some people are annual donors, some major gift donors, some one-timers, and others have never even considered giving to your nonprofit.

An appeal you send to a major gift donor is going to be a completely different ask than the one you send to a one-time donor or someone who has never donated. Knowing the appropriate ask amounts for each segment of your audience is key. For instance, you shouldn’t be asking a one-time $50 donor to consider contributing $25,000 to your next capital campaign. You risk losing a potential donor due to the perception that if they can’t give large amounts, they can’t help.

Moreover, some contacts might not even be interested in your nonprofit’s main objectives at all. Maybe they donated at an event or to a certain program that appealed to them. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of which campaigns each donor contributed to, so you know inspires them to give.

Personalize your ask and always make sure you’re giving them the information they need in order to avoid donor drop-off.

Segment Your Donor Lists

Donor segmentation is key if you want to increase your engagement and connection with your audience groups. Your first step in segmenting is to get rid of unengaged contacts. Why? Because:

hand with chalk drawing quality over quantity

QUALITY > QUANTITY

No exceptions. We know how tempting it is to hold on to lists of contacts, but it’s not doing you any good to try to communicate with people who aren’t invested in you. You’re not only wasting your time and money but you could also be causing a strain on the relationship. You don’t want any of your contacts to harbor negative feelings about your organization for any reason.

The other reason for segmenting is to be sure the right messages are reaching the right audience. Your content needs to be meaningful to them as individuals. Recent statistics show that personalizing your emails increases click-through rates by an average of 14%, and conversion rates by 10%. When done effectively, donor segmentation builds trust and credibility with your audience. 

How you segment your donors will vary according to what is most important to you as a non-profit, but here are some options to consider:

  1. Preferred communication methods (email, social, phone, etc.)
  2. Trends of giving (amounts, frequency, and categories of giving to identify trends)
  3. Demographics (age, income level, geography, habits, etc.) 
  4. Preferred giving channels (online, mail, etc.)

There are so many benefits to segmenting your data lists such as reducing irrelevant noise and personalizing messages, but it really all comes down to building stronger relationships with your donors.

#2 – TELL YOUR STORY

telling a story

Storytelling is important for any business, but for non-profits, it is crucial. Telling your story allows people to connect with you on an emotional level. And since emotion plays such a big part in our decisions to trust, donate to, or invest in, you need to dedicate resources to this one.

There are several things to keep in mind when telling your company, donor, or recipient story:

  • Stay True to Yourself and Your Mission – if you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t connect with anyone. 
  • Be Authentic – people require legitimacy, especially when it comes to charitable giving so don’t try to be something you’re not
  • Show Emotion – convey feelings whenever you can to create connections and cultivate compassion
  • Personalize Your Message – using specific messages humanizes your organization and promotes a stronger allegiance to and affinity for your organization

Storytelling is really all about connection. Each story has the ability to connect you to people who can relate to the experience and/or emotion expressed in the message. And building emotional bonds with your donors will create lasting relationships and secure sustained giving.

#3 – OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE

optimizing website for online fundraising

Making sure your website is designed in a way that appeals to prospective donors’ needs maximizes your fundraising potential. Your website’s design and function can directly affect your online fundraising efforts for better or for worse.

There are several steps you need to take to make sure your website is optimized for donations:

  • Understand your donor journey so your website can nurture at every stage – when potential donors arrive on your site, are you giving them the right information based on the stage they are in? Someone in the Awareness stage needs different information than someone in the Conversion stage. Make sure you are providing the right information for donors at all stages.
  • Make your specific needs known – transparency and specificity leads to donations – It’s important to ask for the donation you want. Don’t be afraid to be as specific as possible. People give to causes they can relate to and believe in. Make sure you are very clear with not only what you need, but how specific donations make an impact. Donors want to know they are making a difference.
  • Make it easy for all types of donors to give (always one click away (or less) from giving – one of the most important things you can do with your website is make it accessible and easy to use. How easy is it to make a donation on your site? A good rule of thumb: Try to keep supporters no more than one click away from your donation form no matter where they are on your site. That means at least having a donation button in your main navigation menu. 
  • Mobile optimization since the majority of browsing is done on phones – Our smartphones are becoming an increasingly popular way to connect, share, access information, and donate. We’ve come to expect optimized pages when donating. Optimize your website and donation form for mobile devices. Your website and your donation form should be mobile-friendly. This means that the site pages resize according to the device being used to allow for optimal viewing.
  • A recurring option is a must – In this age of subscription services, recurring donations are key to creating sustainable giving. And by making monthly giving the website default, you are signaling that type of support is your organization’s priority. This isn’t to discourage one-time gifts, but instead to say, “If you’re able, this is what we really need.”

We get it, fundraising is not easy, but if you follow these few simple practices, we know it can make a real impact on your organization and in turn, your cause.

We can’t say it enough – in the end, it really all comes down to KNOWING AND UNDERSTANDING YOUR AUDIENCE. The more you know, the better your connection. The better your connection, the more likely they are to give and to tell others to give too. 


Need help with data segmentation or website optimization? We can help.

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