Building a 21st-Century Fundraising Strategy: A Quick Guide

By John Killoran, Guest Author
 

Technology and best practices for how to use it for the benefit of your nonprofit are evolving every day - it can be hard to keep up. However, it’s imperative to find a way to fit technology into your fundraising strategy to not only stay relevant but grow and improve. 

You and your team work hard every day for your cause, but your results may not be reflecting your potential if you are not utilizing the tools at your disposal. 

One of the biggest reasons to use new technologies in your fundraising strategy is to increase convenience for your supporters. Online fundraising allows your supporters to interact with and donate to your organization from anywhere. Additionally, the more prominent you can make your organization online, the more people you’ll be able to reach. You want to make it easy for people to interact with your organization. 

According to 360MatchPro, 63% of donors in the United States and Canada prefer to donate online using a credit or debit card. This is a strong indicator of the increasing shift towards online donating. As online donating increases, it's necessary to shift towards online fundraising.

As you get more comfortable in the digital space, there are endless possibilities for ways to be innovative. Even though there are lots of options, you can start simple. In this article, we’ll start with a few key ways to get your organization on the right track:

  • Build or strengthen your online presence

  • Improve organization and efficiency with software 

  • Update your outreach methods

  • Make your events more digital-friendly

Whether you’re exploring new ideas yourself or trying to convince others in your organization to adopt changes, understanding the impact that technology can have on your organization is crucial. Developing a strong digital strategy will allow technology to work for you. Optimizing and automating some of your work will allow you to focus on the bigger picture.

 

Build or strengthen your online presence

One of the first and most important things your organization should do is set up a user-friendly and comprehensive website. In today’s world, your supporters are much more likely to find and interact with your organization online. So, you must have a functional and visually appealing website. 

Here are a few things to make sure your website has:

  • An about page: You should assume that visitors to your site know nothing about your organization. Use this space like an elevator pitch. Tell them your story, include your mission statement, and make it compelling. If your about page is strong, visitors are more likely to want to get involved. This is also a great place to highlight your staff. If you already have this page, make sure it’s up to date, concise, and interesting. 

  • An easy way to donate online:  One of the biggest benefits of online donations is that no one needs to be working to accept them. You can automatically accept donations 24/7! A highly visible donate button can significantly increase your donations. Making your donation form as simple and short as possible can also help. You want as many people as possible to finish filling it out to complete their donation.

  • A calendar: Make it easy for visitors to see what events you have coming up. There are many website themes and plugins on platforms like WordPress that make adding an interactive calendar to your website easy. TechSoup Canada’s crash course on WordPress can help you do this and so much more for your website. 

  • A consistent visual aesthetic: This can sometimes seem less important than actual function. However, in a digital world that has become accustomed to sophisticated and beautiful web content, an outdated visual style will likely discourage visitors. Your website should reflect your organization’s brand. Make sure to use a consistent color palette and fonts across pages.  

Your website is only part of your online presence, but it is one of the most important aspects. There are many ways to go about building your online presence through a website - from learning to code, to using a simple template, or hiring an experienced web designer.  
 

Update your outreach methods

Now that you have a shiny, new website with 24/7 donations possible, you need to focus on getting the word out and building a base of online supporters.  With the prevalence of smartphones and social media, there are many new and diverse ways to get in touch with your supporters. 

Here are a few ways to communicate with supporters:

  • Newsletters: Newsletters have had a resurgence in popularity and can serve multiple purposes for your organization. They are a great way to update your supporters but are also good for asking for volunteer time and donations. Most email marketing platforms have templates you can use to make it easier for you. If you’ve sent out mailers asking for support before, think of this as the digital version of that outreach method.

  • Text campaigns: Almost everyone has a smartphone now, making it easy to reach people in only a few seconds. Volunteers can reach out via text asking supporters to sign petitions, join them for events, or even donate. Snowball’s guide to text-to-give can help you get started with procuring donations via text.

  • Social media posts: It should be no surprise that many of your supporters (or possible future supporters!) are on social media. While there are many different social media platforms that you can post on, it’s best to identify where your target audience is most likely to be. Focus your energy on building brand awareness on that platform. You can still post on other platforms, but you should start by focusing most of your efforts on the one used by your target audience. 

In the digital era, your supporters are no longer only your neighbors. You have endless opportunities to reach more people when you expand your communication channels. Learning to effectively engage with potential supporters online will help you get them involved in your cause. Try some new digital-first methods of communication!

 

Improve organization and efficiency with software 

Once you add new outreach methods, you may have trouble managing your new multi-channel marketing efforts. From interactions with supporters on different platforms, to digital sign-ups and donations, and data on your new efforts, it can be a lot. Luckily, there are tons of different types of software that can automate many of your daily tasks. Software also often makes it much easier to organize your donors, their contributions, and other analytics that may be useful to your organization. 

Here are a few things that software can help you do:

  • Plan, schedule, and even auto-post social media content

  • Manage email lists and send out newsletters

  • Manage your donors, their data, and their donations 

  • Track the different projects and marketing campaigns you have going on

  • Organize and track a specific fundraising campaign 

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the different types of software out there, you can make a decision about which ones are best for you. You may want to use completely separate platforms for different functions or pick out one platform that enables integrations of other software. Integrations between platforms allow data to flow seamlessly between them, giving you a fuller view of your progress over time.

 

Make your events more digital-friendly

When it comes to fundraising, there are still many benefits to doing in-person events, but technology can help streamline your in-person fundraising and maximize your online fundraising. There are tons of online fundraising ideas that will heavily rely on technology but even for more traditional events, you can still integrate technology for a better experience. Technology can help you better organize or track an event, or just make it simpler.

For your next auction, you could try a digital catalog or mobile bidding. This can be much easier than manually tracking bids and buys and can be set up in no time with the right software. You could also try allowing participants to track their time or distance from wherever they are as part of a hybrid or virtual walk-a-thon. Whatever events your organization likes to do, there is likely a way to make it more accessible through technology.

You could make event sign-in easier for your supporters through an online sign-up and check-in process for your next ticketed in-person event. People often find it easier (and faster) to do things directly from their own phones. QR codes are another great example of a way to simplify handing out pamphlets and educational material at events. As a bonus, you’ll save money printing out fliers!

 

Conclusion 

You are likely already well on your way with some of these best practices, but there is always room for improvement. Even if your organization is primarily locally-based and has traditionally done a lot of face-to-face fundraising and events, there is still a lot of opportunity for you to implement some of these ideas. 

When you bring your organization more into the digital space, you open it up to a wider base of supporters from anywhere in the world and can get more creative and efficient with your fundraising. 

 

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John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. 

 

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