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6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

The holidays are over, and kids and college students are packing up book bags and suitcases and heading off to their respective halls of knowledge to learn about the Pythagorean theorem and the significance of metaphors in 18th-century British literature.

But what about you? What do you want to learn more about this semester?

There are any number of fantastic courses available, but the best place to start is right here.

In this article, we’ll cover ways nonprofits can improve their online fundraising. With online fundraising on the rise, it’s more important than ever for nonprofits to continue to improve their giving methods and outreach strategies.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of six back to school lessons for online fundraising:

  1. Get your mobile game on.
  2. Host a smarter online auction.
  3. Use a matching gift tool.
  4. Give your website a makeover.
  5. Try peer-to-peer fundraising at least once.
  6. Read up on online product fundraising.

School’s in session! Grab your notebook and take a seat. We’re about to get started!

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

Online Fundraising Lesson #1: Get Your Mobile Game On

Mobile fundraising has been around for a while, but it’s been growing in leaps and bounds recently—and for good reason!

Let’s clarify what we mean by mobile fundraising, though.

Mobile fundraising or mobile giving is comprised of:

  • Text-to-give,
  • Mobile-responsive online donation pages,
  • Mobile peer-to-peer campaigns,
  • Mobile giving apps,
  • QR code promotions,
  • And more!

Your organization doesn’t have to start using all of these mobile fundraising methods right away.

In fact, it’s probably best to start off with one or two and determine if your donors are on board with mobile giving.

To get started with mobile fundraising (at least in the general sense), you’ll want to follow these steps:

1. Create a mobile-friendly website.

Let’s face it: people are using their phones more than ever to access information, including your nonprofit’s website. Creating a mobile-friendly website will make it easy for supporters to not only learn more information about your campaign but also contribute.

In other words, the more difficulty a supporter has accessing your website’s information, the more likely they are to abandon your site without giving.

Your nonprofit needs to make the most of your online fundraising by giving every supporter an enjoyable experience on your website. That’s why it’s crucial that your website be mobile-optimized.

If it isn’t, your donors are going to have a difficult time giving to your organization as they scroll, pinch, and zoom their way through your site. They might give up on the process entirely!

2. Try a text-to-give campaign

The next mobile fundraising avenue most people think about it text-to-give.

Popularized by the American Red Cross’s campaign for the 2010 Haiti earthquake, text-to-give is an easy way for donors to send their donations to nonprofits in mere seconds. The American Red Cross’s method required donors to text a keyword to a number to give. The donation(s) was then tacked on to their monthly cellphone bill.

Many nonprofits followed suit. What many people didn't realize, however, is that donations were capped at $5 or $10, and nonprofits often had to wait up to 90 days before they ever saw the money, making raising funds for an emergency (like an earthquake) difficult and frustrating.

However, with next generation providers (@Pay comes to mind), donors can give however much they want (without bringing their cellphone provider into the mix), and nonprofits receive funds within hours or days.

The new process only takes three simple steps to complete:

  • First, donors text a short code and the amount they want to give to your organization’s text-to-give number.
  • Second, donors will receive an automated text message with a link to a mobile-responsive donation form.
  • Finally, donors will fill out the donation form with their contact and payment information and hit the “Donate Now” button to confirm their gifts.

You can try your own text-to-give campaign as a stand-alone fundraising method or at a fundraising event!

Once, you’ve purchased text-to-give software, encourage donors to use your new giving tool by posting on social media, creating a video on how to contribute, and including instructions on how to give via text message in your emails and letters.

3. Consider a mobile giving app.

This final step is not for the faint of heart. Developing a mobile giving app takes time, money, and effort. If your nonprofit isn’t prepared to invest in it, don’t do it.

If you are ready to create your own mobile giving app, keep the following in mind:

  1. The app should make online and mobile giving easy. Make the app as intuitive as possible.
  2. It should be able to integrate with your other software. You’ll need to collect and store the information you receive from your mobile giving app. Make sure that it integrates seamlessly with your nonprofit’s CRM software.
  3. Incorporate communications options. Your mobile giving app should allow your nonprofit to get in touch with your supporters quickly and easily.

Mobile giving apps can be great for larger, more developed nonprofits. If you’re a smaller shop, it’s wise to start with a mobile-responsive website and a text-to-give platform.

Looking for a cheat sheet? Mobile fundraising is crucial for your online giving strategy. Make sure you implement it in some form or fashion, whether it’s text-to-give software, a mobile-responsive online donation page, or a mobile giving app.

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

Online Fundraising Lesson #2: Host a Smarter Online Auction

You might be asking yourself, “Why should I host an online auction anyway?”

Well, if you’re planning on hosting an event with minimal set-up costs and overhead, an online auction is your best bet.

An online auction is just like a traditional auction—except all of the bidding takes place online!

Of course, you’ll still need to obtain rare and unique items from individuals and companies to put up for auction. It’s also important that you write compelling descriptions for all your items and take high-quality images as this is how your attendees will decide on what items to bid on.

But, you won’t have to:

  • Rent out, set up, and tear down a venue.
  • Pay for food, drinks, and decorations.
  • Recruit as many volunteers (you’ll still need somep eople).
  • Worry about displaying the items the right way.
  • Conduct in-person check-in and check-out.

In short, online auctions take some of the pressure off of your organization and can still raise a lot of funds for your organization.

To host a smarter online auction, follow these top tips:

1. Take great pictures of your items.

Since your bidders won’t be able to see your auction items in-person, you have to represent them well. A blurry cellphone picture isn’t going to cut it.

Place the item in good lighting and take several shots from different angles.

2. Write descriptive captions.

If you want donors to bid on your item, you have to convince them of its worth. At silent or traditional auctions, this is easy; you have an auctioneer or emcee who can talk up the items and answer any questions.

With an online auction, however, you have to use the tools you’re given. Make sure that you write up a vivid description of the item and list out any restrictions (i.e., the date by which a gift card must be used).

3. Use social media to your advantage.

You’ll obviously still need to send out invitations to your online auction, but you can go the extra mile and push your fundraiser with social media!

Schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that let people know the details of your auction, and don’t forget to share your catalog of auction items before the event to generate even more excitement.

You can even post about it as it’s happening! Some people might get caught up in the excitement and start bidding on items (even if they hadn’t intended to in the first place!).

Looking for a cheat sheet? An online auction is a great fundraising option for nonprofits who want all the fun and excitement of a regular auction without the overhead costs.


Online Fundraising Lesson #3: Use a Matching Gift Tool

You may have read one of the articles about matching gifts I’ve previously written for GuideStar. It’s a pretty in-depth piece about specific best practices that nonprofits can use to raise more money from matching gift programs.

I won’t restate the points from that article, but I will go over a crucial matching gift necessity.

If you want to raise more matching gift revenue, you’re going to need a matching gift tool.

A matching gift tool can help your donors learn more about their employers’ specific matching gift program and access the necessary documents, forms, and instructions for submitting a matching donation.

A matching gift tool can be embedded directly into your website (anywhere on your website, actually). You can place your matching gift tool on:

  • Your “Ways to Give” page.
  • Online donation forms.
  • Acknowledgement screens.

Just look how Mercy Corps incorporated matching gifts on their website:

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

Donors can simply search for their employer to instantly learn whether or not their gift is eligible to be matched. Plus, they’ll have instructions on how to submit their gift right at their fingertips.

One of the most challenging aspects to matching gifts is promoting the programs and encouraging donors to submit a request. The matching gift tool makes the process easier for donors so that they can conveniently submit a request.

Looking for a cheat sheet? With a matching gift tool, your donors will be more educated about matching gifts, making them more likely to submit match requests to their employers.

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

Online Fundraising Lesson #4: Give Your Website a Makeover

When you think of your website as your nonprofit’s online headquarters, it won’t surprise you that it’s crucial for your online fundraising success.

A beautiful, well-functioning website (and blog!) will attract donors to your cause and keep them interested in learning more about your nonprofit.

There are numerous best practices for (re)designing a nonprofit website, and if you’re hesitant about improving your website on your own, there are plenty of web design firms that can help your nonprofit.

In fact, Double the Donation has a full list of 10 top-notch web design companies to help you get started!

Since there are so many web design strategies, we’re only going to hit the high notes here:

1. Be consistent.

Your website should have the same look and feel on every single page (including your donation page!).

Include the same (or similar):

  • Fonts
  • Colors
  • Logos
  • Images
  • Wording

Building a consistent brand for your online presence not only makes your nonprofit look professional but also establishes trust. Your donors should never doubt whether or not they’re on your nonprofit’s website.

2. Stay organized.

Your nonprofit’s site should be easy to navigate for all users. No one should wonder how to get to your “Ways to Give” page or your “Request More Info” form.

Lay out an easy-to-use navigation system with functioning menus that take people where they want to go.

3. Use images.

For the sake of everyone that accesses your nonprofit’s website, use images!

Beautiful images can take a website from “good” to “great.” You get bonus points if the images you use are of the people, communities, or animals that you help.

Make sure your images are resized and compressed before you load them onto your website. Large, heavily-pixelated images will slow down your website’s load time. The longer donors have to wait to access a page on your site, the more likely they are to click the back button or “X out” altogether!

All three of these tips can help make your website more user- and donor-friendly. If you can use your website to educate donors, they will be more likely to make a donation right then and there.

Looking for a cheat sheet? Use your website to your fundraising advantage! Keep it consistent and organized and incorporate images into your pages and blog posts.

Bonus: Learn how you can use your nonprofit’s website to build trust with visitors.

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

Online Fundraising Lesson #5: Try Peer-to-Peer Fundraising at Least Once

An article published by Qgiv states that:

Fundraising isn’t a cheap endeavor. No matter what avenue your nonprofit takes, you’re going to have to pay some money to raise some money. But with peer-to-peer fundraising, you’re able to fundraise without shelling out a ton of money."

It’s a great point, really. Fundraising always costs something. Whether you’re sending out direct mail appeals (stamps aren’t cheap!) or throwing a fundraising event (renting a venue isn’t cheap, either!), you’re going to have to pay money to generate revenue.

However, peer-to-peer fundraising solves at least part of that problem and enables your organization to work directly with your donors to raise money.

In general, peer-to-peer fundraising tends to go something like this:

  1. A nonprofit chooses a peer-to-peer fundraising platform.
  2. The organization determines which of their donors or volunteers could be fundraisers.
  3. The individual fundraisers set up their own peer-to-peer fundraising pages using the platform.
  4. The fundraisers send out the links to their fundraising pages to their friends and family members.
  5. The fundraisers participate in an event (usually an active one like a walkathon or marathon) that signals the end of the fundraising period.

So why should you host a peer-to-peer fundraiser?

Well, in short, your nonprofit has the potential to raise more money and acquire more donors with peer-to-peer fundraising than other more standard fundraising techniques.

Think about it: let’s say you recruit just 50 individuals for your peer-to-peer campaign. If each of these donors reaches out to just 2 of their family members of friends, your donor base just gained an extra 100 supporters!

And if your campaign has a larger fundraising base to start with, the potential is even greater.

You won’t be able to host a peer-to-peer campaign each and every month of the year, but kicking off at least one every 12 months can give your nonprofit the fundraising and acquisition boost it might need.

Keep in mind that just because your fundraisers are covering a lot of the hard work by soliciting donations from friends and family members doesn’t mean you can sit back and watch the funds roll in.

Your organization needs to create a fundraising plan and keep participants motivated by posting updates on your overall fundraising goal and highlighting participants that are making big strides to reach their goals.

Additionally, your organization should provide fundraisers with the right materials to set them up for success. Here is an example of how the March of Dimes supported fundraisers during their peer-to-peer fundraising campaign:

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

As you can see, they provide fundraisers with social media templates, posters, and other resources to make soliciting donations easier.

Looking for a cheat sheet? Peer-to-peer fundraising is an easy way to increase your fundraising revenue and grow your donor base.

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online Fundraising

Online Fundraising Lesson #6: Read Up on Online Product Fundraising

Some people have asked if selling “stuff” to raise money is really worth it.

It’s a valid question. Most fundraisers have heard horror stories of nonprofits ordering too many mugs, water bottles, or keychains, only to be left with an overstock of items stuffed in a closet somewhere.

These nonprofits may have missed the mark because they didn’t think about product and online fundraising together.

Only until recently have nonprofits started thinking about product fundraising online.

With online merchandise storefronts, organizations can sell T-shirts, tote bags, keychains, and other merchandise to donors regardless of where they live.

Nonprofits can even incorporate product fundraising into their peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding campaigns. Since most people who donate to a peer-to-peer campaign will be participating in an event tied to the campaign, they’ll want something to commemorate their experience.

Alternatively, organizations can use products to create incentives for their crowdfunding campaigns. Receiving a branded T-shirt, mug, or another product can be that extra push supporters need to contribute to your campaign.

Plus, they have a way to share their support with others. Every time donors wear your organization’s products, they’ll be actively promoting your cause to everyone who sees them.

Looking for a cheat sheet? Product fundraising can work, if your nonprofit plans it correctly. Take your product fundraising online to see the best results.

Closing Thoughts

I hope that these six back to school lessons for online fundraising got you thinking about your upcoming fundraising efforts.

Before you know it, we’ll be entering the end-of-year fundraising season again. You’ll want to have these lessons down pat to prepare for the busiest time of year!

What other online fundraising techniques have you used in the past? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.

6 Back to School Lessons To Boost Your Online FundraisingAdam Weinger is the president of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.

Topics: mobile fundraising matching gifts Online fundraising Nonprofit Websites Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Mobile-Friendly Websites Product Fundraising