One of your duties as a nonprofit is to raise money from your community of donors so that you have the funds necessary to complete your projects for your cause.
There are so many ways to ask for money: in-person asks, direct mail campaigns, phone marathons, fundraising events, and an infinite number of other options.
One of the most effective ways to ask your donors for financial support, however, is online.
“But asking for money online is so impersonal!” you might say. But that’s not necessarily true. More and more everyday communication is being conducted through texting, emailing, social media, video-chatting, and more.
By enhancing your nonprofit’s online presence and asking your donors to support you online, you’re just ensuring that your organization stays relevant and accessible.
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll learn today:
- Know your mission and goals.
- Merge your online and offline strategies.
- Update your online donation page.
- Do your research.
- Make social media work for you.
- Step up your email campaign game.
- Say thank you more than once.
Are you ready to learn these seven most important tips to making the perfect online ask? Let’s go!
1. Know your mission and goals
You might think that this is the simplest step of making any ask, online or off. But you’d be surprised by how many nonprofits make this mistake when asking for donations.
Your team has clear goals and objectives, and odds are you’ve already built an actionable plan for achieving them. You’ve put in the work already: now it’s time to put your strategy into action.
When you make your ask, don’t forget to include your organization’s mission statement, as well as the plan and goals for this specific campaign.
If you’re not clear about your mission and goals, a conscientious giver will email or call you back and ask what your plan is. A less conscientious one will lose interest and ignore your ask entirely.
A potential donor who is ready to make a big gift might ask you how much money you’re trying to raise. If your answer is arbitrary, or too ambitious, or even too small to achieve the goals you’ve laid out, you stand the chance of losing that donor.
Your overall mission as well as strategic fundraising goals should be easy to communicate and understand. Your donors should be equal partners in your journey, and they are going to want to know where their donations are going.
What are some other ways that knowing your goals can help you make a great ask?
- Allows you to ask for a specific dollar amount. With this tip, you make donating easier for your contributors as well as make it easier for you to track your progress.
- Guides the gift size options you can offer. Once again, taking the guesswork out of donating increases the likelihood that your ask will be well received.
- Puts the donor’s gift in context. Giving $50 to an organization may seem like just paying a bill to some donors. But if you tell them that their $50 can provide clean, drinkable water to a family of four for a month, they know what their money is doing and will be more willing to give.
If you know and believe in your mission, it’ll be easier to convince others to believe in it too.
2. Merge your online and offline strategies
Just because the Internet is the future doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your previously beloved solicitation strategies! Instead, consider ways that your online presence can bolster your real-life campaigns, and vice versa.
Here are just a few ways to do this:
- Promote your events in online distributions. Make sure that everyone reading your twitter feed knows that you have a walkathon coming up. Put the date of your upcoming food drive in your email newsletter!
- Mention your website and social media handles at events. Keep your audience engaged with you and your cause, even after they’ve left the event.
- Bring online fundraising tools to events to seamlessly meld the fun of an in-person fundraising event with the ease of online donation!
What does this last suggestion even mean? There are multiple ways to add the convenience of online donation to any event. Consider investing in text-giving software, so that constituents with a smartphone are just a text away from being fully fledged donors.
A donation kiosk is a boon to any event. Just ask your members to dip their card in or fill out some information, and boom! Donation completed.
A final suggestion would be to optimize your mobile giving form, so that your website’s donation page is accessible from any smartphone. If you don’t know how to do this, don’t worry! We’ll cover it more deeply in an upcoming section.
The last step to successfully merge your online and offline strategies is very simple: keep it consistent. To ensure that your donors know that all aspects of your campaign are aligned and cohesive, do everything you can to provide repetition and consistency.
Use the same logo on every web page. Keep your branding the same, so that donors start to associate the branded color scheme on your emails, social media, flyers, and website with your cause. Use the same wording for your goals across all publications.
This may seem like a simple step, but it is vital to the successful melding of your two strategies!
3. Update your online donation page
Like we mentioned earlier, optimizing your website for mobile is the easiest way to ensure that your online ask is successful.
Imagine: your donor receives an email from you while on their phone. They read your content and become inspired to give to your cause.
They tap the button that should take them to your donation page. They see the donation page and ... they can’t find any of the necessary fields. They can’t even find the “donate” button.
This is a nightmare, right? Luckily, you never have to fall victim to this trap if you keep your web page and donation page optimized for mobile use.
A simple way to do this is to make your page mobile-responsive by using responsive themes. This means that your website will behave the same way on computers, tablets, and phones, without sacrificing readability or accessibility.
If you need some help revamping your website, give Swoop’s list of their favorite free Wordpress plugins a look.
Another way to accomplish this is to keep your online donation page clean, functioning, and easy to use. Don’t put unnecessary images or videos on the page—save those for social media and your email campaign. The mandatory fields for completing the donation are enough.
Don’t forget to customize your donation page so that it’s branded to the rest of your website. Donors are less likely to give if they think they’re being redirected to a faulty or malicious website. Keep your page recognizable as part of your whole online presence.
Finally, consider adding a recurring donation button to your donation page. This would allow donors to set up a repeating donation, ensuring a stable income for your organization without any additional stress for the donor.
4. Do your research
Your nonprofit is clearly successful enough to continue its operations. Don’t throw that success away! Make your previous experiences work for you. Ask yourself some questions and revisit your old campaigns.
Here are some valuable questions when planning your big online ask:
- Which of our previous campaigns was the most successful?
- How do our constituents communicate most with us?
- What is our best-attended event?
- How do most donors make their contributions?
By analyzing the answers to these questions, you can strategize the best way to make your online asks. Avoid the tactics that haven’t worked in the past, but bring back old favorites to ensure continuing success.
There are three groups of people that you need to research while planning whom to target with your online asks. Who are they?
- Volunteers. You have a motivated, dedicated group of people at your disposal. Look into who among them has donated before, donated to other groups, or has the wealth necessary to make a big gift. You might be surprised.
- Donors. Who has given before? These people are proven to support your cause. Look at how much they gave before, and any circumstances surrounding their donation. The best indicator of future giving is past giving!
- First-time givers. Don’t think that you have to only rely on your existing community. Research some people in your area that could provide some big gifts to better help you reach your goals.
Are you a little unclear on what prospect research is, or how to do it? Not to worry—checking out Double the Donation’s list of tools to use is a great way to get started.
Don’t forget—make the what and why of donating as simple as possible for your donors.
Remind volunteers of their past experiences helping your organization, past donors of their previous gift amounts so they know what their precedent is, and prospective donors of their gifts to other, similar organizations.
The last step of research you should be doing is researching corporate philanthropy. Use your existing database of emails from volunteers, donors, and prospective donors to see who among your community is eligible for matching gifts.
When you reach out to them to make your online ask, include the information they’ll need to utilize their employer’s matching gift program.
This means directing them to their employer’s resources on matching gift policies and volunteer grant programs. If you point them in the right direction, they’ll be more likely to complete the required forms to help your organization.
5. Make social media work for you
Social media is gaining traction as a force of nature in the nonprofit world, and you want to make sure you’re ahead of the curve.
What are the top social media platforms be involved on?
All of these platforms have options for hosting a variety of content, all of which can benefit your organization by building your online presence and credibility as well as giving your community and followers a better understanding of your cause.
The most important thing about any social media is to keep it updated! Use high-quality pictures and videos to keep your followers interested about your missions and projects. This has the additional bonus of giving your cause a human personability.
A great way to leverage any social media account is to assign someone from your team to interact with followers. Stay on top of relevant hashtags and keywords, and then interact with the members using those words.
Respond to any messages and tags with excitement and kindness. You’ll want your audience to associate good things with seeing you on their pages.
Finally, one easy way to make Facebook in particular work for your organization is to fundraise directly through it. Your followers can donate to your cause, without ever having to leave a page they already trust. Easy!
6. Step up your email campaign game
Email is one of the easiest ways to direct traffic to your online donation page. It’s a simple way to get your message directly to the inbox of your community, similar to the way a direct mail campaign goes directly to their homes.
You might think that you’re an email expert. After all, it’s been around longer than almost all of the social media platforms you’re using. However, it never hurts to double-check that you’re using your email campaign in the most effective way possible.
One of the first things you can do to generate more online attention through your email campaign is through using effective images. Recycle the best photos from your social media and embed them into your emails.
This way, people who don’t interact with your social media still have the chance to become aware of the real-world impact of their donations.
Another easy way to make your emails more legitimate is to ensure that your newsletter and bulk emails are coming from a professional-looking and recognizable email.
No one is going to open an email from “email@example.com”, or even worse, “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
But they probably would open an email from “adminteam” or “info” if the domain name is a website they recognize.
An interesting, eye-grabbing subject line is another easy way to make your emails stand out from the crowd.
You may ask, “But what do I put in these emails? I don’t want to ask for money every day!” And that’s a good response. But you can use your email distribution list for so much more than just fundraising.
- Send out reports of your completed and ongoing projects, complete with pictures, videos, and statistics. Let your community know the impact and success of your organization through their donations.
- Distribute valuable information about your cause and highlight the facts behind it. Proving the need in your community of your cause’s service will encourage your donors to give more.
- Update volunteers and donors about upcoming volunteer opportunities, exciting fundraising events like dinners, races, bake sales, and the like. Give people plenty of ways to increase their engagement beyond their donations.
- Remind regular donors to check if their employer has a matching gifts program, if they haven’t already.
Make people look forward to receiving your emails. Then, when you do send out an ask, they’ll already look forward to seeing what you have to say and will be more likely to give.
7. Say thank you more than once
No matter how you make your ask, don’t forget to say thank you. There should be multiple layers to your expressions of gratitude. The first step is always the thank-you page after they complete your online donation form.
The second step should be a short and sweet thank-you note sent to their email once their payment has been processed. A good rule of thumb is to use their names to make it personal, emphasize what your team will do with their money, and include pictures to drive it home.
The third step should be to recognize your donors publicly. Consider keeping a frequently updated page on your website that contains the name of everyone who has donated to the cause.
Everyone likes to be recognized for the good things that they do. Make sure that your donors feel acknowledged and appreciated for the support that they give your organization.
Finally, if the people that you reach out to for your ask aren’t able to give at that time, make sure you still thank them for their time. However, make sure that they know all the ways that they can give back without emptying their wallets!
These opportunities could include:
- Sharing your campaign or information on social media, to get their social networks involved in the cause
- Volunteering their time and hands to your organization’s projects
- Submitting a volunteer grant request, if their employer offers one. This is a program through which employers donate money to a cause based on hours of volunteering that an employee does for that cause.
- Engaging in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Through this method, they can raise money for your cause without necessarily contributing any of their own.
There are many ways to be involved in the works that nonprofits do—make sure that your constituent community is aware of all of them!
Making an online ask can be tough, but if you do the necessary prep work, it can be as easy as making an in-person ask. It’s all about building your presence online.
Merging your campaign strategies, updating and optimizing your website and donation pages, strengthening your social media, doing your research, clarifying your mission and goals, stepping up your emails, and saying thank you are just a few ways to achieve your goals.
If you do all of these things, by the time you make your ask, your donors will be passionate about your goals and ready to help you achieve them.
What are you waiting for? Go get started!
Adam Weinger is the president of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools for nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs. Connect with Adam via email or on LinkedIn.