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

Overhead view of a woman typing on a laptop. Folders, a cell phone, pens, sticky notes, and a clipboard are scattered on the desk.

Life is not the same as it was 30 years ago. Texting is the communication norm, our friends can all be found on the Internet, and we can research any information in just seconds with a couple of keystrokes into a search bar. As the world is evolving, shouldn’t your fundraising strategy evolve as well?

There are several ways to improve your fundraising strategy in this day in age. For example, you can increase fundraising by:

  1. Having an online presence

  2. Taking advantage of fundraising software

  3. Improving the donor experience

To keep up with the 21st century, you should be utilizing all the tools and resources that you can. It’s hard keeping both your organization relevant and your fundraising effective, but with this guide you’ll realize how simple it can be with the power of the Internet and some of the best fundraising software. 

01. Having an online presence

1. Having an online presence

So, how are you reading this article? On your mobile device? A tablet? Maybe your laptop? In the end, no matter the screen, you are accessing it through the Internet. It’s where we go when we’re bored, when we’re trying to be productive, and when we’re looking for fundraising tips in the 21st century.

It’s important that you take advantage of this tool that most of the world uses every day!

Social Media

We have to talk about social media. Did you know that in North America alone, 70 percent of people have at least one social media account? Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, people are turning to social media to share what’s important to them and to learn about things that they might care about.

It’s up to you to take advantage of these different social streams. You can create pages across different applications so you reach as wide an audience as possible. With these pages, you can post announcements and updates as often as you please with text, audio, photos, and video.

Social media also allows for a direct channel of communication between you and potential donors:

  • With the opportunity to comment on posts, donors have the option to express what they think and give feedback.

  • Similarly, a like or a heart on your post is like a public affirmation from social media users to others.

  • And when users share your post to their own profile? That’s when you know they’re really advocating for you as well as advertising your fundraiser to their own network of friends.

This online social network is one of the fastest ways to fundraise and spread your message, so it is imperative to make use of this resource. Read the next section to see just how powerful your donors’ online network can be!

Crowdfunding vs. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

People tend to confuse crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising because both strategies utilize the Internet to collect multiple small donations from a network of people. However, there are some key differences.

You’ve probably seen crowdfunding campaigns around. Have you ever seen one of your random Facebook friends asking to fund their trip abroad? They’ll probably use a website to display a page on their social media for people to visit and donate as little or as much as they want to help them reach their goal. Why do this?

  • It’s simple. You only need to post one page to let your friends and family (or strangers, if you’re lucky) contribute if they want to!

  • It can raise a small amount of money fast. If you have a pretty moderate fundraising goal then crowdfunding can very well get you the amount that you need! Allowing a number of people to donate $5 or $10 amounts is smart because it’s not enough to make them feel guilty and it can add up quickly!

  • Check out Crowd101’s guide on crowdfunding marketing strategies to learn more.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is similar to crowdfunding in that it only asks for a small amount as well as utilizes users’ social media networks. However, it’s more like if you multiplied crowdfunding by 100 or as many “peers” are participating in the fundraiser. It is when you recruit a number of volunteers to fundraise on your nonprofit’s behalf. Why do this?

  • It reaches a wide audience. The more volunteers you have to be a part of your peer-to-peer fundraiser, the more opportunities you have for donations.

  • It can raise a large amount. Because peer-to-peer fundraising reaches so many, the overarching fundraiser can have a much bigger goal than a crowdfunding fundraiser would.

  • However, there are some downsides. ... You need to recruit, and it takes a while to plan. The people who peer-to-peer fundraise for you have to be okay with putting in the free work, and, because of the number of people involved, it takes longer to plan than crowdfunding.

  • If you want to learn more about this type of fundraising, click here.

As you can see, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising take advantage of people’s social media network in a positive way. Both methods then allow others to share the fundraising page(s) and raise more money—all thanks to the Internet!

02. Taking advantage of fundraising software

2. Taking advantage of fundraising software

The Internet isn’t the only way you can become more technologically savvy in the 21st century. Every day it seems there is new fundraising software available to make different steps of the process easier. Read below to see how you can utilize different software to make a huge impact on your fundraiser.

Email Marketing

The secret to fundraising is asking, and even though social media is on the rise, email marketing continues to be one of the best ways to ask for donations. If you already have a group of supporters, you are probably emailing to keep them updated. And if you don’t, you should.

With the right software, you can improve your email marketing skills and increase revenue! However, there are so many different types of fundraising software out right now. Make sure it has these email marketing tools:

  • Automation based on behavior. Each donor does different things. Sometimes they won’t even open your email and sometimes they directly click on the donate link. Software that is able to track this behavior will then automate responses ranging from “Thank you” to slowing down or increasing the number of emails.

  • Auto send emails depending on time zone. You are going to want to reach a wide range of people from different places. It is helpful for your software to gauge where your donors are so you can send emails at appropriate times.

  • Email template resources. Having software that gives you assistance is always great. The resource of email templates can save you time and help you talk to a variety of people about numerous topics!

  • Social media merging options. As we know, social media is a very useful tool. Some fundraising software can merge with your social media accounts to send out announcements through multiple channels.

Donor Targeting

Targeting your donors may seem menacing, but it really means you should get to know your donors better. With different fundraising software, you can establish a donor database to help you record and organize key pieces of information. 

Having a donor database can help you target your donors by segmenting them into groups based on common attributes. Once you have these groups, you can market to them in different ways depending on their commonalities. For example, you can target donors based on:

  • Their location. Depending on where they live, you can market to donors by localizing the message and relating your fundraiser to their hometown or neighborhood.

  • Their business affiliation. Some of your donors are going to be from corporations with matching gift policies. This is when a company will match or increase an employee’s donation, doubling or tripling the contribution. Knowing when someone is eligible for this can allow you to send just those donors messages and reminders about gift matching.

Using your fundraising software can transform the way you market toward your donors. Having both an email tool and the ability to segment donors based on shared data will no doubt raise your fundraising strategy to the next level.

03. Improving the donor experience

3. Improving the donor experience

In the 21st century, there are so many ways to improve your experience as well as the donor’s. With certain features in fundraising software, you can save donors time and help them contribute without bothering them with unnecessary messages.

Automated Recurring Donations

Sometimes donors want to donate multiple times but don’t want to go through the process again. It’s a good thing now that there is fundraising software that can automate donors’ contributions to as many times as they want in just one visit!

This helps donors because they only have to check off a box and can continue to donate without it feeling tedious and boring. 

However, this can also help you! Having recurring donations is a way more consistent way to raise money and in the end can greatly help your fundraiser. Snowball has some great tips on recurring donations and how they can build a stronger fundraising model.

Mobile Giving

Now that it’s the 21st century, you need to consider a new generation of donors: ones with mobile devices attached to their hands. Fundraising software with the ability to accept donations through text is helpful even though the target is usually a younger crowd, and thus brings in smaller donations. However, studies show that small donations are currently one of the biggest fundraising trends

Text-to-give is a fundamental strategy when it comes to the 21st century. Text-to-donate is when an organization fundraises through text message and donors can contribute based on set keywords they text back, which then leads them to a payment link. Text-to-give is when a mobile carrier provides textual fundraising and the donation is billed to the phone bill.

Both methods of mobile giving are great resources for fundraising and help target people who are younger and want to save time!


The 21st century can seem like a daunting time for your fundraiser to get lost in the crowd, but with the tools and tips listed in this guide you are sure to succeed. Good luck!

John KilloranJohn 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. John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.

Topics: Fundraising Crowdfunding mobile fundraising Online fundraising Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Fundraising software Social Media and Fundraising