It turns out, a pandemic is a great time to evaluate a lot of things—including your online fundraising strategy and efforts.

No doubt, you felt the sting of decreased revenue in 2020 like many nonprofits—but that just means more opportunity to get creative and innovative and to move things in the right direction, especially as life returns to normal and more donors re-engage with the nonprofits they love. One thing that won’t change: People will still be online, perhaps more than ever, and your online fundraising success will largely depend on what type of online donation experience you create.

You don’t have to overhaul your whole online fundraising strategy and start from scratch to make it better—small changes and pivots can make a big difference. Take what you have and optimize your online fundraising efforts with these easy steps. (Tip: Focus on one step each month through 2021 and end the year on a great note, poised to reach all your online fundraising goals in 2022).

1. Be sure you’re using a responsive website design.

Mobile-optimised design is a must-have in our smartphone-obsessed world and for good reason—it uses technology that adapts your website to any size screen, from smartphones to tablets to PCs. Responsive design doubles mobile giving because it creates a better user experience for your donors. No awkward pinching and zooming are needed.

Why is this important? About 51% of people who visit your website do so on a mobile device, according to Mobile Cause. Also, Google’s algorithm rewards mobile-optimized websites by placing them higher in search results, which means increased traffic for those sites. Plus, mobile giving allows you to engage with your audience more frequently. You can catch them when they’re at home, on the go or when they’re checking their phones at 3:00 a.m. Bottom line: If you don’t make giving easy for mobile users, they’ll give to organizations that do.

2. Take donations right on your website.

50-70% of donors abandon an online donation form when redirected to another website like PayPal or to donate. —npENGAGE

Ouch! You work hard to drive prospects and donors to your website—the last thing you want to do is send them away once they’re there. Yet that’s what many nonprofits do when they redirect supporters to a third-party website to make a donation.

If you’re one of them, stop—you’re watching dollars walk away. When you use the tools necessary to accept donations on your website, you’ll not only increase revenue, but you’ll also:

  • Keep donors on your site longer. This means you can engage with them, get them on your mailing list, offer educational or volunteer opportunities—basically, foster a relationship.
  • Capture more impulse donors. With the simplicity and speed of integrated donations, you’re more likely to get impulse donors who want to give but don’t have the time for a long donation process.
  • Encourage recurring gifts. You’ll be able to promote your monthly giving program and inspire visitors to become regular supporters. As long as they’re on your site, you have influence.

3. For online fundraising success, drive recurring donations.

If a one-time gift is good, recurring gifts are exponentially better. In the long run, you’ll collect more money. Plus, a monthly giving program is easier for most donors than one large, lump sum. And with predictable income, you can plan expenses and budget better.

Recurring donations are a win for everyone—all the more reason to focus on them. Here’s how to get them pouring in:

  • Ask. This sounds obvious, but too many nonprofits never ask their supporters for recurring donations. When you recruit a new donor, start with a one-time gift to get them onboard. After that, focus on securing them as a monthly donor. It’s much cheaper (and easier) to keep them than to find new donors.
  • Make recurring donations an obvious option on your website. And by obvious, we don’t mean “an easily-missed checkbox on the donation form.” There are several ways you can do this: Feature your monthly giving plan on a homepage spotlight. Create an entire web page dedicated to your monthly giving program. Design an infographic that displays the impact of varying monthly amounts. Use your thank-you page to convert one-time supporters into monthly givers.
  • Promote, promote, promote. The more places you highlight your monthly giving program on your website, the more likely you’ll secure recurring donations.
  • Make it easy for supporters to change their minds. Nobody likes to financially commit to something if they don’t know they can cancel. It’s fine to say, “While we appreciate your monthly gift, you are under no obligation and can adjust or cancel your donation at any time.”

4. Be sure your email list is updated.

With all the movin’ and groovin’ people are doing around the country right now, it’s a great time to be sure your list is up to date and as current as possible—email remains one of the most effective ways to engage with donors and one of the most cost-effective marketing tools, so you want your list to be accurate

Also, don’t slow down on gathering email addresses for new leads—both online and offline. You want to make sure your existing email list is current, yes, but you also want to continually add addresses to your list and prospects to your funnel. Reach out to your current subscribers to be sure you have their most current contact information, and renew your efforts to gather more email addresses on your website and at any offline events you host.

5. Become a thought leader.

If this hasn’t been a priority for you in the past, now’s a great time to consider it. You have a lot of great things to say about what’s happening in your space and wealth of knowledge to share—ready to put it out there? Create a blog, website content, articles, white papers, videos—whatever form you decide to share your expertise in, use your online space (both website and social) to educate, engage and connect with people who are also passionate about your mission. A word about social: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—all of these platforms can help extend your reach and connect with as many people as possible. It’s important, though, to do your research and find out where your audience is before you spend too much trying to connect with them. It’s pointless to invest heavily in a social network if they’re not there.

Now, here’s a tip for combining both #4 and #5: Create a relevant, valuable content piece, like an ebook, article or video, and host it on your website where you grant access to it in exchange for someone’s email address. You provide something of value, and you get something valuable in return; content can be a huge lead generator.

6. Provide easy online registration to events for online fundraising success.

If you’re still hosting a PDF of a registration form on your website for people to print at home and mail in—and calling that “online registration”—you could do your event attendees a solid and make event registration a totally online experience—no snail mail necessary. Online event registration should be just that: The ability to sign up, register and pay for events online (whether they’re in person or virtual), without having to get a stamp and use the USPS.

A quick word about events, while we’re here: Even if you’re ready to return to in-person events, don’t give up on virtual or online events—they’re here to stay, even past the pandemic and can play an integral role in your online fundraising success. We even have an ebook all about hosting a virtual gala event.

7. Finally, integrate online and offline efforts.

Do you seem like a different organization offline than you do online? Does your website coordinate with your print marketing materials? Is your messaging consistent across the board? These are great questions to ask as you do an audit of all your marketing channels—the best marketing strategies marry both online and offline efforts and look cohesive across the board.

Now’s the time to examine every marketing and communications channel to be sure you provide a seamless experience across the board. For example, if you send a direct mail postcard with a QR code that takes donors to a landing page where they can donate, sign up to volunteer or register for an event, you want that process to feel smooth as buttah and consistent at every touchpoint.

At Firespring, we’ve been helping nonprofits for over 20 years create beautiful websites that engage their constituents, grow their mission and ultimately bring in more money. We’d love to do the same for yours.

Let’s start here: Download our free, new worksheet called “5 Metrics to Measure: Your Secret Sauce to Online Fundraising Success” in order to see where you are right now in your fundraising efforts and where your greatest opportunities are for growth. It’s a useful, easy (and fun!) worksheet that’ll give you a good picture of what’s working, what’s not—and how Firespring might be able to help you meet your fundraising goals.


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